Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British - We Are The Mighty
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Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British

On June 30, 1812, President James Madison called for emergency commissions of Naval Officers to help fight the British.

Often called America’s “Second War of Independence,” the War of 1812 was sparked by Britain’s Royal Navy seizing American ships in French ports and impressing American sailors into British service. 

President Madison asked Congress for the young United States’ first declaration of war – against their former colonial ruler Great Britain.

Though America’s all-volunteer Navy had no trouble finding men to fight, few officers were available to lead those men. Less than two weeks into the War of 1812, President Madison sent out an urgent plea, asking for more officers to come forward for the American cause.

At the time, the Royal Navy ruled the high seas with powerful warships and an empire that spanned the globe. But the young U-S Navy wasn’t about to be bullied into submission. The 20-ship Navy mostly came out of port to raid British shipping lines but when the USS Constitution defeated the HMS Guerrière east of Boston, it gave Americans confidence that they could defend themselves from a power like Great Britain.

The young United States would suffer many costly defeats during the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions, defeat Great Britain’s naval power — then, the greatest in the world, and gain an empowered sense of patriotism and self-confidence.

In the annals of history, the War of 1812 would be remembered as minor conflicts for the United States and Great Britain (who merely catalogues it as part of the Napoleonic Wars, and not even a war in itself).

For Canadians and Native Americans, however, it would become a decisive turning point in their losing struggle to govern themselves.

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ISIS is about to lose its biggest conquest in the Middle East

As Iraqi security forces continue the push to liberate Mosul, terrorists with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant find themselves trapped in the city’s west, a Pentagon spokesman said Feb. 7.


Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This flag symbolizes the efforts of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve composed of U.S. Army Soldiers, U.S. Marine Corps Marines, U.S. Navy Sailors, United States Air Force Airmen and coalition military forces. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/released)

“At this point, ISIL fighters are stuck in Mosul,” the Defense Department’s director of press operations, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters.

With Iraqi forces closing in and bridge access to eastern Mosul severed, the terrorists in the western quadrant are unable to resupply and reinforce, he said.

“The fighters who remain in west Mosul face a choice between surrendering or annihilation, as there’s not a place to retreat,” Davis said.

It is nearly impossible to cross the Tigris River, which separates east and west Mosul, since access to the five bridges that spanned the river is closed off, Davis pointed out.

“Without the ability to resupply or reinforce, [ISIL] is in a situation there where their loss is certain,” Davis said.

The coalition continues its strikes in support of the shift to western Mosul operations, he said, noting since the push for Mosul began in mid-October, the coalition has conducted 10,850 strikes in support of operations to liberate the city.

“We know going into western Mosul that they are more dug in there; they have had more time to place encampments and firing positions [and] fighting positions,” Davis said, adding ISIL used its best fighters in eastern Mosul.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
821st Contingency Readiness Group Airmen wait for approaching MH-47 Chinooks at Qayyarah Airfield West, Iraq, Nov. 17, 2016. The 821st CRG is highly-specialized in training and rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations in austere, bare-base conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

The strikes, he said, have destroyed vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, buildings and facilities, tunnels, boats, barges, vehicles, bunkers, anti-aircraft artillery, and artillery mortar systems.

Iraqi security forces are back clearing eastern Mosul, Davis said, pointing out they have disrupted raids, uncovered sleeper cells, and found terrorists in “spider holes.”

In addition, approximately once a day, Iraqi security forces are encountering small unmanned aerial vehicles that are dropping hand grenades, he said.

Davis pointed out tests have confirmed the presence of the skin irritant sulfur mustard from samples recovered from Mosul University, a central location in ISIL’s chemical weapons program.

ISIL is surrounded in the Syrian city of Al Abab on multiple axes, Davis said.

“We continue to conduct strikes, in fact there were just some strikes earlier today in Al Bab by the United States and the coalition in support of the Turkish operations,” he said.

Meanwhile, the fight to liberate the key city of Raqqa continues and a third axes, an eastern axis, kicked off in the last day, Davis said. The new axis adds to the northwest and northeast efforts where isolation is either in progress or complete.

The coalition has conducted bridge strikes south of Raqqa along the Euphrates to restrict ISIL’s ability to move fighters and equipment, he said.

“It further isolates [ISIL] fighters so that they’ll have to take their chances with either fighting or dying or surrendering to the SDF or using what narrow window they have of escape they have right now, which is really only in this direction [to the southeast], toward Deir ez-Zur,” he said.

In addition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have cleared an additional 48 square kilometers along two axes Feb. 6.

The coalition is taking steps to further limit ISIL’s ability to maneuver across Syria, and will continue to degrade, dismantle and militarily defeat the terrorists, Davis said.

The coalition has delivered 2,310 munitions since Nov. 5 in support of the SDF, he said.

“In the past 24 hours, we conducted an additional six strikes with a total of eight engagements using 18 munitions in support of SDF operations to isolate Raqqa,” he said.

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A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

As of 2015 the Berlin Wall has been down almost as long as it stood separating the German people. The wall built by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR – better known as East Germany) around the Western sectors of Berlin became a longstanding symbol of the divide between Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism during the Cold War. In the 28 years it stood, no place on Earth was so central to world events as Berlin and the reason for that is the Berlin Wall. Twenty-six years after its fall, it’s worth a look to see the how Cold War history played out surrounding such a central, divisive symbol.


After World War II, West Germany was occupied by France, England, and the United States, East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. Berlin, despite being deep in Soviet-occupied territory, was also partitioned in a similar way. After the Berlin Airlift ended a Soviet blockade — really an attempt to push the West out of Berlin through economic strangulation — fears of further drifts toward a full Communist state in the East prompted many to emigrate to West Germany in exponential numbers. These were mostly young, well-educated Germans whose flight became known as a “Brain Drain” of East German intelligentsia and workers. Only 61% of the East’s working age population remained. Something had to be done and what better way to make people want to stay in your country than by walling them in and threatening them with constant torture and execution?

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Memorial crosses of those killed by East Germany while trying to cross to West Germany

The borders around West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961 as the Soviets tore up the streets, erected fences, and placed barbed wire. Families were suddenly split, jobs were lost and the United States had no official response. The U.S. didn’t actually think there was valid reason for its permanent erection. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to Communist failure.”

Erected in 1961, it was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, who placed rows of barbed wire a guard towers along the wall. It would soon become a symbol for the corruption and lack of freedom for those living in the Soviet Union-dominated Eastern Bloc, as the world recognized it as a true “Iron Curtain,” a means to keep East Germans from getting to West German freedom, instead of keeping West Germans out of the East Germany. It would be upgraded three times after its construction.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Robert Kennedy and Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the Berlin Wall

President Kennedy denounced its construction and appointed retired Army General Lucius D. Clay as Ambassador. Clay was the mastermind of the Berlin Airlift, former military governor of American-controlled Germany, nicknamed “the Kaiser” and was wildly popular with Berliners. Following Kennedy’s order to reinforce the Allied defenders of West Berlin, Clay ordered 1,500 men with vehicles and trailers from West Germany, through East Germany to West Berlin, where they were met by Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as a show of strength and a reassertion of the Allies’ access to Berlin.

In June, 1963, President Kennedy visited the Berlin for the first time with General Clay to reaffirm the U.S. dedication of support for West Germany and to remind the Soviet Union of that support.

Hundreds of East German died trying to get to freedom on the other side of the wall, thousands were successful in defecting across the wall. They would dig tunnels below the wall, flying hot air balloons, through the sewers, or just driving cars at max speed through weaker sections. One East German guard even drove his tank through the wall to defect. Western guards were not able to help defectors until they were on the Western side of the wall.

In 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell, Bruce Springsteen played the Berlin Wall in a concert organized by East German Communist authorities in an attempt to pacify East German youth. Communist authorities saw rock music as a “nefarious cultural weapon” (and for much of the music of the 1980’s, that assertion isn’t far off), so the concert was a surprising shockk to much of the world, most of all East Germans. Springsteen didn’t miss the importance of the event. After playing Born in the U.S.A. in front of 300,000 East Germans, he delivered a short speech in German:

“I’m not here for any government,” he began. “I’ve come to play rock and roll for you in the hope that one day, all the barriers will be torn down.”

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Springsteen in East Germany (wikimedia commons)

The crowd went wild. Sixteen months later, on November 9, 1989, the government of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, announced Germans living in the East would then be free to visit West Germany and West Berlin. That day, East and West Germans crowded the Berlin Wall, and systematically chipped away and demolished it.

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This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.


The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.

The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)

Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.

He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.

Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.

Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.

But the event was canceled without explanation.

A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.

Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.

Also read: 600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.

Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.

In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.

The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.

While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.

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Apollo 11 astronaut and Air Force General Michael Collins passes away at 90

American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.

Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
West Point Cadet Michael Collins (U.S. Army)

When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.

Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Michael Collins as an Air Force pilot (U.S. Air Force)

Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.

After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.

In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
ARPS Class III graduates (L-R) Front row: Ed Givens, Tommie Benefield, Charlie Bassett, Greg Neubeck & Mike Collins. Back row: Al Atwell, Neil Garland, Jim Roman, Al Uhalt and Joe Engle. Missing: Ernst Volgenau (U.S. Air Force)

Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.

Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.

In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Gemini 10 prime crew portrait (NASA)

Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.

After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.

Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Collins goes through the checklist in the command module simulator (NASA)

Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.

At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.

While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
The Apollo 11 mission patch designed by Collins (NASA)

Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”

At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.

Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
The Apollo 11 crew (L-R) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin (NASA)

Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.

Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Collins’ Command Module Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)

Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Collins meets with President Trump in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (The White House)
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The 11 most powerful weapon systems in the Russian military

The United Kingdom is planning to send 800 troops to the Russian border as tensions between Moscow and the west continue to increase.


Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced the news after NATO called on member states to contribute to its biggest military presence on Russian borders since the Cold War. 

Relations between Vladmir Putin’s Russia and the west have been frosty since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 but have worsened in recent months over the role Russia has played in the Syrian civil war.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

Putin’s Russia has gone through a significant transformation since the president’s re-election in 2012. It had the world’s fourth-largest defence budget in 2015, at a cost of $66.4 billion (£46 billion).

For that, the state boasts 845,000 troops, 22,550 tanks, and 1,399 combat aircraft.

The army is being split into smaller, more dynamic brigades. The focus is on new technologies rather than brute manpower. (For instance, this Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system is basically a tank with a load of extra cannons sticking out of it.)

Here’s a review of some of Russia’s more menacing military machines.

Bora-class guided-missile hovercraft: This ship is actually a catamaran with a base that turns it into a hovercraft. Armed with eight Mosquito missiles and 20 anti-aircraft missiles, the ship has a crew of up to 68 sailors and a cruising speed of 100km per hour.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Imgur.com

The Pantsir-S1: A combined short-to-medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft missile system. The system consists of 12 surface-to-air guided missiles and two 30-mm automatic guns effective against planes, helicopters, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

A virtually invisible submarine: The first of six diesel-electric stealth submarines, the Novorossiysk was launched from a St. Petersburg shipyard last year. Its designers say its stealth technology makes it virtually undetectable when submerged.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Public domain

The Mig-35 multirole jet fighter: Effective both in air-to-air combat and precision ground strikes. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 2,400 km per hour despite being 30% larger than its predecessor, the Mig-35 is able both to dogfight and destroy sea and surface targets from long range, as well as conduct air reconnaissance missions.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

The BUK-2 missile system: This is the battery that allegedly brought down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014. Its 9M317 missiles can reach 46,000 feet at Mach 3, carrying 154-pound warheads.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

The RS-24 Yars: A thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile system that can carry multiple independently targetable nuclear warheads with a range of 10,000 miles. Designed to replace Topol-M ballistic missiles, it has been operationally deployed since 2010. Each missile has the power of 100 “Little Boys” — the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.

Wiki Commons Wiki Commons

“The Russian Concorde”: The Tupolev Tu-160 is the world’s largest supersonic combat aircraft. It was designed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It boasts the most powerful engines ever on a combat aircraft and can hold 40,000kg of weaponry. There are 16 in service.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

The T-90: The most advanced battle tank used by the Russian armed forces. Its main weapon is a 125mm smoothbore gun with anti-tank capabilities, but it also boasts a remote-controlled anti-aircraft heavy machine gun.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

At 14,700 tonnes, Borei-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines are slightly smaller than their predecessors, the massive Typhoon-class. But with a capacity of 16 Bulava ballistic missiles, each carrying six to 10 warheads with a range of 8,300km, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

The Russian Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter: This is the go-to attack helicopter for the Russian air force and army. Its basic armament is a 30mm Shipunov underslung auto-cannon and wingstubs that can carry up to four anti-tank missiles, rocket pods, or gun pods.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

The S-300: Another long-range surface-to-air missile system, the S-300 is a beast at bringing down aircraft. In fact, it can take out six planes at the same time, with 12 missiles per target. Anything in the air within 300km should watch out.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Wiki Commons

Tomas Hirst contributed to this report.

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This WWII commander avenged his fallen shipmates

There is nothing like a good revenge story. From Paul Kersey’s vigilante rampage in in “Death Wish” to Eric Cartman’s diabolical payback in the South Park Episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” revenge tales are deeply satisfying.


Here is one from World War II involving the revenge one naval officer took upon Japan for his fallen shipmates.

It started during the earliest days of America’s involvement in World War II. On Dec. 10, 1941, the Sargo-class submarine USS Sealion (SS 195) was hit by Japanese bombs during a strike on the American naval base in Cavite where it sunk pier-side.

Four of her crew — Sterling C. Foster, Melvin D. O’Connell, Ernest E. Ogilvie, and Vallentyne L. Paul — were killed. Eli T. Reich, the submarine’s executive officer, was among those evacuated.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
USS Sealion II (SS 315). (US Navy photo)

According to retired Navy Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood’s book, “Sink `Em All,” when Reich was due for a command of his own, he asked if Lockwood could get him the new USS Sealion (SS 315), a Balao-class vessel. Lockwood, who was the commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarines, arranged for that assignment – and Reich was soon out, seeking revenge.

Four of the torpedoes USS Sealion II carried were stamped with the names Foster, O’Connell, Ogilvie, and Paul.

On Nov. 21, 1944, while the Sealion was patrolling in the Formosa Strait, Reich then came across a Japanese surface that included the battleship HIJMS Kongo (in reality, a re-built battle cruiser). Reich moved his submarine into position, then fired a spread of six torpedoes from his bow tubes — including the ones with the names of his fallen shipmates.

He then fired a second spread from his stern tubes.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Accounts differ as to the exact sequence of events after the two spreads of torpedoes were fired.

According to “Leyte,” the tenth book in Samuel Eliot Morison’s 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the first spread Reich fired was intercepted by a Japanese destroyer that blew up and sank as a result, and the second spread scored one hit that eventually sank the Kongo.

At CombinedFleet.com, Anthony Tully relates a different version, with Kongo taking multiple hits from one of the spreads.

Lockwood claims Reich’s first spread scored three hits.

No matter what version, the Kongo eventually blew up and sank. Reich had avenged his shipmates. He would receive three awards of the Navy Cross, among other decorations, for his service, and died in 1999. His command, USS Sealion, would serve in the Navy until 1970, then was sunk as a target in 1978.

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America named four tanks after General George S. Patton

General George S. Patton’s commands during WWII were characterized by fast and aggressive mobilized charges. At the spearhead of these advances were his tanks. Originally trained in horseback cavalry, Patton established the American Expeditionary Force’s Light Tank School during WWI and embraced the new machine’s role on the modern battlefield. Fittingly, his name is featured heavily in the American tank line that would follow WWII.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
Patton with a Renault FT Light Tank in France (U.S. Army)

1. M46 Patton

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A Marine M46 Patton in Korea (U.S. Marine Corps)

America’s primary tank during WWII was the M4 Sherman Medium Tank. However, while the Sherman served well in an infantry support role, it suffered in tank-on-tank battle. The Sherman’s armor and gun were outclassed by the German heavy tanks like the fearsome Tiger. In response, the U.S. Army developed the M26 Pershing Heavy Tank which saw limited action at the end of WWII. After the war, the M26 was redesignated as a medium tank. Though its gun was an improvement over the Sherman’s, the Pershing lacked the mobility required of a medium tank. To fix this, the Army fitted it with an improved engine, transmission, and a new gun. About 800 Pershings were modified in this way and renamed the M46 Patton. The new M46 entered service in 1949 and saw action in Korea where it proved very capable against the North Korean T-34 Medium Tanks. Still, the M46 only made up about 15% of the U.S. tank strength in Korea during the war.

2. M47 Patton

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An M47 Patton on display (First Division Museum)

The M46 Patton was upgraded with a new turret that featured increased protection for the crew and a rangefinder. Classified as a main battle tank (MBT), it entered service as the primary tank of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in 1951. Moreover, unlike the M46, it was heavily exported to SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) and NATO allies. It is the only Patton series tank that did not see combat with the U.S. Interestingly, it is also the last U.S. tank to feature a bow-mounted machine gun in its hull. With the arrival of the new M48, the M47 was eventually declared obsolete and relegated to a target practice role.

3. M48 Patton

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An M48 Patton carries infantry in Vietnam (U.S. Army)

Introduced in 1952, the M48 Patton was designed from the ground up. It improved primarily upon the protection, mobility, and fuel efficiency of the M47. Like the M47, it served as the primary tank for both the Army and Marine Corps and served extensively in Vietnam. Though the conflict saw few tank-on-tank battles, the M48 performed admirably in an infantry support role. When the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, many M48s were handed over to ARVN Forces. In Vietnamese hands, the M48 managed to defeat PAVN T-34 and T-55 tanks. However, due to fuel and ammo shortages, these victories were short-lived. Like the M47, the M48 was heavily exported and is still in service with Greece, Turkey and Taiwan.

4. M60 Patton

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A Marine M60 Patton conducts a breaching exercise during Operation Desert Storm (U.S. Marine Corps)

The fourth and final tank to bear Patton’s name, the M60 is a second generation main battle tank. Although it was developed from the M48, it was never officially named Patton. Still, the name stuck. The M60 entered service in 1959 and reached operational capability the next year. However, its first action was during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the hands of Israeli tankers, the M60 performed well against the Soviet-built T-72s. Upgraded with explosive reactive armor, the Israeli M60s again saw combat during the 1982 Lebanon War. The M60’s first American action came the next year during Operation Urgent Fury with the Marines in Grenada. During Operation Desert Storm, the Marines again employed the M60 with great effect. It proved deadly against the Iraqi Army’s Soviet-built armored vehicles and tanks.

Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Tech. Sgt. Boyd Belcher

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CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

Don’t call it a comeback. Last year, CENTCOM deployed two Vietnam-era aircraft in a three-month trial run against ISIS. Based on that success, the U.S. military is considering reviving the dual-propeller OV-10 Bronco’s combat role.


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The aged airframe flew 132 sorties in 2015, 120 of those were combat missions, with a 99 percent completion rate. Its counterinsurgency role would be a bridge between fighters and helicopters. Its slower speed makes it more maneuverable than fast-moving jets while its short takeoff and landing needs allowed it to operate from remote or unprepared airstrips. It can carry troops, wounded, and up to 3,200 pounds of supplies.

Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss what the OV-10 Bronco means in the fight against ISIS. 

It’s a battle-tested, inexpensive, and reliable platform for moving small teams and for reconnaissance. It also provides a cheap close air support option with a 20mm cannon or its four internal 7.62mm machine guns to give Iraqis the same support U.S. troops have in ground combat. The Bronco has seven hardpoints that could be updated and adapted for GPS and laser-guided munitions and Griffon or Hellfire missiles.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
And it takes off from carriers too.

The planes deployed “to a location in Southwest Asia,” according to Capt. Bryant Davis, a CENTCOM spokesman. CENTCOM was trying to determine if the Broncos “increased effectiveness of airpower in a counterinsurgency… while reducing cost and preserving high-end special aviation resources performing similar missions.”

The OV-10 first served in Vietnam, deploying in 1968 with U.S. Marines. It provided forward air control (FAC), helicopter escort, ground attack, observation,light logistics duties, and waterway patrols in the Mekong Delta. The last OV-10 was retired by the Marine Corps in 1995, after serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Catch the Bronco in action:

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The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).


In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.

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Russian battlecruiser Petr Velikiy in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.

The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”

So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.

Today in military history: Madison calls for Navy officers to fight the British
That’s a lotta weapons. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflicting reports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.

Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.

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This Boston Red Sox catcher changed the course of World War II

In the mid-1930s, baseball players Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Moe Berg (with a few others) formed an all-star group of baseball players who went on a goodwill tour of Japan to play some exhibition games. Ruth and Gehrig were already legends. Berg was a scholar with a degree from Princeton and a law degree from Columbia. He also spoke seven languages. But he wasn’t a baseball legend. He was a third-string catcher when he departed for Japan, and that visit might have changed the world forever.


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World travel was in Berg’s blood. After his first season with the team that would become the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent time in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. He toured Italy and Switzerland during the next year’s offseason, instead of working on his game. He was transferred to the Midwest. He improved slightly and moved up to the White Sox, where he moved from shortstop to catcher. It was as a catcher that he traveled to Japan to teach seminars on baseball.

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Moe Berg in Japan

Ruth and Gehrig came with Berg on his second trip to Japan. He spoke Japanese and addressed the Japanese legislature with a welcome speech. While the all-stars were playing an exhibition in Omiya, Japan, Berg went to Saint Luke’s Hospital in Tsukiji, to visit the daughter of American ambassador Joseph Grew. Except he never saw Grew’s daughter. Berg’s language ability allowed him to talk his way onto the roof of the hospital. Once there, he used the 16mm film camera given to him by MovietoneNews to record his trip, to instead record the city and its harbor.

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Berg’s footage was used by American intelligence agents to plan bombing runs over Tokyo during the coming Second World War, including the Doolittle Raid. Berg started the war monitoring the health and fitness of U.S. troops stationed in the Caribbean and South America for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. In 1943, he was recruited by “Wild” Bill Donovan into the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the American CIA.

Berg was dropped into Yugoslavia to assess the strength of Chetniks loyal to King Peter and the Communist partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. His assessment of Tito’s superiority led to the U.S. support for Tito. Berg also was assigned to assassinate German nuclear scientist Werner Heisenberg if the Germans were working on the atomic bomb. Berg determined the Germans would not be able to develop the bomb before war’s end and let Heisenberg live.

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Moe Berg in Oslo conferring with Allied superiors.

Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1945 but turned it down. His war service changed Berg forever. Often described as “strange,” he appeared to his friends to be more comfortable alone with books than around people. Moe Berg never told anyone what he did as a spy. When asked, he would just put his finger to his lips, as if that part of his life were a secret. He tried spying on the burgeoning Russian nuclear program for the CIA but returned little information and his contract was not renewed. He lived with relatives for the rest of his quiet life. After his death in 1972, his sister accepted the Medal of Freedom on his behalf.

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American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.


During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.

It didn’t work.

Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.

“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.

In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.

Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.

A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.

Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.

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U.S. Army troops investigate a Viet Cong tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.

“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.

The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.

Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.

In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.

None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.

With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.

The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.

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U.S. Army specialist Marvin Miller drops a smoke grenade into a tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.

“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”

After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.

The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.

“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”

Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.

In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.

With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.

The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”

In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.

The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.

Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.

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Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

The U.S. military has intercepted a pair of Russian bombers flying off the coast of Alaska, a Pentagon official says amid escalating tension between Moscow and Washington over a recent U.S. strike on Syria.


Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross made the announcement on April 18, saying that two US Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft had intercepted the Russian TU-95 Bear bombers within 160 kilometers of Alaska’s Kodiak Island a day earlier.

The American stealth fighters escorted the Russian long-range bombers for 12 minutes before they reversed course and headed back to their base in eastern Russia, according to the official.

Ross said the intercept was “safe and professional,” and there was no violation of U.S. airspace and any international norms.

The Pentagon spokesman noted that Russia’s TU-95s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but there was no indication that the planes were armed.

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F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The provocative move comes at a time when the U.S. and Russia are at odds over a six-year conflict in Syria and Russia’s engagement in fight against the Daesh terrorist group (ISIL) in the Arab country.

In a recent development on April 7, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered two U.S. Navy destroyers to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield, in retaliation for a deadly chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun, which American authorities have blamed on the Syrian air force without providing any evidence.

Damascus and Moscow argue that the incident was a result of an air strike hitting a chemical depot belonging to militants fighting the Syrian government. At least 87 people were killed in the town on that day.

This is while the Syrian government turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the U.S. back in 2013.

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