How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture - We Are The Mighty
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How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

Flying missions out of Takhli Air Force Base, in Thailand, Maj. Harold Johnson served as an Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Wild Weasel, which due to its dangerous, top-secret missions had about a 50 percent survival rate.


“Everyday you were shot at very severely,” Johnson states in an interview. “I’d have a lot of the electronics there and hopefully do the job that I’m supposed to do to protect the rest of the flights.”

In April 1967 — and just seven missions shy of rotating back home — the North Vietnamese fired a heat-seeking missile that struck Johnson’s Wild Weasel. While both crew ejected safely, they were later captured.

Related: Revenge and duty to country motivated this Vietnam War Marine

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Johnson (right) with his F-105, Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, 1967. (Source: This Day in Aviation)

Before being taken to a POW camp, the Vietnamese paraded Johnson through a village where the locals poked and prodded him with sharpened bamboo sticks.

“I still got scars on my legs. The kids were the worst, they could slip through the guards and get at you,” Johnson calmly admits. “I had a lot of holes in me when I got to the camp.”

After eight days of intense daily beatings, torture, and hallucinations from lack of sleep, Johnson began falsely pointing out targets on a map.

Due to Johnson being constantly isolated in his cell, he learned to secretly communicate with other prisoners using an alphanumeric tapping system. “If you can picture a box with five units that you put your letters in, one would be your first line, and then you go ABCDE,” Johnson states.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
The POW/MIA flag was created by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

After six long agonizing years, Harold Johnson was released from the prison camp and sent back to the US.

“Well, it finally happened, when you’re being interrogated that was the thing that gave us strength was you’re gonna to have to stay here, one of these days I’m going out of here.”

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
American hero and Vietnam Veteran Maj. Harold Johnson. (Source: Iowa Public Television/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

Also Read: Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

Check out Iowa Public Television‘s video for Harold Johnson’s heroic tale of surviving a nearly six-year stint in a Vietnamese POW camp.

(IowaPublicTelevision, YouTube)
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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Still feeling the St. Patrick’s Day hangover? These memes are better than a 1-quart canteen and 800mg of Motrin.


1. You sleep soundly in your bed at night because dashing men are willing to ride horses on the beach for your freedom (via Coast Guard Memes).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Seriously though, top 10 military jobs stuff right here.

2. The only missions that got volunteers were the ones that went near a Green Beans-equipped base (via Air Force Nation).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

SEE ALSO: America’s ‘concrete battleship’ defended Manila Bay until the very end

3. To spread democracy, squeeze trigger (via Military Memes).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Always keep your weapon pointed up and downrange. Really, you could accidentally destroy a car with this thing.

4. Not even for a Rip-It?

(via Marine Corps Memes)

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Would you do it for two Rip-Its?

5. Wait, Skateteers can get “Leave” rings?

(via Air Force Nation)

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Screw combining powers for SrA Scumbag, I would just rock my leave ring every morning.

6. Ain’t Ready to be a Marine Yet (via Sh-t my LPO says).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
And you never have to be ready. The Army is here for you.

7. False promises. You know he isn’t going to paint (via Coast Guard Memes).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
It’s a miracle he even walked on deck.

8. 75,000 pounds of Freedom at full load (via Air Force Nation).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

9. You can get a whole other layer of Marines on top of that one (Via Marine Corps Memes).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Send another squad over here.

10. When you have something in common with the galley vending machine:

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

11. Yeah! The fascist overlord thinks your Facebook game is on point!

(via Artwork of Armies)

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

12. A one-item aid kit would be simpler (via Artwork of Armies).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Hopefully, DARPA will figure something out soon.

13. The more important question is probably, “Why were you wearing a dress?”

(via Military Memes)

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
But hey, good on you for making formation.

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The Army sent live Anthrax to all 50 states

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Photo: U.S. Army Africa Rick Scavetta


Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has repeatedly said the scandal over the military’s mistaken shipment of live anthrax spores around the nation and the world would get worse — and he was right.

The number of labs that received live anthrax has more than doubled to 194 since Work and Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, released a report in July on the shipments of the deadly pathogen from the Army‘s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah.

The number of states receiving live anthrax also more than doubled to include all 50 states and Washington, D.C., plus Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The number of countries that received live anthrax went up from seven to nine — Japan, United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, according to the Pentagon’s updated accounting of the shipments through Sept. 1.

There have been no deaths or serious illnesses reported from the military’s 10-year program to ship anthrax to private and military labs for testing to develop vaccines and detection devices, according to the Defense Department.

However, at least 31 military and civilian personnel were treated with antibiotics as a precaution after a lab in Maryland discovered in May that a supposedly irradiated anthrax sample contained live spores.

Since early May, the number of labs and facilities known to have received live anthrax has significantly expanded.

On June 1, during a visit to Vietnam, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter pledged to find out who was responsible for shipping the anthrax and “hold them accountable.” At the time, the Pentagon said that live anthrax had gone to 24 labs, 11 states and two countries.

The Pentagon boosted the count on June 10, saying it was 68 labs in 19 states and four countries. When the department issued its 30-day review of the scandal on July 23, Work said, “We know over the past 12 years, 86 laboratories in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and seven foreign countries ultimately received what were supposedly inactivated spores that originated at Dugway.”

Work called the incidents at Dugway and throughout the system a “massive institutional failure.” He said then that he expected the numbers to climb as the Centers for Disease Control investigated for possible “secondary” shipments by the primary labs which received anthrax shipments.

According to the latest Pentagon count, 88 primary labs received live anthrax and shared it with 106 secondary labs for a total of 194 labs.

The samples were from the so-called Ames strain, a particularly virulent form of the bacteria used in the 2001 Anthrax attacks. After letters containing the substance were sent to the offices of news media and U.S. lawmakers, five people were killed and 17 others were infected. Bruce Ivans, a government microbiologist, committed suicide after authorities were preparing to charge him in the case.

The Pentagon’s review released in July said, “The low numbers of live spores found in inactivated DoD samples did not pose a risk to the general public, Nonetheless, the shipment of live BA (Bacillus Anthracis) samples outside of the select agent program restrictions (at any concentration) is a serious breach of regulations.”

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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Maryland’s ‘Immortal 400’ saved the entire American Revolution

When British General William Howe landed 20,000 Redcoats on Long Island, the situation looked grim for the young Continental Army. General George Washington’s Continentals seemed to be pinned down as Howe simultaneously attacked the Americans head-on while he moved his troops behind Washington’s position.


In his book, “Washington’s Immortals,” Patrick O’Donnell describes how their only way out was a small gap in the British line, somehow being held open by a handful of Marylanders.

Well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence put the nascent United States on a war footing with the world’s largest, most powerful empire, Col. William Smallwood started forming a regiment of men for the coming conflict.

Smallwood formed nine companies of  infantry from the north and west counties of the Maryland Colony. Though they would be reassigned multiple times, the 400 men of the 1st Maryland Regiment took part in many major battles of the American Revolution, most notably covering the American retreat out of Long Island through a series of brave infantry charges.

British forces occupied “The Old Stone House” with a force that outnumbered the aforementioned Marylanders. While the rest of the Americans retreated in an orderly fashion, the few hundred Maryland troops repeatedly charged the fortified position with fixed bayonets.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Lord Stirling leading an attack against the British in order to enable the retreat of other troops at the Battle of Long Island, 1776. (Painting by Alonzo Chappel, 1858.)

American forces survived mostly intact — except for the Marylanders. Only nine of them made it back to the Continental Army.

Their rearguard actions against superior British troops in New York City earned them the nickname “The Immortal 400.” Their stand against 2,000 British regulars allowed Washington’s orderly retreat to succeed so he could fight another day.

There were 256 Marylanders who died to keep the Redcoats at bay and save the fledgling United States Army.

The Immortal Regiment went on to fight at the pivotal battles of Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown. The unit continued its service long after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.

Maryland earned one of its nicknames, “The Old Line State,” because Washington referred to Maryland units as his “Old Line.” The U.S. Army National Guard’s 115th Infantry Regiment could trace its origins back to the Immortal 400, but the 115th is now merged with the 175th Infantry Regiment.

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7 reasons the ‘Carl Gustav’ is an infantryman’s best friend

The infantry is loaded down with all sorts of weapons and gear, some of it loved and some of it absolutely hated for being unnecessary weight. But while the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle weighs nearly 20 pounds and each round is almost 10 more, the infantry still loves the darned thing.


Why? Because it’s lethal, accurate, has long-range, and is reliable. Check it out:

1. The Carl Gustav has a longer range than many American rifles and gives infantrymen the capability of killing enemies at up to 3,000 feet.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Australian soldiers assigned to 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment fire an 84 mm M3 Carl Gustave rocket launcher at Range 10, Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 20, 2014, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. (U.S. Marine photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan/Released)

2. The accuracy of the weapon comes from its rifled barrel, but Gustav rounds fly relatively slowly. Hitting anything mobile at over 1,500 feet requires skilled firing.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Photo: Defense Imagery Management Operations Center

3. Interchangeable weapon sights allow shooters to choose between iron sights, magnified optics, or low-light aiming devices.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade fires the M3 Carl Gustav rocket launcher at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

4. Despite the heft of the nearly 10-pound Gustav rounds, the shooters feel little recoil thanks to a large blast that balances the forces (and creates an awesome fireball).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
A Marine Special Operations Command member fires a Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle system on a range during training in Washer district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 16, 2013. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Benjamin Tuck/Released)

5. Saab-Bofors produces 10 types of ammunition for the weapon — everything from airburst high-explosive rounds to anti-structure munitions that bring down buildings.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
(Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

6. The Gustav has been manufactured in four major variants, each lighter than the previous. America mainly fields the M3 which weighs 19 pounds.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
United States Army Spc. Craig Loughry, a 24-year-old native of Kent, Ohio, assigned to Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, has the unenviable task of carrying his squad’s Carl Gustav M2CG recoilless rifle. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery)

7. The Carl Gustav is relatively simple and easy to use. It’s basically a barrel with grips, weapon sights, and a hinge for loading ammunition. This allows new shooters to quickly train on its use.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Coalition Forces fire a Gustav during a range day at FOB Shank, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2013. The purpose of the range was for the soldiers to practice using their heavy weapons. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Liam Mulrooney)

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10 reasons James Bond is the worst spy ever

By now, we should all understand the life of Ian Fleming’s signature British spy is nothing like the real world of clandestine international espionage agents. The Silver Screen Bond is less clandestine, more clandestish. Even so, there are probably a million reasons any guy would want to be James Bond, and most of those reasons are why he’s a terrible spy.


1. He uses his real name

Secrecy is the most necessary element in the world of spies, so it’s a bad idea to use a real name. Even if James Bond is a cover name, he still uses the same cover name every time. Which is pretty much the same thing and seems like terrible espionage. Knowing how great Bond is with disguises, if he had to make up his own cover name every time, it would probably be just as useless.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Bond is supposed to be Japanese here. No that’s not a joke.

He’s much better at thinking of bad puns after killing people. No wonder he needs so much help on every mission. Helping Bond can be hazardous to your health. For instance, a guy named Quarrel helps Bond throughout Dr. No and 007 lets Quarrel get torched by an armored flamethrower. Valentin Zukovsy saves Bond, his missions, and the world banking system in two films and Bond lets him get shot to death. And then, like a uniquely British STD, there’s the slew of women who die after a night with him.

2. He cares more about bedding women than any mission

That 007 cares more about sleeping with women than completing (or starting) a mission comes up more than once. In fact, in the first few movies, he doesn’t start his super-important missions until after sleeping with some woman he just met.

That those women usually don’t make it to the end credits is more evidence that James Bond should not be the clandestine agent Great Britain depends on for its security. It’s almost as if these women had to sleep with James Bond.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
That’s the actual line from the movie.

If Bond cared about them, they would probably have a higher survival rate. The only woman Bond ever saved without banging was M, and he couldn’t get away fast enough. It literally took 5 seconds. This also probably why she survives to be in other movies.

If Bond doesn’t care about them, he sure takes it personally every time one of them dies or betrays him — another terrible trait for a spy. Natalya Simonova was one the best Bond girls, but driving a tank around St. Petersberg trying to save her is a great way to blow your cover. Speaking of which…

3. He blows his cover on every mission

In Dr. No, Bond spends half the movie trying to convince an islander to help him infiltrate Dr. No’s radioactive island. He finally does and they sneak on in the middle of the night, only for Bond to give them away first thing the next morning when he sees a woman in a bikini.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

In Goldfinger, he’s supposed to monitor Goldfinger, but instead of that, he immediately breaks into Goldfinger’s suite, introduces himself to Goldfinger’s employee, taunts him via radio, forces him to lose thousands of dollars, then bangs his employee! Is anyone surprised when Goldfinger knocks Bond out in his own kitchen? In my opinion, Jill got dipped in gold paint because she makes poor life choices.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
At least she’s wearing clean underwear.

That was Goldfinger’s employee. In Thunderball, 007 sleeps with his mark’s girlfriend.

4. He drinks like it’s his job

The drinking. All the drinking. The guy is clearly an alcoholic. In the U.S., you can’t even get a top secret security clearance with that much alcohol use, let alone be the top field agent. How does Bond not die in alcohol-related incidents? Or of cirrhosis?

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
One thing at a time, man!

He needs booze to do anything. Sure, we can give him a pass for having a drink while gambling. That helps maintain an effective cover. But how many does he need for that purpose? This is the guy who keeps a bottle of chilled champagne in his tricked-out Aston-Martin just in case he has a lady in need of an emergency picnic. And he pops the compartment open in a move that would make Glenn Quagmire proud.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

With the exception of Timothy Dalton’s chronically misdressed Bond (he wears a shabby wool suit to work and a tuxedo to the carnival), 007 always looks impeccable. How does Bond always manage to look so suave and clean? With as much as he drinks and spends all night every night shagging some new girl, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be tired, unshaven, and smelling like liquor.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
ARCHER IS A DOCUMENTARY

 5. He gets captured all the time

Dr. No captures Bond and serves him breakfast. Bond immediately allows himself to be drugged by drinking the coffee like it was life-giving vodka. When he’s trying to turn a Russian general’s girlfriend in The Living Daylights, he CHUGS the martini she gives him. Drugged again. It’s a miracle he ever escapes anything alive. Poisoned vodka should have been enough to kill 007 in 1965 but then again, alcohol poisoning should have done him in a dozen times.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
This should have been the end of every movie.

Alec Trevelyan captures him twice. In Afghanistan, he escapes capture from the Soviets, only to be immediately captured by the Muhajeddin. Elecktra King doesn’t have any special powers or weapons and she captures 007 AND M. Goldfinger captured 007 and carted him around the world for at least a week. James Bond drove up to Harlem in the 1970s, tailing a gangster, then walked right into his nightclub. He was captured and held at gunpoint in about thirty seconds. Later in the same movie (Live and Let Die) he does it again.

6. He never notices the mole in MI6

Every time he travels, every where he goes, the enemy always knows his exact schedule. It doesn’t matter if it’s Eastern Europe, Turkey, or Jamaica, enemy agents always know when his flight arrives and what the world’s top secret superspy looks like. It also doesn’t matter who the enemy is, SPECTRE, Russia, or Dr. No.  Ignoring M16’s mole entirely, Bond spends a lot of tim in Dr. No trying to interrogate his people. When he finally subdues a geology professor who tires to kill him, 007 just shoots him instead of asking him anything.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

In Casino Royale, he doesn’t even bother to check what bank account Vesper Lynd transfers the money to. That could have been a great clue into what was really going on.

7. He rarely searches his hotel rooms for thugs, bugs, or anything

In Goldfinger, Bond blows up a drug lab and then walk right to the bar (surprise) to bang a dancer (big surprise). He walks into her room and starts undressing, missing the thug waiting to kill him. He only notices in the reflection on her eyeball. As the attacker drops the blow, he spins around and lets the lady take it.

In From Russia With Love, after not being in his hotel for two days, he just waltzes in, disrobes and orders breakfast. He doesn’t search for bugs or bombs or anything. THERE’S SOMEONE IN HIS BED and he doesn’t even notice. When he finds out its a woman, He even allows himself to be filmed having sex with her, his Russian informant, who is double crossing him.

It’s a good thing SPECTRE is as incompetent as he is. Even Blofeld, the most epic of all his nemeses, met an ignominious end when Bond dropped his WHEELCHAIR down a smokestack.

8. He hangs out with the supervillains he’s supposed to take out

In Live and Let Die, 007 disarms and captures a woman by burning the assailant’s drawn gun hand with a cigar while breaking into his hotel room. She says she’s CIA… and that’s good enough for James Bond, even though she can’t do any actual spy stuff or shoot a weapon. He sleeps with her anyway, then spends the next day fishing with her.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but fishing maybe?

Bond spends DAYS with Pussy Galore and Goldfinger without trying to escape even once. He drinks with Emilio Largo, vacations with Electra King, and bangs media baron Elliot Carver’s wife while staying at his house in Hamburg.

9. He’s a huge drain on the taxpayer

And doesn’t James Bond live a really lavish lifestyle for spy? Tuxedos, Aston-Martins, Gambling in the Riviera, not to mention all these other exotic locales? Why doesn’t SPECTRE set up shop in places that are little more out of reach for the West, like Sudan or North Korea? The Bahamas seems like a terrible place to start an evil plan or terrorist group. Bond’s life is one of tuxedos, luxury cars, and champagne.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

Cost Benefit analysis: how much does it cost for James Bond to stop these villains vs. What the villains actually want. How much was that invisible car? How many people died to get Bond in Space? At some point we have to wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper just to let the bad guys win one. But be advised: When he doesn’t get his way, he rebels and becomes an enemy of the state.

10. He destroys everything

He destroys national monuments, kills local cops, and troops who are only doing their job, even when Russia isn’t the bad guy. It’s not like the cops know who he is, they’re just trying to protect the innocent. Someone let James Bond know Blue Lives Matter. And he can’t just kill someone. It takes four cars, two helicopters, and a train to get to the bad guy. Even when he’s assigned to get one guy, 007 blows up half an african embassy to do it (and gets caught on camera in the process).

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Even if Bond is a cover name used by many agents, he just blew his cover (see reason #3).

On that note, who is the bad guy here? Isn’t M16 supposed to be supporting justice and peace? Instead their main guy is blowing up dams and trashing cities. He drove a tank through an apartment in St. Petersburg.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Because f*ck you and everything you love.

If he pulled this stuff in the U.S. it would be on Fox News in heartbeat, and there goes his cover. He ruins weddings, birthdays, and lives.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
And especially vacations. Rue Brittania.

BONUS: Q Branch isn’t that great either.

Pen grenade? Awesome. Magnet and/or laser watch? Perfect. Crocodile suit? Are you kidding me, Q?

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only all-Black, all-female battalion that served overseas during WWII

For troops on the frontlines, receiving mail from home is a welcome reprieve from the stress and dangers of combat. During WWII, it was the job of units like the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion to make sure that mail sent from the states got to the troops overseas. What made the 6888th unique was that it was the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps to serve overseas during the war.

Because of the high demand for frontline troops, the Army had a significant shortage of soldiers who could manage postal services in theater. In 1944, Black civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune lobbied First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for “a role for Black women in war overseas.” Her efforts were joined by Black newspapers who called for the Army to give Black women the opportunity to support the war effort in a more direct role.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
The 6888th during the Joan of Arc parade in Rouen (U.S. Army)

The Army responded by creating the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in the Women’s Army Corps. Nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight”, the unit’s motto was “No mail, low morale.” The battalion was made up of 855 women, both officers and enlisted. Most of them worked as postal clerks. However, the women also filled other positions like cooks and mechanics. Because of this, the 6888th was a self-sufficient unit.

The 6888th left the United States for Europe on February 3, 1945. Twelve days later, the women arrived in Birmingham, England where they found the backlog of mail that they were responsible for. In the temporary post office, a converted aircraft hangar, mail was stacked to the ceiling. Some letters were postmarked as early as 1943. Part of the problem was that mail was commonly addressed with only a soldier’s first name or even a nickname.

The Army gave the 6888th six months to sort through the backlog of mail and sent a white officer to the unit to tell them how to do the job right. The 6888th’s commander, Major Charity Adams Earley responded by saying, “Sir, over my dead body.” The women devised their own system to sort the mail. Working in three shifts, seven days a week, each shift handled an estimated 65,000 pieces of mail. They completed their six-month tasking in just three months.

After they cleared the enormous backlog of mail in Birmingham, the women of the 6888th were sent across the Channel to France in May, 1945. The unit was camped in Rouen where they given another backlog of mail, some of which was postmarked 1942. According to Army historians, the military police of the 6888th were not allowed to carry weapons. As a result, the MPs were trained in jujitsu to deter “unwanted visitors.”

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
The first Black female service members to arrive in Europe were the women of the 6888th (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

In May 1945, the women of the 6888th marched in a parade ceremony in honor of Joan of Arc through the marketplace where the saint was burned at the stake. By 1945, the women had cleared the Rouen backlog of mail and were sent to Paris. Upon their arrival, they marched through the city and were welcomed enthusiastically by the Parisians. They were even housed in a hotel where the staff treated them like top-tier guests.

With the war over on all fronts, the 6888th was cut by 300 women with 200 set to be discharged in January 1946. In February 1946, the women that remained were sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey where the unit was disbanded. There was no public recognition for the unit’s service.

In 2009, the 6888th was honored at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Seven years later, the 6888th was inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame. In 2018, a monument to the women of the 6888th was erected at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. When asked about her service by the American Veterans Center, 6888th veteran Anna Mae Robertson said with a chuckle, “I was doing the best I could.”

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
The 6888th marches in formation (U.S. Army)

These incredible women weren’t the only ones to break new grounds during WWII. To learn about some of our country’s first Black Marines, keep reading here.

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The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

One of the most significant US intelligence operations in modern history took place in the heart of Soviet Moscow, during an especially dangerous period of the Cold War.


From 1979 to 1985 — a span that includes President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the 1983 US-Soviet war scare, the deaths of three Soviet General Secretaries, the shooting-down of KAL 007, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — the CIA was receiving high-value intelligence from a source deeply embedded in an important Soviet military laboratory.

Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.

Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.

This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.

The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.

In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.

There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.

Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”

This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.

In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.

As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.

Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its

At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.

The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”

But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.

The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.

There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.

That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”

Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.

Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.

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

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Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
The littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway in the Pacific Ocean | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney


After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.

“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”

The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.

The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.

The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.

“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.

The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.

It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.

Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.

“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.

The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.

The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.

Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.

In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.

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House panel seeks to increase Army ranks by 45,000 soldiers

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture


The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a defense bill that would increase the U.S. Army by 45,000 soldiers.

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill would provide money to add 20,000 soldiers to the active Army’s end-strength, bringing it to 480,000.

The bill would also add 15,000 to the National Guard and 10,000 to the Reserves, resulting in a Guard strength of 350,000 and a Reserve strength of 205,000. The panel was expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.

Under the President Barack Obama’s current proposed defense budget, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve.

“The Chairman’s Mark halts and begins to reverse the drawdown of military end strength, preserving the active duty Army at 480,000,” according to summary of the proposed bill.

The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that there is a “high-military risk” if the service continues to operate at its current size, but also told lawmakers that growing end-strength without additional funding would lead to a hollow force.

Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders that have testified it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

“Where possible, Chairman Thornberry’s proposal cuts excessive or wasteful expenditures and rededicates those resources to urgent needs,” according to the bill’s summary. “Even with a vigorous re-prioritization of programs, the Committee was unable to make up essential shortages in the President’s budget and simultaneously provide a full year of contingency funding.

“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” it states

The proposal also would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.

“Perhaps it is also true every year, that when it comes to overall spending levels for defense, we are presented with only difficult, imperfect options,” Thornberry said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s committee-wide markup session within the House Armed Services Committee.

“But, the bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he added. “For that reason, I think that it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about in testimony and that some of us have also seen for ourselves.”

The bill, currently in its draft form, will have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. Obama could also choose to veto the bill after passage.

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First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Retired Navy Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Richard Lyon, the first SEAL in the Navy Reserve to reach flag rank, passed away Feb. 3. He was 93.


According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyon, a veteran of the World War II-era Underwater Demolition Teams — the forerunners to the SEALs — served 41 years in the Navy Reserve and also saw action during the Korean War.

Lyon is believed to have been among the first troops to land on the Japanese mainland as Tokyo surrendered.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

In 1951, Lyon was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and worked on destroying enemy mines and later would help destroy enemy tunnels and railways – part of the evolution of the UDTs into the SEALs.

“He was one of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Doug Allred, a former officer in Underwater Demolition Team 11, told the Union-Tribune. “It was 1961 and he was a reservist. This old man shows up at our unit and asked if he could go out with us.

“By golly, we were swimming and diving and doing all these hard things and he was destroying all of us young guys.”

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Retired Rear Adm. Dick Lyon, the first Bullfrog, left, passes the Bullfrog trophy to Capt. Pete Wikul, the 13th Bullfrog, during the passing of the Bullfrog ceremony. The title Bullfrog recognizes the UDT/SEAL operator with the greatest amount of cumulative service. Wikul retired after 39 years and 4 months of Navy service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua T. Rodriguez)

After the Korean War, Lyon returned to the reserves, and built a very successful civilian carer, being promoted to Rear Adm. (Lower Half) in 1975. In 1978, he was recalled to active duty to serve as deputy chief of the Navy Reserve.

In 1983, he retired from the Navy Reserve, ending a 41-year career. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Oceanside, California.

The cause of death was reported as renal failure. The family has asked that donations be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

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That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.


But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.

Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.

Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.

As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.

Lynch had to wait to find out his run was successful, though. He was targeted with a missile as he came out of the dive and was forced to take evasive maneuvers. He wouldn’t learn about his success until he returned to base.


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These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Merrill’s Marauders trudging through the Burmese jungle. (Photo: Life Magazine)


When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.

When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.

An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.

Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.

Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture
Brig. Gen. Merrill accepts a goat from village elders. (Photo: Nat’l WW2 Museum)

The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.

But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.

The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.

Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.

So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.

The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.

 

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