Spy novels are filled with over-the-top missions and unlikely operations, but some of the wildest spy stories are the real ones.
1. A Polish spy bluffs her way into a Gestapo prison while surrounded by her own wanted posters.
Christine Granville was known for a bunch of exploits in World War II, but her ballsiest was a rescue mission. She walked into a Gestapo-controlled prison in France and secured the release of three other spies scheduled for execution. At the time, her face was on wanted posters spread across the country.
2. Operation Mincemeat fooled the Nazis with a corpse.
When the Allies needed to invade Sicily in 1943, they knew the Germans would be rapidly reinforcing it. So, they procured the body of a dead vagrant, dressed him up in a uniform, chained a briefcase of fake invasion plans for Greece to his wrist, and floated him on ocean currents to “neutral” Spain.
As the British expected, the documents were handed over to the Nazis and assumed to be genuine. The Germans prepared for an invasion in the wrong place, saving thousands of Allied lives during the invasion of Sicily.
3. A famed jazz singer smuggled information through sheet music and her underwear.
Josephine Baker was a famous singer and dancer born in America. She became a French citizen in 1937 and, when France fell to the Germans, she convinced the Axis she was on their side. Baker spent the next few years spying for the Allies in high-culture parties with senior Axis leaders.
To smuggle intelligence out, she would plan performances in neutral countries and hand over her sheet music, covered in invisible ink, to Allied handlers. When she needed to smuggle out photos, she’d pin them to her underwear.
4. A Navy commando ran weapons, spies, and explosives through Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.
Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor — sometimes called America’s first SEAL because he was the first American commando to infiltrate by sea, air, and land in his career — served in the OSS in the Balkan Peninsula behind enemy lines from Sep. 1943 to March 1944.
During this time, he and his men reconnoitered enemy troop and supply positions, resupplied friendly forces, and conducted night time raids. They were nearly caught in three different incidents but escaped each time. The famed Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan recommended Taylor for a service cross for the mission.
5. Agent Fifi tested new British agents by being hot and charming.
“Agent Fifi” was Marie Chilver, an English-born woman who was raised throughout Europe. She was jailed in an internment camp in 1940 but escaped to England in 1941.
She tried to get sent back to France as a spy, but wasn’t allowed. Instead, she became the beautiful, seductive final exam for British spy trainees. British agents would be approached by Chilvers during their mission and she tried and get secrets out of them. Any who divulged information were dropped from the program.
6. Virginia Hall led a resistance group despite having only one foot.
Virginia Hall lost her foot prior to World War II, an injury that ended her hopes for a career in the foreign service. So, instead she became a spy.
Her largest contributions to the war probably came when she slipped into France via a British torpedo boat, trained three battalions of French resistance, and led sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions. Her team killed 150 Germans and captured 500 more. They also destroyed four bridges and multiple trains and rail lines.
You get a call on the way to the office and your boss says he needs you in Dubuque on the next flight.
If you’re not there, the deal won’t get done, and you’ll have to stand tall before The Man.
As a vet, you remember how your cammies held everything for a patrol — from bottled water to extra gloves to a couple of spare mags. So why would it be any different in civilian life?
Today’s tactical pants borrow from the utility of military versions with civilian-worthy styling that doesn’t scream “SEAL wannabe!” while still delivering the storage and durability those issued trousers were known for during service. They can hold another AR mag and a bottle of water or two, but since your “business trip” no longer entails kicking in doors and grabbing tangos, those pockets now serve a far more pedestrian purpose.
So you’re on the clock, you don’t have time to pack a bag. Can your tactical pants pick up the slack and help you make that crucial meeting two states away?
Here’s a basic loadout that’ll get you through a couple of days in front of a client.
Think you can’t fit that into your TacPants? Think again…
1. Skivvies are essential
Think about it folks, who wants to face down a big business deal with skanky set of drawers? Success demands feeling fresh, and that requires a extra set of skivvies to deal with sweaty “subjects.”
2. Batten down the button-down
Rolling on an unannounced trip usually means planes, trains, and automobiles. And when you finally arrive at the destination, you’re probably going to look like a soup sandwich.
So go-ahead, pack that fancy button-down to turn heads — there’s room for that.
3. Don those Dockers
Sure, we all love our tactical pants — heck, that’s what got you to your destination ready to roll, right?
But sometimes those civilian types might think you’re from Delta Team 6 come to snatch bin Laden if you’re sporting pants that feature pockets for extra pistol mags. So bring those Dockers to the party, you’ve got room for them!
4. Prepare for after hours
The client dug your pitch and signed on the dotted line. What better way to celebrate your victory than with a couple of beers out on the town with your new business partners?
But those nights can get cold on the road, and any former trooper worth his salt is going to pack some snivel gear for when the sun goes down and the temps drop. Fortunately, you still have plenty of room to pack your pants with fleece.
5. Don’t forget fresh breath
All the other gear is worthless if you’re sporting bad breath and low-reg grooming. Would gunny flame spray you if you sauntered up to formation with a 5 o’clock shadow? Then you can probably figure that the deal won’t get sealed if you’re rolling in looking like a college puke who spent last night at a Chi O mixer.
Cellphone, schmellphone — stash that toothpaste and razor right up front and make sure you’re as fresh as a boot in the squad bay for that all-important pitch.
Sure, it’s pretty unlikely you won’t have time to zip home and pack a duffel for that FRAGO from your boss. But isn’t it nice to know that the folks who’re designing the street-legal version of today’s combat gear have your back — with a fashion-forward place to stow all your gear and still dress for success?
After the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain in 1940, Hermann Goering ordered an ambitious new project he called the “3×1000” fighter. Goering wanted a plane that could deliver 1,000 kilograms of ordnance to a target 1,000 kilometers and fly 1,000 kilometers per hour.
Two brothers, Walter and Reimar Horten, proposed a design that not only would satisfy the ambitious concept, but that would also be the first stealth fighter.
The Horten 229 was the first blended-wing jet fighter ever built, but it only flew a handful of times in World War II. While its body looks similar to modern stealth planes like the B-2 Spirit, the 229 was never tested against radar.
The first prototype was destroyed in a crash during testing and the second was captured by the Allies who boxed it up and sent it to the U.S.
A team of Northrup Grumman model builders created a mockup of the 229 so that engineers could test the design against the types of radar used for the defense of Britain.
The results spelled probable doom for the British if the Horten had entered full production. Its reduced cross section could have allowed it to get closer to the coast before detection, and its speed might have gotten it to its target well before it could have been intercepted.
And, even if fighters or coastal artillery did reach the Horten before it destroyed the radar station and flew off, its speed and maneuverability would have made in nearly unstoppable in a fight.
See the full story of the engineers who rebuilt the Horten body and how the plane could have reshaped history in the National Geographic video below:
The American experience in Vietnam was a long and painful one for the nation. For those against the war, it appeared to be a meat grinder for draftees, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated, and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and so feel betrayed by many at home (Jane Fonda is the enduring symbol of the cultural schism).
Jane Fonda (via Dutch National Archives)
The facts not in dispute by either side are just as harrowing: Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 wounded, not to mention the emotional toll the war took on American culture. The war ended the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and left a lasting impression on Richard Nixon’s. It was the backbone to the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War one century prior.
The other facts are not so clear. We are at the fifty year mark for the start of the war, so soon more and more government documents from the period will be declassified. We will learn a great deal about this time in American history. Right now, however, the misinformation, cover-ups, and confusion about Vietnam still pervade our national consciousness. Right now, we can only look back at the war and take stock of what we know was real and what was B.S. from day one.
1. The U.S. first got involved in Vietnam in 1954
Sort of. The official line is the United States sent only supplies and advisors before 1965. Looking back before the fall of French Indochina, Vietnam’s colonial name, the end of World War II saw a briefly independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam under President Ho Chi Minh. Minh even gave a nod to the visiting American OSS agents by paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence in his own Independence speech: “All men are created equal. The Creator has given us certain inviolable rights, the right to life, the right to be free, and the right to achieve happiness.”
Almost as soon as Minh realized the Western allies were going to restore French rule, Chinese advisors and Soviet equipment began to flow to North Vietnamese guerillas. After the Vietnamese Gen. Võ Nguyên Giáp handed the French their asses at Dien Bien Phu, the French left and Vietnam would be split in two. In 1954, an insurgency sprang up, but was quelled by the government of the new South Vietnam, led by Ngô Dình Diem. Unfortunately Diem was as dictatorial as Ho Chi Minh and as Catholic as the Spanish Inquisition.
2. U.S. and South Vietnamese Presidents were shot in 1963, and this would be significant
They were also both Catholic, but that’s where the similarities end. This also may be the death of coherent containment strategy in the country. Diem was shot in an armored personnel carrier on November 2, 1963. At the time, there were 16,000 U.S. advisors in Vietnam. President Kennedy was said to be shocked at the news. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said he “had never seen the President more upset.” Both men knew the U.S. government was responsible “to some degree.”
The Pentagon Papers leak explicitly stated the U.S. clandestinely maintained contact with Diem over-throwers and the U.S. government gave the generals in Vietnam the green light to start planning a coup. Twenty days later, Kennedy would himself be shot in the back of a vehicle.
3. Kennedy wanted to get the U.S. military out of Vietnam but couldn’t figure out how
President Kennedy was a fervent believer in the policy of containment and believed in the Domino Theory, but not so much as to wage unending war with the Communists in Vietnam. During his Presidency, he and McNamara actively pursued a way to leave Vietnam, while still maintaining their commitment to a free South through financial support and training. Kennedy wanted all U.S. personnel out by the end of 1965.
Many people refute this theory using a quote Kennedy gave Walter Cronkite: “These people who say we ought to withdraw from Vietnam are totally wrong, because if we withdrew from Vietnam, the communists would control… all of Southeast Asia… then India, Burma would be next.” The only problem with this quote is while Kennedy was in office, there was no open warfare in Vietnam and U.S. involvement was limited. Their strategy was to bring the North to heel using strategic bombing and limited ground attacks. Recordings between Kennedy and McNamara were since released to attest to their efforts in getting out of Vietnam.
4. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident only sort of happened.
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident is the catalyst for the escalation of American action in Vietnam. It refers to two incidents in August 1964. On August 2, the destroyer USS Maddox was shelled by NVA torpedo boats. The Maddoxresponded by firing over 280 rounds in return. There was no official response from the Johnson Administration.
The pressure mounted however, with members of the military, both in and out of uniform, implying Johnson was a coward. On August 4th the second incident was said to have happened, but Secretary McNamara admitted in Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary The Fog of War the second attack never occurred. The Pentagon Papers even implied the Maddox fired first in an effort to keep the Communists a certain distance away.
The resulting Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed by the U.S. Congress allowed Johnson to deploy conventional (ground) U.S. troops and operate in a state of open but undeclared war against North Vietnam.
5. The U.S. didn’t lose the war on the ground
But we didn’t win every battle, either. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) can’t be faulted for lack of dedication, patriotism, or leadership. NVA Gen. Võ Nguyên Giáp orchestrated successive defeats of the Japanese and the French. Even Death had a hard time finishing off Giáp – he lived to 102. It also can’t be faulted for a lack of organization. The NVA was a professional fighting force, organized under Soviet guidance. The VC were forced to use inferior equipment because the Chinese would swipe the good weapons and replace them with cheap Chinese knockoffs.
Outmanned and outgunned, the NVA was beaten by U.S. troops in nearly every major battle. The myth of the U.S. never losing a single battle inexplicably persists (unless you were stationed at Fire Support Base Ripcord, outnumbered 10-to-1 for 23 days in 1970). Not as improbable, no U.S. unit ever surrendered in Vietnam.
Despite initial victories, the infamous Tet Offensive was a major defeat for the Communists. It resulted in the death of some 45,000 NVA troops and the decimation of Viet Cong elements in South Vietnam. The Tet Offensive succeeded on only one front: the media (more on that later). Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, two years after the Paris Peace Accords and after the American military left Vietnam. The last American troops departed in their entirety on March 29, 1973.
6. The M-16 sucked so hard, U.S. troops preferred the AK-47
Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam, replaced the M-14 rifle with the new M-16 as the standard issue infantry rifle in the middle of 1966. There was no fanfare. The first generation of the M-16 rifle was an awful mess with a tendency to experience a “failure to extract” jam in the middle of a firefight. They sucked so hard, the Army was hammered by Congress in 1967 for delivering such a terrible rifle system and then failing to properly train troops to use it.
So what to do? Pick up the enemy’s weapon. We already talked about why the AK-47 is so widely used. It’s better than dying for lack of shooting back. In Vietnam, an underground market developed among troops who didn’t trust their M-16. “Q: Why are you carrying that rifle, Gunny?” “A: Because it works.”
7. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) — aka South Vietnam — wasn’t all bad
The ARVN troops get mixed reviews from the Americans who fought with them. Most judge ARVN units on their leadership, which was definitely mixed. In the end, the South Vietnamese ran out of fuel, ammunition and other supplies because of a lack of support from the U.S. Congress in 1975, while the North Vietnamese were very well supplied by China and the Soviet Union.
8. The North Vietnamese Air Force was actually a pretty worthy adversary
Vietnam-era pilot and Hanoi Hilton POW was once asked on a Reddit AMA how good the NVAF fighter pilots were. His response: “The got me, didn’t they?” This is anecdotal evidence, but more exists. The Navy’s Top Gun strike fighter tactics school was founded to respond to the loss rate of 1 aircraft for every thousand sorties during Operation Rolling Thunder, a lot considering the combined 1.8 million sorties flown over Vietnam.
At war’s end, the top ace in North Vietnam had nine kills, compared to the U.S.’ top ace, who had six. The U.S. could only boast three aces (ace status requires at least five air-to-air kills), while the NVAF boasted 17.
9. It wasn’t only the U.S. and South Vietnam
Australia and New Zealand also fought in Vietnam, but the largest contingent of anti-Communist forces came from South Korea. Korean President Syngman Rhee wanted to send troops to help the Vietnamese as early as 1954. More than 300,000 Korean troops would fight in Vietnam, inflicting more than 41,000 casualties, while massacring almost 5,000 Vietnamese civilians.
10. The draft didn’t unfairly target the working class or minorities
The demographics of troops deployed to Vietnam were close to a reflection of the demographics of the U.S. at the time. 88.4% of troops deployed to Vietnam were Caucasian, 10.6% were African-American and 1% were of other races. The 1970 census estimated the African-American population of the U.S. at 11%.
A wounded soldier is helped to a waiting helicopter by two of his comrades near Near Tay Ninh, South Vietnam, November 1966 (Stars Stripes)
76% of those who served did come from working-class backgrounds but this was a time when most troops had at least a high school education, compared with enlisted men of wars past, among whom only half held a high school diploma. Wealthier families could enroll in college for a draft deferement, but even so …
11. A majority of the men who fought in Vietnam weren’t drafted — they volunteered
More than three-quarters of the men who fought in Vietnam volunteered to join the military. Of the roughly 8.7 million troops who served in the military between 1965 and 1973, only 1.8 million were drafted. 2.7 million of those in the military fought in Vietnam at this time. Only 25% of that 2.7 million were drafted and only 30% of the combat deaths in the war were draftees.
12. The war was not exclusively a jungle war
At the start, the South and allied forces were fighting Viet Cong insurgents in the jungle, but as time wore on, the battles became more set piece, complete with tanks and artillery. For example in 1972, the NVA Eastertide Offensive was the largest land movement since the Chinese entered the Korean War, crossing the Yalu river. The Eastertide Offensive was a planned, coordinated three-pronged invasion of the South, consisting of 12 divisions.
13. The Vietnam War was only sort of lost in the American media
The most famous quote attributed to President Johnson (aside from “Frank, are you trying to F–k me?” and “I do not seek and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as President”) is “If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Whether or not he actually said this is only important to fans of Walter Cronkite, who was then considered the most trusted man in America.
Until 1968, much of the American media was widely a mouthpiece for American policy and not one newspaper suggested disengagement from Vietnam. But things would get worse. A 1965 Gallup poll showed only 28% of Americans were against the war, 37% in 1967, 50% in 1968, 58% in 1969, In 1971, Gallup stopped asking. The 1968 Tet Offensive is what led Cronkite to see the war as “unwinnable.” Veterans of Vietnam widely attribute the success of the Tet Offensive as a success only in the media. The media they’re referring to is Walter Cronkite.
Yet, it’s not that cut and dry. A 1986 analysis of the media and Vietnam found the reporting of the Tet Offensive actually rallied American media to the Vietnam War effort. The Tet Offensive was a defining moment in public trust of the government reports on the progress of the war. Americans had no idea the VC were capable of infiltrating allied installations the way they did and many were unaware of the extent of the brutality and tactics of the war, but the Tet Offensive allowed American television cameras to record the bombing of cities and the execution of prisoners of war.
The tide of public opinion turned “for complex social and political reasons” and the media began to reflect that, according to the Los Angeles Times. “In short, the media did not lead the swing in public opinion; they followed it.”
New York Times White House correspondent Tom Wicker remarked: “We had not yet been taught to question the President.” Maybe the turn in public opinion had more to do with fatigue surrounding almost a decade of body counts and draft lotteries.
14. Richard Nixon ended the war — but invaded Cambodia first
President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” strategy involved a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops, and a bolstering of ARVN forces with modern equipment, technology, and the training to use it. It also involved plans to help garner support for the Saigon government in the provinces and strengthen the government’s political positions.
In 1970, he authorized incursions into Cambodia and massive bombings of Cambodia and Laos to keep pressure on the North while Vietnamization began. This prompted massive public protests in the United States. As U.S. troop numbers dwindled (69,000 in 1972), NVA attacks like the 1972 Eastertide Offensive showed the overall weakness of ARVN troops.
15. Vietnam Veterans are not mostly crazy, homeless, drug users
There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non-Vietnam Veterans of the same age group. 97% of Vietnam vets hold honorable discharges and 85% of Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life. The unemployment rate for Vietnam vets was only 4.8% in 1987, compared to the 6.2% rate for the rest of America.
16. The Communists do not still hold POW/MIAs
Many cite “evader signals’ on satellite imagery of Vietnam as evidence of the continued imprisonment of American prisoners of war (POW). If POWs were still held in 1973, it is very likely they are long since dead. Those hypothetical withheld POWs who did not die of old age would never be repatriated to the U.S.
More than 600 MIA suddenly found in Hanoi would be very difficult to explain. The fact is, North Vietnam had no reason to continue to hold American captives. The Americans would not return and the North violated the Paris Accords anyway.
17. Today, most Vietnamese people see the U.S. very favorably
Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.
Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.
“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”
Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.
“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”
But Houghton takes his argument further.
“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”
Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.
“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”
The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.
“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”
In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.
1. That one time the Australian Army fought a bunch of emus … and lost
Australia’s known for being a pretty badass country — a worthy reputation when your nation is populated by a bunch of outlaws on one of the world’s harshest continents. What Australia doesn’t want you to know, however, is that in between all that crocodile-wrangling and kangaroo-eating, it got its butt kicked once by a bunch of flightless birds.
The year was 1932. Australian farmers were struggling to save their wheat crops from a fierce, egg-laying pack of scavengers that had migrated into the area. And we’re not talking a pesky flock of chickens, either. This was a battalion of 20,000 emus.
Being Australian, the farmers figured they could probably take out these birds themselves. That plan quickly failed, since there were simply too many birds to handle, though one does wonder how they attempted to solve the problem in the first place (maybe some vegemite traps?).
Regardless, the crops were failing and it was decided reinforcements were necessary. Enter the Royal Australian Artillery. Major G.P.W. Meredith led two regiments of machine-gun wielding Australian soldiers against the bird infestation, figuring the issue would be taken care of in a few days.
He was wrong.
The emus proved wilier than expected. They dodged bullets with shocking finesse, weaving in and out of troops and scattering into the brush before they could be herded together. Many of the birds that were hit still got away — whether because of their dense feathers or sheer force of will, they would not not bend to the Aussie military.
Meredith decided to up the ante, organizing a surprise ambush near a dam where 1,000 emus were gathered unawares. This failed as well. Ego bruised, Meredith decided that the only way to destroy an army of demon emus is to do it yourself. In what no doubt would have made a soul-stirring slow-motion montage, Meredith climbed in the back of a truck and manned its machine gun, firing at the birds as he sped beside them.
The emus outran the truck, leading it through terrain so uneven and wild that the vehicle ended up crashing through a fence in its pursuit. As the emus disappeared into the sunset, the AA had no choice but to accept defeat.
“On 8 November, it was reported that Major Meredith’s party had used 2,500 rounds of ammunition – twenty-five per cent of the allotted total – to destroy 200 emus,” says Johnson. “When one New South Wales state Labor politician inquired whether ‘a medal was to be struck for those taking part in this war’, his federal counterpart in Western Australia, responded that they should rightly go to the emus who ‘have won every round so far’.”
In the end, less than 1,000 of the 20,000 emus were killed, and the farmers were left to weep over their wheat and gather an army of wallabies to fight back. Totally kidding — the government decided to cut out the middleman and give the farmers the ammunition they needed to finally fry the birds, taking the lives of 57,034 emus and restoring peace once and for all.
2. The time Japan deployed a new battleship and flooded Nagasaki
The saying “bigger is better” is traditionally an American mantra, but the Japanese Navy tried it on for size in 1940, and the results were pretty hilarious.
Not yet at war with the United States, Japan still wanted to assert military dominance. The plan? Build the biggest battleship it had ever commissioned, and call it the Musashi.
Now, Japan understood that an incredibly large battleship would not be impressive unless it was also outfitted with incredibly large weapons. To remedy this, the Japanese Navy decked out the Musashi with the best of the best. Amongst the weapons on board were cannons that could fire 18-inch shells over 26 miles and 9×450 mm guns — stats that were impressive for any military at the time.
What Japan did not take into account, apparently, was how much this thing would weigh. When the Japanese Navy joyously deployed the ship into the sea, the mammoth watercraft displaced so much water (63,000 tons) it caused a four foot high tidal wave, flooding the riverbank homes of Nagasaki and totally killing the mood.
The Musashi‘s wake capsized nearly all of the ships in the surrounding harbor, and did some serious damage to the shops and houses closest to the water’s edge. Frightened citizens rushed into the streets as water poured through their doors, completely bewildered by the source of the flooding.
They were quickly urged back inside their water-sogged homes by the Imperial Navy, which was too embarrassed to tell the people of Nagasaki what had actually gone down. It makes you wonder what they did blame it on…
3. A pilot ejects from his plane and watches it fly itself
Sometimes in life, things go incredibly wrong. And other times, they just go incredibly weird. 1st Lt. Gary Foust was preparing for the first scenario during a test flight in 1970, when his fighter jet began an uncontrollable flat spin. After struggling to regain control of the F-106 interceptor jet for a few moments, he did the smart thing and pressed the eject button 8,000 feet above the ground.
Or … he thought it was the smart thing. Once his chute deployed and buoyed him up in the air, Foust looked down towards the ground, expecting his plane to light up like the Fourth of July upon impact. What he saw instead was his plane cruising along, as if the spin had never happened and it was being piloted by a very casual, aircraft-savvy ghost.
One of Foust’s wingmen, Maj. Jim Lowe reportedly shouted over the radio “Gary, you better get back in it!” But Gary could not get back in. All he could do was watch with wonder as his plane flew itself in a straight line before landing gently in a snow-covered wheat field.
When police arrived on the scene, the F-106’s engine was still running. Wary of whatever had possessed this thing, the Air Force suggest the cops wait until the plane ran out of fuel, rather than attempt shutting it off. It took a while.
When the plane finally breathed its last it was collected and repaired by the Air Force, and eventually returned to active service. Freaky.
Check out the video below to hear Foust recount the events of that day:
4. Helicopter pilots nosedive into Lake Tahoe for a Facebook pic
Back in 2010, two presumably experienced and level-headed pilots from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 (HSM-41) were flying MH-6OR helicopters over Lake Tahoe. Everything appeared to be normal, when suddenly one of the aircrafts took a dip in the water, like a pelican trying to nab a fish.
Civilian witnesses caught the whole thing on video, and everyone wondered what the heck was going on. Had the engine failed? Were they trying to practice a mock search and rescue mission? The women in the video below seem to think its some sort of elaborate training exercise:
The answer is no. The pilots had the $33 million chopper surface-hover incredibly low over the water to try and get a cool profile picture for their squad’s Facebook page. And no, we’re not kidding.
The pilots allegedly took their hands off the controls to snap photos of one another flying the choppers. Then one helicopter began to plummet through the air, quickly losing altitude and skimming the water. The pilot was able to regain control and bring the chopper back up out of the water, but the stunt cost a cool half-a-million dollars worth in damages to the electronic flying antenna and other expensive equipment.
When they returned to base, the unnamed pair immediately lost flight status — shocker. Let it be a lesson to us all to not do it for the Vine, or the Facebook profile picture.
The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.
Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.
As of Dec. 21, they have them.
Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”
“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.
So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.
When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.
Well, if you have an extra $4.5 million, you can get yourself the last plane of its kind.
We’re talking an original P-51 Mustang fighter, with all the armor plate and no restoration. Any World War II buff could tell you that this plane was a scourge to the Nazis over Europe. But it also saw action in the Pacific, where it dropped bombs on enemy forces during the Korean War — and even saw combat action over two decades after the end of World War II.
According to a report by aerodynamicmedia.com, the Mustang in question, a “D” model, formerly served with the Guatemalan Air Force until 1972. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the Guatemalan Air Force then sold their surviving planes to Don Hull.
The P-51D was equipped with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, and was armed with six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. It could carry up to 2,000 pounds of bombs (Baugher notes that the Mustang started out as a dive bomber designated the A-36).
With a range of up to 2,300 miles, this plane could stick with heavy bombers like the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator on their missions deep into Nazi territory – and B-29 Superfortresses over Japan.
Since 1983, the P-51 up for sale has been stored in Texas. The company marketing it, Platinum Fighter Sales, notes that it also has “approximately 20 Merlin engines and tons of Merlin spares including Transport Heads and Banks. Also included are several containers worth of P-51 airframe parts.” The parts are reportedly either new or zero-timed. One thing is missing: The six M2s do not appear to be in the wings.
In short, you now have the chance to fix up and fly a legend of World War II that also honorably served for another 18 years. With World War II planes becoming rarer and rarer, this plane – and the haul of spare parts – could be a huge bargain at the asking price.
As president of The Mission Continues, Spencer Kympton knows a thing or 2 about leadership, service, and inspiring the next generation. His nonprofit believes that what military veterans “need most is an opportunity to deploy their skills, experiences, and desire to serve in their community.” Getting veterans to serve on the homeland not only keeps them doing what they love, it gives kids a firsthand view of how real heroes act.
Heroic ass kicking is Kympton’s forte. Since graduating as West Point’s valedictorian, he’s served as a Blackhawk pilot, worked with everyone from the FBI to McKinsey Company, and snagged a Harvard MBA with honors along the way. Now that he has a 6-year-old son, Kympton’s determined to teach service (and ass kicking ) the same way his father taught him.
How does your work with The Mission Continues influence you as a father?
One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is applying the same core values that we have at Mission Continues to my parenting:
Work Hard — Parenting is hard and you got to work at it. It’s something that takes constant effort.
Trust — Trust is at the center of it. The trust your child has in you is one of the most important things that you establish early on.
Learn and Grow — If you are not walking into parenthood embracing the amount of learning and growing every day, then you’re behind the 8-ball from the start.
Respect — Demonstrate respect for you kid and the struggles, challenges, and things they deal with.
Have Fun — Parenting ultimately is fun, and there’s not a day that goes by — even through challenges and struggles — when there’s not something tremendously fun about my relationship with my son.
Does being a father affect your work at The Mission Continues?
We have quite a few fathers on staff. In fact, even though we are a veterans organization in the people we work with, the reason we exist is to inspire kids. If you listened to some of our internal conversations, the reason we do projects in communities and put veterans into community-facing organizations is ultimately to demonstrate to my son’s generation that service in the military or in the community is what makes this country strong. The more ways that we can get veterans out into communities and those stories in front of children the better. That’s success for us.
Out of curiosity, how many demerits did you receive as a West Point cadet and why?
At West Point there were things called “hours.” An hour was quite literally an hour of marching back and forth in full uniform with a weapon on the weekend. There were certain infractions that got you lots of hours, and the biggest issue was you weren’t allowed to go anywhere if you had to stay and march hours. I got a little crazy at a tailgate my sophomore year and broke a couple of rules and ended up walking 48 hours over the fall/winter of my sophomore year. I learned a lot from that, and I was taught respect for some of the rules at West Point. Didn’t make that mistake again.
What are some lessons you learned as a Blackhawk pilot that you apply in your work and family today?
One of the things that impacted me most as a Blackhawk pilot was when I was stationed in Honduras in the mid-90s. In one case, we spent a couple of weeks flying doctors, dentists, and veterinarians into the Mosquito Coast of east Nicaragua — villages with no roads that got to them. They quite literally had never seen a car or motorcycle, much less this big hulking helicopter that flew in. When we landed, hundreds of kids ran out fascinated. We watched these doctors and dentists issue inoculations, prenatal vitamins, pull back teeth, or just do basic humanitarian care.
What I took away from that is the magnitude of challenges some kids in this world face. I also realized how important it is to ensure my son knows how fortunate he is. Life shouldn’t be about making his piece of the pie bigger but making sure the pie itself is bigger and more people are able to come to the party to have some of the pie.
That time in Honduras, seeing the conditions that other cultures have to raise their kids in, was very eye-opening.
What did your father teach you that you draw on as president of The Mission Continues?
My dad went to West Point as well. I grew up in a family that places value on service to country, particularly through the military as a starting point. My dad didn’t stay his full career in the military, but I learned service in the military can be the start of the arch of service to country that lasts your entire life. It can show up in various ways: military service, service in the community, school systems, and public service, whether local, municipal, or national government. Service can pop up in a lot of ways throughout your career. It’s the glue that sticks it all together.
How do you inspire your son to follow a similar path?
My wife and I plan to expose him to as many opportunities to serve others as possible. That may involve going to service projects with The Mission Continues, which he’s done. It may involve ensuring every time he gets an allowance a portion goes to some endeavor that helps serve others. He gets to do this because we involve him in that selection process and understanding the organization and the endeavor he’s giving that money to.
One thing I don’t want to do is force my son into anything that doesn’t feel natural or inspiring to him.
When you ask someone why they enlisted, they’ll usually say for financial gain, family reasons, or out of patriotism. Others will say, “it’s just something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid.”
For most of us, it’s a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. It’s impossible to tell whether it was the childhood toys that made us want to join the military or if kids that want to join the military just love these toys. Either way — if you had these toys, you were probably one of the coolest kids on the playground.
The original 1963 action figures consisted of Rocky the Marine, Skip the Sailor, Ace the Pilot, and Duke the Soldier. Throughout the years, they’ve added all sorts of wacky characters into the lineup, including astronauts, ninjas, laser soldiers, spies, pilots, and drivers for nearly every vehicle. In 1984, they finally added a Coast Guard character.
Even Hasbro thought ninjas were a more believable branch than the USCG (Image via GIPHY)
5. Green Army men
For the kid that would eventually want to become a commander, there was the bucket of little green soldiers. Almost always off-brand and sold by the bucket-full, kids who play with these plastic troops learn vital troop movement skills, like always checking for mines/IEDs, always taking a commo guy with you, and how useless you are with a bayonet if you charge holding it so far above your head that you can’t stand straight.
There was always an endless supply of these things… (Image via GIPHY)
Kids go crazy being able to talk to each other without having to be within earshot of one another. There’s just something about getting familiar with using real military lingo, like ‘over’ and ‘out.’
If you were the kid that said, “it’s not over and out. It’s one or the other because they contradict each other…”
…You probably went into the Signal Corps. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Nerf guns
Okay, so Nerf guns didn’t instill the best firearm safety habits, but they were undeniably fun for shooting your little sister. Even as adults, it’s still fun to grab a Nerf gun and attack your co-workers, roommates, spouses, children, pets, etc…
…But they do teach kids the “joys” of cleaning up your brass at the range. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Toy planes, boats, and tanks
To all of the airmen and sailors that have heard people say the tired, “no one ever played Air Force or Navy as a kid” — don’t worry, they did. They just pretended to be pilots or quartermasters.
Every other toy on this is just for fun. They’re all good ways to pretend like you’re something else. That kid digging holes in his sandbox and assembling his “sand piles” into neat structures, however, is actually spot-on with military duties. Digging those holes will prepare you for hastily establishing fighting positions and filing the god-knows-how-many sandbags you’ll fill in one enlistment.
Funny how there’s more to the nickname of “Sand Box” when describing the Middle East… (Image via GIPHY)
That said, the Brits will find that the U.S. Marines will do things a bit differently than Her Majesty’s lads. Here are a few things the Brits will need to do to make life “Oorah!” for American Leathernecks.
1. Schedule regular beer runs
The Brits may need to borrow a Supply-class replenishment ship just to have enough beer on hand for the Marines. You see, no thanks to Josephus Daniels the U.S. Navy doesn’t allow alcohol on board its vessels.
Royal Navy ships, on the other hand, are “wet,” and with the heat on carrier decks, Marines will get thirsty. The Brits will need sufficient supplies of Coors Lite to keep the Marines happy.
Oh, yeah, and when it comes to the harder stuff – figure that it might not hurt to have extras on stock. But they can leave the brandy and sherry ashore.
2. Ditch the tea and pile up the energy drinks
Earl Gray is not what most Marines will drink around 5:00pm. Forget even offering it.
Energy drinks on the other hand, are popular amongst all American service members. To fully understand how popular they are, keep in mind that according to a 2016 DOD release, Monster was the most popular cold beverage sold in the exchanges. In 2009, one exchange store reported selling 1,000 cans a week, according to an Army release.
Come to think of it… you may need a second replenishment ship for all the Monster that will be consumed. We’re sure Military Sealift Command will give a discount for leasing two Supply-class ships.
3. Stock coffee … and lots of it
While we’re talking about pick-me-ups, it may not be a bad idea to remember that the Marines will also drink coffee — and lots of it.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs from “NCIS” is not an aberration. The grouchiness if he doesn’t have his coffee – that’s not an aberration, either.
And the Marines have to have it.
That photo above was taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Trust me, if Leathernecks had their coffee during Iwo Jima — and did what they did there — you don’t want to see what Marines do without their coffee.
That might take a third Supply-class replenishment ship, by the way. MSC has to have a discount for leasing three, wethinks.
4. Add a rifle range
The Marines’ motto is, “Every Marine a Rifleman.” Even the jet jockeys.
So, you’re gonna need a range so the Marines can qualify on the M16A4 rifle and the M9 pistol. That means you’ll need a good backstop, plenty of ammo, and plenty of spare magazines for both (luckily the British L85 rifle uses the same magazines as the M16).
5. Brush up on what real football is
Also, depending on the time of year, you will be in football season.
No, we’re not talking the game with the black-and-white round ball. That’s soccer.
We’re talking real football. Eleven on a team, yes, but beyond that, the Brits will need to know the intricacies of the 46 defense, what “Cover 2” means, and just who Tom Brady, DeMarcus Ware, and Ezekiel Elliot are — among others.
Also, don’t even think of mentioning Manchester United in the same breath as the Chicago Bears. Just don’t.
A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.
The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”
The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”
Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.
“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”
Neither statement mentioned casualties.
There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.
The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.
Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.
The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.
Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.
Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.
This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titanium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.
Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.
“We are developing that draft requirements document. We are staffing it around the Air Force now. When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told reporters several months ago.
Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.
As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.
Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.
“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be. We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.
Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.
Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.
Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.
“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.
Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.