5 insane military projects that almost happened - We Are The Mighty
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5 insane military projects that almost happened

1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg

Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.


What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.

Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.

Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.

Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.

2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats

5 insane military projects that almost happened
A bat bomb in action Photo: schoolhistory.org.uk

 

Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.

Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.

Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.

FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.

Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.

The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.

After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.

At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.

3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”

Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.

Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?

The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.

The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.

The project was still considered viable in 2002, when the proposal’s findings were sent to the National Academy of Sciences.

At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.

4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system

 

5 insane military projects that almost happened
DoD photo

 

WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.

The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.

Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.

5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Maybe Forrest Gump was experiencing Operation Popeye (Paramount Pictures)

 

This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.

And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.

The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.

The results weren’t fantastic, but the U.S. didn’t roll over. The operation continued for five years, undertaking over 2,000 missions and releasing nearly 50,000 cloud-seed chemicals throughout the trail. Lack of results aside, the dedication is still impressive.

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18 more photos from the hellish campaign that was Iwo Jima

Seventy-two years ago Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the second flag-raising became one of the most famous photos of World War II, but the battle actually raged from Feb. 19 to Mar. 26. Here are 18 other photos from the battle where almost 7,000 Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and soldiers lost their lives:


1. The Marines landed on Iwo Jima in waves on tracked boats.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps

2. The water was thick with the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen of the landing force.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: National Archives and Records

3. At the beaches, the Marines poured onto the black, volcanic sand under Japanese fire.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps

4. Japanese artillery and mortars took out a lot of the heavy equipment as it got bogged down in the sand.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Robert M. Warren

5. The Navy used its big guns to destroy the lethal Japanese artillery where possible and to break open bunkers firing on U.S. troops.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy

6. This duel between the heavy guns played out on the island as constant explosions.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

7. The Marines would advance when the fire was relatively light, trying to take Japanese positions before another artillery barrage.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps

8. When the fire was particularly heavy, they’d burrow into the sand for cover.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: National Park Service

9. Additional forces surged onto the beach as the first waves made their way inland. The reinforcements were made necessary by the stunning Marine losses. One 900-man regiment lost 750 Marines in just 5 hours.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

10. Throughout the fighting up the beaches, Mount Suribachi dominated the landscape. The Marines knew it would be a tough fortress to capture.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps

11. Sailors and Coast Guardsmen continued to land materials at the secure beachheads, giving the Marines more ammunition and other supplies.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Coast Guard Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Paul Queenan

12. Moving up the mountain, the Marines had to use heavy firepower to stop Japanese counterattacks.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps

13. The Marines busted bunker after bunker and cleared trench after trench, but the march up Mount Suribachi was dangerous and long.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Government

14. Flamethrower tanks helped clear out the defending Japanese.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps Mark Kaufman

15. The Marines moved into the Japanese trenches that they had just knocked the enemy out of.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps

16. The Japanese bunkers had protected both the Japanese infantry and the big guns that were firing on the Marines.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: National Park Service

17. When the Marines first took the summit, they flew an American flag they had carried up. When it was spotted by Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, Forrestal asked to keep it.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery

18. However, the Marines were set on keeping the symbol of their brothers’ sacrifice. Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson ordered a group of Marines to raise a second, larger flag and recover the original for the Corps.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy

The photo by Joe Rosenthal of the second flag raising became an icon of the Pacific campaign. The Marine Corps selected the image for the Marine Corps War Memorial.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain

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Can helmets stop bullets? Watch to find out.

Early on in your military career, you learn that the equipment you’re issued is very cheaply made. The Kevlar helmets everyone gets are no exception. This invariably leads troops toward the same, common question: “Can this thing really stop a bullet?”

Dr. Matt Carriker, a veterinarian and YouTuber, had the same thought, and he decided to put the helmets to the test. Of course, the helmets our troops wear are thoroughly tested before being issued, but we have to wonder where they drew the line between cost efficiency and bulletproofing.

Now, we’ve all heard of cases where these helmets have saved lives of our troops in-country, so it’s safe to say that the protective gear can stop 7.62x39mm bullets, but what about other rounds? That’s exactly what Dr. Carriker decided to test.


 

5 insane military projects that almost happened
It’s still a good idea to wear your PPE. (U.S. Marine Corps)
 

Demolition Ranch is a YouTube channel that is, if nothing else, known for putting our favorite firearms through insane tests to see how they perform. He’s even done a reliability test for a Hi-Point Model JCP. Now, if you know anything about firearms, then you know Hi-Point is notorious for their cheaply made firearms.

But he also does bulletproof tests to see how just about anything, including Legos, airplane windows, and even a solid bar of silver, stand up against firearms. In this test, he decided to examine how effective our standard issue helmets are at stopping rounds from lever-action rifles.

 

5 insane military projects that almost happened
This Hi-Point was put through hell and, unsurprisingly, still functioned. (Demolition Ranch)

 

For the sake of thoroughness, Dr. Carriker uses an arsenal that spans of the gamut of calibers. His collection includes a .22 LR, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .30-30 Winchester, and, finally, a .45-70 Xtreme Penetrator. He starts small and steps up to see exactly what deals some damage.

 

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Look at these beauties. (Demolition Ranch)

 

Of course, because this is Demolition Ranch we’re talking about, he eventually moves on to test his AK-47 and Barrett M107A1 .50 BMG against these helmets. Why? Because, America and science!

 

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Rest in peace, helmets. (Demolition Ranch)

 

Now, just to be clear, we know these helmets aren’t designed to stop bullets entirely — they’re mostly designed to protect your brain from shrapnel and keep your skull from smacking against hard surfaces. Even if they’re not meant to bring bullet to a dead stop, wearing one is better than nothing, so be sure to put yours on and keep your watermelon intact!

Check out the video below to see helmets get put to the ultimate test!

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army’s new recruiting effort targets Gen Z

With the pool of qualified recruits shrinking, a new Army marketing campaign debuted on Veterans Day to target younger cohorts — known as Generation Z — and focus beyond traditional combat roles.

To do this, the Army is asking 17-to-24-year-olds one question: What’s Your Warrior?

The query is at the heart of the new strategy, and is designed to introduce young adults — who may know nothing about the military — to the diverse opportunities on tap through Army service, said Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing.


Over the next year, 150 Army career fields — along with eight broad specialty areas — will be interlinked through digital, broadcast, and print outlets, Fink explained, and show why all branches are vital to the Army’s overall mission.

The ads, designed to be hyper-targeted and highly-engaging, he said, will give modern youth an idea of how their unique identities can be applied to the total-force.

5 insane military projects that almost happened

What’s Your Warrior is the Army’s latest marketing strategy, aimed at 17-to-24-year-olds, known as Generation Z, by looking beyond traditional combat roles and sharing the wide-array of diverse opportunities available through Army service.

(Army graphic)

So, instead of traditional ads with soldiers kicking in doors or jumping out of helicopters, What’s Your Warrior pivots toward the wide-array of military occupational specialties that don’t necessarily engage on the frontlines — like bio-chemists or cyber-operators.

The campaign will unfold throughout the year with new, compelling, and real-soldier stories meant for “thumb-stopping experiences,” Fink explained, regarding mobile platforms.

And, with so many unique Army career-fields to choose from, Fink believes the force offers something to match all the distinctive skillsets needed from future soldiers.

One of the vignettes featured is Capt. Erika Alvarado, a mission element leader for the Army Reserve’s Cyber Protection Team, where she is on the frontlines of today’s cyber warfare.

Another example is 2nd Lt. Hatem Smadi, a helicopter pilot who provides air support to infantrymen, engineers, and other branches to secure the skies.

5 insane military projects that almost happened

A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerry Saslav)

Their stories — along with others — will tell the Army mission more abundantly, something previous marketing strategies “didn’t do the best job of,” Fink admitted.

“Young adults already know the ground combat role we play. We need to surprise them with the breadth and depth of specialties in the Army,” Fink said. “This campaign is different than anything the Army has done in the past — or any other service — in terms of look and feel.”

The backbone of the new push isn’t just showing the multitude of unique Army branches — such as Alvarado’s and Smadi’s stories. It goes beyond that, he said, and is meant to show how individual branches come together as one team to become something greater than themselves — a sentiment their research says Gen Z is looking for.

“Team” is also the key-subject of chapter one. An initial advertisement, unveiled as a poster prior to Veterans Day, depicts a team of soldiers from five career tracks — a microbiologist, a signal soldier, an aviator, a cyber-operator, and a ground combat troop — all grouped together.

“By focusing on the range of opportunities available, What’s Your Warrior presents a more complete view of Army service by accentuating one key truth — teams are exponentially stronger when diverse talents join forces,” Fink said.

Roughly five months after the team in chapter one, chapter two will be unveiled and focus on identity, he said. At this checkpoint, soldier’s personal stories will be shared through 30-60 ad spots, online videos, banner ads and other formats to tell their story.

5 insane military projects that almost happened

U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

“We know today’s young men and women want more than just a job. They desire a powerful sense of identity, and to be part of something larger than themselves,” said Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. “What’s Your Warrior highlights the many ways today’s youth can apply their unique skills and talents to the most powerful team on Earth.”

The campaign will be the first major push for the Army’s marketing force since they moved from their previous headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago — in an effort to be near industry talent, Fink said.

Although not quite settled in, the force’s marketing team started their move to the “Windy City” over the fall. Since then, they have led the charge on a variety of advertisements and commercials, both in preparation of What’s Your Warrior, and other ongoing efforts.

At the Chicago-based location, the office makeup is roughly 60% uniformed service and 40% civilian employees, Fink said.

Chicago is also one of 22 cities tapped by Army leaders as part of the “Army Marketing and Recruiting Pilot Program.” The micro-recruiting push — focusing on large cities with traditionally lower recruiting numbers — has utilized data analytics, and been able to tailor messaging for potential recruits based on what’s popular in their location, sometimes down to the street they live on, Fink said.

How “What’s Your Warrior” will target those cities — and others — remains to be seen.

That said, Fink believes the new campaign will speak to today’s youth on their terms, in their language, and in a never-before-seen view of Army service and show how their skillsets are needed to form the most powerful team in the world: the U.S. Army.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 5th

Nothing beats the lazy Fridays of a four-day weekend – like today! Everyone probably did something patriotic for Independence Day. Whether it was seeing the fireworks with the family or getting roaring drunk in the barracks with the guys, we all did something extravagant yesterday.

And now today’s a day where nothing really happens after a big holiday. Now it’s time to just recoup and recover from the hangover by sitting on our collective asses with video games, movies, or whatever on a regular weekday… Only to do it all over again the moment your buddy calls you up or knocks on your barracks’ room door.


So here’s to sitting on our collective asses! Enjoy some memes. You earned it!

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Call for Fire)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Not CID)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Private News Network)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

5 insane military projects that almost happened

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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The SAS knew how to take out the Luftwaffe in spectacular fashion

Britain’s Special Air Service is full of elite special operators who know how to get the job done. In World War II, one of their tasks was breaking the back of the Luftwaffe in North Africa, and they did so in spectacular fashion.


The top-tier warriors of the SAS bolted a bunch of weapons, sometimes as many as 10 Vickers machine guns with a .50-cal. kicker, to Willy Jeeps and then conducted lightning raids through German airfields, hitting grounded planes with incendiary rounds.

See how the fights worked in the video below:

Video: YouTube/LightningWar1941
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This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):


Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?

My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.

The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.

Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?

This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.

Related Articles/ Studies:

Here is a study on general “Hardness” with respect to Army SF graduates.

Some other intangible qualities of successful special operators.

Some Science of Mental Toughness.

Building Blocks of Mental Toughness.

Training to Think While Stressed. Thinking under pressure is a common trait of successful operators.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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15 photos that show how the Coast Guard fights drug smugglers and pirates

It’s ironic that the Coast Guard’s derogatory nickname is “puddle pirates” since it’s one of the few agencies in the U.S. that actually gets called on to fight modern pirates.


Anti-piracy, along with anti-narcotics missions, are often handled by the Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachments, or LEDETS, and Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, or TACLETs.

These Guardians are deployed on Coast Guard cutters as well as U.S. or allied Navy ships. From there, they are sent to board and search vessels where the crew are suspected of committing a crime, generally piracy or the smuggling or drugs, humans, or money.

Here’s how the Coast Guard catches the bad guys on the high seas:

1. Once Navy or Coast Guard intelligence has identified and approached a suspect vessel, LEDET or TACLETs move in.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

2. The law enforcement teams are vulnerable while bunched up on their craft, so they have to approach quickly and carefully.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

3. The team members control the suspect crew while they search for evidence of illegal activity. If nothing is found, the crew is released.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

4. In this case, the crew was arrested on piracy charges and their craft was destroyed. Ships can also be towed to port when necessary.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

5. Larger vessels can pose a greater danger since the teams are forced to scale the side of a potentially hostile craft.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

6. The Coast Guard practices with partner law enforcement agencies and other military forces to make the boarding as quick and safe as possible.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

7. If the crew fights the boarding, the Coast Guard TACLET or LEDET members are prepared to defend themselves and force their way in.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Coast Guard PA2 Allyson Taylor Feller

8. Larger vessels allow more room to hide illegal activity, but the Coast Guard has learned to search thoroughly.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

9. They’ve had a lot of experience, after all.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

10. Particularly enterprising smugglers have created special vessels, like “Go-fast boats” or submarines to smuggle illicit goods.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: Youtube/U.S. Coast Guard

11. The Coast Guard maintains mobile labs that can be used to test suspect substances. (Like powdered substances hidden in garbage bags crammed into secret compartments are ever flour.)

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Coast Guard PA1 Telfair Brown

12.  Any evidence collected is moved off the vessel to facilitate prosecution later.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

13. When the Coast Guard cutters return from long tours, the total evidence collected can be literal tons of drugs.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo

READ MORE: A single Coast Guard ship captured 15 tons of cocaine this year

14. Sometimes, the traffickers ditch their boats in an attempt to escape.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

15. The drugs are cast out, forcing the Coast Guard to search for and recover as much evidence as they can before it dissolves or sinks.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
Photo: Courtesy US Coast Guard

Articles

This is how Osama bin Laden trained Somalis in the “Black Hawk Down” incident

In 1997, CNN’s Peter Arnett, Peter Bergen, and news photographer Peter Jouvenal interviewed Osama bin Laden at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. They spent little more than an hour with the man who would become the world’s most wanted terrorist (and eventual casualty of a SEAL Team 6 raid).


At that time, however, bin Laden was just known as a “major financier of terrorism,” although he had already masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, a bombing in Riyadh in 1995, and one in Dhahran in 1996. He ran terrorist training camps in Sudan as well as Afghanistan and essentially declared war on the United States. Few in the West took notice of the interview or bin Laden’s declaration.

Bin Laden held the U.S., through its support for Israel and the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, responsible for the deaths of Palestinians, Iraqis, and Lebanese Palestinians. He also called the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia an “occupation.” He declared the jihad against U.S. troops and would not guarantee the safety of American civilians. These are all things he always admitted and openly discussed.

What was different about the Bergen interview was that bin Laden discussed how his network trained Somalis to fight Americans when the U.S. intervened in the Somali Civil War. In Bergen’s book Holy War, Inc., he recalls what bin Laden said about the “Black Hawk Down” incident:

5 insane military projects that almost happened

“‘Resistance started against the American invasion because Muslims did not believe the U.S. allegations that they came to save the Somalis. With Allah’s grace, Muslims in Somalia cooperated with some Arab holy warriors who were in Afghanistan. Together they killed large numbers of American occupation troops.’ He exulted in the fact that the United States withdrew from the country, pointing to the withdrawal as an example of the weakness, frailty and cowardice of the U.S. troops.”

In 1993, an al-Qaeda commander named Abu Hafs went to Somalis to scout how U.S. troops were most vulnerable. Bin Laden was openly living in nearby Sudan at that time. During the Battle of Mogadishu (the one depicted in the 2001 film “Black Hawk Down”) on October 3 and 4, three U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were taken down by RPG fire. U.S. officials told Bergen that the accurate use of RPGs by Somali forces was not a skill they would have learned on their own. Journalist Mark Bowden confirms this in his book Black Hawk Down.

5 insane military projects that almost happened

The most powerful weapons warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid had after the U.S. decimated his tanks and larger guns were RPGs. Arab Mujahideen veterans of the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan trained Somalis to shoot down helicopters. The Arabs taught Aidid’s forces to target tail rotors. The Mujahideen addressed the inaccuracy of RPGs by replacing the detonators with timing devices so they would explode in mid-air and thus wouldn’t have to hit the rotor directly.

The Arabs also taught the Somalis to wait until the helo passed over in order to hit the aircraft from behind. Somalis would hide the tube of the RPG inside trees, in holes in the streets, anything except aiming from rooftops. Helos could spot the RPGs well before they could be aimed and fired.

5 insane military projects that almost happened

Bergen notes bin Laden’s multiple assertions of having a “military commander” in Somalia.  That commander, Haroun Fazil, was in Mogadishu during the “Black Hawk Down” incident. He also notes that members of bin Laden’s network trained members of forces that were rivals of Aidid’s, in favor of anyone fighting the Americans.

The leader of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab recently confirmed that three al-Qaeda operatives were aiding the Somalis at this time: Yusuf al Ayiri, Saif al Adel, and Abu al Hasan al Sa’idi. Al Ayiri was killed by Saudi security forces in 2003, and Al Sa’idid died in a suicide attack against Americans in Afghanistan. Saif al Adel is still alive, believed to be hiding in Pakistan. He masterminded the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat in Egypt, fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, and temporarily took bin Laden’s place after he was killed.

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US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

U.S. fighters scrambled Friday against Syrian aircraft that dropped bombs near American special operations forces on the ground in the northeast in an incident that was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in the wartorn country.


Syrian air force Su-24s made by Russia departed the areas over the contested city of Hasakah before the U.S. warplanes arrived but Pentagon officials made clear that the Syrians would risk attack if they returned.

U.S. and coalition troops were on the ground near the bombing in their train, advise and assist role, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

5 insane military projects that almost happened
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

“The Syrian regime would be well advised not to do things that would place them at risk,” he said. “We do have the right of self-defense.”

No U.S. or coalition troops were injured in the bombings, which were close enough to pose a threat, he said.

Davis said he could not confirm that the incident in the skies over Hasakah was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in Syria but added that “I’d be hard-pressed to think of another situation like it.”

President Barack Obama has barred combat for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Syria but the ban stops at self-defense.

Davis said that two Syrian Su-24s conducted bombing runs over Hasakah, where there have been clashes in recent days between Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militias backed by the U.S.

American officials immediately contacted the Russians through communications channels set up by the two militaries under a memorandum of understanding, Davis said. “The Russians said it was not them,” he said.

The U.S. then scrambled fighters but Davis said the action was not an “intercept” since the Syrian aircraft were leaving the scene.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ensign took command of a destroyer at Pearl Harbor and took the fight to the Japanese

Destroyers, in general, don’t get as much love as they deserve for their contribution to World War II. The USS Aylwin is not different, even though her crew managed to do what few others could, which was to take the fight to the sucker-punching Japanese Navy and naval air forces during and after its attack on Pearl Harbor.

Despite having only half the necessary crew and being commanded by an Ensign, the Aylwin was out on patrols immediately.


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The Aylwin was moored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with other ships from her Pacific squadron. Like most ships, roughly half of its crew were out on liberty or leave when the Japanese arrived in Hawaii. She had only one boiler going, strong enough to power only a few of the ship’s systems. That’s when the Utah was hit by a torpedo.

Even with only half her crew and being under the command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan – that’s an O-1 for you non-Navy folks – the Aylwin was returning fire within three minutes of the Japanese attacks. A few minutes after that, her remaining boilers were lit. And a few minutes after that, Aylwin was making her way into the channel and into the open sea. This destroyer wasn’t going to be a sitting duck if she could help it.

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As she left the harbor, Aylwin maintained a deadly, continuous rate of fire that would have dissuaded even the most daring of pilots from pressing their attack on the destroyer. Pearl Harbor, at that moment however, was a target-rich environment for both sides. The skies were filled with Japanese planes, and the grounds and harbor area were littered with military targets, planes, ships, and more. Zero after Zero came after the U.S. ship but were chased away as Ensign Caplan and his men fired everything they had at their pursuers. The machine gunners on the decks of the Aylwin claimed to have downed at least three enemy fighters.

Caplan and company began an immediate combat patrol, looking for enemy submarines in the area, as were her standing orders in case of such an attack. An unknown explosion and an attempt to depth charge an enemy submarine were the most notable events of the next few days. For 36 hours, Ensign Caplan knew what it meant to be the captain. The ship and the rest of its crew joined the task force around the USS Lexington and headed to Wake Island by Dec. 12.

The Aylwin would survive the war mostly intact, but with 13 battle stars for her contributions to the fighting at Midway, Attu, and Okinawa, just to name a few.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why helicopters don’t crash when they lose an engine

Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down.

In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.

Further, when seeking a helicopter pilot’s license, one has to practice landing using this no-power technique. When practicing, instead of actually shutting the engine off completely though, they usually just turn the engine down enough to disengage it from the rotor. This way, if the student encounters a problem during a no-power landing, the helicopter can be throttled back up to avoid an accident. Given that this isn’t an option during actual engine failure, it’s critical for helicopter pilots to practice this until they have it down pat.


A landing via autorotation is also sometimes necessary if the rear rotor blades stop functioning properly, no longer countering for the torque of the main rotor blades, so the helicopter will spin if the engine isn’t turned off. Whether this happens and the pilot shuts off the engine or in the case of actual engine failure, once the engine drops below a certain number of revolutions per minute, relative to the rotor RPM rate, a special clutch mechanism, called a freewheeling unit, disengages the engine from the main rotor automatically. This allows the main rotor to spin without resistance from the engine.

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Once the engine fails or otherwise is shut off, the pilot must immediately lower the pitch, reducing lift and drag, and the helicopter will begin to descend. If they don’t do this quick enough, allowing the RPM of the main rotor to drop too far, they’ll then lose control of the helicopter and will likely not get it back. When this happens, it may well drop like a rock. However, this isn’t typical because as soon as the freewheeling unit disengages the engine, the pilot is trained to respond appropriately immediately.

Exactly what the correct glide angle is to maintain optimal rotor RPM varies with different helicopter designs, but this information is readily available in the helicopter’s manual. The glide angle also varies based on weather conditions (wind, temperature, etc.), weight, altitude, and airspeed, but in all cases a correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow of air that will spin the main rotor at some optimal RPM, storing kinetic energy in the blades.

As the helicopter approaches the ground, the pilot must then get rid of most of their forward motion and slow the decent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors. If done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle. They accomplish this by executing a flare, pitching the nose up, at the right moment. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will further allow for a smooth landing. Because the flare will often need to be somewhat dramatic, the tricky part here is making sure that the rear of the helicopter doesn’t hit the ground. Ideally the pilot executes the flare (hopefully stopping most all the forward motion and slowing the decent to almost nothing), then levels the nose out just before touchdown.

Autorotation may sound like a fairly complex and difficult thing to do, but according to one instructor I briefly chatted with about this, it’s really not all that difficult compared to a lot of other aspects of flying a helicopter. In fact, he stated that most students have a lot more trouble when they first try things like hovering, than they do when they first try a no-power landing. Granted, this is partially because students don’t try autorotation landings until they are near the end of their training, so they are more skilled than when they first try a lot of other maneuvers, but still. It’s apparently not nearly as difficult as it sounds and most of the problems students have just stem from being nervous at descending at a higher rate than normal.

You can see a video of someone executing a near perfect autorotation landing below:

Helicopter Autorotation EC-120

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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13 professional baseball players who became war heroes

When the American military calls, America’s pastime answers. Here are 14 men who played on the diamond before serving on the battlefield. All of them went above and beyond in either the game or combat, and some distinguished themselves in both.


1. Yogi Berra volunteered to man a rocket boat leading the assault on Normandy.

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Yogi Berra made his minor league debut with the Norfolk Tars in 1943, playing 11 games and earning an impressive .396 slugging average. But Berra’s draft card came in that year and he headed into the Navy.

Berra became a gunner’s mate and volunteered for a special mission to pilot rocket boats in front of the other landing craft at D-Day. The boats used their rockets and machine guns to hit enemy positions on the coast and draw their fire so the other ships could land.

After the war, Yogi Berra went on to play in the major leagues and became one of the most-feared batters in baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

2. Joe Pinder left the minor leagues and earned the Medal of Honor on Omaha Beach.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Joe Pinder spent most of his baseball time in Class D in the minors, but he rose as high as Class B for a short period. He joined the Army in January 1942 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, where he fought in Africa and Sicily. On D-Day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder was wounded multiple times and lost needed radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving items despite sustaining more injuries.

“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”

After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest. His bravery and perseverance earned him the Medal of Honor.

3. Jack Lummus excelled at baseball, football, and being a Marine Corps hero.

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Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Jack Lummus was a college football and baseball star when he signed a contract with the Army Air Corps in 1941. He then signed a contract with a minor league team and played 26 games with them while awaiting training as a pilot. Unfortunately, Lummus clipped his plane’s wing while taxiing and was discharged.

Lummus then played professional football, playing in nine of the New York Giants’ 11 games in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lummus finished the season and volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served as an enlisted military policeman for a few months before enrolling in officer training.

At the battle of Iwo Jima, he was a first lieutenant leading a rifle platoon against three concealed Japanese strongholds. Wounded twice by grenades, Lummus still singlehandedly took out all three positions and earned the Medal of Honor. He stepped on a land mine later that day and sustained mortal wounds.

4. Bob Feller left a six-figure contract to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor.

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Photo: US Navy

Hall of Famer Bob Feller won 76 games in three seasons before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after the attack, Feller walked away from a $100,000 contract and enlisted in the Navy. He was originally assigned to play baseball for troop entertainment, but enrolled in gunnery school to join the fight in the Pacific. Feller spent 26 months on the USS Alabama, seeing combat at Kwajalein, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.

5. Ted Williams left the majors twice to fight America’s wars.

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Photo: US Marine Corps

A lifetime Boston Red Sox player, Ted Williams only took two breaks from Major League Baseball. The first was for World War II and the second was for the Korean War.

In both, Williams served as a Marine fighter pilot though he didn’t see combat in World War II. In Korea, he flew 39 missions with Marine Aircraft Group 33, surviving ground fire that damaged his plane on two occasions before an ear infection grounded him for good at the rank of captain. He earned the Air Medal three times, the Presidential Medal of Freedom once, and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

6. Warren Spahn fought in the Battle of the Bulge after his major league debut.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Bowman Gum

Warren E. Spahn pitched his first major league game in 1942, but joined the Army later that same year. He would fight as an engineer in the Battle of the Bulge, the Bridge at Remagen, and other important battles in the European theater.

After World War II, Spahn returned to the major leagues and played into his 40s. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 after earning 14 All-Star selections and a Cy Young Award during his career.

Spahn is commonly credited with having earned a Bronze Star at the Bridge of Remagen due to a false, unauthorized biography. The book claimed to be his biography but was mostly fabricated. Spahn sued the writer and publisher for defamation and for violating his privacy, and he won the case in the Supreme Court. Spahn did earn a Purple Heart in the war.

7. Bernard Dolan and a teammate play, fight, and earn posthumous service crosses together.

Bernard “Leo” Dolan was a minor league pitcher who conducted spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1917. He wasn’t picked up by the Pirates and so continued to pitch in the minor leagues. When his team was disbanded, he finished the season with a semi-pro team before joining the U.S. Army.

In France on Oct. 16, 1918, Cpl. Dolan was wounded and took cover. He saw another soldier hit and rushed from his cover to assist, exposing himself to enemy fire and earning him a Distinguished Service Cross. He was hit again during the rescue attempt, leading to his death.

Dolan was friends and teammates with another baseball player who died heroically in the same battle, Sgt. Matt Lanighan. Lanighan was a semi-pro player who died just after capturing German machine guns and prisoners . He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

8. Tom Woodruff left a promising minor league climb to earn three valor awards in the Navy.

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Photo: US Navy

Tom Woodruff was a shortstop climbing through the minor leagues in St. Louis when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Initially, he served in Army Public Relations but transferred to the Navy to become an aviator.

He became a fighter pilot and served in the Pacific in 1944 aboard the USS Enterprise, seeing combat in the Pacific multiple times, most of which was in the Philippines. He earned the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star as a Navy lieutenant junior grade. He was shot down over the Philippines on November 14, 1944, but his body was never recovered.

9. Pitcher Stanford Wolfson was executed by the Germans after his tenth bombing mission.

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Photo: US Air Force

Stanford Wolfson played for multiple teams in the minor leagues as a pitcher and outfielder from 1940 to 1942. On Oct. 15, 1942, he joined the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot, earning a commission as a second lieutenant. From December 1943 to November 1944, he flew nine bombing missions over Nazi Germany. On November 5, 1944, he flew a tenth and final mission and was ordered to bail out by the pilot after the plane took heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire.

Most of the crew bailed out, though the pilot and bombardier successfully crash landed the plane in France. Wolfson, like the rest of the crew, was picked up by German authorities. When the Germans learned Wolfson was Jewish, they executed him in the city outskirts. The suspected killer was tried in Dachau in 1947 and executed. Wolfson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Purple Heart.

10. Billy Southworth, Jr. flew 25 combat missions in Europe.

The son of Baseball Hall of Famer William H. Southworth, Billy Southworth spent 1936 to 1940 playing minor league ball at various levels.

In 1940, he enlisted into the Army Air Corps and flew out of England for most of the war. He was promoted numerous times, earning the rank of major as well as numerous awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf clusters. He flew 25 combat missions in Europe before returning to New York.

In early 1945, he was training B-29 pilots. While piloting one of the B-29’s, Southworth attempted an emergency landing after an engine began smoking. he overshot the runway and crashed into the water near LaGuardia Field, New York.

He had been signed to an acting contract to take effect at the war’s end, but he died just months before the war concluded.

11. Keith Bissonnette flew fighters in Burma.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Royal Navy

An infielder and outfielder who distinguished himself in the minor leagues, Keith Bissonnette left baseball to join the Army Air Force. He earned his commission and became a fighter pilot in the 80th Fighter Group, flying missions in P-40 Warhawks and P-47 Thunderbolts between India and China from 1944 to 1945.

He was killed in action as a first lieutenant on March 28, 1945 in a crash. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service.

12. Clarence Drumm fought in America’s first battle of the Great War.

Clarence Milton Drumm was a minor league infielder/outfielder in the minor leagues from 1910 to 1914. It’s unclear what Milton did between his successful 1914 season and his entering the Army in 1917, but he was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant in 1917 and was ordered to France to serve in World War I.

Drumm was killed in action May 28, 1918 by an enemy shell in America’s first battle of World War I, the Battle of Cantigny. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Citation Star, a precursor to the modern Silver Star, for his bravery and leadership in the battle.

13. Gus Bebas gave up his commission and his baseball uniform to become a Navy pilot.

Gus Bebas was a Naval Reserve Officer and minor league pitcher at the start of 1940, but he gave up both his baseball contract and his commission to pursue a career as a Naval aviator. He was selected to be an aviation cadet in early 1941 and became an ensign and aviator in September of that year.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bebas was assigned as a dive-bomber pilot aboard the USS Hornet. Bebas first saw combat on June 6, 1942 in the Battle of Midway. He pushed through extreme anti-aircraft fire to achieve a near-miss that damaged a Japanese ship, earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross. He died during a training mission in 1942.

(h/t to Gary Bedingfield and his site, Baseball in Wartime, an exhaustive look at the intersection between baseball and the military. Bedingfield is also the author of the book, “Baseball in World War II Europe.”)

NOW: 13 famous rock stars who served in the military

OR: The greatest World War II movies of all time

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