6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past - We Are The Mighty
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6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.


1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
USCGC Castle Rock (WHEC 383) during her service. (USCG photo)

After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.

While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.

The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.

The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.

2. HU-16 Albatross

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
A HU-16E Albatross during the 1970s. The Coast Guard kept this plane in service until 1983! (USCG photo)

Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.

The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.

In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.

It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!

3. HH-52 Seaguard

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
U.S. astronaut Frank Borman, Gemini 7 prime crew command pilot, is hoisted out of the water by a U.S. Coast Guard recovery team from a Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter during water egress training in the Gulf of Mexico. (NASA photo)

This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.

Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.

According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.

4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
A U.S. Coast Guard Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress search and rescue plane in flight. (USCG photo)

After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.

The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.

5. MH-68A Stingray

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
A Coast Guard MH-68 Sting Ray helicopter crew prepares to take off for a patrol of the Savannah River to provide security during the G8 Summit while Air Force One sits in the background. USCG photo by PA3 Ryan Doss

The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.

With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.

6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships

This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.

The lead ship, USCGC Sea Hawk (WSES 2), and her two sisters, USCGC Shearwater (WSES 3) and USCGC Petrel (WSES 4) were commissioned in the 1980s and cost $5 million each. While they primarily focused on drug interdiction, they proved very capable assets in search-and-rescue missions as well.

They all left service in 1994.

But in an era where drug smugglers have “go fast” boats, they might be useful now.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Cyclone-class patrol craft is the Navy’s smallest warship

Gigantic warships equipped with massive amounts of firepower, like Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Nimitz-class carriers, immediately spring to mind when we think “United States Navy.” But not every ship in service is a seafaring behemoth — in fact, cyclone vessels are quite small.

The smallest warships in U.S. Navy service are Cyclone-class patrol craft. The Navy acquired 14 of these ships for special operations work in the 1990s. These small vessels weigh roughly 288 tons, have a crew of 28 personnel, and can hold either nine SEALs or a six-man Coast Guard law-enforcement detachment.


6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

Two Cyclones operate in a joint Navy-Coast Guard exercise.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey)

These ships are roughly 178 feet long and have a top speed of 35 knots. They also pack a punch. Cyclones are equipped with two 25mm Bushmaster chain guns and a mix of M2 .50-caliber machine guns, 7.62mm machine guns, and Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers. The ships also can carry the FIM-92 Stinger for air defense.

In some cases, even these tiny ships are too big for special operations work. So for those select missions, Cyclones carry rigid-hull inflatable craft and two combat rubber raiding craft, operated with either a hydraulic lift or a stern ramp. To date, these ships have seen a good amount of action in the Persian Gulf and in the Caribbean.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

USS Zephyr (PC 8) catches up to a drug-smuggling go-fast. While the Cyclone-class ships were intended to support special operations, they also can support the Coast Guard.

(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The Navy handed down the lead ship of the class, the former USS Cyclone (PC 1), to the Philippine Navy, where it’s still in active service. Five of these ships served with the Coast Guard for a few years before being returned to the Navy. These vessels are slated to be replaced by the Littoral Combat Ship in the near future.

Learn more about these small Navy vessels that prove that size doesn’t equal strength in the video below!

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The Chinese coast guard just entered Japanese waters

In the first confirmed entry by Chinese government vessels into the area, two Chinese coast guard ships briefly entered Japanese waters July 17 off Aomori Prefecture, the Japan Coast Guard said.


A patrol vessel operated by the Japan Coast Guard confirmed the entry of the two ships into waters off Cape Henashi in the Sea of Japan from 8:05 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. The two vessels exited at around 9:40 a.m. after being issued a warning by the coast guard.

About two hours later, the two Chinese ships were spotted off Cape Tappi, also in the Sea of Japan, and exited around 3:20 p.m., the coast guard said.

The move follows the entry on July 15 of two Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese waters around two islands off Kyushu, also for the first time in that area.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
US Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau

Also July 17, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, the coast guard said.

According to the Japan Coast Guard’s 11th regional headquarters in Naha, the prefectural capital, the four ships — the Haijing 2106, the Haijing 2113, the Haijing 2306 and the Haijing 2308 — were present in Japanese waters at a point north-northwest of Uotsuri, one of the islets, for some 15 minutes from around 10:40 a.m.

The Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea are claimed by China, where they are known as Diaoyu, and Taiwan.

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This video shows the 200-year-old Gurkha selection process

The Gurkha rifles in the British, Indian, and Nepali armies are accomplished and elite units made up almost entirely of men from a small area in Nepal.


For candidates hopeful to get a slot in one of these outfits, there is a grueling selection process that dates back two centuries.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
Defense Imagery photo by Cpl. Michael Strachan

The Ghurkas are named after the 8th-century Hindu warrior named Guru Gorakhnath, and the Ghurka people built a small empire in the Himalayan mountains in the 1700s. When the British tried to break into the Ghurka nation from 1814 to 1816, the Ghurkas eventually lost but resisted so fiercely that the Dutch East Indian Company asked if the Himalayan soldiers would like to become paid warriors for the larger, richer British Empire.

Enough Ghurkas accepted the offer and the British set up the Gurkha Brigade. Over 200 years later, Gurkhas continue to serve in the Brigade of Ghurkas, and British officers are still sent to Nepal each year to grade potential recruits and decide which young Himalayan men will be allowed to join the brigade.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British army, Brigade of Gurkhas stands Sanger duty at Patrolling Base Chili, Lashkar Gah district, Helmand province, Sept. 23. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

The selection process includes interviews and exams, but it focuses on endurance, drive, and physical health. According to the documentary below, thousands of men will come out to compete for positions in the Gurkha units — most of them aiming for the about 230 slots open in the British Army each year.

To get a slot, they have to pass physical tests, math and English exams, and outcompete their peers in races — sometimes with heavy loads on long paths up the Himalayan mountains.

This award-winning documentary from Kesang Tseten follows a group of potential Gurkha warriors through the selection process, showing how they deal with the stress as well as what they must do to even enter training. Check it out below:

Articles

A US defense contractor developed a drone that can fire a rifle

A US defense contractor has developed a consumer-sized sniper drone which it says could save the lives of soldiers and civilians on the battlefield, but some are voicing concerns, Popular Mechanics reported.


Duke Robotics, a Florida-based defense contractor, developed the TIKAD sniper drone, and recently sold some to the Israeli military.

They’re also pitching it to the Pentagon.

The drone is capable of being fitted with a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, a machine gun, or a variety of other weapons, Defense One and Popular Mechanics reported.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
Photo from Duke Robotics

It was used successfully by the Israelis but it only stayed airborne for about five minutes due to weight problems, Defense One reported. The TIKAD drone, however, has overcome previous weight and recoil issues.

The co-founder of Duke Robotics, Israeli military veteran Lt. Col. Raziel “Razi” Atuar, said the drone — which is flown and shot by an operator at a distance — will save civilian and soldier lives because it is more precise, as opposed to Reaper, Predator or Switchblade drones that fire missiles.

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in. Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt. The operational challenge, it bothered us,” Atuar told Defense One.

(Duke Robotics Inc | YouTube)

“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” University of Sheffield Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC.

“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more,” Sharkey said.

Mary Wareham, of Human Rights Watch, also voiced similar concerns.

 

Sharkey also told the BBC that he worries about the TIKAD drone, which private citizens can purchase from Duke Robotics, being copied by terrorist groups like ISIS.

“It won’t be long before everyone has copies,” Sharkey told Popular Mechanics. “Some of these will be a lot less stable and less precise. We have already seen ISIS employ small commercial drones for strikes with explosives.”

ISIS has been known to use drones for surveillance, guidance and even for dropping bombs.

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That time Americans demanded the Coast Guard rescue the cast of Gilligan’s Island

One day in 1964, TV producer Sherwood Schwartz received a strange message – from the U.S. Coast Guard. And that wasn’t the only message. Schwartz received a series of telegram forwards from the Coast Guard. He had just launched a new show on CBS about seven castaways stranded on a desert island…and Americans were demanding that the Coast Guard mount a rescue.


In a paper for the Center for Media Literacy, William F. Fore wrote that Schwartz was “mystified” by the telegrams. Concerned and delusional viewers were angry that the Coast Guard couldn’t spare one ship to send for those people.
“For several weeks, now, we have seen American citizens stranded on some Pacific island,” one viewer wrote to the Coast Guard. “We spend millions in foreign aid. Why not send one U.S. destroyer to rescue those poor people before they starve to death?”

Part of what was mystifying to the producer was the existence of a laugh track on the show.

“Who did they think was laughing at the survivors of the wreck of the U.S.S. Minnow?” Schwartz told Entertainment Weekly. “It boggled my mind. Where did they think the music came from, and the commercials?”

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
Why does the Navy not teach building cars in survival school?

In his book “Inside Gilligan’s Island,” Schwartz recalled discovering the telegrams for the first time. When the show was only ten weeks old, Schwartz received a call from a Commander Doyle of the U.S. Coast Guard. Having spent time in the Army as a Corporal, Schwartz was still impressed by rank, and took the call.

Doyle told Schwartz he would tell him the important message over the phone, but he wasn’t sure the Hollywood producer would believe him. So a few days later, Doyle was in Schwartz’ office, presenting the producer with a number of envelopes containing messages, like the one above, demanding to rescue the Minnow.

The telegrams he received from Doyle stayed with Schwartz his whole life. He noted that there is a subset of people watching who believe everything they see.

“It seems to me a great opportunity for producers to accentuate the positive in those viewers,” Schwartz wrote, “Instead of inspiring the negative.”

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Trump nominates VA undersecretary to take over top job

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.


Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is “fantastic” and will do a “truly great job,” The Associated Press reported.

Also read: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.

Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs

A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.

Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.

A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.

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That time the Russians rammed US Navy ships in the Black Sea

In February 1988, the American cruiser USS Yorktown was on a Freedom of Navigation mission in the Black Sea, just south of Crimea. With her was the USS Caron. Though outside of traditional sea lanes, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows for warships to leave sea lanes — even in another country’s territorial waters — as long as those warships were on “innocent passage.”


The Soviet Union disagreed.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
They usually did. (MGM/UA)

Though the Russians routinely used their own naval vessels to shadow the Americans in the region, the case of the Yorktown and Caron was different. The Russians held that the two American ships were armed with more firepower than previous treaties allowed while in their territory. They also believed that they had the authority to clear ships entering their waters.

That’s why the Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyi warned the Yorktown it would “strike their ship with own” if the Americans entered Soviet territory. Meanwhile, another Soviet frigate confronted the Caron. The Americans blew off the threat, with the Caron responding: “I am engaged in innocent passage consistent with international law.”

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

That’s when the second Russian frigate slammed into the Caron’s port side aft. There was no damage except some paint scraping. The Caron pressed on and exited Soviet waters almost two full hours later.

Also in Soviet territory, the Yorktown was being shadowed by the Russian Bezzavetnyi. The Russian closed to within 50 feet of the Yorktown when it turned into the American ship, slamming into its port side. Bezzavetnyi’s anchor fell away, while Yorktown suffered minor hull damage, though with no breaches. The ship’s rear Harpoon missile launchers were damaged and unusable.

Yorktown completed her mission and left in a similar two-hour time frame.

The Russians had no intention of sinking either ship and no weapons were ever cleared for action. In after action interviews, the skipper of the Bezzavetnyi said:

“To be honest, no one in the in the command center put on his lifejacket, although the order had been given… Many members of the crew of Yorktown were on the upper deck, smiling and waving, taking pictures of us with cameras and videocameras. And the commanding officer of Yorktown, for example, appeared on the bridge in parade uniform. In a word, the Americans behaved as if they were participating in a show for entertainment.”

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
“Are you not entertained?” (U.S. Navy photo)

“Our view is that unless you exercise the right of freedom of navigation, inevitably you lose it,” said then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the incident. “If we start backing off we will eventually lose some of the rights that are absolutely essential for our freedom of navigation.”

Freedom of Navigation missions have been a cornerstone of the US Navy mission and of American foreign policy since 1979. The resolve of the Yorktown and Caron to press on are testament to the dedication to the mission.

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8 epic reflections on the career of the internet’s most badass military meme

The year was 1968 when Mike Vining was a senior in high school. According to his answers on his TogetherWeServed Page, Vining heard about the Tet Offensive and wanted to join the military with the expressed purpose of going to Vietnam.


His service afforded him the opportunity to do two things he likes to do, “work with explosives and climb mountains.” He probably never dreamed he would become Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining: the epitome of the modern American soldier…

1. He’s also the internet’s most casually badass meme.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

Now Read: The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

Maybe it’s the kind eyes. Or the nice smile. Maybe it’s his age the large glasses of a bygone era that make him a grandpa-like figure. But the rank on his sleeve, fruit salad on his chest, the EOD and CIB pinned on his jacket, and Army Special Operations Command shoulder patch give all that away.

There’s much more to the story, and now we all know it.

2. He wasn’t just Delta, he was a founding member.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Mike Vining joined the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta) at Fort Bragg in 1978. His first commander was Col. Charlie Beckwith, who started putting together Delta Force the previous year.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

According to Vining, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist who was looking for something “more challenging,” he joined because Delta was looking for people with an EOD background. He spent almost 21 years in Special Forces.

3. His military résumé reads like a history book.

He spent two years in Vietnam as an EOD specialist with the 99th Ordnance Detachment, much of that time spent in combat.

Vining was also in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran. He was aboard EC-130E Bladder Bird #4 when one of the RH-53D helicopters crashed into it.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

Also Read: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

He was also in the invasion of Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Uphold/Restore Democracy in Haiti.

4. It took 15 years to earn his Combat Infantryman Badge.

Though Vining saw plenty of combat in Cambodia and Vietnam, as an EOD Specialist, he wasn’t eligible for a CIB. Delta never got a chance to engage the Iranians at Desert One. So, despite Delta Force’s rigorous training and autonomy, his first combat action came in 1983 during the Richmond Hill Prison assault during Urgent Fury’s invasion of Grenada.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
U.S. Special Operations Forces in Grenada, 1983. (Defense Media Network)

5. He became infantry twenty years into his service.

“In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.”

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
Vining and Delta providing close protection to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner)

6. His most significant action came just two years into his career.

His tour in Vietnam with the 99th Ordnance Detachment was one of the stand out moments of his time in the Army.

“[It] was the destruction of a cache found in Cambodia called ‘Rock Island East.’ The cache yielded 327 tons of ammunition and supplies, including 932 individual weapons, 85 crew-served weapons, 7,079,694 small arms and machine gun rounds. The cache contained 999 rounds of 85mm artillery shells which are used for the D-44 howitzer as well as the T-34 tank. I was part of a seven-man EOD team that destroyed the cache on 16 May 1970.”

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

7. Vining is still active in the veteran community.

Now fully retired, he travels with his wife much of the time. He writes about military and naval history, polar expeditions, and mountaineering postal history. He and his wife have a very active outdoor life of hiking, backpacking, rock and mountain climbing, biking, and skiing.

He is also a life member of the VFW, and a member of the National EOD Association and Vietnam EOD Veterans Chapter. He is also the historian for the National Army EOD Memorial at Eglin Air Force Base.

8. He would do it all over again. And recommends you do, too.

Vining calls his experience “rewarding” and recommends the military as a career to those who recently joined the Army.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

“Military service has given me the opportunity to do all the things I like to do: Work with explosives and climb mountains. I have gotten a chance to work with some of the finest people in the military.”

Mike Vining’s awards and decorations are too numerous to list here. Check them out and read about his experiences in his own words on his public TogetherWeServed profile.

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That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past


On the morning of June 13, 1942, a German submarine stole up to the coast of New York. Inside was Hitler’s hope of an America in flames. Four Nazi saboteurs with crates of explosives, costumes, and money, climbed out of the hatch and moved to shore in a rowboat with two German sailors.

Their objective was to cripple the power of America to make war, primarily by disabling industrial necessities like aluminum and hydroelectric power production but also by terrifying the American populace so they’d vote to get out of it.

As the men made their way in the rowboat to the New York coast, another team was in the Atlantic, bearing down on Florida. Operation Pastorius, the German invasion of the U.S. by sabotage, was in effect.

The Teams

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
The New York Team. Photos: FBI

The New York and Florida teams were each composed of four men. All were German, all had spent time in America, and all were trained in a special school for sabotage.

The leader of the first team was George J. Dasch, a veteran of World War I who had fought for Germany but emigrated to America after the war. In 1939, he had returned to Germany and was recruited into the sabotage plot soon after America joined the war.

Dasch had three more men on his team. Ernest P. Burger was a long-time Nazi who had taken part in Hitler’s first grab for power at the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. He fled to America to escape brawling charges, living there for six years and becoming a citizen. Heinrich Heinck and Richard Quirin were machinists who had lived in America for 12 years each.

If it sounds like the team members were misfits, it’s because they were. Burger, the long-time Nazi and veteran of the Beer Hall Putsch, had even spent time in a concentration camp for writing a college paper critical of the Gestapo.

They had received only 18 days of special training, mostly Jiu Jitsu, weapons, and explosives instruction in the German woods with some field trips to power plants. Dasch, the team leader, was known to nap through much it.

The first team lands in New York and the mission immediately goes awry

The Florida team left from a submarine base at Lorient, France on May 26, 1942. Dasch and the New York team left on May 28, but since the New York route was shorter, they arrived at the American coast first on June 13.

The mission faced problems from the start. The submarine they were riding in accidentally ran aground 200 meters off the coast before launching the rowboat. So, as the saboteurs were approaching the shore, the German captain was struggling to get his boat out to sea before the rising sun exposed it to growing traffic on the coastal road.

On the boat, the saboteurs were dressed as German marines. When they arrived on the coast, they immediately changed into civilian cloths. While the rest of the team began burying their crates of explosives and money, Dasch and another man crossed over a nearby dune. After cresting the hill, they saw a flashlight approaching the group through thick fog.

Coast Guard Seaman 2nd Class John Cullen came upon the wet German on his normal foot patrol. Dasch claimed he was part of a fishing party that had run ashore. When Cullen offered them shelter and food at the nearby Coast Guard station, Dasch refused and claimed the men were worried because they had been fishing without a license.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
John C. Cullen. Photo: US Coast Guard Oral History Program

Cullen was already suspicious, but then Dasch asked if Cullen would like to ever see his mother and father again. As Cullen realized they were threatening to murder him, a third German came over the dune with a sea bag and yelled something to the first two in German.

Cullen realized then what he was dealing with: German spies or saboteurs. Dasch ordered the third man back behind the sea dune and turned back to Cullen. “We’ll give you some money, and you forget about this,” Dasch said according to Cullen’s account in a Coast Guard History interview. He took the money to prove his story and ran back to the Coast Guard station.

Using the money as proof, Cullen convinced the other men at the station and four of them returned to the beach to find it empty except for a pack of German cigarettes. As the men searched the beach, they smelled diesel exhaust. Suddenly, they felt a large vibration as the German submarine escaped the sand bar and headed out to sea.

They called another station to report the incident, and soon, the island was swarming with soldiers and artillery. Coast Guardsmen and a Naval intelligence officer dug up the buried explosives cache and turned it over to the FBI, who then took over the investigation.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
All of the saboteurs crates were recovered. Photo: FBI

As the island was being locked down, the FBI was beginning the largest manhunt in its history and George Dasch was putting his own plan into motion.

Dasch betrays the conspiracy

The FBI rushed to keep the story quiet while hunting down the men as fast as they could, but they didn’t have any real leads. Still, they needn’t have worried. Dasch had been ordered to kill anyone who saw them, and the reason he didn’t appears to be because he was already planning on betraying the mission.

Once they had stowed the gear on the beach, the Germans moved to a train station and split up. Dasch revealed his plan to Burger, the saboteur who had spent time in a German concentration camp. Dasch wanted to turn all the evidence over to the FBI, expecting to be accepted as heroes by the American government. Burger agreed to the new plan and Dasch called FBI headquarters.

Unfortunately, the agent on duty who fielded the call thought it was a prank and hung up on Dasch. Dasch slowly made his way to D.C. to reveal the plot.

When he arrived, he was punted from agent to agent who all thought he was pulling their leg until, in frustration, he dumped the entire bag mission money, $84,000 (worth $1 million today) onto the agent’s desk. Finally, he had their attention and was able to expose the whole plot.

Dasch handed over a handkerchief that showed where all of the mission’s American contacts lived, but he couldn’t remember how to make the invisible ink appear since he had slept through those classes. Agents in the FBI’s lab eventually figured the ink out, and agents staked out all the addresses listed. They quickly captured the rest of the New York team as well as all four members of the Florida team.

J. Edgar Hoover, when reporting the events to President Franklin Roosevelt, failed to mention that one of the German’s had turned evidence and claimed full credit for the FBI. Roosevelt ordered military tribunals and sought the death penalty against each spy, including Dasch and Burger.

Trials and executions

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
The Germans were tried in a secret military tribunal. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

A short trial was held in a Washington, D.C. basement and all eight men were given the death penalty. Roosevelt read the transcripts from the trial and, learning that Dasch and Burger had betrayed the plot and turned state’s evidence, commuted their sentences to 30 years of hard labor for Dasch and life imprisonment for Burger.

In secret, the other six members of Operation Pastorius were executed.

Burger and Dasch would serve six years in prison before being released by order of President Harry Truman and deported to Germany where they were received as traitors. Cullen received a Legion of Merit from the Army for his part in stopping the Germans.

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past
Photo: US Coast Guard Oral History Program

Hitler attempted one more time to send spies into America, landing two spies on the coast of Maine. Those men were caught after the FBI received a tip from a Boy Scout.

(h/t Stuff You Should Know podcast)

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More US diplomats are allegedly being attacked by these weird weapons in Cuba

Mysterious incidents affecting the health of American diplomats in Cuba continued as recently as August, the United States said Sept. 1, despite earlier US assessments that the attacks had long stopped. The US increased its tally of government personnel affected to 19.


The new US disclosures came the same day that the union representing American diplomats said mild traumatic brain injury was among the diagnoses given to diplomats victimized in the attacks. In the most detailed account of the symptoms to date, the American Foreign Service Association said permanent hearing loss was another diagnosis, and that additional symptoms had included brain swelling, severe headaches, loss of balance, and “cognitive disruption.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US was continually revising its assessments of the scope of the attacks as new information was obtained. She said the investigation had not been completed.

“We can confirm another incident which occurred last month and is now part of the investigation,” Nauert said.

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State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. Photo from White House Flickr.

US officials had previously said that the attacks, initially believed to be caused by a potential covert sonic device, had started in fall 2016 and continued until spring 2017. Last week, Nauert had said at least 16 Americans associated with the US Embassy in Havana had been affected, but that the “incidents” were no longer occurring.

The evolving US assessment indicated investigators were still far off from any thorough understanding of what transpired in the attacks, described by the US as unprecedented. As the bizarre saga has unfolded, the US has encouraged its diplomats to report any strange physical sensations. So it’s unclear whether some symptoms being attributed to the attacks might actually be unrelated.

Still, the fact there was an incident as recently as August suggested the attacks likely continued long after the US government became aware of them and ostensibly raised the issue with the Cuban government, creating even more uncertainty about the timeline and who was responsible.

Notably, the US has avoided accusing Cuba’s government of being behind the attacks. The US did expel two Cuban diplomats, but the State Department emphasized that was in protest of the Cubans’ failure to protect the safety of American diplomats while on their soil, not an indication the US felt that Havana masterminded it.

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The US flag flaps in the stiff breeze off the Florida Straits at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. Photo from US State Department.

US investigators have been searching to identify a device that could have harmed the health of the diplomats, believed to have been attacked in their homes in Havana, but officials have said no device had been found.

One of the diplomats affected had arrived over the summer of 2017 to work at the US Embassy and was later diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms, said a US official, who declined to specify the symptoms that led the diplomat to report the situation.

And in Canada, a government official said that the Canadian government had first learned in March 2017 that one of its citizens was affected. Ottawa had previously confirmed that at least one Canadian diplomat was involved, but had not revealed any timeline for when it occurred or came to light.

Both the US and Canadian officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.

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Havana aerial view from Jose Marti monument, 2008. Photo by Anton Zelenov.

It’s unclear whether Canadians were intentionally targeted or whether there could have been collateral damage from an attack aimed at Americans, given that diplomats from various countries often live in the same areas of a foreign capital. US officials have said the Americans were targeted in their homes in Havana, not in the Embassy.

Canadian officials have been actively working with US and Cuban authorities to ascertain the cause. A Cuban attack deliberately targeting Canadians would be even more confounding, given that Canada — unlike the US — has long had friendly ties to Cuba.

The American Foreign Service Association, in describing the damage to diplomats’ health, said it had met with or spoken to 10 diplomats affected, but did not specify how many of the 10 had been diagnosed with hearing loss or with mild traumatic brain injury, commonly called a concussion.

Yet the confirmation that at least some diplomats suffered brain injury suggested the attacks caused more serious damage than the hearing-related complaints that were initially reported.

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Logo from AFSA.org.

“We can’t rule out new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” Nauert said. She added that the embassy has a medical officer and has been consistently providing care to those who have reported incidents.

Asked for further details about what the US had learned about the cause or culprit in the attacks, the State Department said it had no more information to share.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, typically results from a bump, jolt, or other external force that disrupts normal brain functioning, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short- and long-term effects can include changes to memory and reasoning, sight and balance, language abilities, and emotions.

Not all traumatic brain injuries are the same. Doctors evaluate patients using various clinical metrics such as the Glasgow Coma Scale, in which a numerical score is used to classify TBIs as mild, moderate, or severe.

“AFSA strongly encourages the Department of State and the US Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated,” the union said in a statement.

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Actor James Garner’s sense of smell saved the day during the Korean War

Army Pvt. James S. Bumgarner met a North Korean patrol during the evening of April 23, 1951, during the early stages of the Korean War. You probably know him better as actor James Garner, star of The Rockford FilesMaverick, and The Great Escape, among many others. But before his Hollywood career took off, he enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marine at the end of World War II, then into the California National Guard before deploying to Korea for 14 months with the 5th Regimental Combat Team.


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Garner in Korea with an orphan he looked after.

In his 2011 memoir, The Garner Files, he wrote:

Army chow was bearable as long as I could keep the onions and garlic out of it. I cannot stand onions and I’m very sensitive to garlic. I can taste tiny amounts of it, like when they’ve cooked another dish with garlic before and don’t wash the pan. If I get even a hint of it, I might throw up in my plate. This violent aversion may have saved my life: like our South Korean allies, the Chinese and North Korean troops lived on a diet of fish heads, rice, and garlic.

One night while on guard on the line, I caught a faint whiff of it coming from the direction of the enemy positions. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew there was someone out there and they were coming closer. Once I sniffed them I could hear them, too. It turned out to be a patrol heading straight for our position. They were just the other side of a rise when I passed the word down the line. We were ready for them and stopped them in their tracks.

He was wounded in that exchange and received his first Purple Heart. 32 years after the war, Garner received another Purple Heart for being wounded during a friendly fire incident where a strafing fighter hit him in the buttocks. The Army mixed up the paperwork and only found it after the actor mentioned the incident on Good Morning America

“I got it in the backside. I went into a foxhole headfirst and I was a little late. There’s a lot of room for error with a wound in the rear. It’s a wide target.”

During his long career as an actor, Garner played a number of military roles, including an American airman in the WWII-era British Eagles Squadron, an Army Tanker, and Army infantryman.

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“After 32 years, it’s better to receive this now than posthumously,” Garner said at his ceremony. “It is indeed an honor and I tried to serve my country to the best of my ability.”

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This coding boot camp is a great way to get started with a tech career

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(Photo provided by Paul Dillon)


Coding boot camps are programs that teach programming skills. Typically, these boot camps are short (12 weeks to 7 months), often intense (sometimes requiring 90 hours/week), and usually designed to teach beginners enough so that they can become professional junior software developers.

And, the demand for their graduates is robust and growing. According to Dave Molina, a former U.S. Army captain, and the founder and executive director of Operation Code, a non-profit online, open source coding program for active duty military, veterans, and their families, “There are over 200,000 computing jobs open annually in the U.S., with 30,000 of those jobs filled by computer science graduates; however, that number is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2020. Meanwhile, we have 250,000 U.S. military personnel that exit the service annually, many of whom possess the discipline and aptitude to fill those jobs, if they had some training in computer coding skills.”

These are generally good paying jobs. Rod Levy, the founder and executive director of Code Platoon, a non-profit coding camp in Chicago for veterans, states that “starting salaries for graduates coming right out of the boot camp are about $65,000, rising to about $100,000 after five years of experience. Placement rates for graduates are high.”

So, why are coding boot camps a good option for veterans?

Levy lists several reasons: “As we know, veterans often struggle ‘translating’ their military experience to a civilian audience. Coding boot camps solve this problem by giving veterans job-ready skills that are well understood in the job marketplace”, he said.

“Even more important”, Levy added, “successful software developers typically need to work well in teams, demonstrate grit and resilience, and have to be able to systematically problem-solve. These characteristics are often found in veterans.”

Molina supports this view. He said, “Military veterans have the right set of skills to become programmers. Technical expertise, emotional resilience, psychological persistence, and teamwork—these are the qualities found in our best and brightest and they are the qualities of the best programmers.”

There are coding boot camps to serve about every veteran’s needs. These various coding boot camps are distinguished by the following characteristics:

  • Level of intensity. “Immersive” is around 60 – 80 hours a week; “full-time” can be 30 to 70 hours a week; “part-time” is typically 10 to 30 hours week.
  • In-person or remote. In-person means you spend the majority of the training on-site, with instructors and fellow students on premises. Remote means you do the training on your computer at home regardless of location.
  • Technology stack. Most coding boot camps teach web development or mobile development. Web development means you learn to write applications for the web—some focus on the Ruby on Rails, Python, Node.js or .NET. Mobile development means developing native apps, for example on iPhones or Androids. The most popular technology stacks being taught are Ruby on Rails, Python/Django, Full Stack Javascript, C#/.Net, and Java.
  • Internships/Job Placement. This one is obvious. Coding boot camps that offer internships and/or have high job placement rates for entry-level software developers should be given serious consideration.
  • Population focus. A few coding boot camps serve specific populations and look to tailor their programs to those populations, as well as creating a “safe” space where members of those populations may feel more comfortable. There are coding boot camps just for women, minorities and veterans, to name a few. Obviously, veterans should choose a boot camp that caters to their specific needs, when possible, and leverage their New GI Bill wherever possible.

Given all of these various aspects of coding boot camps, what should a veteran look for in choosing a coding boot camp? At a minimum, veterans should consider the following items when selecting a boot camp:

  • Different boot camps are meant to serve different interests. Remote online boot camps, like Thinkful.com, are much more convenient than in-person boot camps, such as Code Platoon, where you have to move to Chicago for a few months. The trade-off for that convenience is that it may be very hard to stay motivated, understand the material thoroughly and ask your peers and instructors questions. In-person boot camps, on the other hand, offer the immediate feedback and support that can be missing in remote programs, although they may not be located near when the veteran lives or works. Consequently, they may be much more expensive to attend.

A representative list of code schools and scholarship information can be found on the Operation Code website at the following link: https://www.operationcode.org/code_schools

  • If your goal is to learn skills for a new career in programming, look for a program that will put you through at least roughly 1,000 hours of coding/instruction, at an absolute minimum. Whether this is in an immersive 12-week program at 80 hours a week, or a year-long program at 20 hours a week is up to you; but 1,000 hours of focused, directed learning in programming is the bare minimum needed to become a competent programmer.
  • The choice of technology stack is often a source of much discussion, with trade-offs discussed around the number of jobs versus the learning curve needed for various languages. In the end, there are many jobs in each of the languages/stacks that are being taught. Always look for a coding boot camp where the programming stack is in substantial demand, with many jobs available immediately upon graduation.

Cost is an important consideration that the veteran needs to keep in mind in selecting the right code camp to meet their needs. Most coding schools offer scholarships to veterans to help to defray the costs. At Code Platoon, for instance, the tuition is $13,000 for the full program. However, all veterans accepted into the program receive a scholarship of $10,500, bringing the total cost of the program to the veteran to $2,500. Travel expenses to and from Chicago, and living expenses while attending the program in Chicago, are extra.

There is no charge for Operation Code programs and services for active duty military, National Guard and reserve troops, veterans, and their spouses. Information on conference scholarships can be found on the Operation Code website: https://operationcode.org/scholarships.

What about using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend one of these coding camps? Currently, 5 code schools across the country accept the New GI Bill: Sabio (Los Angeles), Code Fellows (Seattle), Galvanize, RefactorU and SkillDistillery (Colorado).

Most coding schools, however, are not eligible to receive GI Bill funds. Code Platoon hopes to be eligible for GI Bill funding within a year. Each state has its own authorizing agency that approves programs for participation in the New GI Bill, with two years of school operating experience generally required. More information on this subject can be found on the Operation Code website at https://operationcode.org/code_schools.

Internships, mentoring partners, and job placement are all important considerations for the veteran in selecting a coding camp. Code Platoon, for instance, pairs its students with two industry partners, who work with the student during the entire program.

Operation Code offers its military veteran members ongoing software mentorship through its Software Mentor Protege Program, where its members get help with their code, pairing online in a peer-to-peer learning environment with professional software developers for lifelong learning and understanding in an inclusive and nurturing environment.

And, most coding schools help their graduates with job placement assistance, upon completion of their programs.

It is obvious that veterans need to consider a lot of things before applying to a coding camp.

The different types of programs, whether on-site or online, need to be determined. The reputation of the coding camp, the success of its graduates, costs, potential use of the GI Bill, scholarships, internships, mentoring and job placement assistance all need to be carefully researched.

But, one thing is perfectly clear about obtaining the skills necessary to be a successful computer programmer. It offers the opportunity to have a lasting career in a growing, well-compensated field that’s going to change the world.

And, what could be better than that for veterans and their families?

Watch this introduction to Code Platoon:

And now watch this introduction to Operation Code:
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Paul Dillon is the head of Dillon Consulting Services, LLC, a firm that specializes in serving the veteran community with offices in Durham and Chicago. For more visit his website here.