5 awesome facts you didn't know about Memorial Day - We Are The Mighty
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5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Celebrated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day brings America together to remember the 1.1 million men and women who died in service to their country.


As most of us spend our day flipping burgers, wearing pro-American attire and saving money on those amazing furniture deals, it’s important to understand the significance of the historic day.

Related: 5 interesting facts about the Marine Corps birthday

Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.

1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm

On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group stand at parade rest during a Memorial Day ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo/ Released)

2. Wearing red poppies

You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.

The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Honor the dead. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

3. Flag raising procedures

Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.

When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Service members saluting the raised American flag. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel)

4. The origin of the holiday

Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.

But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.

Thank you, Congress.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Also Read: The mother of the boy in this iconic photo has a Memorial Day message all Americans should read

 5. The holiday’s birthplace

At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 leadership lessons you can learn in the Marines

If there’s anything the United States Marine Corps is known for (aside from striking fear into the hearts of America’s enemies), it’s teaching young Americans how to be leaders. The mission of the Marine Corps is simple: make Marines and win battles. But to find success in the latter, someone has to teach Marines how to lead other Marines into combat. That’s exactly why a big part of boot camp is instilling the idea that every Marine is a leader in their own way.

Granted, not everyone who serves in the Marines becomes a good leader — those rare even among those who enjoy a long, illustrious career — but everyone learns leadership skills. If you move into a leadership position over the course of your service, you’ll likely learn these lessons:


5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Take the lead.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Lead by example

A big part of leadership is giving your subordinates confidence in your ability to lead. Unsurprisingly, one of the best way to do that is by doing the things you ask someone else to do. Show your subordinates that you understand their position and you’re willing to jump in to help.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

You should also be good at communicating those decisions.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Make decisions

There’s a quote from Band of Brothers that spells this one out plainly,

“Lieutenant Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

As a leader, you have to make decisions and you cannot hesitate.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

You should also be willing to talk sh*t to other squads — look at that grin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Be confident

If you want your subordinates to believe in you, the first step is believing in yourself. No one wants to follow a leader that’s constantly second-guessing themselves. But it’s essential that you never forget how to stay humble.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Know the guys watching your back.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long)

Know your Marines

How are you going to help out your subordinates if you don’t know what they need? Get to know your subordinates well so you can better keep track of their morale. Keeping the morale of your men high is good for everyone… except the enemy.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Plan to the best of your ability.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Weikle)

Understand the potential risk

Don’t needlessly put people under your charge in bad situations just because the potential reward is great — and always remember what you’re risking. Before you plan to do something, make sure you understand what you’re about to get into.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

North Korea is ready for both dialogue and war, state-run news agency KCNA said Feb. 19, 2018.


In an op-ed, KCNA said the US is trying to derail inter-Korean relations by keeping military options on the table.

“It is obviously an expression of a hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.

Using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the article also said, “the DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war,” and that it would be “naive and foolhardy” for the US to “hurt” North Korea.

The statement came shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told 60 Minutes he would continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea “until that first bomb drops.”

Also read: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

“We don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock,” Tillerson said on Feb. 18, adding that the US will keep up its policy of maximum pressure until Pyongyang tells him they are ready to talk.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
An image from the North Korean military parade that immediately preceded the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. (Image by Stefan Krasowski)

Tillerson’s messaging reiterated that of Vice President Mike Pence, who told The Washington Post the US approach is one of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”

North Korea’s latest statement seemed to be directly responding to these two interviews, saying the vice president and secretary of state are “vying with each other to build a world of public opinion.”

Related: The world’s minute-by-minute response to the latest North Korean missile test

Pyongyang also seemed particularly aggrieved by the US State Department’s change to its travel advisory January 2018. Travelers to North Korea are now warned to draft a will, designate a power of attorney and discuss funeral plans with loved ones before their visit.

“The Trump group spouted jargons that tourists should write a will before making a trip to the DPRK. If the U.S. dares to ignite a war against the DPRK, there will be left no one to keep a written will and bury a coffin,” KCNA said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The low-tech, fun way the Air Force is improving cyber defenses

As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.

Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.

To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.


“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”

In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.

The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.

“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.

Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.

As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This is how Marie Curie saved soldiers’ lives in World War One

Marie Curie may be one of the world’s best-known scientists, but some of her most important work took place not in the laboratory, but on the front lines of battle during World War One.


Marie Sklodowska Curie started life in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, but in 1891, she left home to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne in Paris and it was in France that her reputation was built. In 1903, she and her husband, Pierre, having discovered the elements radium and polonium, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with another researcher.

She would win another in 1911, this time for chemistry, but by that time, she was a widow; Pierre was killed in 1906 when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage while crossing a busy Parisian street.

 

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Pierre and Marie Curie. (Public Domain photo)

Curie’s pursuit of science had not been aided by the resentment and distrust of her male peers, who didn’t believe that a woman could possibly be their intellectual equal. The French Academy of Sciences had been unwilling to welcome her as a member for her scientific achievements.

Several year’s after Pierre’s death, she entered into an affair with a fellow scientist who was married. The spurned wife, who had letters that Curie had written to her lover, sent the letters to French newspapers, where they were published, and the public turned against Curie. In 1914, her Radium Institute was completed, but the year also brought the outbreak of World War I, which took her male laboratory workers off to fight.

She had one gram of radium to use for her research, not enough for her to experiment with during the war. She wanted to do something for the war effort. She was willing to have her Nobel Prize medals melted down to provide the gold that the French government needed, but the bank wouldn’t do it. So she donated the prize money she’d received and bought war bonds.

But she wasn’t satisfied.

Also read: Here is the heroine who was as awe inspiring as Wonder Woman

She couldn’t do the research that had made her reputation, so she opted to try something else: X-rays.

Knowing that war inevitably meant injuries that would require medical attention, Curie thought that X-rays could offer a new technology for the soldiers who were destined to be in harm’s way. X-rays on the battlefield could save lives.

She was named the head of the radiological services of the International Red Cross. She studied anatomy books. She learned to drive and how to fix automobiles. She taught herself how to use X-ray machines and trained medical professionals in the usage of the X-rays. She went on a fundraising campaign to raise money and by October, 1914, she had a traveling X-ray unit in a Renault van, the first of 20 that she would outfit.

The “Petites Curies” came with a generator, a hospital bed, and an X-ray machine. But once again, she had to sell the idea to the medical establishment, just as she had had to sell the science establishment on her qualifications as a researcher. Doctors were skeptical that radiology had a place on the battlefield.

So Curie headed to the Marne where a battle was raging to prove the value of the X-ray machines.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

She was able to detect the presence of bullets and shrapnel in soldiers who came to the van to be X-rayed, making the work of the surgeons on the front lines easier because they knew where to operate.

Curie was galvanized by the need for more X-ray units. In addition to the mobile vans, she wanted to add 200 stationary x-ray units. But the army was as dubious about her idea as they were about the new military technology like the tank and the machine gun.

Once again, Curie wouldn’t take no for an answer. She gave X-ray training to 150 women so that they could provide radiological diagnoses for the soldiers. Over a million French soldiers benefited from the Petites Curies and the accessibility of X-ray machines on the front.

When the war ended in 1918, Curie, like other celebrating Parisians, took to this streets, but with a difference. She was driving a Petite Curie.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Public Domain photo

For Curie, service in the war was necessary.

“What seemed difficult became easy,” recalled the ground-breaking scientist and French patriot. “All those who did not understand gave in or accepted; those who did not know learned; those who had been indifferent became devoted.”

But ultimately, Curie’s sacrifice for science and for the war proved lethal. She didn’t know that the radiation was deadly and the years of exposure — she had the habit of carrying test tubes in her pockets and although she noticed the way they emitted light in the dark, she didn’t understand that the glow was an indicator of danger — led to health problems and ultimately leukemia, which killed her in 1934.

Even now, her notebooks are so radioactive that anyone wishing to view them where they are stored at the National Library in Paris has to put on protective garments and sign a waiver.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how enlisted airmen can become pilots

Noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officers interested in transferring to the Air Force’s newest enlisted aviation Air Force Specialty Code have until Nov. 15, 2017, to submit their applications to meet the next selection board.


More than 800 applicants submitted for the program last year; those who were not selected by the inaugural board are highly encouraged by officials to apply again this cycle.

Also Read: Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

“This is an opportunity for active-duty Airmen in the ranks of staff sergeant-select through senior master sergeants who meet and complete the application requirements to be considered for the 1U1X1, Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot, career field,” said Master Sgt. Mark Moore, Air Force’s Personnel Center Career Enlisted Aviator Assignments Manager. at the Air Force’s Personnel Center.

Moore stressed that the new AFSC is not part of the formal Air Force Retraining Program, but rather a career opportunity for qualified NCOs to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

“Just like officers from other career fields apply to become pilots, AFPC will conduct annual selection boards every January to select qualified enlisted Airmen for entry into this new, exciting career field,” he said. “Applicants have no need to be in their retraining window or be concerned about the end date of an overseas assignment.”

Candidates will be evaluated based on their entire military personnel record and pilot candidate selection method, or PCSM, test score. The average PCSM score for those selected by the inaugural board in February 2017 was 73, with overall select scores ranging from 55 to 96.

Airmen who have already amassed off-duty flying hours are also able to apply the experience toward their PCSM, which Moore said is the same scoring system used to select Air Force officer pilots.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
An RQ-4 heads back to its hangar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Integrating enlisted pilots into RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations is one of many ways the Air Force is tapping into the talent of its skilled, diverse and innovative enlisted force as a part of the deliberate approach to enhance the Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission. The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.

For more information on the enlisted RPA pilot selection process, visit the active duty enlisted Assignments page on myPers from a CAC-enabled computer, or select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the myPers dropdown menu and search “Enlisted Pilot.”

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following these instructions.

Articles

This is why the US is concerned about China’s first overseas military base

Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.


China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.

The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.

“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
People’s Republic of China, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ship PLA(N) Peace Ark (T-AH 866). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Renfroe.

Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”

State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”

The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Sailors aboard the Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao. (Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush.)

Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.

US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.

Related: China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Chinese navy multirole ship Hengshui. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.

India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.

Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Members of a visit, board, search and seizure team from the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin keep watch over the crew of a suspected pirate dhow. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Scott Taylor.

“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”

“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.

Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.

Also read: Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.

China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin announced a Russian ‘doomsday weapon’ in a speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on March 1, 2018, boasted about his country’s nuclear might — and seemed to confirm the existence of a long-feared Russian doomsday device.


Putin turned toward offensive nuclear-capable systems near the end of his annual, wide-ranging state of the nation address in Moscow, in which he also said Russia needed to spend heavily on improving conditions for average Russians.

Putin described at least five new weapons systems, emphasizing how each could defeat US missile defenses and characterizing nearly all of them as nuclear-capable.

Also read: The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than ever before

But in typical fashion, Putin’s descriptions contained wild, scientifically unimaginable claims about how great the weapons were.

A computer-generated animation accompanied each weapon announcement, perhaps illustrating that they exist mainly in a conceptual state.

First, Putin mentioned a new intercontinental ballistic, which he claimed had unlimited range and could get past all US missile defenses.

An animation showed the missile taking two trajectories toward the West. Without showing much real video of the product, Putin said, “our defense companies have launched mass production of this new system.”

Next, Putin announced what he called a “global cruise missile,” which he claimed had unlimited range and was nuclear-propelled.

An animation showed the missile fired from Russia’s north, flying north of Europe into the Atlantic, weaving through US air-defense zones, and then inexplicably traveling south the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean before wrapping around Argentina and ending up near Chile.

The doomsday device

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television (Screenshot via BBC)

Then, Putin seemed to confirm a long-feared “doomsday” weapon: an unmanned, undersea vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear weapon across oceans at high speeds.

Previous reports of the weapon have stated it may be a dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon with additional metal in its core to keep radiation in the atmosphere for years.

Related: Putin personally just launched 4 ballistic missiles

The undersea weapon’s concept has been mocked as an over-the-top system with little purpose other than destroying massive swaths of human life.

Russia may have intentionally leaked images of it in 2015, because it’s suspected that a major purpose of this weapon would be to deter attacks on Russia. The animation of the system showed it striking both US Navy formations and a coastal city.

Putin said the undersea weapon was successfully tested in December 2016, and the US intelligence community seems to have been aware of it, as such a weapon was mentioned in President Donald Trump’s recent review of US nuclear policy.

Other crazy weapons

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Concept art of the WU-14, a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle.

Putin then discussed a hypersonic plane-launched, nuclear-capable missile and showed it hitting US Navy ships.

The US, Russia, China, and others are working on hypersonic weapons designed to defeat today’s defenses by flying at many times the speed of sound.

Finally, Putin talked up Russian laser weapons, showing a brief video of an electronic system with lenses pivoting on the back of a truck. He provided little detail about the system.

More: Lockheed just built a new laser that can fry large targets from a mile off

For many of the systems, Putin asked Russian citizens to send in suggestions for their names. He used the opportunity to stoke Russian pride by saying the systems were not reworkings of Soviet designs but had been developed in the past few years.

“They kept ignoring us,” Putin said of the West, to a standing ovation. “Nobody wanted to listen to us, so listen to us now.”

Articles

These 4 fearless fighting females wrecked every enemy who stood in their way

“If you men will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”


These were the words of Yaa Asantewaa, an Asante woman in what is modern Ghana calling on the men and women of Asante to fight British colonial forces at the turn of the 20th Century.

History is full of stories of such great women in combat — more than most people think.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Even in this old photo, you can tell Yaa Asantewaa was sick of your shit.

Also read: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the army’ 

Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.

1. Margarita Neri – Mexico

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.

She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.

After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.

After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.

2. Marie Marvingt – France

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.

When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.

In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.

During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.

3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.

As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.

Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.

She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.

4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is regarded as the most successful female sniper in history.

Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.

In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”

By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.

She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as  “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”

Articles

These foreign tanks now match the M1 Abrams

A handful of foreign tanks — including Russia’s — now match the power of the U.S. Army’s main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, an American general recently testified to Congress.


“I think for the very near term, the Abrams is still near the very top of its class,” said Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff for financial management, referring to the third-generation tank built by General Dynamics Corp. that entered service in 1980.

“I think we have parity,” he said during a March 22 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee. “I think there is parity out there. I don’t think we have overmatch.”

Also read: The Navy is developing rail gun rounds for Army Howitzers

Murray’s comments came in response to a question from Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska and a Marine who served in Afghanistan. He later elaborated on the topic in response to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and chairman of the subcommittee, who asked what foreign tanks are competitive with the Abrams.

“I would say that the Israelis’ — the Merkava — would be one,” Murray said. “The [Russian] T-90 is probably pretty close. People talk about their Armata tank and that’s still, in my mind, not completely fielded. Probably the British tank [Challenger 2] is pretty close. I would not say that we have the world-class tank that we had for many, many years. I’ll be an optimist and say that we’re at parity with a lot of different nations.”

Here’s a closer look at the foreign tanks he mentioned:

Israel’s Merkava MK-IV

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Israel’s Merkava MK-IV (Mark 4) | Israel Defense Forces photo

Israel Defense Forces’ Merkava first entered service in 1978, though the newest model, the MK-IV (Mark 4), entered production in 2004. The 65-ton tank was developed by Mantak and the IDF Ordnance Corp., and carries four crew members. It features a top speed of 40 miles per hour, a range of about 310 miles, a 120mm smoothbore gun. The IDF is moving forward with plans to add to the vehicle the Trophy Active Protection System, which is capable of destroying anti-tank missiles.

Russia’s T-90A

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Russia’s T-90A tank | Russian Defense Ministry image

Russia’s T-90 is a third-generation tank that entered service in 1993, though an upgraded variant, the T-90A, became operational in 2004. The 46-ton tank is made by Ural Design Bureau of Transport Machine-Building (Uralvagonzavod), carries three crew members, and features a top speed of 37 miles per hour, a range of about 340 miles, a 125mm smoothbore gun, as well as an active-protection system.

Russia’s T-14 Armata

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Russia is developing the T-14 Armata next-generation tank to succeed the T-50. | Russian Defense Ministry image

Russia has reportedly stopped buying the T-90 to develop and field the next-generation T-14 Armata tank, which is believed to still be in testing and not yet operational (see Murray’s comments above). The 50-ton tank being developed by Uralvagonzavod is designed to carry a crew of three and feature a top speed of as much as 56 miles per hour, a range of about 310 miles, a 125mm smoothbore gun and an active-protection system.

Britain’s Challenger 2

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day
Britain’s Challenger 2 tank | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

The United Kingdom’s FV4034 Challenger 2, made by the British defense giant BAE Systems Plc, entered service in 1998 to replace the Cold War-era Challenger 1. The upgraded variant weighs about 63 tons and carries a crew of four, including a commander, gunner, loader and driver. It features a top speed of 37 miles per hour, a range of 340 miles and a 120mm rifled gun.

Meanwhile, the latest variant of the U.S.-made Abrams, the M1A2, weighs about 72 tons, carries a crew of four, and features a top speed of 42 miles per hour, a range of 243 miles, and a 120mm smoothbore gun. The Army for years has talked about adding active protection to the tracked vehicle, but hasn’t yet.

Murray said the Army is “just about reaching the limits of what we can do with the Abrams, so it is time for us to start looking at a next-generation tank.” But, he added, “There is nothing on the horizon that indicates a fundamental breakthrough in technology where we can come up with a lighter tank.”

A spokesperson for General Dynamics, which makes the Abrams, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Air Force Officer accused of spying for Iran

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer for aiding Iran in what Washington says was a cyberespionage operation targeting U.S. intelligence officers.

The indictment said Monica Witt exposed a U.S. agent and helped Iran’s Revolutionary Guards develop cybertargets in the U.S. military after defecting to Iran in 2013.


U.S. officials said Witt, who worked for years in U.S. Air Force counterintelligence, had an “ideological” turn against her country.

As part of its action on Feb. 13, 2019, the United States also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

It also sanctioned two Iran-based companies: New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company.

Former Air Force Intelligence agent charged with spying for Iran

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The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cybercampaign, while New Horizon had staged international gatherings to back efforts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign participants.

Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two international conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.

They said Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the air force from 1997 until 2008, and worked as contractor for two years after that.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Coast Guard saved New York from a huge blast

In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.


5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.

(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)

While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.

The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.

But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.

Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.

The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.

(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)

But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.

And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.

Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.

Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.

But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.

The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.

About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.

The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.

5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.

(Public Domain)

Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.

(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)

Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.

All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.

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