Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot - We Are The Mighty
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Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Photo: NASA)


Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.

In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.

So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Jerrie Cobb with Mercury capsule. (Photo: NASA)

Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.

All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.

After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.

That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.

But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”

Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.

NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.

In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)

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Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.


And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.

And that has some analysts worried.

Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”

What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicle. This baseline version has a 30mm cannon and four AT-14 missiles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.

When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”

“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A captured S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun in an Israeli museum. This gun is the centerpiece of a new turret for the T-15, the AU-220M. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.

“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”

But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.

“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”

Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.

“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.

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American commandos are ready for a ‘Toyota War’ of their own

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Special operators gather around an up-armored Humvee. (Photo: DVIDS)


In May, images emerged of American commandos working with the Kurdish YPG rebel group in Syria. Among other things, the pictures highlighted an increasingly popular military method of transportation for special operators – the pickup truck.

Though the Pentagon has spent millions on purpose-built military trucks for its elite troops, U.S. Special Operations Command has a separate project specifically set up to buy more discreet, civilian-style vehicles. Based on readily available models, the top commando headquarters dubbed them “Non-Standard Commercial Vehicles,” or NSCVs

“The NSCV provides … a low visibility vehicle capability to conduct operations in politically or operationally constrained permissive, semi-permissive or denied areas,” U.S. Army Col. John Reim explained in a briefing on May 26 at the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida. At that time, special operators had a combined fleet of more than 500 Fords, Nissans and Toyotas, with the bulk already deployed around the world.

Commonly referred to as “technicals,” armed pickup trucks are generally associated with terrorists, insurgents and small military forces rather than American troops. When Chadian soldiers piled into these types of vehicles to fight Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddaffi in 1987, observers quickly dubbed the conflict the “Toyota War.”

Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001, the Pentagon has been working with contractors to develop and field these improved civilian vehicles. After arriving in Afghanistan in 2002, Army Special Forces soldiers were famously spotted riding a red Toyota Tacoma pickup on at least one occasion.

We don’t know whether this or other similar trucks spotted in the field were part of the formal NSCV project. The Army’s special operators only got their latest versions ready to go in September 2014, according to the one review of the ground combat branch’s special operations plans.

In principle, the truck’s main job is to allow elite troops to better blend in overseas. On top of that, the upgraded pickups and sport utility vehicles offer a number of distinct advantages over specially upgraded Humvees and mine-resistant MRAPs.

The most obvious benefit is that the NSCVs are simply smaller and lighter than their military cousins. A basic Toyota LandCruiser Model 78 weighs approximately 4,700 pounds, depending on year and starting configuration.

An up-armored Humvee can be over 11,000 pounds. In comparison, Oshkosh’s “light” M-ATV mine-resistant vehicle is positively gargantuan at over 32,000 pounds.

One 1999 Army manual tells Special Forces troops to “carefully consider weight” when using modified Humvees. “An overloaded vehicle handles poorly, consumes fuel at a higher rate, lacks power, and will experience more maintenance problems.”

The handbook specifically says the M1114 up-armored Humvee is a poor choice for desert operations because of its size. Heavy military vehicles can easily sink and become trapped in sand and other soft ground.

The Humvee’s ever growing size and weight is why the U.S. Marine Corps purchased a number of Growler “internally transportable vehicles” that could squeeze inside the confines of their unique MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors. With similar concerns, the Army has become increasingly interested in smaller military trucks, such as the Jeep J8, for airborne and airmobile troops.

For special operators, even if the added armor and other gear doubled the weight of an NSCV, it wouldn’t be half as big as the MRAP. With payload capacities up to 2,500 pounds, when riding in the plain looking trucks, elite troops don’t necessarily have to leave behind critical gear. The pictures from Syria showed commandos in full kit on pickups armed with weapons like the .50 caliber M2 machine gun and 40-millimeter Mk 47 automatic grenade launcher.

In addition, the upgraded civilian trucks retain their relatively small dimensions. This means the pickup trucks can fit into the main cabin of the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s MH-47 transport helicopters.

All of the modified commercial vehicles can easily drive on and off the Air Force Special Operations Command’s specialized MC-130 cargo planes. These four-engine transports can airdrop unarmored versions, too.

So, unlikely MRAPs, elite troops can quickly get the trucks where ever they might be needed. It’s no surprise that special operators brought NSCVs with them into the complex and hostile Syrian battlefield.

And the commercial starting pattern makes the trucks less of a hassle to maintain in remote areas. American special operations forces routinely work with friendly troops driving similar vehicles – which the Pentagon has often supplied in the first place.

With their NSCVs, the special operators can go where their allies can go and share many necessary supplies. In training exercises, the elite troops could share valuable lessons learned from their own experiences. The otherwise innocuous trucks present a less obvious target to terrorists or criminals when American commandos travel abroad.

Now, the Pentagon is looking to expand and extend the project. On July 18, the top commando headquarters hired the Battelle Memorial Institute to help develop new versions.

The $170 million contract covered modifications to Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger pickup trucks, as well as Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicles, according to the original synopsis the Pentagon posted online in October 2015. Battelle had previous experience supplying the armored NSCVs to the Pentagon, according to Reim’s presentation.

The work outlined in the latest contract included upgrades to the vehicles’ suspensions, armor plating and bulletproof windows and space for communications gear, radio signal jammers and other military equipment. If the defense contractor keeps to the agreed upon schedule, Battelle should deliver the first 20 pickups and SUVs for tests by January 2016.

The Pentagon expects to buy just over 511 of the trucks over the course of their seven-year deal with Batelle. However, Reim’s bullet points said that the contract could cover more than 550 vehicles, some 20 vehicles over what the officer said was needed to achieve “full operational capability.”

These new vehicles are set to replace SOCOM’s existing modified trucks over the next three to five years. Whatever happens, American commandos are prepared to fight their own “Toyota War” for years to come.

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Watch this test pilot pull 83 G-Forces and live

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Test pilot Lt. Col. John Stapp rides a rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo by U.S. Air Force.


Most people pass out from 5 G-forces. Some of the best fighter pilots can withstand 9. Test pilot Eli Beeding experienced 83 and lived to tell about it.

Before explaining how it’s possible, the following is a loose description of G-forces — or G’s — on the body, according to Go Flight Med.

Everyone walks around at 1 G, the natural gravitational force of earth. But if you go to space, you experience 0 G’s, or weightlessness.

Related: Watch as flight students gut out high G training

For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).

A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.

G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.

via GIPHY 

Beeding was sitting up going backwards, that is, he experienced the force back-to-front when he came to a screetching halt from 35 mph.

“When I hit the water brake, it felt like Ted Williams had hit me on the back, about lumbar five, with a baseball bat,” Beeding said, according to the video description.

via GIPHY 

Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.

He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.

When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.

This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siau78EFLgc
Jeff Quitney, YouTube
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F-35 trains with A-10s, F-15s & Navy SEALs

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
We wanted to put Navy SEALs into this image too, but it looked weird since they can’t fly (yet). | USAF/WATM


Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.

“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Harrigian said the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations for combat.

“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.

During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.

The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.

A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
All three F-35 variants at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Left to right: F-35C carrier variant, F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. | Lockheed Martin

“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.

F-35A “Sensor Fusion”

The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.

Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.

“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane.  You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.

Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.

“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment

Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.

Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.

“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.

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This D-Day transport still flies like it was 1944

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Whiskey 7 in flight. (Photo courtesy of National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, N.Y.)


Tucked away in a rural corner of western New York is a survivor of D-Day. It is a C-47A Skytrain — an airplane that delivered paratroopers over drop zones around Normandy on June 6, 1944 — that has the distinction of being perhaps one of the few – if not the last – of its kind still in flying condition.

Named Whiskey 7 because of the large W7 painted on its fuselage, the Skytrain was the lead aircraft of the second invasion wave in the skies above France.

“That C-47 is one of our stars,” said Dawn Schaible, media director for the National Warplane Museum, the organization that gives Whiskey 7 a home and maintains it both for flying demonstrations and public viewing.

Skytrains have a storied history.  None other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in Europe, called the Douglas aircraft one of the four “Tools of Victory” that won World War II for the Allies along with the atom bomb, the Jeep, and the bazooka.

The museum is proud of the fact that the aircraft is a true C-47, not a DC-3 conversion. The twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was built in 1943, one of more than 10,000 produced during World War II.

Skytrains like Whiskey 7 were the standard transport aircraft of the old U.S. Army Air Corps but also saw service with the British, who called the plane the Dakota.

The statistics regarding the Skytrain are impressive. When used as a supply plane, a C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled Jeep or 37-mm cannon.

When serving in its role as a troop transport, the C-47 carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.

On D-Day, Whiskey 7 transported paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

The aircraft was actually one of the few that made it to the drop-zone assigned to the paratroopers: the town of Sainte-Mère-Église.

After D-Day, Whiskey 7 served for the balance of the war. Missions included towing gliders carrying men and equipment during Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne operation in Holland that was the largest airborne battle in history but which ended disastrously for the Allies.

After World War II, a civilian aviation company purchased the plane as surplus and converted it to an airliner. The plane then flew both passengers and cargo for decades.

Purchased by a private collector in 1993, it was eventually donated to the National Warplane Museum where it was restored to its D-Day configuration in 2005.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Whiskey 7 on the tarmac during a layover on its way to Normandy, 2014. Photo courtesy of National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, N.Y.

In 2014, Whiskey 7 participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when it flew to France so historical re-enactors could jump from the plane.

The group also included Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr., one of the paratroopers the plane carried on D-Day. According to the museum, he was the last surviving member of his unit who jumped from Whiskey 7 when it was above Normandy in 1944.

Now, Whiskey 7 helps educate visitors to the National Warplane Museum about Operation Overlord and World War II.

Located in Geneseo, N.Y., the museum is a labor of love started by a grassroots group of historic aircraft enthusiasts who fly old war birds and restore airplanes. The museum has more than 15,000 visitors a year who come to view exhibits or attend the annual air show.

“We have amazing artifacts here,” said Schaible. “We figure out how we connect those artifacts with people and help them move beyond the idea that it’s just cool stuff. It’s the men and women and the stories behind the aircraft that make them historical.”

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This VA doctor pioneered modern heart surgery

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot


Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was one of the most influential and innovative heart doctors in the United States. The man whom the Journal of the American Medical Association once called “the greatest surgeon ever” lived to be 99 years old. In that time, he served his country, saved tens of thousands of lives (including his own), and completely revolutionized the way surgeons work on the human heart.

While a surgeon in World War II, he urged that doctors be moved from hospitals to the front, where medics were usually the only aid available. He created what would become known in the Korean War as the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or “MASH”) unit. The Army awarded him the Legion of Merit for this innovation.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

DeBakey developed medical programs to care for returning veterans. President Truman asked him to transfer the Houston Navy Hospital to the VA. That hospital, still named after DeBakey, was Baylor University’s first affiliate and first surgical residency program.

The doctor invented many heart-related surgical devices, including the roller pump, which he invented while still in medical school. That pump became the centerpiece of the heart-lung machine, which takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery by supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. Dr. DeBakey’s other surgical innovations, like grafting, bypasses, and the use of mechanical assistance devices are now common practice.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
The Original Operator.

He also was the first to make the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. The idea that inhaling smoke may hurt one’s lungs may seem like an obvious one to us today, when DeBakey and Dr. Alton Ochsner made the connection in 1939, their work was ridiculed by the medical community. The Surgeon General officially documented it in 1964.

Conventional practitioners also ridiculed DeBakey’s idea about using Dacron (polyester) grafts to repair damaged arteries, a procedure that was used to save his life in 2006 when he had a torn aorta.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

In 1969, President Johnson awarded Dr. DeBakey the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given a United States citizen. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science. In 2008, he received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian honor, in a ceremony attended by President Bush. He died in 2008 and was granted ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery by the Secretary of the Army.

Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was the heart surgeon for the last Shah of Iran, of King Edward VIII of England, Marlene Dietrich, Joe Louis, and Presidents Johnson and Nixon. More than that, he was the surgeon who cared about saving the lives of regular troops. In combat he reformed the way the Army manages casualty care, and as a civilian he reformed the way America takes care of its veterans.

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These Air Force ‘rods from God’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.


During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet

The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.

That’s how Project Thor came to be.

Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
A concept design of Project Thor.

The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.

It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.

One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot
Like lawn darts, but with global repercussions.

These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).

The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.

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Oldest living Marine, Dorothy ‘Dot’ Cole, dies at 107

Dorothy “Dot” Cole was one of the earliest female Marine reservists to enlist following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initially wishing to join the Navy, Dot was turned down because of her height. Standing just 4 feet 11 inches tall, Dot’s other nickname was “Half-Pint” according to her daughter, Beth Kluttz. Dot turned 107 on September 19, 2020 and was widely celebrated as the oldest living Marine. Sadly, on January 7, 2021, Kluttz confirmed that Dot passed away.

Undeterred by the Navy’s rejection, Dot set herself a new goal: to fly for the Marine Corps. However, becoming a flying leatherneck was an even greater challenge since the Marines only allowed enlisted females to perform clerical duties until 1942. In July, as the war intensified and more personnel were needed, President Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law. This opened the door for women to serve in administrative, training and supply roles.

Still pursuing her dream of flight, Dot was busy earning her private pilot’s license. She accumulated 200 hours in a Piper Cub when she enlisted with the Marines on July 12, 1943, becoming one of the first volunteers. Dot attended 6 weeks of boot camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and earned her Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Despite her experience in the air, Dot was assigned to clerical duties after boot camp. “They put me behind a typewriter instead of an airplane,” Dot told the Independent Tribune of Concord during an interview for her 107th birthday last September.

Still, Dot served with enthusiasm. “I loved the hats we were wearing,” Dot told Marine Corps Times, also in September. “It was fun when I got the first complete Marine outfit. I loved it very much and felt right at home with it.” She spent her two years of service at a firing range in Quantico, Virginia. Her duties focused primarily on typing correspondence for officers. “It was kind of a tough time and we were not welcomed too well by many of the men in the service,” Cole recalled in the Marine Corps Times interview. “But they got over it.”

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Dot in 2020 (Beth Kluttz)

Dot met her future husband, Wiley Cole, in Washington, D.C. When the war ended in 1945, Dot was discharged in December as a Marine Sergeant. “We all left on a train,” Cole said in her Independent Tribune interview, “and many of us ladies were singing.” She moved to San Francisco with Wiley where they got married. In 1953, the couple had their daughter. Both Coles worked at the Ames Research Center, (which later became part of NASA) until Wiley’s death in 1955. Dot never remarried.

Kluttz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976 and Dot followed three years later. According to her daughter, Dot was living well into the 100th year of her life. “We could still go to Walmart and I could actually leave her alone and she’d go down her own way. And I can remember having a hard time finding her because she was so short, she was shorter than…the clothes racks…so I had a hard time locating her and a lot of times it scared me trying to find her,” Kluttz told the Charlotte Observer. Dot’s health started to deteriorate after she turned 105.

It was her daughter who started the process to determine that Dot was the oldest living Marine. Around the time Dot turned 103, Kluttz began to research who the oldest Marine might be. She suspected that it could be her mother, but couldn’t prove it. “So I just put it out there through them that ‘my mother as of this date is this age, and if anybody else is out there, please step forward’ pretty much is what I did,” Kluttz said. “I think some other Marines from the Marine Corps League, when she was getting ready to turn 107, they got in touch with headquarters up by the Pentagon there in Washington, and they were able to do the research, and they said, ‘Not only is she the oldest female Marine, but she is actually the oldest Marine as of September 2020.’”

Dot was awarded lifetime membership in the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment 1175 in September 2020. Despite never being able to fly for the Marines, Dot is pleased to see the progress that women in the Corps have made. “The girls now, they have an open field with what they can do,” she said, “so it’s gotten better.” Dot’s service and determination is sure to inspire future Marines just like her.

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Russia pimps out its new Su-35S Flanker in latest video

Russia is busy trying to drum up sales for its newest high-tech weapons, and one of those is the Su-35S Flanker – a heavily upgraded version of the Su-27, also called the Flanker.


According to the London Daily Mail, Russia has released a brief video of the Su-35 being taken for a test flight.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Su-35’s biggest change is the use of thrust-vectoring engines. This only enhances the maneuverability inherent in the Su-27 design. The Su-27 is famous for being able to do the Pugachev Cobra, a maneuver that allows it to fly tail-first for a period of time.

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The Pugachev Cobra illustrated. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

The Daily Mail noted that the Su-35S has a top speed of Mach 2.25, the ability to fire a variety of missiles and drop up to 17,000 pounds of bombs from 12 hardpoints, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon for close-in dogfighting. Some Su-35s were sent to Syria by the Russian government, which backs that country’s dictator, Bashir al-Assad.

Russia also did a video of its aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The video, though, omitted relevant details, like the carrier’s poor operating condition. There were also at least two splash landings  during the Kuznetsov’s deployment off Syria.

The video is below: Watch, and enjoy!

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The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback

Before 9/11, the last time American forces fought on horseback was on January 16, 1942 when the U.S. Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment charged an advanced guard of the 14th Japanese Army as it advanced from Manila.


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Philippines! F*ck Yeah!

After the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the United States demanded the extradition of Osama bin Laden from the Taliban, then the recognized government of Afghanistan. When the Taliban didn’t cough him up, the U.S. military went to work.

Official combat operations started on Oct. 7, 2001 in the form of airstrikes and Tomahawk missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda training sites near Kandahar, Kabul, and Herat. On Nov. 16, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced “we have had limited number of American forces on the ground for weeks.”

He was talking about the Horse Soldiers, U.S. Special Forces attempting to secure Northern Afghanistan with the Afghan Northern Alliance.

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The elite troops were there to connect with and advise the Northern Alliance fighters who had been fighting the Taliban government since 1996. They were just in time. On Sep. 9, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, the longtime resistance fighter who led wars against the Soviet Union and later, the Taliban (Massoud even tried to warn Western leaders about the 9/11 attacks). He rejected the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam and was the able political and military leader of the Northern Alliance. When the Americans arrived the Alliance fighters were ready to avenge Massoud. The only way to get around the country was on horseback.

For some of the American commandos, it was their first time on a horse.  “It was like riding a bobcat,” Lt. Col. Max Bowers (Ret.) told CNN.

Sergeant 1st Class Joe Jung, the team’s medic and sniper, was thrown from his horse, broke his back, and continued with the mission. “I would not allow myself to be the weak link,” Jung said. “It’s not in my nature, and it’s not in any Green Beret’s nature.”

Bowers carried a piece of the World Trade Center during the entire mission and months later, buried it with full military honors at Mazar-e-Sharif.

The commandos’ horses were trained by the Northern Alliance warriors to run toward gunfire. Charges pitting Alliance forces against the Taliban were much like those centuries ago, but the fighters used AK-47s instead of sabers.

Air Force Combat Controller Master Sgt. Bart Decker used laser-guided airstrikes to support Alliance forces. Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of Alliance forces, referred to one of the female navigators on an AC-130 gunship providing close air support as the “Angel of Death.”

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During the Battle of Mazar-e-Sharif, Jung treated Taliban fighters. The special forces let one go, allowing him to tell other Taliban fighters he was treated humanely and they would be too. This led to mass surrender after the battle. After Mazar-e Sharif, Jung heard an odd accent among the wounded at a prison camp.

That voice came from John Walker Lindh, the infamous “American Taliban.” The Taliban POWs would later rise up against their captors, capturing the arsenal at Mazar-e Sharif, killing CIA operator Mike Spann, the first casualty of American operations in Afghanistan.

It took two months for the Allied forces to defeat the Taliban government.

Kentucky sculptor Douwe Blumberg created a monument of the horse soldiers in his studio in 2011, in honor of the entire military special operations community. That statue, the American Response Monument, is now at the World Trade Center site in New York.

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De oppresso liber.

NOW: 8 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the medal of honor — but didn’t

OR: Never before seen photos show Bush Administration officials right after 9/11  

 

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This is how the Marines are hiding their command posts from drones

You can run, but you can’t hide – especially the age of satellites, hand-held GPS devices, Google Earth and inexpensive, camera-bearing drones.


So with easy surveillance tools in the hands of a technologically unsophisticated enemy, how does a unit hide its command post?

During the recent Large Scale Exercise 2016, I Marine Expeditionary Force experimented with a new tent setup for its command post, or CP, that included big swaths of tan-and-drab camouflage netting draped over hard structures and tents.

The idea, of course, was to disguise – if not hide – the presence and footprint of the command post that I MEF Headquarters Group set up for the exercise, a de facto MEF-level command wargaming drill that ran Aug. 14 to 22. During a similar exercise in February 2015, its top commander acknowledged the large footprint occupied by his field command post, then set up in a field at Camp Pendleton, California, but without any camo netting.

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Multiple tents connect to create a Combat Operations Center during a 2nd Marine Division Command Post Exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 29, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara/Released)

It was, frankly, large and obvious that the tents and structures were something important to the battle effort. And that makes it a big target, whether seen on the ground from line of sight or from the air from drones, aircraft or satellite imagery, officials say.

This year, intent on better concealment, headquarters group Marines looked at ways to hide the lines and structures of the CP. They came up with a new camo netting design and refined it with some bird’s-eye scrutiny.

The Leathernecks went “back to basics,” one officer said.

“We flew a drone over it. Now, it’s a little bit more ambiguous,” Col. Matthew Jones, the I MEF chief of staff, said last week as the command worked through the exercise’s final day from its CP set up in a dusty field. “It’s just camouflaged, it’s a lot better concealed.”

MEF officials declined to reveal the secret sauce of the new CPX camo set they used. “This is the state of the art right now,” said Jones.

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U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Detachment 391, 3d Transportation Support Battalion, set up a command operation center on Camp Mujuk, South Korea, in support of exercise Ssang Yong, Feb. 29, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Sgt. Joseph Sanchez/Released)

Still, he acknowledged camouflage netting has some limitations, saying, “I won’t say it won’t look like a hard military installation.”

“The fact is, it’s clearly visible from space,” he added. “You can’t mistake it. Even if it’s camouflaged. … It’s big enough to be worth shooting at.”

In fact, camouflage and concealment are as basic to warfighting – whether on the offensive or defense – as weaponry.

It’s all about deception – hiding your capabilities and your location, which taken together might help spell out your intentions, unintentional as that may be. Deception like camouflage can mask your true force strength, combat power and, more so these days, technological capabilities. But a collection of tents and structures, and the presence of radio antennas, satellite dishes, power generators and containers, can spell out the obvious presence of an important headquarters.

“If you can be seen, you will be attacked,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Center for Strategic and International Studies audience on Aug. 6.

Neller relayed I MEF’s experience with camouflaging the field CP, which despite netting efforts still had the vulnerability of detection from light shining off concertina wire that encircled the facilities. He wants Marines to get back to the basics of fieldcraft, like “digging a hole, preparing a defensive position, and camouflaging that, living in the field, and not going back to a [forward operating base] overnight to check your email.”

That will be more relevant, top leaders have noted, as more Marines deploy and operate in the dispersed, distributed battlefield of the near future.

And it’s not just the physical look that I MEF and the Marine Corps wants to change. Trendy gadgets and new technologies make it easier to detect and interfere with electronic signals. Such electronic surveillance poses real threats to military command networks and command and control.

“We are working really hard on our electronic signatures … that would make it easier for the enemy to detect you,” Jones said. It’s especially critical if U.S. forces get into a fight against a peer or near-peer adversary with similar surveillance capabilities, so “maybe we need to be thinking of other ways.”

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Here are 6 things you may not have known about the US president’s personal jet

It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.


Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.

While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:

1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.

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Columbine II, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s official transport and the first presidential plane to use the Air Force One callsign (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.

Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).

2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.

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Pres. George W. Bush in the Presidential office aboard Air Force One in 2008 (Photo White House)

You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.

3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.

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A Secret Service protective agent stands vigilant over Air Force One as it refuels at Ramstein Air Base in Germany (Photo US Air Force)

On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.

The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment.  It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.

4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.

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A VC-25 arrives at Andrews AFB with the casket of deceased Pres. Gerald Ford (Photo US Air Force)

Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.

5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.

Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.

In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.

6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.

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President Trump during a welcome ceremony at Brussels Int’l Airport. Note that the VC-25 is parked with its left side facing the crowd (Photo White House)

Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.

Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.

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