Journalist Javier Espinosa described the horrifying experience of being an Islamic State hostage in The Sunday Times.
In the piece, Espinosa, a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo who was held by the jihadist group for several months, recalled in vivid detail how infamous executioner “Jihadi John” would psychologically and physically torture his victims.
“Feel it? Cold, isn’t it? Can you imagine the pain you’ll feel when it cuts? Unimaginable pain,” the notorious militant would say as he tickled Espinosa’s neck with a long knife. “The first hit will sever your veins. The blood mixes with your saliva.”
“Jihadi John” also staged mock executions for his hostages, whom were often captured in Syria by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
“Jihadi John wanted maximum drama. He had brought along an antique sword of the kind Muslim armies used in the Middle Ages,” Espinosa wrote, according to The Telegraph. “After finishing with the sword he holstered his pistol, a Glock. He placed it against my head and pulled the trigger three times. Click. Click. Click. It’s called a mock execution. But not even this terrifying intimidation seemed to satisfy them.”
“Jihadi John,” gained infamy last year after appearing as the executioner in Islamic State videos, including those where US journalists were beheaded. In February, The Washington Post identified the militant as Mohammed Emwazi.
An Islamic State defector told Sky News last week that Emwazi was the “boss” in the jihadist group’s hostage operations. According to Sky News, the mock executions had a dark purpose: to make the hostages more relaxed for their ultimate execution videos.
“The execution rehearsals took place so that when the moment of death finally came, the hostages were not expecting to be killed and were relaxed to appeal for their release on camera,” the outlet reported.
There’s a lot of debate over which President has the most impressive military background, and history provides no clear winner. That doesn’t matter though, because today, YOU decide. We’ve rounded up some of the best and brightest Commanders-in-Chief in American history, and want your feedback on their stories of war, heroism, and military ingenuity. Read through the list, pick your favorite, and cast your vote! The favorite might surprise you.
1. Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt didn’t do anything halfway, especially when it came to military strategy. When war broke out in Cuba in 1898, he ditched his post as assistant secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley to form his own volunteer Calvary regiment, the Rough Riders. It was basically a club of badass cowboys, college athletes and lumberjacks who were used to tearing it up on horseback — only now they did it for America, which was even cooler. Once Teddy rounded everyone up, they headed to Cuba, where they would forever leave their mark in the Spanish-American War at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
With only 500 Spanish villagers left standing to protect the town, the nearly 8,000 American troops at the battle thought it was just about over. They soon discovered, however, that higher ground gave their enemies a distinct advantage, and Teddy ordered his Rough Riders up the slope — despite the fact that the men were now on foot and hundreds had already fallen.
Teddy’s men successfully charged and captured both Kettle and San Juan Hill, leading to the Spanish defeat and ultimate surrender just a few weeks later. His military valor and infectious tenacity both at the front lines and behind the podium would later ignite a huge political following, and make him one of the greatest leaders of the United Sates.
2. John F. Kennedy
When most people think of JFK, his military service in World War II tends to take a back seat to the more colorful aspects of his personality and presidency. And while anecdotes about his charisma, good looks and alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe make for great cocktail party banter, one of the most interesting segments of Kennedy’s life happened long before Camelot.
In 1941, the 24-year-old Kennedy volunteered to serve in the Navy. He would soon become a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, and command the Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT) USS PT 109, attacking the Japanese shipping boats dubbed “The Tokyo Express.” The Tokyo Express supplied Japanese forces that were based throughout the island network of the Pacific, and it was the duty of the small PT boats to cut them off before they could reach their destination, as well as aid the U.S. Army and Marine Corps for onshore attacks.
The work was hard, but nothing extraordinary — until disaster struck on August 2, 1943. Kennedy had the PT 109 running silent, hoping to go unnoticed by the Japanese, when the watercraft was blindsided by the Amagiri, a Japanese destroyer running perpendicular to the boat at 40 knots. The large warship ripped Kennedy’s boat in half, gutting the watercraft and sending the entire crew into the ocean. One of the surviving men, engineer Patrick Mahone, was badly injured by fuel that had exploded below decks, and Kennedy towed him through the water to a small island that was four miles away, gripping his life vest to keep his head above water. When the eleven survivors finally collapsed on the sand, they had been in the ocean for nearly fifteen hours.
If that’s not impressive enough, JFK got his men off the island by carving a message into a coconut and giving it to two natives, who then delivered it to the PT base at Rendova, ensuring the rescue of Kennedy and his crew.
The men were rescued on August 8th, four days after their boat was destroyed. JFK would later encase the coconut shell in wood and plastic and use it as a paperweight for his documents in the Oval Office. How is this not a movie yet?
3. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson is one of the more, if not the most, notorious presidents the United States has ever had. His bombastic personality and deeply controversial decision to move Native American tribes to reservations has left many people skeptical — if not deeply disapproving — of his contributions as Commander- in-Chief.
Before he stepped foot in the White House, however, Jackson was making waves in a different way. When he was only 13 years-old, Jackson’s mother was killed during the British invasion of South Carolina in 1788, and Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by nearby troops. When ordered to shine an officer’s boots, Jackson refused, causing the officer to slash the side of his face with his sword. His brother would later fall ill and die while they were still in confinement, leaving Jackson alone. The event would leave physical and psychological scars that lasted into Jackson’s adult life, and likely forged the defiant, fearless personality that would bring him military success.
Jackson served as a major general in the War of 1812, leading U.S. forces against the Creek Indians, who were British allies at the time. After a five-month assault against the natives, Jackson secured the U.S. an overwhelming victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The best-known example of Jackson’s military valor, however, was not even technically part of the War of 1812 under which it was fought. The Battle of New Orleans occurred after the close of the war, but before the Treaty of Ghent — an agreement signed by British and American representatives that effectively ended the war — had reached Washington.
Jackson and a rag-tag band of slaves, frontiersman, militia fighters and pirates took down a full-frontal assault from British forces, despite inferior numbers, training and supplies. News of the impossible victory took the nation by storm, and people were so enamored with Jackson’s military prowess that they didn’t really care when word got out that the entire battle was essentially pointless.
The battle wasn’t entirely devoid of merit, however. The victory helped bar British forces from invading the American frontier, and would later lead to Jackson’s invasion of the Florida territory, which was under Spanish rule at the time. Jackson managed to conquer both St. Mark’s and Pensacola, ensuring the American Acquisition of Florida later in 1821.
Other interesting points of Jackson’s military history: He was the first and only President to be a former prisoner of war, and is estimated by many historians to have competed in nearly 100 duels. Old Hickory was no pushover. In one duel against Charles Dickinson, a local horse breeder who had insulted Jackson’s wife in the National Review, Dickinson shot Jackson square in the chest, at which point Jackson shot back, shooting his opponent dead. He carried the bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.
4. George Washington
George Washington is a figure that completely encompasses American identity, and is treated by many as a kind of national demi-god. Politicians, historians and school teachers around the nation continue to sing the praises of the father of the United States, but it’s easy to forget what this guy actually did among all the patriotic white noise.
One of the first aspects of his life that tends to fall by the wayside is his military achievements. Young Washington’s first taste of war came in 1752, when he joined the British military at twenty years old to fight for control of the upper Ohio Valley during the French and Indian War. Before he became a soldier he had trained as a land surveyor, and his superiors were quick to have him lead expeditions in and around Virginia, the state he grew up in.
During one expedition under British Gen. Braddock, the French and their Native American allies ambushed Washington and the rest of the troops. Braddock was killed almost immediately, and Washington promptly took over, leading the surviving soldiers in a carefully executed retreat. The governor of Virginia would later raise Washington’s rank to colonel to reward him for his military valor, and he was tasked with protecting much of the western frontier.
During his service under the British militia, Washington’s view of the colonies’ mother nation soured. He felt that the British military commanders had little understanding of colonial life and were rude and dismissive towards colonial leaders. This seed would later grow into Washington’s full-on rebellion against British rule, when he formed the Continental Army in June of 1775 and was elected commander-in-chief.
Washington immediately set about forming a navy, creating policies on how to interact with Loyalists, and leading campaigns to gain allies both on the home-front and abroad. The most impressive military moment of Washington’s time as general, however, was arguably the crossing of the Delaware.Washington and his men had hunkered down in Brooklyn Heights, anticipating a British attack on New York City. Gen. Sir William Howe, the British commander of the navy, had other plans. Howe drove Washington’s army out of Long Island and captured the majority of the colonial army, claiming New York City.
Despite this defeat and the colossal British military force — a whopping 34,000 redcoats to a measly 2,400 American soldiers — Washington didn’t give up.
Instead, in the early, freezing hours of December 26, 1776, Washington and his surviving men crossed over the Delaware River, initiating a surprise attack on Hessian soldiers gathered in Trenton, New Jersey. They would ultimately capture 900 men, later prompting British forces to abandon New Jersey. This embarrassing display of British defeat was a huge source of hope and pride for the American colonists. Washington had many military victories big and small during the Revolutionary War, but his military prowess in New York invigorated an entire people, giving the patriot cause the fuel that it needed to continue to fight — and win — the war for America.
5. Ulysses S. Grant
Though many historians and war buffs contest that Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest American generals of history — and certainly the greater of the two military leaders of the American Civil War — President Ulysses S. Grant made incredible gains for the United States.
Before he became a Civil War hero, Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and fought in the Mexican War under Gen. Zachary Taylor, where he would gain valuable military experience and be praised for his combat skills and bravery on the battlefield. During this time however, Grant began to fall into a depression. Without the anchor of his wife, Julia, and their young family, he felt alone and aimless. He would eventually turn to alcohol as a means of easing his distress, before retiring to civilian life in 1854 in an attempt to regain control of his life.
When Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers at the start of the Civil War, however, Grant rushed back to the battlefield. He began as the colonel of a regiment in Illinois before being promoted to Brigadier General. Then, after his success in the Western Theater in 1863, he was granted command of all Union armies in 1864. From there, Grant’s star would rise to immeasurable heights.
Grant was also referred to as “Unconditional Surrender Grant,” a nod to his demands at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, two crucial Confederate posts that he captured. Some felt that his military strategy and trademark terms of surrender were too brutal, but Lincoln stood behind him, reportedly stating, “I cannot spare this man, he fights.”
It was under Grant’s leadership that Gen. William T. Sherman wreaked havoc on Georgia, burning his way through the South during his March to the Sea, also known as the Savannah campaign. Grant himself would fight against Lee and the Confederate forces at Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, instigating brutal slaughter on both sides of the battle but ultimately weakening the rebel army. Lee Finally broke under Grant’s relentless attacks at the battle of Richmond, where he would flee and then later surrender at Appomattox, securing Grant’s victory and his place in the American Military’s Hall of Fame.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
While Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he was clear to point out he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35. In addition, many Air Force officials have cited a strong belief that the F-35 is the best fighter in the world.
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of this year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 Sensor Fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission Data Files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials toldMilitary.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Sadly, the heroes of World War 2 are leaving us every day. With the vast majority of war veterans past the age of 90, it won’t be long before only a few WW2 heroes and veterans are left to tell their stories of courage and triumph in the face of murderous odds. While some soldiers and important figures of the time are well known to the culture in general, most aren’t. Some didn’t survive, and many others simply never spoke about what they did. This list of World War 2 heroes will show the courage, bravery, and selflessness of many men you may not have heard of, but who made important contributions to the war nonetheless.
World War Two made heroes out of countless soldiers, scientists, officials, and even cooks and the World War 2 timeline is dotted with remarkable and heroic individuals. Whether fighting the Nazis on the European front or making a difference against the Japanese in the Pacific, these real life heroes helped the Allies win the war and helped make the world what it is today. Their sacrifices for their fellow fighters and even strangers they’d never feet were truly heroic.
This list features many World War 2 soldiers, pilots, and fighters who you should know something about. Some were officers and aces, others peasants and ordinary foot soldiers. They hailed from around the world, and some never even wore a uniform. But all of them took actions that saved lives, inflicted damage on the enemy, and collectively won World War II, the worst war in human history.
Russia is saying that their fighters chased off the U.S. Navy’s USS Ross Monday while it was operating aggressively in the Black Sea, but the U.S. is calling B.S. According to Navy officials, the encounter was no big deal and they haven’t changed any of their operational plans.
“From our perspective it’s much ado about nothing,” Navy spokesman Lt. Tim Hawkins told USNI News.
The Russian fighters had overflown the ship before with no incident. The Navy has released video of two of the SU-24 flybys, including the June 1 encounter. The USS Ross is leaving the Black Sea today, as scheduled.
The first video released is of one of the flyovers in late May.
The U.S. military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.
But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factory and be the bomb that takes them out.
That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.
Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.
Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.
“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the U.S. “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”
UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.
One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.
Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.
“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”
Company officials say the U.S. Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.
Growing up Kennedy: Family portrait at Hyannis Port, 1931: (from left) Robert, John, Eunice, Jean on lap of Joseph P. Sr., Rose Fitzgerald behind Patricia, Kathleen, and Joseph P. Jr. behind Rosemary. (Photograph by Richard Sears courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston).
Featured Image: Growing up Kennedy: Family portrait at Hyannis Port, 1931: (from left) Robert, John, Eunice, Jean on lap of Joseph P. Sr., Rose Fitzgerald behind Patricia, Kathleen, and Joseph P. Jr. behind Rosemary. (Photograph by Richard Sears courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)
As one of the more prominent political families in the United States, the Kennedys have long since been recognized as public figures. Most notably, we remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) who served as president from 1961-1963, and his wife, the eventual Jackie O — short for Jackie Kennedy Onassis. His brother, Bobby, is also famous for running for president. And that’s only to name a few. But behind the public eye, behind the politics, this family had their own share of interesting events that took place.
Check out these 16 unique tales about this famous family.
The family immigrated from Ireland and soon became involved in politics. Patrick Joseph, or PJ, was the first Kennedy to run for office. He served in the Massachusetts state legislature for 11 years, from 1884-1895.
From 1947 until 2011, at least one Kennedy served in federal office — starting with JFK as a member of Massachusetts’ congress, and ending with PJ Kennedy’s great-grandson, also Patrick J. Kennedy, who retired from Congress as a member from Rhode Island.
JFK had serious health problems, most of which he kept as absolute secrets to the public. His medical records were even sealed for decades after his death. He came close to death a few times before taking office, suffering from scarlet fever, whooping cough, Addison’s disease (a very rare diagnosis that affects the body’s adrenal glands), and more famously, extreme back problems. He had spinal fusion surgery to correct the latter; it’s stated that he may have been more easily killed due to the back brace he wore, as it kept him upright during the assassination — and therefore a more sure target — after he slouched from initial shots.
Several other family members have had notable jobs and offices, including JFK’s sister, Eunice, who founded the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Special Olympics.
Maria Shriver, Eunice’s daughter, is the former wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and through him, the former first lady of California.
Edward Moore Kennedy, AKA Ted and brother to JFK and Bobby, remains as having been the fourth-longest serving senator. His stint ended when he died of a brain tumor in 2011. Hailing from Massachusetts, Ted sat in office for nearly 47 years.
Jackie O dated the New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams, who is best known for creating the Addams Family. Yeah — what?!
Speaking of Jackie O, she also had a terrible smoking addiction. For more than four decades, she smoked three packs a day — that’s 60 individual cigarettes every. single. day. She finally quit once diagnosed with non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma.
TV and radio host Larry King had a car wreck with JFK. While visiting Miami, King allegedly hit the president’s parked vehicle in 1958.
John, Robert, Jackie O, and Ted, and older brother Joseph, who served in the Navy, are all buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Rose — JFK, Bobby, et all’s mother — implemented a “no crying” rule in her house. Other rules included strict diets, punishments for being late, and researching topics that had to be reported through dinner.
JFK’s family had an insane amount of pets while living in the White House. That was a total of 11 dogs (11! One was donated to Jackie by Nikita Khrushchev), five horses, two hamsters, three birds, a cat and rabbits.
While in office, JFK had recording devices installed throughout the White House. More than 300 hours were captured of meetings and phone calls, including some not-so-flattering comments from the president himself.
Lore says the family may or may not be cursed, with Ted going as far as to announce it publicly. Some events that cause the comments of a curse include:
Rosemary Kennedy, sister to JFK, Bobby, etc. was born with brain damage (due to lack of oxygen during birth). She received a botched lobotomy, leaving her incapacitated.
Joseph Jr., the eldest child of Rose and John Sr., died while serving in World War II after piloting a plane that exploded in the air.
Sister Kathleen died in a plane crash just four years later. Ted survived a different plane crash in 1964 — just months after the death of his brother. JFK and Jackie O’s son, John Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law also died in a plane crash in 1999. (His parents allegedly predicted this and attempted to keep him out of the air.)
Of Bobby’s 11 kids, two died young — one in 1984 from a drug overdose and another in 1997 from a skiing accident. And in 2020, is granddaughter and great-grandson went missing from a short canoe trip, with the bodies found days later.
And more — these are only to name a few.
Jackie was reportedly offered money — to the tune of $1 million — to stay married to JFK. The deal was made by her father-in-law, John Sr., due to troubles, including infidelities, before they made it to the White House. John Sr. believed JFK’s political career would be ruined with a divorce.
They’ve had two family assassinations, happening five years apart. As the leading Democratic presidential nominee in the 1968 election, Robert Francis — also called RFK and Bobby — was assassinated by a 24-year old Palestinian, supposedly because of Kennedy’s support for Israel. This, and his brother’s assassination fed ongoing conspiracy theories, including those of political agendas against the family. Some theories say scapegoats were used in order to have the brothers killed. As to the actual culprit, theories range from politician figures — possibly the government — and the mob. Theories are fed by reports of overlooked evidence, witness intimidation (and death), evidence tampering, inconsistent reports, and more. More than 1,000 books have been written in correlation with JFK’s assassination alone.
They volunteered to become Marines 75 years ago to fight a common enemy yet entered a Corps and community divided by segregation and rife with inequalities.
On the morning of Aug. 24, the community and Corps came together as one to honor their legacy and determination during a 45-minute ceremony on hallowed ground dedicated in their honor.
Three living Monford Point Marines and the families of four, along with hundreds of spectators, paid tribute to the more than 20,000 African-American Marines who entered service in 1942 and trained aboard Camp Lejeune on land called Montford Point.
In recognition of the 75th Anniversary of the first “Montford Pointers,” the August 24 gathering was used to present Congressional Gold Medals posthumously to family members of four former Montford Point Marines: Gunnery Sgt. Leroy Lee Sr., Sgt. Virgil W. Johnson, Cpl. Joseph Orthello Johnson, and Pfc. John Thomas Robinson.
Robinson’s son, John Robinson who traveled from his home in Tennessee to attend the August 24 service, was overcome with emotion when he accepted, on behalf of his father, a Congressional Gold Medal and plaque by Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East and Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune.
“He never talked about his service,” Robinson recalled about his father who left home in Michigan and arrived at Montford Point during World War ll where he would fight in Saipan. “He would always say, ‘I crossed the international dateline,” Robinson said with a chuckle.
After the war, Robinson returned to Michigan where he raised a family and supported his household as a welder and a musician.
The Montford Point Marines, “found courage and determination and grit to overcome inequalities. Because of their determination and all that they went through, we all now are able to serve freely,” Alford said speaking near a granite and bronze statue which symbolically portrays a Montford Point Marine scaling an uphill incline with a bayonet affixed to his rifle.
Three Montford Points sat quietly in the front row: Norman Preston, 95, accompanied by his daughter Christine Allen Preston; John L. Spencer, 89, from Jacksonville; and 89-year-old F. M. Hooper, of Wilmington.
Hooper enlisted in 1948 and said the division in Jacksonville was evident.
“We’d walk three miles from base to downtown. My shoes were spit shine like mirrors,” the Brooklyn-raised Marine said. “We passed establishments but weren’t permitted to go inside because we were black. I remember walking across the railroad tracks and the streets were dirt and my shoes were no longer shiny.”
Onslow County Commissioner Chairman Jack Bright spoke from the dais invoking the name and legacy of the late Turner Blount, a Montford Point Marine and later an elected official in Jacksonville.
“He was always upbeat and ready for controversy as a councilman. Turner was a pillar of our community,” Bright said before recognizing Blount’s family seated in the gallery then leading the gathering into a moment of silence. Blount died on July 21 at the age of 92.
The Congressional Gold Medal was first awarded on June 27, 2012 in Washington, DC and presented to retired Marine 1st Sgt. William Jack McDowell on behalf of all Montford Point Marines.
Because the Marine Corps was segregated at the outbreak of World War ll, African-American recruits entering the Marine Corps in 1942 endured boot camp at Montford Point aboard Camp Lejeune rather than Parris Island, SC. After training, the Montford Point Marines were assigned to the Pacific Theater to function in support roles. The Montford Point Marines quickly proved themselves to be as capable as their Caucasian counterparts wearing the same uniform and soon found themselves on the frontlines, spilling their blood and defeating the enemy during fierce combat.
In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order No. 9981, negating segregation and in September 1949, Montford Marine Camp was deactivated.
In April 1974, the camp was renamed Camp Johnson in honor of the late Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Hubert “Hashmark” Johnson, who served in the US Army, US Navy, and as a Montford Point Marine.
Despite overcast skies and the threat of rain, the presence of American heroes adorned with Montford Point Marine covers shined over the crowd with admiring spectators posing and snapping pictures with the spry albeit elderly men.
“You are truly part of our greatest generation,” Col. David P. Grant, commanding officer of Marine Corps combat service support schools, Camp Johnson and the ceremony’s keynote speaker said. “They simply wanted to serve their country during the war and they wanted to do it as Marines.”
The Congressional Gold Medal was first awarded on June 27, 2012 in Washington, DC and presented to retired Marine 1st Sgt. William Jack McDowell on behalf of all Montford Point Marines.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a bill ratifying a protocol to the 2015 agreement between Moscow and Damascus regulating the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria for 49 years.
The protocol signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 regulates issues related to the deployment of the Russian Air Force on Syrian territory as well as related to Russia’s exercise of jurisdiction over its military movable and immovable assets on Syrian territory. It also covers the measures needed to maintain the operation efficiency of the Russia Air Force.
Under the protocol, the Russian Air Force are allowed to stay on Syrian territory for 49 years with an option of automatically extending that arrangement for 25-year periods after this term expires.
The document, published on the Russian official legal information website, particularly says that the Syrian government is handing over a plot of land in the Latakia province, where the Khmeimim Air Base is located, over to Russia for its free use.
The bill ratifying the protocol was signed by Putin on July 27, according to a Kremlin statement.
It was adopted by the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, on July 14 and approved by the Senate five days later.
The Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian government as part of the operation aimed at fighting terrorist groups. The group was stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base.
Most Russian troops initially deployed to Syria were withdrawn in March 2016 after Putin said that the objectives of the five-month anti-terrorist operation in Syria were “generally accomplished.” At that time, Russia said it would keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to monitor the situation in the region and observe the implementation of ceasefire agreements.
Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”
The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”
“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.
Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.
“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”
Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.
The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.
Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”
Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.
“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”
The Air Force released a video of the test launch.
The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.
Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.
“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”
An investigation into events that led to the reliefs of the commanding officer, former executive officer and command master chief of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge earlier this month implicated 15 other officers and senior leaders on the ship in the scandal.
Cmdr. Sean Rongers, Cmdr. Brandon Murray, and Command Master Chief Richard Holmes, were relieved April 7 by Destroyer Squadron 28 commander Capt. Richard Brawley after an investigation found fireworks were being stored aboard the Bainbridge in violation of Navy instructions and unlawful gambling was taking place among officers, officials said.
A 149-page preliminary inquiry report released to Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request found the ship’s leaders also failed to get a pregnant officer transferred off the ship in keeping with Navy policy, conducted certain ship maneuvers that endangered gear, and encouraged relaxed uniform guidelines under long underway periods with the sale of “no-shave chits.”
A command climate survey also obtained by Military.com dating from February also found that the ship’s top officers presided over a command marked by exeptionally poor trust in leadership and leadership and organizational cohesion.
According to the February investigation, Rongers, the commanding officer, directed the purchase of just under $1,500 worth of fireworks for a July 4 display aboard the Bainbridge, using funds from the ship’s morale, welfare and recreation account. In April 2015, Rongers directed a subordinate to purchase the fireworks, knowing that the ship had conducted a similar fireworks display in 2013.
The subordinate, whose name is redacted in the report, negotiated a deal with the company Phantom Fireworks to buy the pyrotechnics. An overnight trip was made to purchase the goods, which included fireworks with names like “The Beast Unleashed” and “Swashbuckler 72-shot.”
Some of the fireworks purchased were not available for sale in Virginia, the investigation shows. Then, while the ship was operating in the Virginia Capes area, near Virginia Beach, Rongers dispatched rigid-hulled inflatable boats to pick the fireworks up at Rudee Inlet in a late-night operation.
Rongers told investigators that the fireworks were brought aboard via late-night boat operations in order to avoid force protection measures or other regulations that might have prohibited them coming through the main gate when the ship was pierside in Norfolk, Virginia. He also said he checked with another officer about the legality of using MWR funds for fireworks and got the all-clear. The officer, whose name is redacted in the investigation, denied that Rongers had checked with her.
The fireworks were stored in black trash bags in the ship’s pyro locker, near its barbershop. Ultimately, however, officials from Destroyer Squadron 28 got wind of the fireworks plan when a prospective weapons officer from the Bainbridge raised concerns, saying he had already confronted Rongers and Murray, the executive officer about having them stored aboard ship.
Rongers had the fireworks removed from the ship and loaded into his own car. The MWR funds used to purchase them were never reimbursed, however.
Investigators found that Rongers and Murray failed to do the research needed to ensure the fireworks purchase and display were legal. They violated MWR policy prohibiting funds from being used to pay for “hazardous activities,” according to the report, and Rongers “rationalized” his actions because a fireworks display had taken place before, even though Navy policy prohibits fireworks being stored aboard ship and transported the way that they were.
Rongers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military.com.
The gambling accusations stem from a weekly Friday night officers’ poker game that took place in the Bainbridge officers’ wardroom with Rongers and Murray’s consent and participation during the ship’s 2015 deployment. There was a $10 buy-in, and participants played with chips in lieu of money and kept scores and money owed written on a piece of paper.
Concerns arose after an officer was asked to pay a buy-in fee she claimed she was never informed about. A legal officer approached Rongers and Murray with doubts about the legality of the command-sanctioned game, according to the report, but they dismissed these concerns, saying no one was forced to play.
Ultimately, the game was temporarily closed down and replaced by a non-gambling game night with activities like Uno and Risk. However, the game started up again later in the deployment, investigators found.
The investigation also revealed a booming business: the purchase of “no-shave chits” which allowed Navy personnel to grow facial hair or, if female, to wear their hair in a ponytail during long periods underway. At $30 a pop, the MWR raised nearly $12,700 on a single deployment from sale of the chits, the investigation found. The ship’s leaders sanctioned this practice, and Rongers even purchased a chit at one point, documents show. While the practice of selling the chits is fairly common, investigators found, it is not permitted by policy.
Bainbridge leadership also fell afoul of policy when an officer became pregnant. Though regulations stipulate that pregnant sailors need to be transferred off-ship by the 20th week of pregnancy, she was not transferred until some five weeks after that deadline, even though the report shows she repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of her chain of command. Moreover, Murray waited until January 2016 — past the pregnancy’s 20-week point — to inform the ship’s placement officer of the need to transfer the officer, even though he was aware of the situation in November, the investigation found.
Finally, Rongers’ handling of the Bainbridge on breakaways following underway replenishment caused alarm among sailors and led to the loss of some gear, the investigation found. On multiple occasions, witnesses testified, Rongers would conduct the breakaways at high speed, before personnel and gear were secured. In one case, sailors ordered to clear the deck could hear items tumbling around as the ship broke away. Two aluminum drip pans were lost over the course of the deployment, and one “killer tomato” or inflatable naval gunnery target, was struck loose by the wind, but was ultimately recovered.
Investigators faulted many other officers for failing to take appropriate action in light of the improper behavior taking place aboard the Bainbridge. While Rongers and Murray were advised they were suspected of violating articles 92 and 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violation of a general order and conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman, respectively, 16 others were cited on suspicion of dereliction of duty or violation of a general order.
These include the ship’s chief engineer, the supply corps officer, the weapons officer, the force protection officer, the recreational services officer, the Tomahawk leading chief petty officer and others, though the names of these individuals were redacted.
Investigators recommended that Rongers face non-judicial punishment for directing a subordinate to illegally transport and store fireworks. They also recommended that the ship’s chief petty officers ensure sailors are taught lessons on “misplaced loyalty” with regards to the fireworks incident, since many aboard ship were found to have covered for leadership, rather than adhered to policy.
While the investigation does not cover how problems with the ship’s command affected the rank-and-file, a command climate survey from the time reveals troubling trends. Fifty-three percent of sailors on the Bainbridge rated their trust in leadership unfavorably, according to the survey. On leadership cohesion, 63 percent of sailors gave unfavorable ratings, and 47 percent of sailors rated organizational cohesion unfavorably. Organizational processes received a 52 percent unfavorable rating, and 42 percent of sailors rated their job satisfaction unfavorably.
A spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, said Rongers, Murray and Holmes remain assigned to SURFLANT in Norfolk. Vasquez said the administrative process was still ongoing for the sailors named in the investigation and declined further comment.