The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America's doorstep - We Are The Mighty
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The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

Most stories about the Cuban Missile Crisis start with Oct. 16, 1962, when the president and his advisors were briefed on the missile sites on the island. A few start with Oct. 13, when the U-2 flight that photographed the sites took off. U-2 overflights would collect more information during the crisis along with other reconnaissance plans. After collecting all the information, U.S. intelligence agencies believed the Russians had smuggled nearly 10,000 troops onto the island.


The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: Wikipedia/Keizers

But the Russians had actually smuggled over 40,000 troops comprising seven missile regiments, two air defense divisions, a fighter aviation regiment with 40 jets, 23 nuclear-capable bombers, a helicopter squadron with 33 birds, 11 light transport planes, and four mechanized infantry regiments with three nuclear rocket batteries attached.

All of these assets were to employ and defend the 36 to 42 nuclear ballistic missiles, 92 nuclear cruise missiles, and six nuclear bombs deployed to the island. There were also another 24 ballistic missiles that never made it to the island.

How did the Russians get this vast nuclear arsenal 100 miles from America? They packed their men into 100 degree ship holds until some died of the heat and dehydration, cleverly hid missile components in civilian ships, and lied their asses off.

The Russian ruse

First, Russia only let a few people know they were planning it. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the General Staff made the decision to place the missiles, and then told only five people — four generals and a colonel. To keep those who knew to a minimum, the colonel hand-wrote all the meeting notes and drafted the proposed plan in longhand.

As preparations got under way, more and more officers had to be brought into the inner circle, but the Soviets limited those who knew the true nature of the mission to just a handful and mislead the others as to the exact nature of the mission.

Many were convinced that the deployment was a training mission near the Bering Sea. The mission, Operation ANADYR was named for a river that flows into the sea. Troops were alerted that they were headed to a cold region and were issued cold weather clothes and skis. Technicians were told the equipment they were preparing were destined for an island in the Arctic where Russia regularly tested nuclear weapons.

“Agricultural experts”

To explain the sudden movement of personnel, ships, and equipment from Russia to Cuba, the Soviet Union announced that they were sending agricultural experts to Cuba. They arrived May 29, 1962, and pulled Raul Castro aside. They explained that they were actual military leaders who needed to speak to Fidel Castro as soon as possible.

The delegation made the initial deal with Fidel Castro to bring the missiles in, and Fidel Castro went in July to finalize the deal.

Within a week, “machine operators,” “irrigation specialists,” and “agricultural specialists” who knew nothing about farming began arriving in Cuba by air. America wasn’t totally blind to this. Intelligence analysts speculated that the new flights were bringing in military officers and signal monitoring equipment onto the island.

Preparing to deploy

The massive movement of supplies and personnel to Russian ports had to be hidden. First, all the troops involved were restricted from mail and telegrams. Shipments were split between four ports on the north of the country and four in the south. Troops waiting to get on the ships were housed in military facilities and not allowed to leave the area for any reason. Ship crews couldn’t leave the ports. Communications with the Defense Ministry were done via courier.

As ships were loaded, only agricultural-type equipment was allowed to be stored above decks. Most military equipment and nearly all of the troops were stationed belowdecks. Large equipment that couldn’t be stored below but was visibly military was camouflaged to be hidden in the ships’ outer structures.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
The Soviet ship Poltava moves the first of the ballistic missiles to Cuba. Photo: US Air Force

Again, the Americans had some idea that something could be amiss. The type of large-hatch ships being used were sometimes employed to transport cargo, but they were also some of the only ships that could carry ballistic missiles.

Traveling clandestinely

To make sure no one, not even the ship’s captains and military commanders, knew where they were going, each ship was given a route and a thick envelope. Once they reached a point on their initial route, the military commander and a ship captain would open the first layer of the envelope in the presence of a Soviet political officer. Inside would be instructions to head to another point as well as another sealed envelope. Again, the ship would follow the enclosed instructions and open the next sealed envelope.

Eventually of course, there would be an envelope that ordered them to Cuba.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A soviet ship moves nuclear-capable bombers to Cuba ahead of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Photo: US Air Force

Meanwhile, the crew was suffocating belowdecks. To keep from being spotted by reconnaissance overflights or by people on the coast when near land, the thousands of soldiers were ordered to stay below with all the portholes closed during the day. At night they could take turns walking on deck in small groups. Temperatures in the holds climbed to 120 degrees or higher in the day and some ships faced fresh water shortages. In a few extreme cases, personnel died to maintain secrecy.

Lying

Of course, the Soviets still had to straight-up lie to President John F. Kennedy to pull this off. The small bits of evidence had been piling up for the Americans and a sighting of surface-to-air missiles on Cuba suddenly blew the military buildup into the open.

When the administration confronted the Russians, Russia claimed it was a small defensive buildup and America bought it. Russia also pushed the importance of them training Cuban farmers.

To protect the U-2s, Kennedy ordered the end of flights over Cuba, blinding America to the continuing buildup.

Arrival in Cuba

Once the assets arrived in Cuba, it was nearly impossible to keep people from talking. Russia tries by moving mostly at night, using Spanish on the radio, and minimizing communications. They also destroyed buildings on the route and evacuated areas near the missile sites.

But the locals were still talking about the incoming missiles. To prevent discovery, Russia began leaking false information through as many intelligence channels as they could. Stories ranged from African troops with nose rings landing on the island to underground hangars and concrete domes being constructed. American analysts trying to rule out the erroneous reports discounted news of nuclear weapons.

Discovery

Finally, overflights of the ships going into Cuba revealed the nuclear-capable bombers en route to the island and Kennedy authorized the resumption of flights over Cuba. On Oct. 13, these flights captured images of the nuclear missile sites being emplaced and the Cuban Missile Crisis soon exploded into the open.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Soviet truck convoy deploying missiles near San Cristobal, Cuba, on Oct. 14, 1962. This image, taken by Maj. Steve Heyser in a USAF U-2, is the first picture that proved Russian missiles were being emplaced in Cuba. The image is dated on the day it was printed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Still, the Russian deception continued. They kept America convinced for some time that troop levels were small and America didn’t know about the tactical nuclear weapons that were on the island for years.

(h/t to the CIA report, “Learning from the Past” by James H. Hansen).

NOW: This incredible World War II hero was the first Navy SEAL

OR: 5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

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Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Newly-released data from the Department of Defense shows an alarming spike in the number of American personnel wounded in the fight against ISIS.


Since October, at least 14 US troops were wounded in combat operations under Operation Inherent Resolve — nearly double the number wounded since the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. At least 8 Americans were killed in combat since the campaign began, while 23 have died in “non-hostile” events.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Green Berets rehearse close quarters combat. (U.S. Army photo by 3rd Special Forces Group)

The Pentagon’s quiet acknowledgement of a spike in casualties was first reported by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.

The increase in combat wounds — which can be caused by small-arms fire, rockets, mortars, and other weaponry, though the Pentagon does not release specifics of how troops are injured — lines up with ongoing offensives against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and its Syrian capital of Raqqa.

US military officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region, saying they are there mainly to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish personnel fighting on the front lines.

The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.

With 15 combat injuries, the Marine Corps has the most wounded in the campaign so far. The Army, Navy, and Air Force had 11, 3, and 1 wounded, respectively.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron participate in a mass casualty training event on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 4, 2016. The exercise consisted of a tactical foot patrol in the woods, where rescue team members reported casualties. During the movement, the team was ambushed by opposition forces, causing them to react to contact, suppress enemy fire, and call for close air support. This training prepares the Air Force’s elite rescue personnel for the types of high-risk rescue missions they conduct when deployed in defense of their nation.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training April 25, 2016. The 459th AS frequently trains on a multitude of scenarios in preparation for potential real-world contingencies and operations.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Air Force photo/Yasuo Osakabe

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, supported 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, with medical evacuation support during Operation Wolfpack Thunder, Fort Bragg, N.C. April 28, 2016.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

A U.S. Army Reserve military police Soldier shoots an M240B machine gun during night fire qualification at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, May 3, 2016.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S.Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

NAVY:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (May 5, 2016) Sailors participate in a low light small arms gun shoot aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) May 5, 2016. Porter is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (May 3, 2016) Sailors from USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) attempt to stop a flood using multiple plugging techniques during the Damage Control Olympics held during Fleet Week. The event provides an opportunity for the citizens of South Florida to witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services and gain a better understanding of how the sea services support the maritime strategy and national defense of the United States. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are war fighters first who train to be ready to operate forward to preserve peace, protect commerce, and deter aggression through forward presence.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shelby Tucker

MARINE CORPS:

An MV-22B assigned to Marine Tilitrotor Squadron-165 (VMM-165), Marine Air Group (MAG 16), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing (3d MAW) takes off during Wildland Firefighting Exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, San Diego Calif, on May 5, 2016. Wildland Firefighting Exercise 2016 is part of an annual training exercise to simulate the firefighting efforts by aviation and ground assets from the Navy, Marine Corps, San Diego County and CAL Fire. This event is aimed at bringing awareness to this joint capability while also exercising the pilots and operators who conduct firefighting missions.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Laboy

Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, board a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 for extraction from Landing Zone Canes, Hawaii, April 29, 2016. HMH-463 conducted personnel extraction and insertion in support of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during their Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian A. Temblador

COAST GUARD:

William Porter, a Houston, Texas native, gets his head shaved as part of his transformation from civilian volunteer to Coast Guardsman at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Long hours and a strenuous work routine are the cost of maintaining constant readiness. Halibut family members wave goodbye as the crew leaves for patrol.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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The Army wants to ditch the M249 SAW and give the infantry more firepower

The US Army is looking for an upgrade to the M249 squad automatic weapon, a mainstay of the infantry squad and its prime source of firepower.


According to a notice on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Army Times, the US Army is looking for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, to replace the M249.

The NGSAR “will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality.”

The notice stipulates that NGSAR proposals should be lightweight and compatible with the Small Arms Fire Control system as well as legacy optics and night-vision devices.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) on a Stryker.(Photo by Patrick A. Albright, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

“The NGSAR will achieve overmatch by killing stationary, and suppressing moving, threats out to 600 meters, and suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters,” the notice states.

The FBO posting does not list a caliber for the new weapon. The M249 fires a 5.56 mm round, and the Army is currently examining rounds of intermediate caliber between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm to be used in both light machine guns and the eventual replacement for the M4 rifle.

The desire to replace the 5.56 mm round comes from reports indicating it is less effective at long range, as well as developments in body armor that lessen the round’s killing power.

The M249’s possible replacement, the M27 infantry automatic rifle, has already been deployed among Marines and is now carried by the automatic rifleman in each Marine squad.

The M27 was first introduced in 2010, originally meant to replace the M249, but the Marine Corps is reportedly considering replacing every infantryman’s M4 with an M27.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A Marine fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle while conducting squad attack exercise in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Manuel Benavides)

The notice also requires that the NGSAR come with a tracer-and-ball ammunition variant, which “must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions.”

The NGSAR should also weigh no more than 12 pounds with its sling, bipod, and sound suppressor. The M249 weighs 17 pounds in that configuration, according to Army Times. The notice does not include ammunition in its weight requirements.

The phasing in of M249 replacement should take place over the coming decade, the notice says.

 

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New poll shows military most trusted US institution

A new national poll shows a huge majority of Americans have confidence in the U.S. military, with that institution topping the list of several government agencies and businesses that have made headlines recently.


The new Fox News poll conducted in mid-February showed 96 percent of those surveyed had “a great deal” or “some” confidence in the U.S. military, with the Supreme Court following close behind at 83 percent and the FBI earning an 80 percent confidence rating.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
West Point U.S. Military Academy cadets march in the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. A new national Fox News poll finds 96 percent of Americans have confidence in the U.S. military. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Surprisingly, a majority of Americans have confidence in the IRS, with 41 percent saying they have some confidence in the taxman and 14 percent having great confidence. Potentially unsurprisingly, the news media came in last, with 44 percent saying that had any confidence in the Fourth Estate.

The Fox poll was conducted Feb. 11-13 among 1,013 registered voters — 42 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican and 19 percent Independent.

More than 15 years of war and deployments hasn’t contributed to much of a shift in America’s trust of the military, with confidence ratings hovering around 95 percent since about 2002, the Fox poll shows. But according to the poll more Americans feel the military is less strong than it once was, with 41 percent saying the services have gotten weaker during the eight years of the Obama administration.

A similar question in 2014 found 32 percent of Americans believed the military was “less effective” than it had been in 2008.

While the military has largely pulled out of Iraq and has a fraction of the troops it once had in Afghanistan, most Americans feel the services are stretched too thin, with 58 percent saying they’re overcommitted. And 45 percent of those surveyed agree that the military needs a budget boost, buttressing President Donald Trump’s reported call for a $54 billion defense spending increase.

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Bagram Airfield is the “Number 1 thing to do” according to TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is a great place to get travel tips from fellow adventurers. It can tell you what cafes are best in Paris or which museums are best in Germany. And, it can apparently tell you which bases are best in Afghanistan.


Some hilarious person decided to add “Bagram Airfield” to TripAdvisor’s list of “Things to do in Afghanistan,” and vets have been filling it with unfiltered and often sarcastic opinions about what life on the base is like. It’s currently ranked as the “#1 of 1 things to do in Bagram, Afghanistan, Asia.” Read the 4 selected reviews below to learn why:

1. BAF4DAYZ nailed the Afghanistan experience with just the headline of his review:

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Screengrab: TripAdvisor’s Bagram Airfield reviews

2. Other reviewers gave a nod to the locals who make all visits to Bagram so memorable:

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Screengrab: TripAdvisor’s Bagram Airfield reviews

3. People gave five-stars to the communal living areas and fine dining options:

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Screengrab: TripAdvisor’s Bagram Airfield reviews

4. Other amenities, like the free gyms and the opportunities to create memories, received four stars.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Screengrab: TripAdvisor’s Bagram Airfield reviews

For some odd reason, the beloved airfield sports a travel alert about safety and security concerns in the area. (Not sure what that’s about.) Read more reviews at the TripAdvisor webpage. Vets that have visited the facility can also leave their own two cents in the form of a new review.

When you go to the page, be sure to answer TripAdvisor’s questions about Bagram Airfield such as, “Do you find this attraction suitable for young children?”

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
GIF: WATM Logan Nye

Sure, TripAdvisor; great place for kids.

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11 legends of the US Marine Corps

Thousands of heroes have emerged since the U.S. Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775. Here are 11 among them who became Leatherneck legends:


1. Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps

Lewis “Chesty” Puller joined the Marines during World War I, but that war ended before he was deployed. He saw combat in Haiti and Nicaragua before the outbreak of World War II.

In the Pacific theater of World War II, Puller led an American advance that succeeded against a huge Japanese force at Guadalcanal. During the Korean War Puller and his Marines conducted a fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir that crippled seven Chinese divisions in the process. He remains one of America’s most decorated warriors with 5 Navy Crosses and numerous other high-level awards.

2. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called “the fightinest Marine I ever knew” by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. He is possibly most famous for leading outnumbered and outgunned Marines in a counterattack at the Battle of Belleau Wood with the rallying cry, “Come on, you sons of b-tches, do you want to live forever?”

He also received two Medals of Honor. The first was for single-handedly holding a wall in China as Chinese snipers and other soldiers tried to pick him off. The second was awarded for his role in resisting an ambush by Caco rebels in Haiti and then leading a dawn counterattack against them.

3. Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps

Like Daly, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler is one of the few people who have received two Medals of Honor. His first was for leading during the assault and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1914. Eighteen months later he led a group of Marines and sailors against Caco rebels holed up in an old French fort. For his bravery during the hand-to-hand combat that followed, he was awarded his second Medal of Honor.

Butler also led troops in combat during the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, Nicaragua, and World War I France.

4. Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

John Basilone first served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines but switched to the Marine Corps in time for World War II. He served with distinction in the Pacific Theater and received a Medal of Honor for his actions at Guadalcanal and a posthumous Navy Cross for actions at Iwo Jima.

At Guadalcanal he emplaced two machine gun teams under fire and then manned a third gun himself, killing 38 enemy soldiers before charging through enemy lines to resupply trapped Marines. He later destroyed a Japanese blockhouse on his own and then guided a tank through a minefield and artillery and mortar barrages at Iwo Jima. While escorting the tank, he was struck by shrapnel and killed.

5. Col. John Glenn

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Col. John Glenn is probably more famous for being the first American to orbit the earth than he is for his Marine Corps career. But he is a decorated Devil Dog with six Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

He flew 122 combat missions in World War II and Korea and had three air-to-air kills to his credit. During a particularly harrowing mission in Korea, Glenn’s wingman experienced engine trouble immediately before 6 enemy MiGs attacked him. Then-Maj. Glenn turned into the enemy jets and drove them off, killing at least one while giving his partner time to return to base.

6. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of America’s greatest snipers. He joined the Marine Corps on his 17th birthday in 1959. He distinguished himself as a marksman in basic training, set a record that was never beaten at the “A” course at USMC Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and defeated 3,000 other shooters to win the coveted Wimbledon Cup for snipers.

He was originally deployed to Vietnam as a military police officer in 1966 but was soon sent on reconnaissance patrols and then employed as a sniper.

In Vietnam he was credited with 93 confirmed kills including that of an NVA general deep in enemy territory, a female interrogator known for brutal torture, and the record-breaking 2,500-yard kill of a guerrilla with an M2 .50-cal. machine gun in single-shot mode.

7. Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond was possibly the world’s saltiest and most gung-ho Marine recruit when he joined at the age of 27 in 1917. He quickly became known for being loud, not caring about rank or uniform regulations, and always being ready to fight.

He was well-known for his skill with mortars and made a name for himself in World War I at battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He fought twice in the Sino-Japanese War and again in World War II. At Guadalcanal, the then 52-year-old mortarman drove off a Japanese cruiser before he was forced to evacuate due to “physical disabilities.”

8. Brig. Gen. Joe Foss

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps

Joe Foss joined the Marine Corps before America joined World War II and earned his aviator wings in March of 1941. After Pearl Harbor, he was deployed to the Pacific Theater and spent three months defending American-occupied Guadalcanal. Foss was shot down while strafing Japanese ships in 1942. He later tied Air Force Legend Eddie Rickenbacker’s record of 26 aerial kills.

Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor for his World War II exploits. After that war, he helped organize the American Football League and the South Dakota Air National Guard. He deployed to Korea with the Air National Guard and rose to the rank of brigadier general before retiring.  He died in 2003.

9. Cpl. Joseph Vittori

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Cpl. Joseph Vittori made his mark on Hill 749 in Korea on Sep. 16, 1951. Vittori and his fellow Marines were securing a hill they had just taken from Chinese forces when a counterattack forced a 100-yard gap that could’ve doomed the U.S. forces. Vittori and others rushed into the opening with automatic rifles and machine guns.

After hours of stubborn resistance, Vittori was shot through the chest but continued fighting. The Marines suffered more casualties and when Vittori was shot for a second time, he told his friend to run back to the ridge behind them. Vittori and his friend stopped one more wave before a shot to the face finally killed the young corporal. Vittori posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

10. Sgt. Charles Mawhinney

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps Pfc. Garrett White

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney may not have the name recognition of Carlos Hathcock, but he has 10 more confirmed kills with 103. Mawhinney’s work in the Vietnam War was almost forgotten until a book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” revealed that he had the most confirmed kills in Marine Corps history.

One of the scout sniper’s greatest engagements came when an enemy platoon was attempting to cross a river at night on Valentine’s Day to attack an American base. Mawhinney was on his own with an M-14 and a starlight scope. He waited until the platoon was in the middle of crossing the river, then dropped 16 NVA soldiers with 16 head shots.

11. Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo: US Marine Corps

Gilbert Johnson served in both the Army and Navy for a total of 15 years before joining the Corps. When he began Marine Corps basic training, he was nicknamed “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than many of his instructors.

He was one of the first African-Americans to join the Corps, to serve as a drill instructor, and to be promoted to sergeant major. During World War II he requested permission to conduct combat patrols and later led 25 of them in Guam.

(h/t to the U.S. Marine Corps for their 2013 “Ultimate Marine’s Marine” competition. Their bracket fueled the rankings for this article, and the cover image of this post is from their blog.)

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Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

As you may have heard, the legendary T-38 Talon, which has been in service since 1961, is slated for replacement. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the T-X competition has apparently come down to a fight between Boeing and Saab on the one hand, and Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries on the other.


The Lockheed/KAI entry is the T-50A, a derivative of the South Korean T-50 “Golden Eagle.” According to Aeroflight.co.uk, KAI based the T-50 on the F-16, leveraging its experience building KF-16 Fighting Falcons under license from Lockheed. The result was a plane that has actually helped increase the readiness of South Korea’s air force, largely by reducing wear and tear on the F-16 fleet.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

FlightGlobal.com notes that South Korea already has about 100 T-50 variants in service. The plane is also in service with Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus an export order from Thailand. The plane also comes in variants that include lead-in fighter trainer and a multi-role fighter (A-50 and FA-50).

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-50 has a range of 1,150 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.53, and can carry a variety of weapons on seven hardpoints, including AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips, AGM-65 Mavericks, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and it also has a 20mm M61 cannon. The plane is equipped with an APG-67 radar as well.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

The T-X contract is big, with at least 450 planes to be purchased by the Air Force to replace 546 T-38s. But with how many countries that have the F-16 or will have the F-35 in their inventory, the contract could be much, much more.

So, take a look at what it is like to fly the T-50A.

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This is how Naval officers conduct a man overboard drill on a ‘killer tomato’

Accidents from heavy machinery, exposure to hazardous materials, and heavy mooring lines snapping are just a few of the dangers that sailors and Marines face on a daily basis while underway aboard ship.


Another threat that strikes fear in those stationed on the massive Naval warships cruising the open seas is falling overboard. Luckily, advanced training is available for the ship’s crew to coordinate a rescue if such an event were to happen.

Related: This is how US ships defeat missiles without firing a shot

For those Naval officers aboard the USS Gravely looking to claim the title of Officer of the Day — the point person on an at-sea rescue — they must first conduct and complete a successful rescue of a man overboard drill on a “killer tomato.”

The killer tomato being inflated then deployed. (Image via Giphy)Once someone falls overboard, the alert rings out over the 1MC, and all the ship’s staff is briefed on the crisis. It’s now up to the OOD candidate to coordinate with the crew to maneuver the ship into action.

The ship uses its high-powered gas turbine engines to accelerate the vessel into a short radius turn by shifting the stern (the back of the ship) away for the tomato, so it doesn’t get chopped up by the powerful propellers.

Once the ship pulls ahead, the ODD will command a variety of tactical turns intended to “double-back” and retrieve their shipmate.

When the drill’s over and the supervising officer is satisfied that all is complete, the killer tomato is then used for target practice and shot to hell.

Also Read: Hitler’s secret Nazi war machines of World War II

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see these officers qualify for the title of Officer of the Deck for yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIWZI0CeZSM
(Youtube, Smithsonian Channel)
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The ‘Big Red One’ led the fight from WWI to Iraq

The 1st Infantry Division is the oldest continuously active division in the U.S. Army and has served since 1917. During that time, it has often claimed the first honors of different American wars — everything from firing the first American shell against Germany of World War I to breaking through the berm into Iraq in 1991.


In the past 100 years, it has served in almost every American war. The Big Red One was kept in Europe to prevent a Soviet attack during the Korean War, but fought in both world wars, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the Iraq and Afghan Wars.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Soldiers with the 1st Division, U.S. First Army, ride on a tank, during their advance on the town of Schopen, Belgium. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

The unit was created in May 1917 when Maj. Gen. John Pershing received orders to take four infantry regiments and an artillery regiment to France. Pershing assumed that this meant he was to take a division, and he organized the force as the First Expeditionary Division which was later changed to the First Division. The unit included an additional artillery regiment.

When it sailed to France, the First Division fulfilled America’s promise to help bring Imperial Germany to its knees. They trained quickly in trench warfare side-by-side with their French counterparts and then took over a sector of the frontlines.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Soldiers of the New York National Guard march through the streets of New York city in 1917. The First Expeditionary Division launched from New York and led the way for U.S. forces headed to France in World War I. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

While in France, the First Division fired the first American shell in the ground war against Germany on Oct. 23, 1917, and suffered the first American casualty of the ground war only two days later.

(The USS Cassin had fired the first shells of the war and suffered the first casualty on Oct. 15, 1917, in battle with the German U-61 submarine.)

The doughboys of the First Division led the first American offensive of the war at Cantigny and fought on through Soissons, the St. Mihiel Salient, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. In the Argonne, the division fought through eight German divisions despite suffering more than 7,600 casualties.

As World War I drew to a close, the division was authorized its “Big Red One” shoulder patch that it still wears to this day.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Army 1st Infantry Division troops land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent)

For World War II, the division was re-designated the 1st Infantry Division and sent to Africa as part of Operation Torch. America’s first major offensive in the war, Torch helped bring about the Allied victory in North Africa and cut off Axis oil supplies headed into Europe.

Big Red One soldiers pushed on, taking part in Operation Husky on Sicily and Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings at Normandy. That means that the 1st Infantry Division took part in two of the larger amphibious operations of the war, Husky and Torch, and the largest amphibious assault in history, Overlord.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division move up in Germany during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army Technician 3rd Class Jack Kitzerow)

In the Normandy landings, the Big Red One was assigned to take Omaha Beach where a combination of bad water and worse terrain made the initial invasion plan untenable. Instead of fighting through the five roads leaving the beach, the men were forced to scale 100-ft. tall cliffs and attack German defenses from the rear.

The division fought its way west with the rest of the invasion force, taking Normandy’s hedgerows after weeks of bitter fighting and then making it into Germany just in time for the massive counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. They fought their way back into Germany after the Bulge and liberated two German concentration camps.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A U.S. Army soldier with the 1st Infantry Division prepares his anti-aircraft gun during World War II. The six swastikas indicate six enemy planes killed. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

While the division did not deploy to Korea, it was called on for a number of near misses during the cold War, with units sent to Florida to support the potential invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis and to Berlin to prevent a Soviet invasion of West Berlin.

In July 1965, Big Red One’s second brigade became the first element of any infantry division to arrive in Vietnam. It fought a number of engagements over the next few years, working in early 1966 to capture supplies before an anticipated enemy offensive and capturing a massive weapons stockpile that April, removing 350 firearms and over 300,000 rounds of ammunition from Vietnamese arsenals.

In 1968, the Division helped protect key U.S. positions during the Tet Offensive but tragically lost its commanding general, Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware, when his aircraft was shot down in September.

During Desert Storm, the Big Red One was the spearhead into Iraq. On Feb. 24, 1991, it broke through Iraq’s defensive berm, attacked the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, and took 2,500 prisoners before allowing other coalition units to pass it. It pressed on and took out a Republican Guard division and other units.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Army 1st Infantry Division soldiers watch for enemy activity in Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)

It engaged at least 11 enemy divisions and captured more than 11,400 prisoners of war — over twice as many as any other division — before the war ended on Feb. 28.

After serving with other units in the Balkans and Kosovo, the Big Red One was once again sent to full-spectrum combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan where its forces served in task forces across both countries. Their largest contributions came in Iraq were 1st Inf. Div. soldiers helped secure the Sunni Triangle.

Interested in 1st Infantry Division History? A military museum at Cantigny Park, a public space dedicated to education and recreation by a 1st Infantry Division veteran, is looking for a Historic Vehicle Programs Manager who will oversee the First Division Museum’s fleet of tanks, personnel carriers, and other vehicles from American military history.

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree or higher in history or a related field and a good understanding of U.S. military history as well as experience in the maintenance and operation of historic military vehicles.

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World War II veteran gets Bronze Star after 73 years

A South Carolina World War II veteran’s family, along with Congressman Joe Wilson and Rep. Bill Taylor, R- SC, recently honored the war hero with the Bronze Star, which he actually received 73 years ago.


On May 20, Aiken County’s James “Boots” Beatty, 96, was presented the award that was authorized in 1944, but he was never notified.

Now, after decades, Wilson and Taylor presented the Bronze Star.

“I honored him recognition from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Taylor said. “Boots was one of the original military ‘tough guys’. He served in the famed Devil’s Brigade, our county’s First Special Forces Unit and the forerunner of Delta Force, the Navy Seals.”

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Navy Seals in WW2. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

The Bronze Star Medal, unofficially the Bronze Star, is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Beatty received this and several other awards during a special surprise presentation at his home in Aiken.

“Today’s recognition was a surprise arranged by his loving family who didn’t know of his special service until they discovered it six years ago because he never told them,” Taylor said.

Jim Hamilton, Beatty’s son-in-law, and several other family members also presented other medals and decorations Beatty won, but lost over the many years.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Beatty also was presented with the Good Conduct medal, which was approved by the Secretary of War on Oct. 30, 1942; the European — African — Middle Eastern Campaign Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which was first created on Nov. 6, 1942 by executive order 9265, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and the World War II Victory Medal, Hamilton said.

He also received the Active Duty Army Minute Man Lapel Pin, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Expert Infantryman Badge.

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This awesome ‘trench broom’ terrified Germans in both World Wars

A single weapon used predominantly in World War I and with a limited deployment in World War II was so effective and so terrifying that Germany lodged a diplomatic protest against its use by American forces. It wasn’t the flamethrower or the machine gun. It was shotguns, especially the Winchester Models 1897 and 1912.


The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A World War II Marine carries a Winchester Model 1897 shotgun. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

The two shotguns were first entered into combat after America realized how brutal trench warfare really was. The soldiers and Marines serving on the Western Front needed a way to clear attackers from the American trenches as well as to quickly clear defenders from enemy trenches during assaults.

The spread of a shotgun was perfect for this mission, but the Americans didn’t stop at just buying off-the-shelf weapons. The War Department contracted for standard, trench, and riot versions of most shotguns.

Standard shotguns were civilian versions of the weapon, often with a sling added for easy carrying. Riot guns were similar but with shorter barrels. The most heavily modified versions were the trench guns which featured shorter barrels — usually 20 inches or shorter, heat shields, and bayonet lugs.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
The Trench Winchester Model 1897 shotgun features a cut-down barrel, sling, heat shield, and a bayonet lug. (Catalog Illustration: Public Domain)

The Model 97 quickly became one of the most popular shotguns issued, partially because of how well it stood up to the rigorous conditions on the Western Front. Operators could quickly clean mud and water from the weapons and get them ready to fire after a mishap, and the weapon continued to function even if it was dropped or slammed against trenchworks.

But the big reason that the Model 97 became so popular was that it could be “slamfired.” Typically, an operator readies a pump-action shotgun by pumping it to feed a round into the chamber and eject any empty casing currently in it. Then, they pull the trigger while aimed at their target to fire. Repeat.

But when slamfiring, they keep the trigger held back while pumping the weapon. When the new round feeds into the chamber, it will automatically fire. This meant the weapon could be fired as quickly as the operator could pump the handle.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
A standard pump-action Winchester Model 1897 lacks military features like the heat shield and bayonet lug. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Model 97 held six rounds of 00 buckshot, each shell of which held nine pellets. A trained soldier slamfiring could fire all six rounds, 54 total lead pellets, in approximately two seconds. At the close ranges in many World War I trenches, the effect was devastating.

Shotgunners would rapidly clear German trenches, cutting away the defenders. The tactic was so effective that Model 97s picked up the nicknames “trench brooms” and “trench sweepers.”

The German government lobbed an official protest against the weapon, saying that the weapon inflicted unnecessary cruelty. America responded that the claim was hollow coming from the nation that introduced chemical weapons and flamethrowers into warfare.

There are even reports that American soldiers skilled in skeet shooting were placed along the front trenches to shoot enemy hand grenades from the air, deflecting or destroying the devices before they could hurt American troops.

The Winchester Model 97 and Model 1912 would go on to serve similar functions in World War II, again clearing German defenders from trenches and bunkers as well as operating in the Pacific. The two Winchester shotguns were deployed to Korea and Vietnam, though the U.S. was slowly transitioning to newer shotguns by that point.

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33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa, known as Operation Iceberg by the Allies, eventually consisted of 306,000 service members assaulting fierce defenses manned by 130,000 Japanese troops and an unknown number of local civilians, including children, drafted into the defenses.


The island was critical for the planned invasion of Japan, but the losses were enormous.

Here are 33 photos that give a look inside of one of America’s most costly battles of World War II:

1. For days before the invasion, Navy ships bombarded the island with naval artillery and rockets. This photo was taken five days before the amphibious assault.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

2. A Navy Corsair fires a salvo of rockets during Operation Iceberg, the Allied effort to capture Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

3. The USS Idaho shells the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. Marines land on the beachhead already secured on the island. These infantrymen will continue pressing the attack against approximately 130,000 defenders.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

5. U.S. landing ships sit beached and burning on May 4 near the mouth of the Bishi River after a Japanese air attack.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

6. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle speaks with U.S. Marines a short time before his death on the island.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

7. A long exposure photograph shows the crisscrossing lines of Marine anti-aircraft fire over the U.S. airfield established on Okinawa.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

8. A May 11, 1945, morning artillery barrage kicks off an all-out offensive.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

9. Japanese rockets rain down on and near U.S. positions during heavy fighting on Okinawa.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

10. The infamous battleship Yamato, sent to Okinawa to attempt to beach itself and act as a shore battery until destroyed, is sank at sea on April 7 before it can reach the island.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

11. Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A Sherman tank drives past a burning home. The structure was set on fire to prevent its use by snipers.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

13. Marines attempt to extinguish the flames on an overturned Sherman tank. The ammo later exploded before the Army crew could be rescued.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

14. Engineers construct a causeway from the island to the sea to allow supplies to be trucked from ships to shore.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

15. American service members move supplies by horse in areas where the mud was impassable for vehicles.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

16. Okinawan civilians hired to carry supplies line up to receive their loads.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

17. A flamethrowing tank attacks Hill 60 during the Marine assault on the mound.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

18. A Japanese plane goes down in flames over the ocean.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

19. The HMS Formidable of the Royal Navy burns after a May 4 Kamikaze attack. Eight crew members were lost and 55 injured, but the Formidable survived the war.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: Royal Navy)

20. Marine Corps infantrymen ride a tank to the town of Ghuta on April 1 to occupy it before Japanese defenders can.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

21. A Marine sprints across the “Valley of Death,” a draw covered by Japanese machine guns that caused 125 casualties in eight hours.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

22. Marines explode dynamite charges to destroy a Japanese cave on the island.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

23. The USS Bunker Hill burns after two Kamikaze strikes in less than a minute. At least 346 sailors were killed and 43 went missing.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

24. The Bunker Hill survived and returned to the U.S. for repairs. It served as a troop transport after the war before it was sent to the fleet reserve.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

25. Wounded sailors are moved from the Bunker Hill to the USS Wilkes Barre.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

26. Army soldiers move forward during the 82-day battle.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

27. A private cuts a sergeant’s hair in the Japanese city of Shuri on the island. A medieval castle in the city survived the battle.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

28. Marines rest on the side of a hill as Japanese fire prevents their further advance.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

29. A tank crewmember is relocated after suffering injuries.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

30. Wounded troops await transport to a ship hospital.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

31. Marine Lt. Col. R.P. Ross, Jr. places an American flag on Shuri castle on May 29, 1945. Ross was under sniper fire at the time.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

32. The American flag is raised over the island June 22 in a ceremony marking the end of organized Japanese resistance.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep

33. A U.S. servicemember visits an American cemetery. The U.S. suffered over 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded during the battle. Japan suffered over 150,000 soldiers and civilians killed or committed suicide.

The crazy story of how Russia snuck a vast nuclear arsenal onto America’s doorstep