Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret -
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Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret

We’ve heard of some pretty elaborate presidential vacations — but surgery on a yacht just may trump them all. That’s exactly what Grover Cleveland did when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1893. At the brink of his second term and a nationwide depression, the last thing he wanted to do was to bring fear to the American public. The president having cancer, especially at that time, could have pushed the public over the edge. 

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Drawing in Frank Leslie’s of panicked stockbrokers on May 9, 1893. (Unknown artist/ Library of Congress)

Rather than worry his constituents, he and his team came up with a plan. He would go on a “fishing trip” on his friend’s yacht, the Oneida, and come back as good as new. Of course, even at the time, it was abnormal for the president to be gone for four days — it did not go unnoticed. Regardless, they put the plan into motion. 

That summer, Cleveland had noticed a bump on the roof of his mouth. It began growing quickly, prompting him to have it looked at. The diagnosing doctor confirmed it was cancer, which had a bad outlook at the time, so much so that it was called, “the dread disease.”  The doctor advised, ‘It’s a bad looking tenant, and I would have it evicted immediately.'”

A team of six surgeons gathered on the yacht with a plan to extract the tumor, five teeth and a large portion of Cleveland’s upper left jawbone. They did so, on a moving yacht, in 90 minutes. Ether was used rather than anesthesia. 

What’s even more interesting is that all was removed through his mouth, so as not to leave a scar. In fact, he didn’t even shave his signature mustache for the surgery. It was one more detail in keeping up appearances that all was well. 

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
“Give me mustache, or give me death…” (National Archives and Records Administration)

However, just because the procedure went off without a hitch doesn’t mean it was well advised. In fact, modern medical professionals have said that the attempt was risky, to say the least, and that a similar operation today would take hours to complete. 

After a few days of recovery, Cleveland was “back from his trip” and at work once again for the American people. But the public wasn’t letting this one go, especially the press. The president had been MIA for too long and rumors abounded. 

Journalist E.J. Edwards from the Philadelphia Press had the surgery confirmed by one of Cleveland’s doctors — a HIPAA violation by today’s standards — and published the story. Cleveland publicly denied the surgery, even launching a smear campaign that discredited Edwards. It worked and the public believed the surgery story was a lie. 

However, years later, another doctor decided he wanted to set the record straight, and exonerate Edwards. 24 years after the procedure, Dr. William Williams Keen came forward, publishing an article that described the operation, offering key details as to how it was done. 

As for Cleveland, he went to the grave publicly denying his cancer or the operation. However, he did write a letter to a friend when Edward’s story was released.

He wrote, “The report you saw regarding my health resulted from a most astounding breach of professional duty on the part of a medical man … I tell you this in strict confidence for the policy here has been to deny and discredit this story.”

To learn more about Cleveland’s secret surgery, check out The President is a Sick Man by Matthew Algeo. 


Feature image: Library of Congress

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The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
The USS Freedom, one of the littoral combat ships set to be equipped with over-the-horizon missiles. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans


The Navy is building and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a series of next-generation technologies — including an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

The new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was recently deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Guided-missile destroyer USS Forest Sherman (DDG 98) test fires its five-inch gun on the bow of the ship during training. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
USS Jason Dunham DDG 109 | US Navy photo

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

Articles

A terrorist blew himself up in Afghanistan over this piece of paper

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a US military base in Afghanistan on Sept. 6 in retaliation for the US dropping leaflets that were offensive to Islam the day before, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Three US soldiers were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed, the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 7, in the blast that occurred at an enemy-control point outside of Bagram Air Force base, the LA Times and Reuters reported.

Three Afghan troops were also wounded, the Examiner reported.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid tweeted Sept. 6 that the bombing was to “avenge” the insulting leaflets.

 

The leaflets the US dropped from a plane on Sept. 5 in Parwan province pictured a lion, symbolizing the US-led coalition, chasing a dog, which symbolized the Taliban.

Dogs are considered an unclean and dangerous animal by many Afghans, according to The Washington Post, and the one depicted on the leaflet had part of the Taliban flag superimposed on it along with a common Islamic creed.

“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the creed, known as the Shahada, reads.

“Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs” was also written on the leaflet above the two animals, the LA Times said. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.”

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
The offensive leaflet dropped by the US on Sept. 5. Photo from Twitter user Dan Murphy.

The Taliban also released a statement on Sept. 6 that the leaflets showed the US’s “utter animosity with Islam,” The Post reported.

Maj. Gen. James Linder released a statement on Sept. 6 saying that the “design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize.”

“We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake,” he said. “I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”

Many Afghan civilians were also irate with the leaflets.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

“It is a very serious violation. The people are very angry. It is a major abuse against Islam,” the Parwan province police chief, Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, told The Post.

“Why they do not understand or know our culture, our religion, and history?”

“The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Ahmad Shaheer, an analyst living in Kabul, told the LA Times. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money, and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”

The US has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, and President Donald Trump recently announced he would be deploying more American forces — about 4,000 by most estimates — to the war-torn country.

Articles

Russia plans to build 100 of its most advanced Armata tanks

The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.


“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”

TASS also acknowledged that Moscow previously said it would make 2,300 T-14s by 2020, which The National Interest and other analysts dismissed as “ridiculous,” given the high cost of the tank.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.

The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.

This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.

It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.

The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”

“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system …  There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.

While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.

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America’s oldest living general turned 107 in 2021

When retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Goldsworthy joined the United States military, there was no independent Air Force. He was joining to get a commission in the Army infantry. Little did he know he would serve during the Air Force’s most important moments, under one of its legends: Curtis LeMay. 

Goldsworthy reflected on his life and career on his 107th birthday, April 6, 2021. To celebrate, he rode in a parade driven by the Southern California Patriot Guard Riders.

“I get asked all the time, ‘What did you do to live so long?’ I tell them I think it’s just God’s will. Sometimes I wonder whether he’s rewarding me or punishing me,” he jokingly told WCAX News.

The centenarian also says his secret to a long life is to drink a shot of vodka every night before bed. That’s just how the old timers roll – and no one is more “old timer” than Harry Goldsworthy. He and a friend joined the military in 1936 near their hometown in Washington state. Within three years, he found himself at Texas’ Kelly Field, learning to fly single-engine aircraft.

After the outbreak of World War II, Goldsworthy cut his teeth hunting German U-boats in the Caribbean Sea, using B-18 Bolo bombers, specially fitted to hunt submarines. It was his job to keep them from being able to surface. 

In 1945, he was relocated to the South Pacific theater, where he was flying combat missions in support of Allied operations in the Philippines, Balikpapan and Borneo. He was forced to bail out on his last combat mission. Over the island of Luzon, his B-25 Mitchell bomber took heavy fire from the ground.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
A USMC B-25 in flight in 1944 (DoD photo)

Goldsworthy landed safely in the jungles, and even kept part of the parachute that saved his life. The war eventually ended and Goldsworthy opted to stay in the newly-created U.S. Air Force. His work as a unit commander at every level was worthy of recognition – he was eventually awarded the Legion of Merit for his staff officer work. 

He would soon find himself in the Pentagon, where he would help shape the new service, ushering in the era of jet-powered flight. Far from the skies above Japan, Korea or Vietnam, Goldsworthy tackled the Air Force’s biggest logistical problems, including transportation, supplies and foreign sales.

He was also instrumental in building the silos for yet-to-be-constructed nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during the Cold War. It was Goldsworthy who made haste, with which Atlas, Minuteman, and Titan ICBMs capable of launch, countered the Soviet Union’s first-strike capability. 

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
In a ceremony at Malmstrom AFB, Colonel Harry E. Goldsworthy, SATAF commander, accepts a symbol of the first completed Minuteman operational silo from Army Area Engineer Colonel Arthur H. Lahlum, Nov. 13, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)

In his 33-year career, the retired general also flew more than 30 different Air Force aircraft, many of them instrumental to the Air Force’s air power achievements overseas, including the B-52 Stratofortress and F-105 Thunderchief. He even drew up specs for the F-15 Fighter. 

Goldsworthy first retired from the military as a Lt. Gen, in 1973 before going to work for Boeing. At 107, he is believed to be the oldest living general. He told Military.com that the fighter aircraft they have today, such as the F-35 Thunderbolt II, are so advanced and technical, he’s not sure he’d be able to fly one of them. 

There is a Goldsworthy at the stick of the latest generation of fighters, however. One of his great-nephews is an F-35 pilot. 


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo

Articles

How to cope with injury like an Army Ranger

This article by former Army Ranger and professional fitness athlete Leo Jenkins first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26 March 2014.


How do you define yourself?

This question does a great deal to provide insight to our mental well being. If you are a powerful attorney but you suck at golf you likely don’t identify yourself as a golfer. If you are an animal in the gym but have a job where you are the lower ranking member, taking shit from everyone and their spouse then chances are you define your self by your one-rep dead lift. We all do it, it is one of the things that separates us from other primates, that and the inability to throw feces without the fear of incarceration.

Related: How to make yourself hard to kill, according to a special operator

So what happens when we we sustain an injury that alters our ability to maintain our self internalization? It can be devastating to ones psyche. This is applicable beyond the scope of a sports injury. If you are the VP of a big company and get fired, your entire reality just caved in on it’s self. If you are a professional athlete and you are told that you can not train or compete for several weeks or months it is a serious shock to who you are.

So what do you do? Just end it now, bro! It’s not worth living anymore. Okay, that is poor advice. Unless….. no, that’s ALWAYS poor advice, don’t ever do that.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
A group of U.S. Army Ranger students, assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, carries a zodiac boat to a a river. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner

Step 1: Create a multi-dimensional self worth.

Before the injury ever occurs it is important to understand that your role in your community and life in general is not one dimensional. You hold a great deal of value outside of the place where you identify yourself. I know several professional athletes that also own and run their own business. Having the ability to quickly shift your self perception from athlete to boss man business owner immediately following your injury is paramount. It is very easy to fall into a state of despair when we continue to identify ourselves as athletes after an injury. Don’t let that, “well fuck, now that I am broken I am useless” mentality get a chance to creep in.

Step 2: Seek professional diagnosis.

You can not begin correcting the problem until you know what the problem is. As much as your coach at your gym wants to have an answer for you he is not a doctor. If he was he would be coaching in a white lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck. That would be creepy and weird. If your coach does that…. Step 2.1 find a new gym. You can’t create a plan until you know exactly what is wrong.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
2nd Lt. Marin Lohn pulls himself along a rope during the obstacle course Ranger Training Assessment Course. | U.S. Army Photo

Step 3: Create a plan

Creating a plan immediately after your injury is really important. I am very guilty of mopping around, drowning my sorrows in chocolate ice cream and Jameson after an injury. That isn’t good, don’t do that. If the Doc says it is going to be 2-3 months plan for some ups and downs in that time. When you start hitting a low point have an activity that takes your mind from the negative to the positive. Look at this time as an opportunity to get better at something that you have been deficient in. If you can’t train 6 hours a day invest that time into becoming a better version of yourself.

Related: This is how special operators ’embrace the suck’

Step 4: Train around your injury

When I was in Iraq I tore some of my abdomen. I took a great deal of pride in being one of the stronger guys in my company boasting a 600+ pound dead lift and 480lb squat. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to lift anything over 15lbs for several months. The doctor (see step 2) told me that swimming and easy cycling would be okay. So that is what I did. Everyday. By the time that I was cleared to start lifting again I had become decent at swimming and cycling and since running was a staple of Ranger PT, I decided why not do a triathlon. Before I knew it I had a closet full of spandex and a garage full of bicycles. I hadn’t done a heavy dead lift in years but had a shelf full of trophies from various races. Redefining yourself in the face of adversity is a crucial part of survival. We have to be able to adapt and overcome. Plus, check out how good I look in a speedo….

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

Step 5: Enjoy the process, it’s all circular.

After several years of racing triathlon I was hit by a car on a training ride, shattering my collar bone and breaking my hip. I wasn’t able to do anything. Three weeks to the day after my surgery, totally against the Doctors orders, I was back on my bike. I was terrified but I rode straight to the place where I had been hit. I had to overcome that hurdle before I could move forward. I did a couple of races after that but through the course of my recovery I began to lift again and remembered how much I enjoyed it. Here it is almost two years since my last race and I spend more time in the gym than any human should.

Just a few hours ago I was told that I have a tear in one of the muscles in my shoulder and that I probably shouldn’t lift anything overhead for a while. Hearing that was great. I have been mopping around for two weeks, defeating myself mentally. (Again, not a good idea) Now that I know exactly what is wrong I can move on. I am about to get really good at running and cycling again. Watch out tri geeks the world over, this new injury may be the start of my comeback!

Moving forward requires looking forward, beyond your injury and beyond your own self defeating attitude. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go inflate my bike tires and find my helmet.

Articles

The hilarious way a CIA agent was able to leave Iran with a fake passport

One of the Central Intelligence Agency’s biggest intelligence coups (without instigating a real coup) came in Tehran in 1980. While every westerner was scrambling to escape Iran in the days following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the CIA was trying to shuffle people in.

After all, the embassy staffers were being held hostage and six Americans were hiding out from Iranian police in the Canadian Embassy. Those six Americans might have met the same fate as the 52 embassy employees, being held hostage for 444 days, were it not for Canadian intervention.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Iranian students climbing the U.S. Embassy gates in Tehran (Wikimedia Commons)

When the six Americans were safely out of Iranian airspace, the CIA agents on the ground who aided the effort to extract them still had to get home. They were also running out of time. One of them was detained as he was leaving Tehran on a false West German passport. 

The CIA made a serious error in creating the fake passport, and it might have gotten their man killed – were it not for his quick thinking. 

Documents released in the CIA’s Reading Room website list details that were later dramatized in the 2012 film Argo. The CIA document essentially picks up where the film left off during the credits. Carter announced the successful extraction of employees hidden by Canadian officials in Tehran in January 1980.

Carter directed the CIA to enter Tehran as a film crew and in other capacities to train the embassy employees on how they could best be extracted from the suddenly hostile country. He also said that Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, was “justifiably an American hero.” 

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Kenneth Taylor (Wikimedia Commons)

The former president went on to say that the two or three of the agency were experts in documentation and were critical to securing the visas for the trapped Americans suddenly using Canadian passports – with no entry stamps. 

Canada was not severing diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic in its effort to rescue the Americans. It was simply sending its personnel home under the cover of temporarily shuttering the Embassy in Tehran. The Americans were smuggled out of Iran on a morning Swiss Air flight, while the ambassador left on a later flight the same day. 

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Americans showing their gratitude for Canada’s role during the Iran hostage crisis (State Department)

The Americans all made it through the airport terminal and boarded their Swiss Air flight without incident. The CIA agents who were leaving later were not so lucky. One of them was traveling with a false West German passport, one that featured a fatal mistake, a middle initial. West German passports did not use initials and one Iranian immigration official noticed. 

If caught using a suspected fake passport, and discovered to be intelligence agents for the United States, the clandestine CIA operatives could look forward to beatings, torture, mock executions and, of course, a hanging in Tehran’s Azadi Square. 

The official told the undercover operative that in all his time working in immigration, first for the Shah’s government and then for the Islamic Republic, a total of 25 years, he’d never seen an initial. The operative, thinking quickly, asked for the official to speak with him privately. The two men stepped aside and talked in low tones. 

The CIA officer leaned in and told the Iranian official that he was born in the early 1930s, and that his middle name was “Hitler,” given to him by his parents. Because of this, the West German government had always allowed him the special privilege of using an initial, rather than having “Hitler” on his passport. 

He was allowed to leave the country.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What the crew of this German warship did after 9/11 will give you chills

The immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States left the country in great fear and sorrow. The surprise of such an offensive onslaught and the immense loss of civilian life shook America to its core, as well as its allies and military partners in North America and abroad.


America, however, was never alone in its time of need, and numerous heartwarming displays of support from foreign countries made American citizens and members of the military well aware of that.

One such display came from the Bundesmarine – the German navy – days after the attacks.

Ensign Megan Hallinan recounted the incident while serving aboard the USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, in a now-famous email to her father.

At the time of the attacks, the Churchill was the US Navy’s newest destroyer, having just been commissioned into service in May of 2001. On a visit to England for the 2001 International Festival of the Sea, the Churchill made a port call in Plymouth, along with the USS Gonzalez — another Arleigh Burke warship — and the German naval vessel Lutjens, a former West German navy destroyer.

Royal Navy personnel and crews from all three vessels were involved in friendly activities, from exploring Plymouth together while on liberty to playing sports and cookouts. Following the attacks, the Churchill and Gonzalez put out to sea again with their crews on high alert.

Lutjens was recalled as well, steaming out of Portsmouth just around the same time its American counterparts were underway.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
The guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill on patrol in the Persian Gulf (Photo US Navy)

According to Hallinan, the Churchill constantly maintained high alert levels, conducting drills to keep the crew sharp and ready for action should the need arise. Among the drills planned was a man-overboard exercise which would test and train the crew on its ability to respond quickly and effectively to rescue or recover any shipmates who might fall overboard.

The drill was delayed when the Lutjens, transiting nearby, hailed the Churchill and made a special request. Its crew wished to pass the American destroyer on its port (left) side to bid its US Navy partners farewell. The commanding officer of the Churchill readily agreed to the maneuver.

As is tradition, the Churchill’s crew began manning its rails and the port bridge wing to wish its foreign comrades well on their voyage home. As the Lutjens pulled in closer, a unique sight met the eyes of the sailors aboard the American vessel.

The Star Spangled Banner was flying with the German flag at half-mast on the Lutjens, its crew manning their ship’s rails in their blue dress uniforms. As both vessels steamed alongside each other with sailors from both navies rendering honors with crisp salutes, a banner came into view on the German warship.

Its message was simple, but spoke to the hearts of each and every American on the Churchill that day.

“We Stand by You.”

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
German destroyer Lutjens alongside the USS Winston Churchill with the banner flying on its starboard side (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As Hallinan recalls in her email, many sailors on the Churchill fought to retain their composure, especially given the horror of the events which had befallen their countrymen and women. The Churchill would go on to support the Global War on Terrorism with numerous deployments overseas, along with the Gonzalez.

The actions of the Lutjens crew will forever be remembered by the crew aboard the Churchill that dark day in September, as well as the rest of the U.S. Navy, grateful for the unwavering support from its allies following 9/11.

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ISIS is facing one of its most serious setbacks yet

ISIS is currently facing one of its greatest military challenges since the group proclaimed a caliphate following the seizure of Mosul and much of western Iraq and eastern Syria last summer.


According to an intelligence brief from The Soufan Group, ISIS is experiencing losses around its “capital” of Raqqa, representing both an operational and symbolic setback for the group.

Although ISIS has continued to expand and hold onto territory in Iraq, the militants have come under increasing pressure in Syria.

ISIS has lost territory in a number of key battles. Most notably, Kurdish YPG forces have dealt ISIS defeats at the towns of Tal Abyad and Ayn Issa.

ISIS once hoped to cut off major Syrian Kurdish regions from one another by holding these towns near the Turkish border. Now, the Kurds have foreclosed on that strategy, beating back the jihadists’ momentum and even moving into some of ISIS’s most important territory.

“With the most recent YPG moves against the town of Ayn Issa, the Islamic State is facing perhaps its most serious symbolic and meaningful threat since it declared itself a caliphate almost one year ago,” The Soufan Group notes. “Its capital, Raqqa, the center of the group’s authority and image, is under threat.”

By seizing and securing Ayn Issa, the YPG, in conjunction with US-led coalition airstrikes, have embedded themselves only 31 miles away from ISIS’ de facto capital. The YPG also seized the Syrian military base Liwa-93 from ISIS in the surrounding region. The rapid advance of the Kurdish forces, which ISIS nearly overwhelmed during a crucial battle in the border city of Kobane last summer, has dealt a blow to the militant group, which promoted itself through a doctrine of “remaining and expanding” on multiple simultaneous battlefronts.

Following the YPG’s gains, ISIS forces began digging trenches around Raqqa in an attempt to fortify their capital, Reuters reports. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani also addressed the losses in a Ramadan audio broadcast stating that “God never gave the mujahideen a promise of victory every time.”

Although the Kurds do not have immediate plans to attack ISIS in Raqqa, the seizure of territory around the city could deal a significant blow to the militant organization. Tal Abyad, located by the Turkish border, functioned as a key smuggling point through which fighters and supplies could reach the jihadists.

With its opponents taking control of the territory north of Raqqa, ISIS could experience significant logistical disruptions — and face the crisis of enemy forces advancing closer to the heart of the group’s power.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Edgar Vasquez, a spokesperson for the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, said that “should anti-ISIL forces continue to hold the city, there is the potential for a significant disruption of ISIL’s flow of foreign fighters, illicit goods, and other illegal activity from Turkey into northern Syria and Iraq.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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16 strange facts about the Kennedy family

Featured Image: Growing up Kennedy: Family portrait at Hyannis Port, 1931: (from left) Robert, John, Eunice, Jean on lap of Joseph P. Sr., Rose Fitzgerald behind Patricia, Kathleen, and Joseph P. Jr. behind Rosemary. (Photograph by Richard Sears courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

As one of the more prominent political families in the United States, the Kennedys have long since been recognized as public figures. Most notably, we remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) who served as president from 1961-1963, and his wife, the eventual Jackie O — short for Jackie Kennedy Onassis. His brother, Bobby, is also famous for running for president. And that’s only to name a few. But behind the public eye, behind the politics, this family had their own share of interesting events that took place.

Check out these 16 unique tales about this famous family. 

  1. The family immigrated from Ireland and soon became involved in politics. Patrick Joseph, or PJ, was the first Kennedy to run for office. He served in the Massachusetts state legislature for 11 years, from 1884-1895.
Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
P.J. Kennedy. Photo: Wikipedia
  • From 1947 until 2011, at least one Kennedy served in federal office — starting with JFK as a member of Massachusetts’ congress, and ending with PJ Kennedy’s great-grandson, also Patrick J. Kennedy, who retired from Congress as a member from Rhode Island.
    
  • JFK had serious health problems, most of which he kept as absolute secrets to the public. His medical records were even sealed for decades after his death. He came close to death a few times before taking office, suffering from scarlet fever, whooping cough, Addison’s disease (a very rare diagnosis that affects the body’s adrenal glands), and more famously, extreme back problems. He had spinal fusion surgery to correct the latter; it’s stated that he may have been more easily killed due to the back brace he wore, as it kept him upright during the assassination — and therefore a more sure target — after he slouched from initial shots.
    
  • Several other family members have had notable jobs and offices, including JFK’s sister, Eunice, who founded the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Special Olympics.
Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Eunice, 1980. Photo: Wikipedia
  • Maria Shriver, Eunice’s daughter, is the former wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and through him, the former first lady of California.
  • Edward Moore Kennedy, AKA Ted and brother to JFK and Bobby, remains as having been the fourth-longest serving senator. His stint ended when he died of a brain tumor in 2011. Hailing from Massachusetts, Ted sat in office for nearly 47 years.
  • Jackie O dated the New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams, who is best known for creating the Addams Family. Yeah — what?!
  • Speaking of Jackie O, she also had a terrible smoking addiction. For more than four decades, she smoked three packs a day — that’s 60 individual cigarettes every. single. day. She finally quit once diagnosed with non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma.
  • TV and radio host Larry King had a car wreck with JFK. While visiting Miami, King allegedly hit the president’s parked vehicle in 1958.
  • John, Robert, Jackie O, and Ted, and older brother Joseph, who served in the Navy, are all buried in Arlington National Cemetery
  • Rose — JFK, Bobby, et all’s mother — implemented a “no crying” rule in her house. Other rules included strict diets, punishments for being late, and researching topics that had to be reported through dinner.
  • JFK’s family had an insane amount of pets while living in the White House. That was a total of 11 dogs (11! One was donated to Jackie by Nikita Khrushchev), five horses, two hamsters, three birds, a cat and rabbits.
  • While in office, JFK had recording devices installed throughout the White House. More than 300 hours were captured of meetings and phone calls, including some not-so-flattering comments from the president himself. 
  • Lore says the family may or may not be cursed, with Ted going as far as to announce it publicly. Some events that cause the comments of a curse include:
    • Rosemary Kennedy, sister to JFK, Bobby, etc. was born with brain damage (due to lack of oxygen during birth). She received a botched lobotomy, leaving her incapacitated. 
    • Joseph Jr., the eldest child of Rose and John Sr., died while serving in World War II after piloting a plane that exploded in the air. 
    • Sister Kathleen died in a plane crash just four years later. Ted survived a different plane crash in 1964 — just months after the death of his brother. JFK and Jackie O’s son, John Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law also died in a plane crash in 1999. (His parents allegedly predicted this and attempted to keep him out of the air.) 
    • Of Bobby’s 11 kids, two died young — one in 1984 from a drug overdose and another in 1997 from a skiing accident. And in 2020, is granddaughter and great-grandson went missing from a short canoe trip, with the bodies found days later.
    • And more — these are only to name a few.
  • Jackie was reportedly offered money — to the tune of $1 million — to stay married to JFK. The deal was made by her father-in-law, John Sr., due to troubles, including infidelities, before they made it to the White House. John Sr. believed JFK’s political career would be ruined with a divorce.
Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Official White House Portrait, Jackie Kennedy, wikipedia commons

They’ve had two family assassinations, happening five years apart. As the leading Democratic presidential nominee in the 1968 election, Robert Francis — also called RFK and Bobby — was assassinated by a 24-year old Palestinian, supposedly because of Kennedy’s support for Israel. This, and his brother’s assassination fed ongoing conspiracy theories, including those of political agendas against the family. Some theories say scapegoats were used in order to have the brothers killed. As to the actual culprit, theories range from politician figures — possibly the government — and the mob. Theories are fed by reports of overlooked evidence, witness intimidation (and death), evidence tampering, inconsistent reports, and more. More than 1,000 books have been written in correlation with JFK’s assassination alone.

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The infamous hacker who exposed Clinton’s email server is going to prison for 4 years

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
NBC News screenshot


The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” has been sentenced to 52 months in prison for a string of high-profile hacks he carried out against people including former Secretary of State Colin Powell to family and friends of former President George W. Bush.

He also exposed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, after he gained access to the email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton confidant.

The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, gained unauthorized access to personal email and social media accounts of roughly 100 Americans over a two-year period, according to the Department of Justice.

Many of those hacks led to the release of financial information, embarrassing correspondence, or personal photographs. For example, an email break-in of a Bush family member led to the release of artwork created by the president, and leaked emails between Secretary of State Colin Powell and a European Parliament member led Powell to deny an affair.

Lazar was extradited from Romania after being arrested in January 2014. He pleaded guilty to charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization and aggravated identity theft.

As The New York Times has noted, Lazar was not a computer expert. He operated on a cheap laptop and a cellphone, and used tools readily available on the web. Many of his “hacks” were the result of social engineering skill and months of guessing security questions until he got in.

“He was not really a hacker but just a smart guy who was very patient and persistent,” Viorel Badea, the Romanian prosecutor who directed the case against him, told The Times.

He claimed in May that he accessed Clinton’s private email server twice — a charge the Clinton campaign has denied and that has not been verified by the FBI, which investigated the use of the server — but found the contents “not interesting” at the time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 naval officers who became President

1. Lt. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

When America joined World War II in December 1941, John F. Kennedy, Harvard graduate and second son of the former ambassador to Great Britain, was eager to join thousands of other young men and sign up. Rejected twice for health reasons, he finally received a commission as an ensign in 1941.


Kennedy obtained a seagoing command — a patrol torpedo (PT) boat — the following year. While in and around the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, he participated in patrols and operations to block Japanese supply barges.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

The night of Aug. 1, 1943, Kennedy’s PT 109 joined 14 other boats on a patrol to intercept Japanese warships. Then, disaster struck. Around 2:00 in the morning, in the pitch darkness, a Japanese destroyer cut PT 109 into two. Two Sailors perished and the others were wounded. Kennedy himself was thrown into the cockpit, landing on his bad back. In excruciating pain, he managed to help two survivors who had been thrown into the water. Then, the men swam for a small island three miles away, Kennedy towing an injured shipmate with a life jacket strap between his teeth. They spent 15 hours in the water.

After 4 days without food, fresh water, or any sign of life, the men swam to another, larger island. Kennedy carved a message into a coconut: “NAURO ISL…COMMANDER…NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT…HE CAN PILOT…11 ALIVE…NEED SMALL BOAT…KENNEDY.” He asked one of the locals to deliver it to the PT base on the island of Rendova. Rescue finally came, Aug. 8.

Also read: The 8 new ships the Navy commissioned this year

Later, in command of another PT boat, Kennedy led the rescue of 50 Marines under heavy fire. He was eventually promoted to lieutenant and received the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal before leaving the Navy in 1945.

Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, a Navy pilot, had been killed in action in 1944, but that didn’t seem to diminish Kennedy’s affection for the service. As president in 1963, he famously told cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, “I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think I can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”

2. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Already a congressman from Texas, Johnson received an appointment as a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve in June 1940, and was activated shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. According to a 1964 New York Times article, he “waited only long enough to vote for declarations of war against Japan on Dec. 8 and against Germany on Dec. 11, then obtained the consent of the House for a leave of absence and reported for active duty.”

President Franklin Roosevelt sent him to the South Pacific on a special mission: investigate confusion and inefficiency in Australian ports, where there were reports of malingering and even sabotage by dock workers. By June, Johnson was near Port Moresby in New Guinea. On the 9th, he received permission to serve as an observer on a B-26 bomber, set to take part in an aerial combat mission over enemy positions.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson. (Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)

“The two sides,” the New York Times quipped, “were taking turns raiding each other’s bases. This morning was the Americans’ turn.” The Times went on to say that reports of what happened next vary, but according to official citations and some veterans’ recollections, when Allied planes neared the target, eight Japanese Zeros attacked. At least one American plane crashed in the ensuing dogfight.

Johnson’s plane developed some sort mechanical trouble, possibly hit by cannon and machine gun fire, and turned back alone.

More: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

A Times war correspondent who was later killed in action, Byron Darnton, sent back a report that said, Johnson “got a good first-hand idea of the troubles and problems confronting our airmen and declared himself impressed by the skill and courage of the bomber crews and fighter pilots.”

Johnson, who reportedly climbed up to look out of the navigator’s bubble during the attack, would receive an Army Silver Star from Gen. Douglas MacArthur for the incident. According to the citation, “he evidenced marked coolness in spite of the hazards involved. His gallant action enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information.”

Roosevelt ordered all members of Congress serving in the armed forces to return to their legislative duties later that summer. Johnson headed back to Washington, but remained in the Naval Reserve until he became commander in chief upon Kennedy’s assassination, Nov. 22, 1963. His resignation was accepted by the secretary of the Navy, effective Jan. 18, 1964.

3. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

In June 1942, Nixon, then an attorney for the Office of Emergency Management, accepted an appointment as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Naval Reserve.

He volunteered for sea duty the following spring, and was assigned as the officer in charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal and later Green Island. His unit prepared manifests and flight plans for C-47 operations and supervised the loading and unloading of cargo aircraft.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

A Navy letter of commendation praised him for “sound judgment and initiative.” His efficiency “made possible the immediate supply by air of vital material and key personnel, and the prompt evacuation of battle casualties from these stations to rear areas.”

Promotions followed, and eventually service stateside at the Bureau of Aeronautics. He was released from active duty in March 1946, but remained in the Reserve until 1966.

4. Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

Ford had played college football in Michigan and coached at Yale before getting his law degree. After America entered World War II, the Navy put Ford’s background as a coach and trainer to good use, and commissioned him as an ensign and instructor for the Navy’s V-5 (aviation cadet) program in April 1942. Ford taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill, and coached the cadets in numerous sports.

He was next assigned to USS Monterey (CVL 26) as the assistant navigator, athletic officer and antiaircraft battery officer in 1943. Monterey helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts that year. In 1944, Ford’s ship supported landings and carrier strikes throughout the Pacific, including Kwajalein, the Marianas, northern New Guinea, Wake Island and the Philippines.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

In December 1944, a fierce typhoon with winds topping 100 knots destroyed part of Third Fleet, resulting in the loss of three destroyers and more than 800 men, as well as significant damage to Monterey. During the storm, several aircraft tore loose from their cables and collided. This started a devastating fire. The storm almost claimed Ford himself. As he left his battle station, the ship rolled 25 degrees, he lost his footing and slid toward the edge of the deck. A two-inch steel ridge proved his salvation, however. “I was lucky,” he later said. “I could easily have gone overboard.”

The ship was declared unfit for service and limped into port for repairs. Ford returned to coaching Navy recruits. He was released from active duty in February 1946, and remained in the Naval Reserve until 1963. His service stayed with him even after he became president in 1974, however:

“Whoever watched the Pacific churned by winds of wars comes to this hallowed place with feelings overcoming words,” he said when visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. “Our shipmates who rest in honor here, our comrades in arms who sleep beneath the waves and on the islands that surround us need no eulogy beyond the eternal gratitude of the land that they loved.”

5. Lt. James “Jimmy” Carter Jr. (1977-1981)

Carter, the fifth consecutive Navy veteran to become president, grew up in rural Georgia. He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943, after two years of study at Georgia colleges. He graduated in June 1946 with a commission as an ensign, thanks to accelerated wartime training.

“From the time I was five years old, if you had asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you grow up?’ I would have said, ‘I want to go to the Naval Academy, get a college education, and serve in the U.S. Navy,'” Carter explained during an interview for his Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991.

“My family had all been farmers for 350 years in this country. Working people, and no member of my father’s family had ever finished high school, so this was an ambition that seemed like a dream then. It was during the Depression … and a college education was looked upon as financially impossible. The only two choices we had were to go to West Point or Annapolis, where the government paid for the education. I had a favorite uncle who was in the Navy, so I chose Annapolis.”

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Midshipman James Earle Carter. (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

Carter spent two years on ships — USS Wyoming (E-AG 17) and USS Mississippi (E-AG 128) — before applying for submarine duty. He reported to USS Pomfret (SS 391) in Pearl Harbor in late 1948, just in time to participate in a simulated war patrol to the western Pacific and the Chinese coast in January 1949.

Carter was getting involved in the new, nuclear-powered submarine program when his father died in 1953. In fact, he was in charge of the crew that was helping build USS Seawolf (SSN 575) and the nuclear power plant that later became a prototype. After his father’s death, Carter resigned his commission as a lieutenant and returned to Georgia to manage the family peanut business.

6. Lt. j.g. George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)

Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in June 1942 and began preflight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he received his commission and his wings almost a year later, he became the youngest pilot in the Navy.

By 1944, he was flying bombing missions on Avenger aircraft with Torpedo Squadron VT-51 in the Pacific off the USS San Jacinto (CVA 30). On June 19, upon returning from one of the biggest air battles of the war, the Marianas, his aircraft made a tail-first water landing after an engine failed. The crew made it safely out of the plane before it exploded.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
George H.W. Bush (U.S. Navy)

On Sept. 2, 1944, he had an even closer call. Bush’s plane was hit by antiaircraft fire while bombing the island of Chichi Jima, about 600 miles south of Japan. Bush continued his mission with a plane that was on fire and completed his strafing run — scoring several damaging hits — before bailing out over the sea. Although Bush was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback (SS 230), a few hours later, his two crew members, Lt. j.g. William White and Radioman Second Class John Delaney, died.

Related: These are the Presidential traditions around the Army-Navy game

“We knew it was going to be a fairly dangerous mission, but this is what our duty was,” Bush, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross, later told the U.S. Naval Institute. “I felt the whole plane jolt forward. It’s when I saw the flame along the wing that I thought, ‘I better get out of here.’ I told the crewmen to get out. I dove out onto the wing. I hit my head on the tail, a glancing blow like this, bleeding like a stuck pig. I dropped into the ocean and I swam over and got into this life raft. I was sick to my stomach. I was scared. If someone didn’t pick me up, I would have been captured and killed. … Suddenly, I saw this periscope and it was the USS Finback.

“People talk about you’re a hero, but there’s nothing heroic about getting shot down, and I wondered, why was I spared when the two friends who were in the plane with me were killed? I don’t know the answer.”

Bush, remained on the Finback for a month and then saw action in the Philippines. Ultimately, he earned three Air Medals for flying 58 missions during World War II. He was discharged after Japan surrendered, then enrolled in Yale University.

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Here’s what it’s going to take to upgrade the Blue Angels to Super Hornets

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
An artist’s depiction of a Blue Angels Super Hornet. (Graphic: Boeing)


Boeing just announced that the U.S. Navy awarded the company a more than $12 million contract for “non-recurring design and development engineering for an engineering change proposal” to transition the Blue Angels from Hornets to Super Hornets. This prospect is exciting for aviation aficionados and air show fans nationwide — not to mention the Blue Angels pilots themselves — so how soon will the change happen?

To find out WATM spoke with Navy Capt. David Kindley, the Naval Air System Command’s program manager for both Hornets and Super Hornets. Not only is Kindley the man in charge of supporting the Navy’s Hornet and Super Hornet fleets with engineering updates and maintenance improvements, during his Navy flying career he amassed almost 3,400 flight hours in both the old and new versions of the airplane.

Kindley started the conversation by making it clear that the contract “is by no means the transition taking place. We don’t have a specific date. It could take years.”

However, he explained that the genesis of the current effort was a desire from Radm. Del Bull, the Chief of Naval Air Training (the Blue Angels’ parent command), to “move the transition to the left,” as Kindley put it.

“There’s a perception in the fleet that NAVAIR moves too slowly,” Kindley said. “We see this as an opportunity to show we can go faster.”

The first challenge for the program office and relevant fleet commands is to identify 11 Super Hornets (including a couple of two-seat F/A-18Fs) that can be turned into Blue Angel assets. (The Blue Angels only take 7 airplanes — not including “Fat Albert,” the C-130 they use to ferry parts and support personnel — on the road with them, but they have 11 in their possession.) Boeing isn’t manufacturing new Super Hornets specifically for the demonstration team, so the Navy will have to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” as the old saying goes, to make it happen.

“Super Hornets are a precious commodity,” Kindley said. “This transition is competing with the fact that the fleet is desperate for them.”

Kindley explained that the early version of the Super Hornet didn’t incorporate the advanced mission software used by fleet squadrons, and therefore those jets are only good for training new pilots on basic handling and not the full warfighting capability of the airplane. That makes them good candidates for use by the Blue Angels who don’t need drop bombs and shoot missiles while they’re flying their air show routine.

Kindley isn’t concerned about the basics of transitioning a squadron from “legacy” Hornets to Super Hornets. “We do this all the time,” he said. “This isn’t hard.”

But he allows that the Blue Angels aren’t just another Navy squadron, and he sums up their specific challenges to NAVAIR as “springs, smoke, and paint.”

“Springs” refers to the mechanical device that Blue Angels jets have attached to the control stick that creates 7 pounds of forward pressure, which allows pilots more positive control and allows them to fly smoother. However, there’s an air conditioning duct in the Super Hornet cockpit that doesn’t exist in the regular Hornet right where the spring should attach, so the engineers have to figure out a workaround.

During the show, Blue Angels jets do something other fleet jets don’t do under normal circumstances: They trail smoke. That dramatic effect is created when special chemicals mix with the air behind the plane. Creating that effect is the “smoke” part of Kindley’s concerns.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Smoke on! (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The real estate required to make smoke is realized by taking the gun out of the nose and replacing it with a tank. After conducting the initial engineering investigation, NAVAIR engineers discovered two things: The subcontractor’s production line for making the tanks is shut down, and it doesn’t matter anyway because the old tank won’t correctly fit into the Super Hornet’s nose, so they have to have new ones made.

And then there’s the paint. “Painting an airplane isn’t hard,” Kindley said. “But un-painting an airplane can be really hard.”

What he means is as Boeing strips a Super Hornet to bare metal, corrosion could be discovered. That sort of discovery demands that the contractor reach back out to NAVAIR with a “request for engineering investigation.” That potential makes it hard to scope a contract because there’s no way to know exactly how much corrosion an airplane might have until the paint comes off. And, of even greater concern to Kindley, it’s tough to predict how much time the entire process of repainting 11 jets might take.

And when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of transitioning the Blue Angels to new jets, time will matter a lot. The team’s show season ends each year in early November. The pilots, maintainers, and other support personnel have a few weeks off over the holidays, and then they start training for the next season the follow February, operating out of NAF El Centro in California’s Imperial Valley about an hour east of San Diego. That means whatever refresher training pilots and maintainers need has to occur before the show routine training starts — basically, the time between Thanksgiving and Valentines Day.

While the justification for all of this effort is that Super Hornets are easier to maintain and cheaper to fly than legacy Hornets, anyone who’s flown both types, like Kindley, knows that the Super Hornet has a lot more thrust available. That performance improvement alone should make for a more dynamic Blue Angels show in the future with faster climbs and tighter high-G turns.

But before they push the current show’s envelope, Blue Angels pilots wanted to see how the Super Hornet performed doing the current routine. Last year the team’s commanding officer, Capt. Tom Frosch, and the opposing solo pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss (who was killed in a  mishap while launching on a practice sortie out of Nashville two months ago), successfully flew their parts of the routine using a Super Hornet simulator.

“The Super Hornet was designed to fly inverted for twice as long as the legacy Hornet can,” Kindley explained. “There was only one move — “the double Farvel” — that we were concerned about, but we found we won’t have to modify the airplane at all.”

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
Double Farvel in action. (Photo: Yosempai)

Kindley would also like to see the crowd-pleasing “high alpha pass,” where the lead and opposing solo planes fly down the show line at very slow speed while cocked up at an extreme angle, flown even slower and more cocked up.

Grover Cleveland had surgery on a yacht to keep his cancer a secret
High alpha pass. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Saul McSween)

“The Super Hornet flies slower better than any airplane I’ve ever seen,” Kindley said. The legacy Hornet flies with about 60 knots of forward airspeed at 25 alpha (the angle between the line of the fuselage and the direction of the airplane’s travel); the Super Hornet can fly even slower at 60 alpha. But, Kindley warns, the engines on a Super Hornet are spread farther apart than a legacy Hornet and so flying in a maximum alpha regime close to the ground could cause a controllability problem if a Super Hornet pilot loses an engine.

Kindley also described the legacy Hornet’s flight control response as “crisper,” meaning the airplane took fewer control inputs to get exactly where the pilot wanted it — obviously an important detail considering how close together the Blue Angels fly in the diamond formation — but he said that would be a training issue for the team and not something that required NAVAIR engineers to rewrite the Super Hornet’s flight control laws.

Overall, Kindley characterized the Blue Angels approach to modifying the show with Super Hornets as “walk before you run.”

“I don’t speak for them, but I imagine they’d start by flying the current routine and then, once they got comfortable, seeing how the show could be adjusted to accommodate the Super Hornet’s performance,” he said.

When asked by WATM what the current Blue Angels pilots thought about the potential for Super Hornets, Lt. Joe Hontz, the team’s public affairs officer, said in an email, “We know there are discussions about the possibility of an upgrade down the road. Until a decision is made, we will continue to fly a safe demonstration on the reliable F/A-18 Hornet, which has been a strong platform for the team since 1986.”

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