David Balme, the Royal Navy Officer who seized a top-secret Enigma machine and codebook while storming a captured German U-Boat has died at the age of 95.
Lieutenant Commander David Balme, who died on Sunday, was credited with helping to shorten the Second World War by two years after he led the boarding party that raided U-110, east of Cape Farewell, Greenland in 1941.
David Edward Balme was born in Kensington, west London, on October 1, 1920. He joined Dartmouth Naval College in 1934 and served as a midshipman in the Mediterranean in the Spanish Civil War before being reassigned to the destroyer Ivanhoe in 1939. Balme was appointed to the destroyer HMS Bulldog, which he described as a ‘happy little ship’, as her navigator in the early 1940s. It was while he was serving on this ship that he came across the German submarine.
On May 9, 1941, U-110, under the command of Kapitanleutnant Fritz Julius Lemp, had been attacking a convoy in the Atlantic south of Iceland together with U-201, when Lemp left his periscope up too long. Escort corvette HMS Aubretia sighted it and rushed to the scene and began depth charging. HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway followed and U-110 was forced to surface. HMS Bulldog immediately set course to ram the U-Boat at which Kplt. Lemp gave the order “abandon ship”. However unlike the U-Boat commander would suspect, the U-Boat did not sink and according to the former crew, he tried to swim back to U-110 in order to destroy the top-secret machine and code-books which were still left but he wasn’t seen again.
Lieutenant Dabid Balme was then ordered to ‘get whatever’ he could from the U-110. After rowing across to it, he made his way to the conning tower and had to holster his pistol in order to climb down three ladders to the control room. Recalling the incident many years later, he said: ‘Both my hands were occupied and I was a sitting target for anyone down below.’
He was said to have had no idea what the ‘funny’ instrument was when he initially picked it up – but his mission enabled British intelligence experts to secretly intercept and decipher signals sent from Germany to its submarines for the remainder of the War.
Sir Winston Churchill later credited the code-breaking operation, which sometimes cracked 6,000 messages a day, with saving lives across Europe and giving Britain the crucial edge in battle.
But the top-secret nature of their work meant Lt Cmdr Balme’s role in the operation’s success stayed on the classified list for decades.
The ‘typewriter’, which was actually an ‘unbreakable’ code machine designed by the Germans to protect military communications, proved invaluable to Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.
After the war, Lt Cmdr Balme married his wife Susan in 1947 and they had three children. He was said to enjoy hunting and was also a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. His significance in the Allie’s victory was not revealed until the Seventies, when the secrecy shrouding Bletchley Park and the code-breakers’ work finally began to lift.
He was presented with a Bletchley badge and a certificate signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and local MP Julian Lewis. Last night Dr Lewis paid tribute to the former sailor, who kept the U-boat commander’s cap and binoculars as souvenirs.
He said: ‘Having learned of the vital capture of the Enigma coding equipment from the U-110 when studying wartime history I was delighted to discover that the brave young officer responsible was one of my constituents.
As weaponeers, budgeteers, and lawmakers wage their annual death match over the defense budget, here’s some input from the margins of Fight Club. And yes, I know the first and second rules of Fight Club. But no one obeys them inside the Beltway, and they yield to the seventh and eighth rules anyway.
It’s tough to winnow the U.S. Navy’s priorities list down to five weapon systems. However, I applied a secret method to come up with the definitive, incontrovertible list of the Top 5 Weapons the U.S. Navy Needs Now. The list employs such metrics as a system’s national-level importance, its capacity to multiply the fleet’s offensive and defensive fighting power, and its ability to exploit enduring enemy weaknesses at manageable cost to the United States. This is science, remember. Don’t be a science denier!!!
One caveat: exotic weaponry like lasers and railguns is conspicuously absent from this list. These prospective game-changers will doubtless qualify—once they stop hovering along the frontiers of science fiction and start fulfilling their promise at fleet air and missile defense. It feels a wee bit premature to jump on that bandwagon—the potential of ray guns and other golly-gee armaments notwithstanding. Now, onward. In reverse order:
5. Offensive minelayers. We make much of the U.S. Navy’s vulnerability to sea mines, but rivals are acutely vulnerable as well. As mine-warfare expert Scott Truver aptly notes, mine countermeasures is an orphan in want of a champion. Offensive mine warfare is an orphan of an orphan. That’s a shame, as the option of closing straits, harbors, and other narrow seas at low cost could come in handy in a hostofcontingencies. Manifold airborne, surface, and subsurface platforms can lay mines. Mine warfare should find its champion soonest—and provide that champion with the implements to make life tough for prospective foes.
4. Long-range combat aircraft. We may exaggerate the range problem, whereby shore-based aircraft can smite aircraft-carrier strike groups long before these groups close within reach of enemy shores. No one assumed carrier task forces would pound away at the Japanese home islands during World War II while remaining safely out of harm’s way. U.S. forces had to fight their way into the theater, wresting control of sea and sky from Japan before exploiting that control to strike at the island empire.
Still, long range opens up new tactical and operational vistas for American commanders while attenuating the effectiveness of enemy counterbattery fire. Maximum effective firing range isn’t the same as maximum firing range. Weapons typically start to lose accuracy at extreme range. The capacity to operate around the outer limits of, say, Chinese anti-access weaponry would buttress deterrence in peacetime and combat power in wartime—a net bonus for U.S. commanders.
Long range also lets airmen turn geography to advantage. If U.S. Navy and Marine warbirds can operate from temporary “lilypad” airfields erected on islands around the Asian periphery, they can convert these islands into unsinkable—though also immobile—aircraft carriers. Let’s harness maritime geography for operational gain.
3. More attack submarines. This one may seem like a cop-out, but the undersea fleet desperately needs more attack boats. Joseph Stalin isn’t one of my go-to sources of strategic wisdom, but he was correct to note that quantity boasts a quality all its own. A simple differential equation tells the tale: Cold War-era Los Angeles-class subs are being retired faster than new-build Virginia-class boats replace them. As a result the submarine fleet may dwindle to as few as 41 boats in the coming years. That may sound like a lot, but under the prevailing maintenance and training cycle, it means commanders can count on something like 28 boats at any time…to police the entire globe and face down aggression.
That’s a serious shortfall. Like mine countermeasures, antisubmarine warfare is an enduring weakness of potential antagonists like China’s navy. By all means let’s build more Virginias. Or, let’s go back to the U.S. Navy’s conventional submarining past. Japan’s navy operates a fleet of diesel boats acclaimed the world’s finest. They’re eminently suitable for patrol grounds in crucial theaters like, well, Asia. To add numbers of hulls, why not buy some of these relatively inexpensive craft and use them to constitute a permanent, forward-deployed allied squadron alongside Japanese boats. Let’s buy American—and Japanese.
2. Modern anti-ship cruise missiles. Our navy suffers from a severe deficit of cruise-missile firepower. Cruise missiles of the anti-ship variety, I mean. The navy ditched an anti-ship variant of the Tomahawk cruise missile two decades ago, going all-in on land attack, while the elderly Harpoon missile finds itself outranged by virtually every serious foe out there. That means missile-armed enemy ships, subs, and planes can lob missiles at U.S. naval task forces long before American units can reply. U.S. forces will have to close to missile range under fire, in all likelihood taking losses as they do. That’s a perilous position for any fleet—and one that demands to be remedied.
Surface-fleet chieftains are saying the right things. They’ve started talking about “distributed lethality,” meaning arming as many ships as possible—not just cruisers and destroyers but amphibious transports, and even logistics vessels—for defensive and offensive purposes. A fine aspiration—provided we have something to arm surface vessels, subs, aircraft and even bodies of Marines ashore with. Distributed lethality is a worthy concept. Whether it’s a neo-Tomahawk anti-ship missile, a newfangled long-range anti-ship missile, or something else, fielding a new “bird”—and thus righting the range imbalance—must top fleet designers’ tactical to-do list.
1. Replacement ballistic-missile subs. Which leaves top honors on this list to a replacement for navy’s aging Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs). Nuclear deterrence is a matter of national survival, and the undersea component of the U.S. “second-strike” capability remains its most survivable—and thus credible—component. SSBNs are strategic assets of utmost importance.
Small wonder top navy leaders have designated the replacement “boomer” now on the drawing board the nation’s foremost shipbuilding priority. They have warned, moreover, that all other procurements may have to yield to submarine construction unless Congress funds the new SSBNs through a special account outside the normal shipbuilding budget. Yet anchoring the nuclear deterrent is that critical. That makes the Ohio successor #1 on my—and probably anyone’s—list of U.S. Navy acquisitions.
The AC-130 just got its signature weapon back – and many in the public may not have known it was gone.
According to a report by Strategypage.com, the decision ends a 12-year hiatus on the powerful cannon, which has been used on versions of the Spectre gunship since 1972 – along with two 20mm Vulcan cannon and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in the AC-130H. The AC-130U replaces the two 20mm guns with the 25mm GAU-12 used on the AV-8B Harrier.
The decision had been made to halt use of the 105mm gun in favor of missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin as well as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The problem was, the need for guns didn’t go away. The Air Force started out by adding the 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. This helped out, especially when troops were in close contact or there was a need to avoid collateral damage.
The gun’s rounds were also a lot cheaper than the missiles – even though the guns are only really useful at night.
The “boots on the ground” and the crews, though, kept making the case to bring the 105mm gun back. So, the Air Force tested a new mount for the 105mm gun. While previous incarnations of the AC-130 had the gun mounted to the side, now the gun will be fired from the rear of the plane.
While this puts an end to the famous pylon turn, it also means the AC-130 can hold twice as many 105mm howitzer rounds as it used to.
Testing of the new mount was finished in 2017, and will go on the new AC-130J Ghostrider, which will replace older AC-130H, AC-130U, and AC-130W aircraft by 2021.
Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.
The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.
However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.
Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.
Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.
The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.
Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.
“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.
Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.
The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has confirmed that a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was killed near Irbil, Iraq, on Tuesday. The SEAL was 2-3 miles behind the frontline when ISIS car bombs and fighters forced an opening, allowing for the attack on the coalition’s position.
Cook pledged in a statement that the coalition will honor the unidentified SEAL’s sacrifice by continuing to dismantle ISIS until it suffers a lasting defeat.
ISIS uses car bombs the way many modern militaries use artillery — to soften up enemy defenses during an assault by other fighters. The U.S. responded with 20 airstrikes.
The SEAL’s name has not yet been released. It’s typical for the Department of Defense to withhold the identity of a service member killed in the line of duty until at least 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.
Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was a Delta Force operator who was working with Kurdish commandos when a tip came in that a large number of ISIS-held hostages were about to be executed. Wheeler and other U.S. and Kurdish special operators stormed the prison where the hostages were being kept and rescued them, but Wheeler was killed in the gunfight on Oct. 22, 2015.
There’s a lot of debate over which President has the most impressive military background, and history provides no clear winner. That doesn’t matter though, because today, YOU decide. We’ve rounded up some of the best and brightest Commanders-in-Chief in American history, and want your feedback on their stories of war, heroism, and military ingenuity. Read through the list, pick your favorite, and cast your vote! The favorite might surprise you.
1. Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt didn’t do anything halfway, especially when it came to military strategy. When war broke out in Cuba in 1898, he ditched his post as assistant secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley to form his own volunteer Calvary regiment, the Rough Riders. It was basically a club of badass cowboys, college athletes and lumberjacks who were used to tearing it up on horseback — only now they did it for America, which was even cooler. Once Teddy rounded everyone up, they headed to Cuba, where they would forever leave their mark in the Spanish-American War at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
With only 500 Spanish villagers left standing to protect the town, the nearly 8,000 American troops at the battle thought it was just about over. They soon discovered, however, that higher ground gave their enemies a distinct advantage, and Teddy ordered his Rough Riders up the slope — despite the fact that the men were now on foot and hundreds had already fallen.
Teddy’s men successfully charged and captured both Kettle and San Juan Hill, leading to the Spanish defeat and ultimate surrender just a few weeks later. His military valor and infectious tenacity both at the front lines and behind the podium would later ignite a huge political following, and make him one of the greatest leaders of the United Sates.
2. John F. Kennedy
When most people think of JFK, his military service in World War II tends to take a back seat to the more colorful aspects of his personality and presidency. And while anecdotes about his charisma, good looks and alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe make for great cocktail party banter, one of the most interesting segments of Kennedy’s life happened long before Camelot.
In 1941, the 24-year-old Kennedy volunteered to serve in the Navy. He would soon become a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, and command the Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT) USS PT 109, attacking the Japanese shipping boats dubbed “The Tokyo Express.” The Tokyo Express supplied Japanese forces that were based throughout the island network of the Pacific, and it was the duty of the small PT boats to cut them off before they could reach their destination, as well as aid the U.S. Army and Marine Corps for onshore attacks.
The work was hard, but nothing extraordinary — until disaster struck on August 2, 1943. Kennedy had the PT 109 running silent, hoping to go unnoticed by the Japanese, when the watercraft was blindsided by the Amagiri, a Japanese destroyer running perpendicular to the boat at 40 knots. The large warship ripped Kennedy’s boat in half, gutting the watercraft and sending the entire crew into the ocean. One of the surviving men, engineer Patrick Mahone, was badly injured by fuel that had exploded below decks, and Kennedy towed him through the water to a small island that was four miles away, gripping his life vest to keep his head above water. When the eleven survivors finally collapsed on the sand, they had been in the ocean for nearly fifteen hours.
If that’s not impressive enough, JFK got his men off the island by carving a message into a coconut and giving it to two natives, who then delivered it to the PT base at Rendova, ensuring the rescue of Kennedy and his crew.
The men were rescued on August 8th, four days after their boat was destroyed. JFK would later encase the coconut shell in wood and plastic and use it as a paperweight for his documents in the Oval Office. How is this not a movie yet?
3. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson is one of the more, if not the most, notorious presidents the United States has ever had. His bombastic personality and deeply controversial decision to move Native American tribes to reservations has left many people skeptical — if not deeply disapproving — of his contributions as Commander- in-Chief.
Before he stepped foot in the White House, however, Jackson was making waves in a different way. When he was only 13 years-old, Jackson’s mother was killed during the British invasion of South Carolina in 1788, and Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by nearby troops. When ordered to shine an officer’s boots, Jackson refused, causing the officer to slash the side of his face with his sword. His brother would later fall ill and die while they were still in confinement, leaving Jackson alone. The event would leave physical and psychological scars that lasted into Jackson’s adult life, and likely forged the defiant, fearless personality that would bring him military success.
Jackson served as a major general in the War of 1812, leading U.S. forces against the Creek Indians, who were British allies at the time. After a five-month assault against the natives, Jackson secured the U.S. an overwhelming victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The best-known example of Jackson’s military valor, however, was not even technically part of the War of 1812 under which it was fought. The Battle of New Orleans occurred after the close of the war, but before the Treaty of Ghent — an agreement signed by British and American representatives that effectively ended the war — had reached Washington.
Jackson and a rag-tag band of slaves, frontiersman, militia fighters and pirates took down a full-frontal assault from British forces, despite inferior numbers, training and supplies. News of the impossible victory took the nation by storm, and people were so enamored with Jackson’s military prowess that they didn’t really care when word got out that the entire battle was essentially pointless.
The battle wasn’t entirely devoid of merit, however. The victory helped bar British forces from invading the American frontier, and would later lead to Jackson’s invasion of the Florida territory, which was under Spanish rule at the time. Jackson managed to conquer both St. Mark’s and Pensacola, ensuring the American Acquisition of Florida later in 1821.
Other interesting points of Jackson’s military history: He was the first and only President to be a former prisoner of war, and is estimated by many historians to have competed in nearly 100 duels. Old Hickory was no pushover. In one duel against Charles Dickinson, a local horse breeder who had insulted Jackson’s wife in the National Review, Dickinson shot Jackson square in the chest, at which point Jackson shot back, shooting his opponent dead. He carried the bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.
4. George Washington
George Washington is a figure that completely encompasses American identity, and is treated by many as a kind of national demi-god. Politicians, historians and school teachers around the nation continue to sing the praises of the father of the United States, but it’s easy to forget what this guy actually did among all the patriotic white noise.
One of the first aspects of his life that tends to fall by the wayside is his military achievements. Young Washington’s first taste of war came in 1752, when he joined the British military at twenty years old to fight for control of the upper Ohio Valley during the French and Indian War. Before he became a soldier he had trained as a land surveyor, and his superiors were quick to have him lead expeditions in and around Virginia, the state he grew up in.
During one expedition under British Gen. Braddock, the French and their Native American allies ambushed Washington and the rest of the troops. Braddock was killed almost immediately, and Washington promptly took over, leading the surviving soldiers in a carefully executed retreat. The governor of Virginia would later raise Washington’s rank to colonel to reward him for his military valor, and he was tasked with protecting much of the western frontier.
During his service under the British militia, Washington’s view of the colonies’ mother nation soured. He felt that the British military commanders had little understanding of colonial life and were rude and dismissive towards colonial leaders. This seed would later grow into Washington’s full-on rebellion against British rule, when he formed the Continental Army in June of 1775 and was elected commander-in-chief.
Washington immediately set about forming a navy, creating policies on how to interact with Loyalists, and leading campaigns to gain allies both on the home-front and abroad. The most impressive military moment of Washington’s time as general, however, was arguably the crossing of the Delaware.Washington and his men had hunkered down in Brooklyn Heights, anticipating a British attack on New York City. Gen. Sir William Howe, the British commander of the navy, had other plans. Howe drove Washington’s army out of Long Island and captured the majority of the colonial army, claiming New York City.
Despite this defeat and the colossal British military force — a whopping 34,000 redcoats to a measly 2,400 American soldiers — Washington didn’t give up.
Instead, in the early, freezing hours of December 26, 1776, Washington and his surviving men crossed over the Delaware River, initiating a surprise attack on Hessian soldiers gathered in Trenton, New Jersey. They would ultimately capture 900 men, later prompting British forces to abandon New Jersey. This embarrassing display of British defeat was a huge source of hope and pride for the American colonists. Washington had many military victories big and small during the Revolutionary War, but his military prowess in New York invigorated an entire people, giving the patriot cause the fuel that it needed to continue to fight — and win — the war for America.
5. Ulysses S. Grant
Though many historians and war buffs contest that Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest American generals of history — and certainly the greater of the two military leaders of the American Civil War — President Ulysses S. Grant made incredible gains for the United States.
Before he became a Civil War hero, Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and fought in the Mexican War under Gen. Zachary Taylor, where he would gain valuable military experience and be praised for his combat skills and bravery on the battlefield. During this time however, Grant began to fall into a depression. Without the anchor of his wife, Julia, and their young family, he felt alone and aimless. He would eventually turn to alcohol as a means of easing his distress, before retiring to civilian life in 1854 in an attempt to regain control of his life.
When Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers at the start of the Civil War, however, Grant rushed back to the battlefield. He began as the colonel of a regiment in Illinois before being promoted to Brigadier General. Then, after his success in the Western Theater in 1863, he was granted command of all Union armies in 1864. From there, Grant’s star would rise to immeasurable heights.
Grant was also referred to as “Unconditional Surrender Grant,” a nod to his demands at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, two crucial Confederate posts that he captured. Some felt that his military strategy and trademark terms of surrender were too brutal, but Lincoln stood behind him, reportedly stating, “I cannot spare this man, he fights.”
It was under Grant’s leadership that Gen. William T. Sherman wreaked havoc on Georgia, burning his way through the South during his March to the Sea, also known as the Savannah campaign. Grant himself would fight against Lee and the Confederate forces at Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, instigating brutal slaughter on both sides of the battle but ultimately weakening the rebel army. Lee Finally broke under Grant’s relentless attacks at the battle of Richmond, where he would flee and then later surrender at Appomattox, securing Grant’s victory and his place in the American Military’s Hall of Fame.
The ruling by a tribunal in The Hague against China’s claims in the South China Sea has brought what has to be the world’s hottest maritime flashpoint to the headlines. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, and the Republic of China all have claims of one sort or another.
Japan and South Korea both have huge stakes in the South China Sea. Japan has its own territorial dispute with the PRC (over the Senkaku Islands), while South Korea shares a peninsula with North Korea, a nation that is not exactly the most… rational actor on the world stage, and which counts the PRC as one of its friends, insofar as it is possible for Kim Jong-Un to have friends. In addition, the South China Sea is the body of water that oil tankers have to pass through in order to deliver their cargo to those countries. Japan, as students of history will remember, has been very sensitive to a threat to its access to oil imports.
To say that the tribunal’s ruling earlier this week was unfavorable to the PRC is an understatement. The 501-page ruling in favor of the Philippines not only declared the PRC’s “nine-dash line” invalid, but it also condemned the construction of the artificial island on Mischief Reef, and the PRC’s interference with Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal.
That said, the tribunal has no means to enforce the ruling, one that the PRC has rejected out of hand. The recent commissioning of the Yinchuan, the latest Lyuang III-class destroyer, means that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has 18 modern destroyers (four Luyang III, six Luyang II, two Luyang I, two Luzhou class, and four Sovremennyy-class – with eight Lyuang III and at least one new Type 55 class destroyer under construction). With the exception of the Republic of China, none of the other countries with claims in the South China Sea have destroyers, and Taiwan only has four Kidd-class destroyers. The PLAN and People’s Liberation Army Air Force also have substantial air assets in the region, including H-6 bombers, J-11, J-15, J-10, Su-30MKK, J-16, and JH-7 fighters.
While the Philippines have won their case, it now remains a very open question as to whether or not that win will matter. The PRC is considering establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone, which allows them to impose conditions on aircraft. Furthermore, it can back up those requirements by launching fighters to intercept. A U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft had a close call this past May with a J-11 – hearkening back to when a J-8 “Finback” collided with another EP-3E fifteen years earlier, and in 2014, a P-8 Poseidon saw a J-11 come within 20 feet.
More ominously, hours before the ruling, a Vietnamese fishing boat was sunk, and the PRC obstructed rescue efforts for several hours. A similar incident could well be the spark that touches off a massive air and naval free-for-all in the South China Sea.
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.
The Battle of Fort Sumter kicked off one of the bloodiest wars in American history and, for the most part, was itself the opposite of bloody. Actually, in hindsight there were some pretty funny moments.
When South Carolina seceded from the United States on December 20, 1860, all federal forces in the state were put on alert – they were now in unfriendly territory. In Charleston, Union Major Robert Anderson saw the situation deteriorating and moved his small force of 85 soldiers from Fort Moultrie – on the mainland overlooking Charleston Harbor – to Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor. Fort Sumter was unfinished when Anderson’s men occupied it and by the time of Lincoln’s inauguration a few months later on March 4, 1861, the men were running low on supplies.
Across the water, Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant (PGT) Beauregard saw the Union men running low on supplies and demanded their surrender on April 11. Anderson refused and the next morning at 4:30am, the Confederate forces took the first shots of the Civil War. What followed was a 34-hour exchange of artillery fire, most of which came from the Confederate side. Guess how many people died. Zero. Actually, according to Mark Collins Jenkins, more animals died than people – one mule.
After 34 hours, Anderson decided he had had enough and agreed to surrender. The first casualty of the war was nearly Roger A. Pryor, an emissary from Virginia who visited Fort Sumter shortly after the battle. Pryor sat with Union officers and got up to pour himself a drink without asking, which would have been a pretty badass move. However, instead of pouring what he thought was whiskey, he actually poured a glass of iodine and drank it all in one gulp. Fortunately for him, Union doctors quickly pumped his stomach and saved his life.
The first casualty of the war came shortly after Pryor’s incident and occurred during the Union surrender ceremony, which generously included a 100-gun salute. The salute was cut short, however, after the Union soldiers accidentally placed their stockpile of ammunition too close to their cannon. High winds were blamed for carrying sparks from the cannon to the ammunition, which set off a large explosion that killed one Union soldier and mortally wounded another. The ceremony ended and the next day, the Union troops withdrew from the fort.
It would’ve been nice if the rest of the war went the same way, but by the time the war ended four years later, between 700,000 and 900,000 soldiers and civilians were dead on both sides, making it the bloodiest war in American history by some estimates. Bummer.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) had what one report described as a “close encounter” with an Iranian vessel on April 24.
According to a report by Fox News, the Iranian vessel was a “fast attack craft” used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. USS Mahan was forced to change course, the crew manned weapons, fired flares, and sounded a danger signal. The Iranian vessel stayed over 1,000 yards from the Mahan, but its weapons were manned.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran has over 100 “fast attack craft” of varying types. The most notorious of these are roughly 30 Boghammers, which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots, and are armed with .50-caliber machine guns or twin 23mm anti-aircraft guns and either a 12-round 107mm rocket launcher, a 106mm recoilless rifle, or a RPG-7. American forces destroyed at least five of these vessels during naval clashes with Iran in 1987 and 1988.
This is not the first time USS Mahan has had a close call with Iranian vessels. In January, 2017, the Mahan had to fire warning shots at similar craft that came within 900 yards. The Iranian vessels backed off.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel, citing Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Bashir Assad’s regime in Syria. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — If the 13 years of running Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has taken an emotional and physical toll on founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, he doesn’t show it. Watching him in action at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia is a study in determination and attention to detail. No bypassing staffer is too junior to be engaged, and no veterans issue is too trivial to be addressed.
“If you had asked me 13 years ago that if this far in the future it would still be this hard, I would have said you were full of it,” Rieckhoff says. “Everything is still too hard, from getting candidates to say the right thing to reforming the VA.”
He’s also concerned that philanthropic organizations haven’t responded to a national health problem that he compares to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
“This is like going to the convention in 1982 and people are kind of peripherally talking about AIDS when their friends are dying,” he says. “So if we accept that 20 vets are dying a day as a base point, we’re going to walk out of these conventions and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and these other billionaire philanthropic leaders are not going to be focused on veterans issues.”
Rieckhoff spreads the blame for the lack of progress on veterans’ issues — heath care and beyond — across several camps, starting with the commander-in-chief.
“President Obama has failed to provide the country a national strategy, and as a response, you’ve gotten fragmentation,” he says. And, by his reckoning, that fragmentation has taken myriad forms, including divisions among the veteran community itself.
“Too often VSO are having tribal fights when we really should recognize that we’re all really in deep shit because our demographics are our destiny and our demographics are bad,” Rieckhoff warns.
He goes on to explain that the veteran community is about to experience a “tectonic shift” numbers-wise because the World War II generation is all but gone and the Vietnam War generation is dying fast.
“We’re going to go from 12 percent in the population to, at some point, under five percent,” he explains.
In the face of this reality, Rieckhoff says that veteran service organizations and, more broadly, veterans themselves need to unify.
“My big takeaway in the wake of these two conventions is we have to find ways to be united and focused and we have to find ways to multiply our impact,” he says. “If veterans alone are carrying water for veterans’ issues we will lose. We’re just too small. There aren’t enough of us.”
That’s not to say that he doesn’t think veterans have individual impact potential; in fact, Rieckhoff is quick to point out that vets are in a unique position nationwide right now.
“If you’re a veteran and you walk into a Starbucks or a classroom and announce your status you’re going to get 2 minutes of ‘rock star’ respect where people will listen to you for a little while before they jump into their corners for Bernie or Trump or whoever,” he says. “But you have that opening that opportunity to try and be a leader and bring people together. That’s what veterans need to be doing right now. We can bring the temperature down. We can do it through credibility and patriotism and through our example.”
At the same time, Rieckhoff warns vets against being used as props.
“As a community, we have to be really wary about being used. If they want to throw you up on stage with someone, make sure that you’re getting out of it what you need because they’re going to get what they need,” he says. “It’s kind of like when you join the military, right? Uncle Sam’s going to get what he needs out of you. Make sure you get what you need out of Uncle Sam.”
The discussion pivots to the political sphere, and Rieckhoff is at once unflinching and bipartisan in his take on what’s in play for the military community.
“The conventions have been fascinating to watch,” he says. “I think what’s happened in the last four years is both parties realize that veterans make good populism. Last week you had Joni Ernst and a wall of veterans, this week you’ll have Seth Moulton and a wall of veterans. They know – Trump especially – that there is a huge populist undertone to everything veterans.”
But Rieckhoff fears the community may be squandering its time in the spotlight.
“We have lacked a real sharp edge of activism,” he says. “If this was 1968, vet protestors would be in the convention.”
He introduces a broader theme, saying, “It’s a very complicated psycho-social situation we’re in where our community has been asked to sacrifice over and over again, but the public has reasoned that those in the military are self-selected as people who are willing to sacrifice over and over again. You can send us on 12 tours and we’re not going to make that much of a stink.
“The bigger issue is the lack of precedent for the lack of involvement in our country in a time of war. There’s no precedent in American history for this much war with this small group of people for this long.”
That societal reality has yielded some things of concern, not the least of which, according to Rieckhoff, is the fact that there are very few veterans in positions of real power.
“None of the candidates in either party is a veteran,” he points out. “Neither chairman of the VA on either the House or Senate side was a veteran. Jeff Miller and Bernie Sanders can’t run around talking about how wonderful they were when they presided over the largest VA scandal in American history.
“Bernie Sanders used the scandal to pass the omnibus and Jeff Miller is running around with Trump, using his time on HVAC for that. That’s politics, I get that. But At the end of the day veterans are still screwed.”
Rieckhoff likens the situation to “asking a plumber to fix your television.”
He uses what’s going on at the VA as an example, saying, “Bob McDonald is an army of one right now. He’s getting his legs cut out from under him by the Republican congress and Democratic leadership won’t touch him, so he’s almost out of time. He’s a good man who’s tried, but likely he’ll be out. The probability is we’ll get a new VA secretary who’ll get nominated in February or March, confirmed in March or April, and maybe he gets to work in June. So, six months into 2017, we’ll have the vision of a new VA secretary.”
Rieckhoff wants veteran leaders “who are still on the sidelines” to engage.
“There should be a coordinated and independent effort to recognize that these are trying times politically and we need to have a new call for these folks to serve,” he says. “You had the ‘Fighting Dems” in ’06 and I told Rahm Emanuel that ‘you have a political jump ball here,’ and he didn’t see it.
“The Fighting Dems wasn’t started by the party; it was started by that crew – Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth and Joe Sestak. That was the first iteration. Four years later the Republicans had their own round, but there was never really a coordinated campaign by either party to recruit veterans. There was a coordinated campaign to push out veterans and to celebrate veterans, but there’s not actually a farm team.”
Rieckhoff goes further, actually recommending a ticket that a large percentage of veterans would support right out of the gate.
“If [former NYC mayor] Mike Bloomberg and [retired Admiral and former CJCS] Mike Mullen started their own party tomorrow, a third of our membership would go with them . . . probably a third of the country would go with them,” he opines.
Rieckhoff sums the landscape up as “crazier,” and, again, he believes that presents a unique opportunity for the military/veteran community.
“We’re some of the only people who can go to both conventions and understand both sides,” he says. “That’s the powerful position for us whether it’s gun control, immigration, Islamophobia, gay rights, marijuana, or whatever. We can be a unique bridge builder between both sides. The Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements are great examples. The veterans community is on both sides of those.”
For all of the impact potential veterans might have, Rieckhoff is also mindful of negative stereotypes that exist among the civilian populations, something he blames in large part to “media laziness.”
“The only description the media had of the Dallas shooter was that he was African-American, and he was a veteran,” he points out. “Why? Because they have to file a story quickly and those were the only two things they could verify. That accelerated media cycle perpetuates lazy reporting. And when you have a vet who fits the stereotype they run with it.”
Rieckhoff exhales and contemplates the requirement to constantly attend to the pubic’s perception of vets, and that reminds him of the accomplishments of the community and, specifically, the legacy of IAVA.
“When IAVA started in 2004 the veterans landscape was a desert,” he remembers. “Now it’s a metropolis. We are very proud of the fact that a lot of people who come through the IAVA team have gone on to do really cool stuff.”
A quick review of the current roles of IAVA alums bears this out. Vet leaders like Abdul Henderson (now on the Congressional Black Caucus), Bill Rausch (now at Got Your 6), Tom Taratino (Twitter), Matt Miller (Trump campaign), and Todd Bowers (Uber) all spent time on the IAVA staff.
“We built IAVA to be a launching pad,” Rieckhoff says. “I’d rather have Tom Taratino at Twitter changing the culture than have him at the House VA Committee talking to a bunch of other veterans for the ninetieth time.”
But in spite of the challenges, Rieckhoff is bullish on the future of the veteran community.
“In 10 years, disproportionally CEOs are going to be veterans, candidates are going to be veterans, entrepreneurs are going to be veterans,” he says. “And that’s going to be exciting to watch.”
“Squad”is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.
Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.
These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.
This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.
In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”
All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.
This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.
Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.
The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.
Officials say 12 US paratroopers have been hospitalized after they sustained minor injuries during a nighttime parachute jump in Romania.
Brent M. William, a spokesman for the “Atlantic Resolve” military exercises, told Romania’s Agerpres news agency the accident occurred early July 22 at the Campia Turzii air base in northwest Romania. He said 500 troops jumped from C-130 Hercules planes during “a very rigorous exercise, which carries a certain level of risk.”
The Cluj Military Hospital spokeswoman, Doina Baltaru, said 11 soldiers were discharged July 23 from the hospital. She said one other soldier suffered a bruised spine and would remain hospitalized up to two more days.
The soldiers were participating in Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led exercise, which aims to increase coordination between the US, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.