DEFCON: Here's how the US decides to launch nukes - We Are The Mighty
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DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes

“I was so pissed off I went to DEFCON 5” or a similar phrase in the lexicon means you are at the highest level of anger, but it doesn’t make any sense when you explore what DEFCON really means.


DEFCON, the shortened-version of “Defense Readiness Condition,” is a five-level scale of alert status that the U.S. uses to determine nuclear readiness. In essence, the number next to DEFCON tells everyone how close we are to getting into a nuclear shooting war.

So where did it come from?

The need for DEFCON came from the Cold War. In 1958, with the U.S. pointing all of its nukes at Moscow — and Russia doing exactly the same back at Washington — the Air Force created the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to provide early warning and defense against nuclear threats.

Though it has somewhat changed over time, the DEFCON system was proposed by NORAD in 1959. It created a system of “five different alert levels with detailed, if ambiguous, descriptions and expected actions by military forces at each threat level,” according to the Encyclopedia of the Cold War.

The levels are primarily used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff or commanders of joint commands, and can be in force military-wide, though they are usually only applied to specific units. But unlike the saying of “going to DEFCON 5,” the worst possibility is at level one.

What are the levels and what do they mean?

There are five DEFCON levels, which signify varying conditions of readiness. They are:

DEFCON 5: Normal peacetime readiness. All is calm, the skies are blue, and we aren’t even thinking about nukes.

DEFCON 4: Above normal readiness. The U.S. slightly increases intelligence and strengthens security measures.

DEFCON 3: Air Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes. There’s an increase in force readiness above normal readiness and things are heating up. Troops start fueling up missiles and bomber crews are getting ready.

DEFCON 2: Air Force is ready to deploy and engage in less than six hours. Things are getting really serious and we are one step away from pushing the button. The missiles are ready to go and waiting on the order, and bomber crews are in the air near their targets.

DEFCON 1: Maximum readiness. Nuclear war is imminent, so you should probably get into the bunker.

Have we ever gone to DEFCON 1?

Nope, but we came pretty close.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. Strategic Air Command was placed at DEFCON 2 while the rest of the military was at DEFCON 3. What that meant for military units: On Oct. 22, 1962 SAC ordered its B-52 bombers on airborne alert. Then as tension grew over the next day, SAC was ordered to remain ready to strike targets inside of the Soviet Union.

“Pilots flew these nuclear laden airborne alerts, commonly known as Chrome Dome missions, for 24 hours before another air crew assumed the same flight route,” wrote Air Force journalist Stephanie Ritter. “Chrome Dome ensured that a percentage of SAC bombers could survive an enemy surprise attack and that the U.S. could retaliate against the Soviets. At the height of the air alerts, SAC produced 75 B-52 sorties a day.”

In addition to the flying sorties, more than 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles were placed on alert, waiting for the president’s order to launch. Luckily that didn’t happen.

U.S. forces were brought back to DEFCON 4 on Nov. 20, 1962. Though it has been placed at DEFCON 3 a few other times, the only known readiness level of 2 was during the missile crisis.

NOW: Declassified photos show the US’s final preparations for the only nuclear weapons attacks in history

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Skunk Works’ next classic will be a drone

Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works, the creators of iconic aircraft like the SR-71 Blackbird, F-22 Raptor, and F-117 Nighthawk, is now turning its skills towards drone helicopters.


The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded Systems is designed as a autonomous, vertical take-off drone that can be attached to vehicles, cargo capsules, casualty evacuation pods, and other payloads.

The entire system could be controlled by troops in the field with tablets and phones and would require a landing area half the size of a helicopter of similar strength.

Currently, the Marine Corps is leading the requirements planning for the drone, but they hope to get the other services involved to help share costs. The craft begins ground tests in Jan. 2016 and is scheduled for flight tests in Jun. 2016.

Lockheed Martin already has one autonomous helicopter to their credit. The K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter supported Marines in Afghanistan. The K-MAX flew on its own between destinations while remote pilots took over for sensitive maneuvers.

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Aug. 25th

Admit it. Which one of you knuckle-dragging, crayon-eating, ASVAB waivers looked at the sun on Monday? Good luck trying to get the VA to cover that…


Hopefully these memes are a reward for everyone else with common f*cking sense.

#13: “But, Sarge. I look at the moon all the time and never go blind!”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#12: This explains why they’re either Salty but wise, Salty but command respect, or just plain Salty.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#11: It’s the same story every time and the punchline is almost always that you got smoked.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#10: When your car has no airbags but you’ve got a POV inspection

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#9: Who let the LT survey the TOC build area?

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#8: You want 5.56? She doesn’t want 5.56… 7.62 AND 5.56? No..

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Terminal Lance)

#7: I’d still take this over an “egg and cheese omelette” any day.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

#6: No one will take care of you like your buddies!

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

#5: “Yeah, sure dude. I got you” only goes so far when you’ve given them six already.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#4: Retention would probably sky rocket if they told people their alcohol tolerance will drop significantly when they ETS.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#3: No need to rush for a promotion. Enjoy your time in the E-4 Mafia.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

#2: “But Sarge, I need to be ready. The eclipse could come out at any moment!”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

#1: “Existence is pain to a lower enlisted!”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
(Made by yours truly)

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Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, now tweets about it

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes


On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Yeager, a West Virginia native, was a combat pilot during World War II, flying 64 missions over Europe. He claimed 13 Axis kills and was shot down over France. He evaded the Nazis on the ground with aid from the French Underground. After the war ended, he was one of the pilots to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company specifically to attempt to break the sound barrier, something many thought impossible.

Many thought the drag from supersonic speed would tear an airplane apart until Yeager flew his X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. A B-29 carried his X-1 to 25,000 feet and then released it through the bomb bay, blasting to 40,000 feet and then to 662 miles per hour which is the sound barrier at that altitude. The rocket plane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” was designed with a .50 caliber bullet in mind.

The project was still classified however, and Yeager’s speed was not announced until June 1948. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general. Yeager, now 92, tweeted this on the 2015 anniversary of his first supersonic flight:

 

NOW: The incredible story of the SR-71 Blackbird in 3 minutes

OR: The awesome A-10 video the Air Force doesn’t want you to see

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Here’s how one drill sergeant rewrote the book on veteran employment

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Dan Alarik, founder and CEO of Grunt Style, Army vet. (Photo: Daily Herald)


Turning conventional wisdom on its ear, one former Army Drill Sergeant has built a multi-million dollar apparel business by uniquely applying military operational techniques and culture.

During his time on active duty, Dan Alarik was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. Following his overseas duty, he served as a drill instructor at Fort Benning — a tour that changed his life in a very unorthodox way. Alarik pooled money with a few of his friends and they started to make t-shirts for the various units stationed there. In 2009 he had enough success that he decided to separate from the Army after 13 years and move back to his hometown of Chicago to start a t-shirt company.

Alarik’s vision for what he called “Grunt Style” was very clear. He wanted to bring the best parts of his Army experience — especially the elements of patriotism and service — to the rest of the nation.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Alarik on the Grunt Style factory floor with an employee holding up the 1,000,000 t-shirt the company has manufactured. The company has since surpassed the 2,000,000 mark. (Photo: Grunt Style)

As the company grew, Alarik took two bold steps: He moved the business out of his apartment and into an office space and he hired an employee — a fellow vet. From there growth was rapid. The company outgrew the office within five months and moved to a bigger space that they, in turn, outgrew five months after that.

But, as any entrepreneur knows, rapid growth can hobble a startup as much as the absence of it unless there’s a sound strategy behind it. And that’s where Alarik leveraged his military pedigree.

He modeled Grunt Style after the most effective military units he’d been part of during his time on active duty. The company is organized into two platoons: Maneuvers (marketing sales, and design) and Support By Fire (production and fulfillment).

And, more importantly in terms of being true to his business vision, Alarik has populated that military-themed organization with veterans. Seventy percent of his 100-plus employees are vets. (Also of note, manpower-wise, is that his wife, Elizabeth, is the chief financial officer.)

“I had my own challenges with fitting into office culture right out of the Army,” Alarik said. “From the beginning, one of my goals was to make Grunt Style feel familiar to vet employees. Not only do I love working with people who are patriotic and proud, there’s a strong business case behind that idea.”

Another military best practice that Alarik has put in place is pushing responsibility and authority to the lowest level possible. For instance, on the shop floor, “sew leaders” (the title given to front-line manufacturing personnel) work with very little oversight. He also instituted a “battle buddy” program for new hires that ensures the onboarding process is smooth and tackles any issues quickly.

“A paycheck is important, but for vets a job is more than that,” Alarik said. “They joined the military, for the most part, to be part of something bigger than themselves, something of consequence. That’s how we want them to feel about Grunt Style.”

“I knew when I met Dan that I wanted to be part of Grunt Style,” said Tim Jenson, COO and first sergeant. “It feels like ‘home’ working alongside people that get each other and work towards a common goal.”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Piles of printed t-shirts sit ready to enter the fulfillment stage. (Photo: Grunt Style)

The result of Alarik’s strategy is a $36 million business with a large facility complete with multiple warehouses for designing, printing, and packaging product. And every shirt comes with what the company calls a “beer guarantee.”

“What that means is if you’re not satisfied you can return a shirt for whatever reason — even if it’s soaked in beer — and we’ll give you a refund,” Alarik said.

And Alarik isn’t done yet. He recently launched “Alpha Outpost,” billed as “the best monthly subscription box for men.” Each month subscribers are mailed a box of interesting items around a specific theme. Previous themes have included “BBQ and Chill” (knives, grill gloves, spices, cookbook), “The Medic” (first aid equipment), and “The Gentlemen” (silk tie, flask, leaded glass).

Companies that struggle with hiring and retaining veterans can learn from Grunt Style’s approach. Alarik has found that the best way to get the most from veterans is not trying to force them into a corporate culture but rather to create a military-friendly environment where they can quickly assimilate and immediately make meaningful contributions to the company.

Check out Grunt Style’s special-edition We Are The Mighty t-shirts here.

And watch what happens when Grunt Style delivers a morale boost to the WATM offices:

[shopify embed_type=”product” shop=”shop-wearethemighty.myshopify.com” product_handle=”watm-we-are-the-mighty” show=”all”]
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This D-Day transport still flies like it was 1944

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Whiskey 7 in flight. (Photo courtesy of National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, N.Y.)


Tucked away in a rural corner of western New York is a survivor of D-Day. It is a C-47A Skytrain — an airplane that delivered paratroopers over drop zones around Normandy on June 6, 1944 — that has the distinction of being perhaps one of the few – if not the last – of its kind still in flying condition.

Named Whiskey 7 because of the large W7 painted on its fuselage, the Skytrain was the lead aircraft of the second invasion wave in the skies above France.

“That C-47 is one of our stars,” said Dawn Schaible, media director for the National Warplane Museum, the organization that gives Whiskey 7 a home and maintains it both for flying demonstrations and public viewing.

Skytrains have a storied history.  None other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in Europe, called the Douglas aircraft one of the four “Tools of Victory” that won World War II for the Allies along with the atom bomb, the Jeep, and the bazooka.

The museum is proud of the fact that the aircraft is a true C-47, not a DC-3 conversion. The twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was built in 1943, one of more than 10,000 produced during World War II.

Skytrains like Whiskey 7 were the standard transport aircraft of the old U.S. Army Air Corps but also saw service with the British, who called the plane the Dakota.

The statistics regarding the Skytrain are impressive. When used as a supply plane, a C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled Jeep or 37-mm cannon.

When serving in its role as a troop transport, the C-47 carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.

On D-Day, Whiskey 7 transported paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

The aircraft was actually one of the few that made it to the drop-zone assigned to the paratroopers: the town of Sainte-Mère-Église.

After D-Day, Whiskey 7 served for the balance of the war. Missions included towing gliders carrying men and equipment during Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne operation in Holland that was the largest airborne battle in history but which ended disastrously for the Allies.

After World War II, a civilian aviation company purchased the plane as surplus and converted it to an airliner. The plane then flew both passengers and cargo for decades.

Purchased by a private collector in 1993, it was eventually donated to the National Warplane Museum where it was restored to its D-Day configuration in 2005.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Whiskey 7 on the tarmac during a layover on its way to Normandy, 2014. Photo courtesy of National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, N.Y.

In 2014, Whiskey 7 participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when it flew to France so historical re-enactors could jump from the plane.

The group also included Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr., one of the paratroopers the plane carried on D-Day. According to the museum, he was the last surviving member of his unit who jumped from Whiskey 7 when it was above Normandy in 1944.

Now, Whiskey 7 helps educate visitors to the National Warplane Museum about Operation Overlord and World War II.

Located in Geneseo, N.Y., the museum is a labor of love started by a grassroots group of historic aircraft enthusiasts who fly old war birds and restore airplanes. The museum has more than 15,000 visitors a year who come to view exhibits or attend the annual air show.

“We have amazing artifacts here,” said Schaible. “We figure out how we connect those artifacts with people and help them move beyond the idea that it’s just cool stuff. It’s the men and women and the stories behind the aircraft that make them historical.”

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Gear porn: This suppressor is not for the faint of heart

Liberty Suppressors has released a new silencer for those of you who want to go large and do it quietly. And when we say large, we mean it.


Introducing the Goliath for .458 SOCOM.

The Goliath was probably named for the big-assed Philistine from Gath, though it could be someone’s nickname from chubbybunnie.com. Rated for supersonic ammunition, it’s intended to suppress the noise you make when you’d normally be going loud with the modern descendent of the old Trapdoor Springfield bullet.

It’s 10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter, and built with a titanium core and tube. It dresses out at just 20 ounces.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
The Liberty Cans multi-cal family. (Photo: Liberty Cans)

Liberty says the Goliath meters at a “…mere 132.2 [decibels] (including First Round Pop) providing an average sound reduction of over 21 [decibels].” We haven’t tested it ourselves — at least not yet — but since we’re fans of the .458 round and shooting suppressed, we reckon it’s worth a further look.

Liberty sez, and we quote,  “The Goliath is not for the faint of heart! Created for the mighty 458 SOCOM, this silencer not only stands up to the size of its name, but also the size of it’s caliber. But don’t think this giant is a clumsy oaf. With an end cap and core made of Grade 5 titanium and a tube made from Grade 9 titanium, the Goliath is a heavyweight hitter in a featherweight class.”

This weight savings really comes in to play when perched on the end of a hog hunter’s rifle of choice. Taming both the noise as well as the recoil of the 458 cartridge, the Goliath keeps you after game all night, instead of home early with tired shoulders and ears. When it comes to 458 SOCOM, it pays to have a giant on your side.”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
All hail Goliath. (Liberty Cans)

MSRP on the Goliath (the silencer, not anybody on Chubby Bunnie) is $999.

Liberty Suppressors is a family owned business based in the Peach State, last of the original Thirteen Colonies. They’re known for their work with monolithic core silencers, offering cans from calibers from .22LR to .300 Ultra Mag.

You can find ’em online at libertycans.net, should you be so inclined.

You can watch a great Liberty Cans gear porn flick here.

Here are the specs (you’re welcome):

Goliath .458 SOCOM: 450gr Sub-Sonic in an 11 in. AR-15, Baseline unsuppressed 163.1dB. Suppressed shot 1, 137.3 db. Shot 2, 130.5 dB; Shot 3 131.5 dB, Shot 4 130.6 dB, and Shot 5 is 130.9dB.

Caliber: 458 SOCOM

Length: 10″

Diameter: 2″

Material: Titanium tube, core, and rear cap / Stainless Steel Thread Inserts

Weight: 20 OZ.

Approx. DB Overall: 132.2 dB (including First Round Pop)

Approx. DB Reduction: 31 – 33 dB

Finish: C-Series Cerakote

Mounting Type: Direct Thread, 5/8-24 and 5/8-32 Inserts Included

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On the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, remembering the tragedy

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Sailors stand amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base, watching as USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes in the center background. | US Navy photo


In the decades that followed World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had faded somewhat in the American public’s memory.

The attacks of 9/11 changed all of that. “All those bad memories surged forward again,” said James C. McNaughton, who served as command historian for U.S. Army Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the director of Histories Division at the Army Center of Military History.

Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, McNaughton attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, he found himself among a large number of World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors. Both attacks, McNaughton believes, were on all of their minds.

McNaughton attributes the fading memory of the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, in part, to World War II veterans’ reticence to share their own wartime memories.

McNaughton’s own father, who served as a Marine participating in the Central Pacific campaign, was reluctant to discuss his wartime experiences.

Three missions

The story of the devasting Japanese air strike on U.S. naval forces that day has been well documented, McNaughton observed — less so the Army’s role in the response.

At the time of the attack, 43,000 Soldiers were on active duty in Hawaii, where they were tasked with three primary missions, the first of which was to protect the territory of Hawaii from an invasion. (Hawaii remained a territory until statehood in 1959.)

“It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Imperial Japanese Navy could carry out an invasion,” he explained. “They didn’t do so, but the Army could not be sure, so it deployed combat troops to defend the beaches.”

The second was to defend the fleet with coast artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. had made it very clear to the highest ranking Army officer, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander, U.S. Army Hawaiian Department, that his No. 1 mission was to protect the fleet, McNaughton said.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
oeing B-17D Fortresses of the 5th Bombardment Group overfly the main gate at Hickam Field, Hawaii territory during the summer of 1941. 21 B-17C/Ds had been flown out to Hawaii during May to reinforce the defenses of the islands. | Photo Credit U.S. Army Air Corps

Before 1940, the U.S Pacific Fleet had been based in San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his own diplomatic reasons, had ordered the Navy to re-base itself at Pearl Harbor, according to McNaughton. The move added to the Army’s defensive responsibilities.

The third mission was training, he said.

By 1940, World War II had already engulfed much of Europe and the Pacific, and Americans were beginning to realize their involvement might be inevitable. For the Army’s part, they were organizing and training units — from squad to regiment and division. They were even conducting field exercises and basic training concurrently.

Besides ground forces, the Army at that time also included the Army Air Corps. “They were trying to train flight crews and mechanics and use the limited aircraft they had on hand,” McNaughton said. “This was a fairly green Army.”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Retired Army Master Sgt. Thomas V. Panettiere Sr., from the Bronx in Hawaii, several months after the Pearl Harbor attack with his unit (he’s the one holding the guitar). He was one of the millions of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were in Hawaii during World War II, on their way to various island campaigns in the Pacific. | Photo courtesy of Thomas V. Panettiere Jr.

The National Guard and Organized Reserve had been mobilized as recently as 1940 and the draft, known as the Selective Training and Service Act, wasn’t instituted until Sept. 16 that same year.

In 1940, fewer than 270,000 Soldiers were on active duty. That number would climb to about 7 million by 1943.

Set up for failure

By late 1941, the Army in Hawaii was trying to juggle all three missions. “In my judgment, they couldn’t do all three,” McNaughton said. “They spread themselves too thin. Ultimately they failed.”

Coordination between the services was also poor, he said. The Army and the Navy on Hawaii had separate chains of command, and they engaged in very little coordination, at least in practical terms.

Early Sunday morning, the day of the attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and his counterpart, Short, were preparing for their weekly golf game, McNaughton explained. Every Sunday morning, the two flag officers would play golf, enabling them to “check the box” for joint coordination.

“Well, you need more than that,” McNaughton said. “And that’s what they didn’t do.”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Hickam Field, Hawaii, under attack Dec. 7, 1941. An Army B-17 Fortress is in the foreground. | Photo credit: National Archives

In 1946, according to the Army’s official history, “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts,” the Congressional Pearl Harbor Joint Committee concluded:

“There was a complete failure in Hawaii of effective Army-Navy liaison during the critical period and no integration of Army and Navy facilities and efforts for defense. Neither of the responsible commanders really knew what the other was doing with respect to essential military activities.”

Senior Navy and Army leaders relieved Kimmel and Short of their commands within days after the attack, and they were never fully exonerated.

Early warning signs

Failure of the services to coordinate had real consequences on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

In the pre-dawn hours, a submarine periscope was spotted near Pearl Harbor, where there shouldn’t have been any submarines. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward dropped depth charges, destroying the submarine. The incident was then reported to the Navy chain of command.

Meanwhile, at the Opana Radar Site on the north shore of Oahu, radar operators Pvt. Joseph L. Lockard and Pvt. George Elliott detected an unusually large formation of aircraft approaching the island from the north at 7:02 a.m.

At the time, radar was experimental technology, and operators manned it just 3 to 7 a.m., McNaughton said. Usually, the radar was shut off at 7 a.m. for the rest of the day. It was only because the truck that took Lockard and Elliott to breakfast was late that the radar was still on at 7:02 a.m.

The operators had never seen such a large number of blips before, according to McNaughton. They called 1st Lt. Kermit A. Tyler, an Air Corps pilot who was an observer that morning at Fort Shafter’s Radar Information Center.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tyler told them. He had heard that a flight of B-17 bombers was en route from Hamilton Field, California, that morning.

If the Army and Navy had been in communication, McNaughton believes, they might have recognized the signs of the coming attack: the sighting of a large aircraft formation coming in from the north and the sighting of a submarine at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.

“If you put those two together, you might want to put everyone on full alert. But they didn’t,” he said. “There was no integration of intelligence from the two services. So the only warning they got was when the bombs started to fall.”

The attack commences

The first of two waves of some 360 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes began the attack at 7:48 a.m., having launched from six aircraft carriers north of Oahu.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
An Aichi D3A Type 99 kanbaku (dive bomber) launches from the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Akagi to participate in the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. | Photo courtesy of the Makiel Collection via Ron Wenger

While many of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft attacked the fleet, other planes attacked all the airfields on the island, including Wheeler Field next to Schofield Barracks.

Among the 2,403 Americans killed, 2,008 were Sailors, 218 were Soldiers, 109 were Marines and 68 were civilians, according to a National World War II Museum Pearl Harbor fact sheet.

Of the aircraft destroyed, 92 were Navy and 77 were Army Air Corps. Two battleships were destroyed and six were damaged; three cruisers were damaged; one auxiliary vessel was destroyed and three were damaged; and three destroyers were damaged, according to the fact sheet.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. | Creative Commons photo

The carriers USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and USS Lexington were out on maneuvers and were not spotted by the Japanese.

Within minutes of the attack, Navy anti-aircraft guns opened up. The guns were firing at planes in all directions. A number of stray Navy anti-aircraft gun rounds fell in populated areas of Honolulu, killing more than a dozen civilians.

However, the Army’s anti-aircraft gunners at first struggled to engage the enemy because their guns were not in firing positions and the guns’ ammunition was in a separate location, where it was under lock and key.

“You can imagine them looking for the ammunition sergeant who had the keys at 8 a.m. Sunday,” McNaughton said. “It took them a while, but some guns did eventually get into action.”

Why weren’t the Army guns in position?

Short complained afterward that he had received ambiguous guidance from Washington. He said he was instructed to be prepared to defend against an attack but not to alarm the civilian population, which setting the anti-aircraft guns in position might have done.

Even so, the Army, with four regiments of anti-aircraft artillery in Oahu, had rehearsed defense against air raids. “They knew it was a possibility,” McNaughton said. “But certainly they were caught by surprise.”

Nevertheless, Soldiers found some means to counter-attack. At Army installations, Army men fired back with machine guns and other weapons at attacking enemy dive bombers and fighters, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”

One of the Soldiers who lived through that day at Schofield Barracks was Cpl. James Jones, who later depicted the chaos in a 1951 novel, “From Here to Eternity,” which was eventually made into a movie that garnered eight Academy Awards.

As for the Army Air Corps, they eventually got 12 aircraft in the air and shot down a few Japanese planes. Ultimately, though, the Army Air Corps was overwhelmed. The vast majority of Soldiers killed in action that day were in the Army Air Corps, McNaughton noted.

The Army Air Corps flight of 12 B-17 Fortress Bombers — the aircraft that Tyler thought the radar operators had spotted — arrived in the middle of the attack. They were unarmed and almost out of fuel.

The aircraft landed at various airfields, and one landed on a golf course. One of the aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese, and three were badly damaged, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”

“Just imagine, it’s supposed to be a routine peacetime flight and you show up in the middle of the biggest air battle the U.S. had ever seen,” McNaughton said. “Not a good situation.”

No plan for invasion

In fact, the Japanese never planned to invade Hawaii, McNaughton said. Rather, they wanted to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet so it could not interfere with their plans to seize European colonies in Southeast Asia.

At the time, Army and Navy signals intelligence personnel were working hard to break the Japanese code, he said. They were intercepting communications and decrypting what they could, but the communications they intercepted gave no clear warning of the impending attack.

What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
One of many posters produced by the War Department during World War II, designed to get the public behind the war effort. | Photo Credit: Department of Defense

In the aftermath of the attack, the Army immediately took over the territory of Hawaii, declaring martial law, which lasted until October 1944. In this unprecedented situation, all local police, courts and government operated under Army supervision. The Army, Navy and FBI placed the local Japanese-American population under close surveillance and placed many community leaders under arrest.

During the war, the Army Soldiers in Hawaii — as in various places along the coasts on the U.S. mainland — never had to fire artillery guns to repel an enemy fleet, McNaughton said. The Army eventually disbanded the Coast Artillery branch, and today it uses sophisticated air and missile defense, in coordination with the other services.

Among the lessons to be taken from Pearl Harbor attack, according to McNaughton, is the crucial importance of operating as part of the joint force. Another is that of striking a fine balance between training and readiness. “You just don’t know when your unit will be called to mobilize,” he said.

The forced internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942, in the aftermath of the attack, was a further tragedy.

“It was really painful to the Japanese-American community at the time,” he said. “The vast majority of Japanese Americans were loyal citizens, those who had the opportunity fought for America. And many of those died for their country.”

Articles

CSI Battlefield: 7 ways forensic science is used in war

Forensic science is associated with hit TV shows and catching criminals at home, but it’s also used by the military. Here are 7 ways it is:


1. Crater analysis

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Gross

Crater analysis is the study of holes caused by explosions and incoming rounds. It has two major uses. For decades, experts have looked at craters to determine what caliber weapon an artillery attack used and where it was fired from. Since the invention of IEDs, it has also been used to determine what size and type of explosive charge was used in the device.

2. Swabbing for explosives

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Photo: US Army Sgt. James Bunn

Determining what type of explosives were used in an IED allows military intelligence to determine what methods insurgents are using to create or smuggle explosives. Tactical site exploitation teams swab IED components and test the residue to learn what the explosive is and how refined it is.

Troops can also swab suspected bombmakers hands or homes to prove insurgent activity, allowing U.S. forces or local military personnel to arrest probable insurgents.

3. Fingerprinting and DNA

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Photo: US Army SPC Chenee’ Brooks

Fingerprint and DNA collection help commanders track the movement of people around the battlefield and aid in the prosecution of insurgents. Investigators grab fingerprints and DNA from inside known areas of enemy activity, from weapons and material, and from suspected insurgents.

Where each matching sample appears on the battlefield will let commanders know if a known bomb maker is in a certain region and will increase the chance that an insurgent is caught at a checkpoint where troops have a fingerprint reader.

Army scientist can even detect explosive materials in the fingerprints found at a site.

4. Testing for chemical and biological deployments

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Timm Duckworth

When troops come under biological or chemical attack, it’s obviously best if the military can quickly determine what agents were used against them. The U.S. has chemical warfare experts in most units who can quickly determine what threat is in the area with special collection papers that test chemical reactions.

The military has also developed an automated tool that automatically tests the environment all the time. The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (M4A1) alerts troops to the presence of an agent, tells them what level of protection is likely required, and identifies the most likely agent being used against them.

5. Searching combat camera, public affairs, and satellite imagery for clues

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Photo: US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Paul D. Bishop

Investigators and forensic technicians on the battlefield get precious few opportunities to collect data from many battlefields, especially if their side isn’t holding the ground at the end of the day. So they often collect data from military photographs and other imagery.

Photos from during the battle can give up clues like which side was where when a war crime was committed, and satellite imagery has already been used to prove the location and scope of mass killings by ISIS. Digital information collected from ISIS social media postings has given Air Force commanders enough information to target a strike.

6. Searching for hidden graves or other evidence

After massacres and other war crimes, criminals often hide all the evidence they can including the bodies of their victims. To bring closure to families and to aid in prosecution down the line, experts hunt out likely mass graves or other caches of hidden evidence.

Iraqi forensic teams have been following the front line as Iraqi and international troops push back ISIS. In Tikrit and other cities hit hard, they’ve found evidence of large executions and exhumed mass graves.

7. Scanning the atmosphere to detect nuclear detonations and materials

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Detecting nuclear detonations from far away is hard. Detecting them from up close is easy. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration

After nuclear tests by foreign countries like North Korea, America and other countries use particle detectors to see how much nuclear material might have been detonated and to prove a detonation took place. During the Cold War, U-2 flights collected particles to learn what weapons the Cold War had in development.

Research is underway to help detect nuclear materials or weapons in transit to shut down smuggling routes and protect population centers.

Articles

This classified American special ops unit has been recruiting females for decades

With the Pentagon making strides to include women in combat arms roles, you might actually be surprised to hear that the Army’s top counterterrorism force has included female operatives for nearly 30 years.


That’s right, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment “D,” also known as “Delta Force,” has a history of hiring female soldiers to serve alongside male operators, having begun the practice in the 1990s.

More commonly referred to as “the Unit,” Delta Force is home to some of the most elite soldiers in the world, famously called “operators.” The selection phase for prospective operators is nothing short of grueling. Former Delta operator Eric Haney details in his book, “Inside Delta Force,” this process which sees candidates hike and orient over adverse terrain, perform rigorous physical testing and training, and psychological evaluations.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Members of the U.S. Army Cultural Support Team, attached to Special Operations Task Force – South, speak with women of the Shotor Gardan village in northern Khakrez District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

Upon completion, a candidate isn’t out of the woods yet, and can still be dropped or withdrawn from the course if the instructor cadre feels he’s unfit to serve with the unit.

An intensive Operators Training Course follows, which trains each soldier in a variety of skills which they’ll eventually use in real world situations. Millions (you read that correctly) of rounds of ammunition are expended on a monthly basis, honing each candidate’s proficiency with a variety of firearms. Vehicle instruction, VIP protection, surveillance, and even tradecraft (i.e. the art of spying) are all part of the OTC curriculum.

Also read: The definitive guide to US special ops

Operators are trained to blend into any environment and urban setting, though sometimes, that’s very difficult to do with a gaggle of military-aged males hanging around in groups.

In 1982, the Unit attempted to solve this problem by recruiting female operators. After putting a small group of candidates through a modified, yet still highly arduous, selection course, four women were able to graduate and meet the standard set before them. However, this solution turned out to be a bust, due to friction between male operators and the new female selectees to the unit.

Eight years later, Delta made another attempt to bring women into the fold, after SEAL Team 6 the Navy’s counterpart to the Unit, had demonstrated some success in pairing a female petty officer with a frogman, posing as a romantic couple, while reconnoitering objectives in Panama prior to Operation Just Cause in 1989.

In 1990, Delta began targeted recruitment initiatives that brought women into what was then referred to as the Operational Support Troop. Female candidates were once again put through a difficult unique selection and training course in order to bring them up to speed on firearms usage, espionage skills and tradecraft, advanced driving techniques and more, so that they could serve on surveillance and reconnaissance missions overseas along with male operators.

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U.S. Army Cultural Support Team soldiers, with Special Operations Task Force – South, speak with a young Afghan girl in Darvishan Village, Khakrez District, Afghanistan, June 10, 2011. The CST serve as enablers, supporting U.S. Army special operations forces by engaging the female population. The CST also assist in medical civic action programs, search and seizures, humanitarian assistance and civil-military operations.

Among the first female operators to be recruited to the Unit’s OST was, in fact, the same Navy petty officer who served briefly with SEAL Team 6 in Panama, according to Sean Naylor in his book “Relentless Strike.” Later on, the OST was re-branded as “G Squadron” — a name which it apparently still has today.

In the mid-to-late ’90s, Delta Force was active in the Balkans, along with SEAL Team 6. It’s since been understood that female members of G Squadron were critical in helping make Delta missions a success in the region, with male and female operators posing together as lovers or married couples while conducting surveillance.

Today, the recruitment, selection and training process for G Squadron members is wholly unknown and completely classified, as is the modern iteration of OTC for Delta’s assault-troop operators. The requirements for OTC still stipulate that candidates sent over for selection be male, so it could be assumed that female operators continue to be brought in and trained through a modified program of their own.

However, what we do know is that women do indeed operate with the most elite special operations force in the world, undercover and sometimes even in plain sight.

Articles

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

Editor’s note: Heather Southward Golczynski, Christian’s mother, posted the following message on her Facebook page. That message is presented here as a reminder of what Memorial Day should be about for all Americans.


With Memorial Day weekend upon us, please take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of your long weekend. It will be full of BBQs, adventures on the lake, beach trips, cold beer, and well-needed time with family and friends. Go buy a new mattress at a 20 percent cheaper price or take advantage of $1,000 bonus cash when you buy a new car if that makes you happy. My family will enjoy the weekend too, and Lord knows our heroes would do the same if they were still here.

All I am asking is that you take a moment to remember the men and women who gave their lives so you could enjoy your freedoms and your tomorrows. Doesn’t have to be a huge gesture — just say a little prayer for the fallen and their families; raise a beer to the Heavens in thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, reach out to a Gold Star family and remind them that their hero is not forgotten; pay your respects at a veterans cemetery; learn a hero’s story and share it with others.

One day a year is set aside to honor the fallen. One single day. The very least we can do is take a moment to say “thank you,” to say their names, to tell their stories, to preserve their legacies, and to honor and remember.

Memorial Day is more than a 3-day weekend. For some of us, Memorial Day is every day.

Go have fun. Be happy. Enjoy your day off. Spend time with loved ones. Laugh and make memories. Just take a moment to reflect. Live for them. Remember the true meaning of the day, and have a safe and meaningful Memorial day weekend.

May we never forget.

(h/t: Erin Yaggy)

Articles

Top general says US still vulnerable to North Korean missiles

The head of the Missile Defense Agency has expressed concerns about America’s long-term ability to defend the homeland in the face of growing threats from North Korea.


The U.S. military conducted a successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) intercept test in May. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. The results of the test have boosted the MDA’s confidence, but there is still much more work to be done.

The test involved a new exoatmospheric kill vehicle and a faster target, although perhaps not as fast an actual incoming ICBM.

Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the MDA, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the recent intercept test was an “exact replica” of what the U.S. would face in the event of a North Korean missile strike.

“The scenario that we conducted was maybe more operationally realistic than not,” he explained.

Although the recent test was successful, Syring expressed concerns about the North Korean ballistic missile threat.

North Korea has tested multiple new ballistic missile systems this year. The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile and Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile could be the technological predecessors to liquid and solid-fueled ICBM systems.

“Today, we are ahead” of the threat, Syring explained in his testimony, “We need to stay ahead.”

“I would not say we are comfortably ahead of the threat; I would say we are addressing the threat that we know today,” Syring testified. “The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others, in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea.”

North Korea does not yet have an ICBM, but it appears to be moving in that direction at an accelerated pace. While the North may still be several years from developing this kind of technology, defense officials believe that it is necessary to assume that North Korea can “range” the U.S. with a long-range ballistic missile.

In the wake of the recent test, the Department of Defense upgraded its assessment of the capabilities of the U.S. missile shield. For years, the U.S. has maintained “limited capability” to defend against North Korean missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has “demonstrated the capability to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of intermediate-range or intercontinental missile threats with simple countermeasures,” the Pentagon said in a recent memo, according to Reuters.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
During a test of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system on May 31, 2017, the U.S. successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target. Photo by U.S. Missile Defense Agency

Nonetheless, the system needs improvements. “It’s just not the interceptor, the entire system,” Syring said June 7, “We are not there yet.”

“We have continued work with the redesigned kill vehicle. We have continued work with the reliability of the other components of the system to make it totally reliable,” he said. “We are not done yet.”

Some expert observers have suggested that the recent intercept test may not have been as realistic as the MDA claims, leaving something to be desired.

“I think Syring was overstating the case,” Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review and senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The DCNF. “A real situation involving ICBM attack could include such unpleasant circumstances as multiple, simultaneous launches on different trajectories; decoys and chaff; intercepts in the shadow of the Earth (not illuminated by sunlight); and attacks on the [Ballistic Missile Defense] system itself by various means.”

“The intercept geometry, as depicted by MDA, in no way, shape or form resembles a [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ICBM attack against [the continental U.S.],” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted Wednesday. “To be fair, MDA was right to walk before trying to run. A (sic) easy test is totally fine, but Adm. Syring appears to be over-claiming a bit.”

The range of the mock ICBM was 5,800 kilometers, which would give the missile a much slower closing speed than a real North Korean ICBM covering a distance of 9,000 to 11,000 kilometers would have. Faster closing speeds, according to Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, “give the interceptor less time to make course corrections, and are therefore more stressing for the interceptor.”

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. (Photo by Flickr)

The head-on engagement trajectory of the May test is also inconsistent with the likely conditions of a North Korean strike.

“This test approximates many aspects of an intercept against an ICBM launched from North Korea, but the target and intercept geometry would be very different in a real attack,” Lewis told TheDCNF. “The missile would be launched closer to the interceptor site, would have a significantly longer range, and (in the case of an attack on DC) moving away from the interceptor site at a much greater angle.”

“MDA is limited by the existing test infrastructure and the very high cost of tests, so we should be reasonable about how realistic MDA can make any test,” he added. “But, in exchange, MDA needs to be reasonable in making claims about what has been demonstrated.”

Other scholars, however, believe the recent intercept test was a big breakthrough.

“This is a good day for homeland missile defense and a bad day for Kim Jong-un,” Thomas Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in response to the test.

During the June 7 congressional hearing, Syring said that in an actual combat scenario, the U.S. would fire off a salvo of interceptors to better address the threat.

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The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked

It’s always fun to sit around and war game which country could beat up which, and it’s even better when you have hard facts to back up your decisions.


Below is a summary of the top ten militaries in the world, according to Global Firepower, which tracks military power through publicly-available sources. We’ve scrapped Global Firepower naval comparisons since they track naval strength by number of ships, making a patrol boat equal to a supercarrier. This list of the largest navies by weight is being used instead.

Below the spreadsheet we’ve added a breakdown of each military power.

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Germany and Turkey’s naval tonnage come from Wikipedia.com

Breakdown

1. United States of America

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Photo: US Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz

No real surprise here. The U.S. spends $577 billion per year, nearly four times more than China’s $145 billion defense budget. The U.S. is behind both India and China on all measures of manpower, but it makes up for it with vastly superior airpower and a carrier fleet larger than any other country’s entire navy.

2. Russia

America’s Cold War rival still packs a major punch. Its high ranking is fueled strongly by superior armor numbers. Russia also fields a large navy and is the world’s largest oil producer. Russia is fourth for number of military personnel, but its numbers are padded by short-term conscripts. Though it isn’t calculated by GFP, Russia’s special operations forces and propaganda arms have been proving themselves in Ukraine where Russia is a major destabilizing force.

3. China

China has the second largest military budget, third largest fleet of aircraft, second largest tank force, and the world’s largest number of military personnel. China’s special forces also took 3 of the top 4 spots at 2014‘s Warrior Games in Jordan. Though China technically has a draft, it is rarely used.

4. India

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Antônio Milena

India’s ranking is largely due to its large labor force and large number of service members. It also has a large fleet of aircraft and tanks as wells as a respectable navy. It suffers though due to a large amount of oil consumption vs. a very small amount of oil production. Interestingly, India’s Border Force is the only modern military force that maintains a camel-mounted regiment.

5. United Kingdom

Despite a small tank force, low number of aircraft, and low number of military personnel, the United Kingdom maintains a spot in the top five with the world’s fifth largest navy and fifth highest military budget. The British military is also aided by geography as it’s hard for an invading force to attack an island.

6. France

France doesn’t post up the most impressive numbers of ships, planes, and tanks, but what equipment it has is modern and very capable. Mirage and Rafale jets, Tiger helicopters, LeClerc main battle tanks, and the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the U.S. provide the main muscle behind the French military. France also manufacturers much of its own military supplies, meaning it has the ability to create more equipment in a protracted war.

7. South Korea

Though South Korea has the sixth largest military by population, the sixth largest fleet of aircraft in the world, and the eighth largest navy, it has a relatively small budget and armored corps. Its largest threat is North Korea which, despite having the largest navy by number of ships, is weak because of antiquated equipment and undertrained personnel.

8. Germany

DEFCON: Here’s how the US decides to launch nukes
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

Germany got a decent rank on Global Firepower and a great one at National Interest due to a strong economy, military spending, and good training. However, news coming out of Germany suggests its position may be weaker than it appears on paper. It consumes much more oil than it produces, and imports come from Russia, its most likely adversary. Germany’s ability to weather an oil shortage is also decreasing as it moves away from coal and nuclear power. Also, it’s facing a major problem with its standard rifle.

9. Japan

Japan would be ranked higher if its people had a greater appetite for war. The sixth largest military spender, it has the fifth largest air fleet and the fourth largest navy. Still, a lackluster ground game drags it down and its constitution limits the military’s ability to project force worldwide.

10. Turkey

An expanded military industry bodes of good things to come for Turkey’s military. It has a large military population and tank force. It is upgrading its navy. The Turkish preparations for war are becoming more urgent as ISIS stands at its doorstep.

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