To be clear, Paramount’s new film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is not a war movie; it’s a memoir about a journalist covering a war zone. Specifically, that journalist is Kim Barker, whose book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the basis for Tina Fey’s new film.
“I was always more curious about what it was like to live through war than what it was like to die in it,” Barker says. “You’ve got aspects of real people in the movie and things that actually happened … but they make Tina Fey braver than I ever was.”
Barker, who is now a Metro reporter at the New York Times, was a war correspondent covering Afghanistan for the Chicago Tribune starting in 2002. Her time in the field was her first real experience with U.S. troops. Sometimes, those deployed soldiers talked to her as if she was their therapist.
“I love to embed with the troops,” Barker recalls. “But I found that they just wanted to talk to me about living, their lives back home, and how grueling this was on relationships to have deployment after deployment after deployment.”
In her time embedded with deployed troops, Barker saw the stress of fighting two wars take its toll on the U.S. military and those who served.
“It made me so grateful to all the people who were willing to share their stories and were super honest with me,” she says. “Those were the stories I really loved to tell, not going out and getting shot at — because I’m a chicken, and I’m not that reporter.”
Barker looked for stories that described the daily life of troops and everyday Afghans, the people who lived the war day in and day out for years.
“You wanted to be true to what they were telling you and not censor yourself, yet you really cared about the people that you were meeting there,” Barker adds. “Watching them adjust to going from Afghanistan to Iraq and back again… the stress that’s been put on our military fighting two fronts at the same time changed my view of my troops because I actually got to know them.”
Many of the Afghans in her circles want Western troops to stay in Afghanistan longer. While Barker admits she’s a reporter and not a Washington policy maker, she says the troops do provide stability for the coming generations of Afghan people.
“They [Afghans] are a bit more modern, they live in the cities,” she says. “I think their feeling is, ‘Hey, just give us enough security and enough civility here to let the next generation take over, and to let some sort of stability to come underneath democratic institutions.'”
For anyone who might be anxious to get out and do some war reporting in this environment, Barker believes it’s a great opportunity, but cautions the uninitiated against going in completely unprepared.
“There are openings to be able to sell stories, great stories,” she says. “When I went overseas the first time I had no clue, but I had these people around me who did, and I had a newspaper that would back me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I worry about folks going into these places without any kind of safety net at all.”
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” opens in theaters on Friday, March 4th.
A recent report by FoxNews.com and the Washington Post noted that the Pentagon bureaucracy covered up over $125 billion in “administrative waste” over five years. So, what could the Pentagon have gotten for $125 billion? Let’s take a look at a combination of three things that the wasted money could have bought for the troops:
21 Zumwalt-class destroyers at $3.96 billion each (total: $83.16 billion)
The Navy, short on land-attack hulls, could use the extra firepower for amphibious groups. The thing is, buying 21 more Zumwalts would probably also knock down the unit cost some more, as buying in bulk usually does. If you don’t believe me, compare the price of soda at Costco to the cost at your local grocery store.
As a side effect, getting 24 Zumwalts would probably have saved the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile from cancellation, largely because with a larger purchase order, the price per shell would have gone way down.
200 F-22 Raptors at $154.6 million each (total $30.92 billion)
With this, you get a much larger force of F-22 Raptors – the premiere air-dominance fighter in the world. The fly-away cost is actually comparable to the LRIP cost of the F-35. The real thing this does is it gives the United States Air Force more quantity for the missions it has. Originally, plans called for 749 airframes from the Advanced Tactical Fighter program (which lead to the F-22).
Congress has already studied putting the Raptor back into production, incidentally. The 200 purchased would push the total to a little more than half of the initial planned total.
360 Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles at $22 million each (total $7.92 billion)
The AAV-7A1 first entered service in 1972. It’s slow, not as-well-protected as other armored vehicles, and has only a M2 .50-caliber machine gun and a Mk 19 grenade launcher as armament. It also has great difficulty keeping up with the M1A1 Abrams tanks in the Marine Corps inventory.
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle not only brought better protection, it had a 30mm chain gun, and could keep up with the Abrams while carrying 18 fully-armed Marines. It got cancelled by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Maybe Secretary of Defense Mattis can bring it back?
85,000 XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement Systems at $35,000 each (total $2.975 billion)
This system has been in budget limbo since some initial combat deployments with the 10st Airborne Division (Air Assault) showed great promise. In fact, this system was quickly called “The Punisher” by the troops. The Army Times reported in 2011 that firefights that would usually take 15 to 20 minutes ended in much less time.
Why buy 85,000 systems? Well, the Army will need a lot to equip its active and National Guard forces. But why should the Marines, Navy SEALs, and other ground-pounding units be left out?
So, think about what that $125 billion could have bought … then be furious that the money got wasted and that the waster was covered up. Oh, and food for thought: That means there is $25 billion a year in “administrative waste” every year.
So, what would you use that extra $25 billion a year for after taking care of this shopping list?
On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as America’s 46th president. This year will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Prior to the 20th amendment, Inauguration Day was always March 4, the anniversary of the Constitution taking effect. January 20 has been “the day” since 1933, unless it falls on a Sunday. This and some of the more modern traditions are the only things that will still be the same. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to ravage the globe and our country. With this in mind, the majority of the inaugural events will be virtual. The Presidential Inauguration Committee has created some special events leading up to the big day. Here’s a partial list of televised events (all times listed are in eastern time).
Saturday, January 16 at 7pm there will be a virtual welcome event, American United: An Inauguration Welcome Event Celebrating America’s Changemakers, featuring musical guests and speakers to kick off the festivities. The focus will be on the country’s unsung heroes and the impacts they have made with their work. Sunday, January 17 at 8pm, the inaugural committee will have a concert titled, We the People.
Monday, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The soon-to-be president has dedicated the day to service. To honor the spirit of King, it has been designated as the National Day of Service. The call to action is for Americans all over the country to engage in a day of volunteerism within their own communities and the event has been titled United We Serve. That evening at 8pm eastern, there will be a virtual event with entertainers and speakers who will celebrate the legacy of King.
Tuesday, January 19, will be a somber day; the day is dedicated to American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee is inviting cities and communities across the country to join in on a moment of unity and remembrance at 5:30pm, by lighting their buildings and ringing their church bells. In Washington, D.C., there will be a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
As in years past, Biden will be sworn in on the west side of the U.S. Capitol alongside his soon to be Vice President, Kamala Harris. The attendance at the event will be minimal, with only congressional members present in accordance with safety protocols. But all across the National Mall there will be 200,000 American flags waving in the wind, in the place of Americans who would normally be there to witness the momentous event.
Following the swearing in ceremony, the new president will make his address to the nation. The last part of this event will include the pass in review, a longstanding military tradition to reflect on the peaceful transfer of power. After that, the newly sworn in president and vice president will head to Arlington National Cemetery with their spouses to lay a wreath on the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by President Barack Obama, President George W Bush, President Bill Clinton and their spouses.
Instead of the traditional parade to the White House that Americans are used to, the new president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will receive a presidential escort to the White House by representatives from every military branch. There will then be a full televised virtual parade, showcasing communities and citizens from all over the country. At 8:30pm, Tom Hanks will host Celebrating America, a prime-time television event in lieu of the traditional inaugural balls. President Biden and Vice President will offer remarks as well as a host of other speakers that represent the diversity of America. After that, President Biden and Vice President Harris will go to work.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen from the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh prepare to deploy a KC-135 aircraft and about 25 Airmen to the Middle East the night of Jan. 5, 2016.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis on the ramp before departing on a sortie in support of ground operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 6, 2016. The 421st EFS, based out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is the only dedicated fighter squadron in the country and continuously supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission.
U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter crews, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, land at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, Jan. 6, 2016. The helicopters and crews are in Hawaii training with U.S. Army Pacific’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, test the capabilities of all-terrain vehicles in United States Army Europe – USAREUR’s Boeblingen Local Training Area near Stuttgart, Germany, Jan. 5, 2016.
BREMERTON, Wash. (Jan. 4, 2016) Electronics Technician 3rd Class Alice New, from Silverhill, Ala., paints a mural on a door aboard aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis’ crew is currently in port training for future deployments.
ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 4, 2016) Sailors transport ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tyler Huey, squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 28, 2015. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is ready to respond to any crisis response mission in theater to include the employment of a TRAP force.
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, perform pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28. Annually, more than 17,000 males recruited from the Western Recruiting Region are trained at MCRD San Diego.
It’s just another day at the “office” for USCG Station Noyo River!
We’re ready to crash into another action packed week! Are you?
The guys over at the Smithsonian Channel war-gamed how an Apache could take down a dragon because curating a museum apparently gets boring.
The dragon in their model is straight out of European mythology with huge wings, thick armor, and fire breath:
The Apache is the same flying merchant of death everyone knows and loves from wars like Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom:
The video goes through a couple of scenarios, looking at how Hellfires and 40mm grenades might affect a flying lizard monster. Check it out below:
Screwing up in the military is a given. Sometimes a person is just trying to sham, sometimes they get drunk at the wrong time, and occasionally they even make an honest mistake. Service members who have been in a while know how to avoid getting caught. New guys are making these eight mistakes.
1. Bad risk management
Leaders do composite risk management for missions. Smart shammers do CRM for everything else. Every entry on this list can be chalked up to a failure of composite risk management. Shamming during work? Plan on how to avoid snitchs’ eyes. Headed off base to get plastered? Plan for how to get to a recall formation.
2. New guys are too stupid to play dumb
Privates like to seem like they have it all together. This is huge mistake. Sergeants love taking a soldier under their wing and “teaching” them things. When they play dumb, their mistake will become a “teachable moment” instead of a counseling statement.
“Private! Why weren’t you at PT formation?”
“Sergeant, I got lost and couldn’t use my cell phone to call you because I was in uniform.”
“Couldn’t use your cell –? Oh. No. You can use it. You just can’t walk and talk, private. Here, I’ll explain …”
3. They don’t think of good cover stories
Most of the time, new guys will get through shenanigans without seeing a single senior noncommissioned officer, but too many new guys fail to prepare a cover story to throw leaders off the scent, just in case. The cover story should match the environment. For instance, smart soldiers bring plastic bags when shamming in the motor pool. If caught , they just say: “Well, my sergeant sent me to get an exhaust sample in this bag from truck ID-10-T, but I can’t find that bumper number anywhere.” Again, new guys get to play dumb.
4. They don’t get organized
The reason old hands in the barracks are more organized than new guys has nothing to do with inspections. It’s because they need their stuff handy when they screw up. If they’re getting drunk while there’s a chance first sergeant will call everyone in, they’re prepared to rapidly brush their teeth, put on a uniform, get to formation, and be dress-right-dress by the time the squad leader starts taking accountability. Less organized troops would still be hazily looking for their uniform top and boots.
5. New guys don’t work as a team
New guys try to get away with stuff by hiding all the evidence from everyone, rather than selecting members of their squad and platoon they can trust to help them in a crisis. Instead of shamming alone, smart troops designate roles to each other. For smoking in the woods while assigned to a cleanup detail, two people should be in charge of collecting cigarettes and dropping them in an energy drink can, two people should be in charge of immediately looking at the ground like they’re hunting for trash, and someone should be standing lookout.
6. Failure to stage supplies
That can in number 5 and the trash bag in number 2 don’t magically happen. They’re staged supplies. Electric razors can be placed in cars for use while driving to a recall formation, military publications can be opened to make it look like someone is studying doctrine rather than sleeping, and cans of dip are handy for bribing squad leaders.
7. They need better escape routes
Never slack off in an area with only one exit. Always be prepared to make a quick exit on an unexpected route.
7. They don’t get representation in the Terminal Lance Underground/E-4 Mafia
Different services have different versions of the junior enlisted league, but everyone should join theirs. The sergeants and petty officers of the world are working together to catch the junior enlisted, the junior enlisted must band together in defense. New guys don’t always have an advocate in one of these fine organizations to help them distract NCOs, lose files, or text them ahead of a crisis. They should get one.
8. They forget to stand at parade rest
Seriously, do it every time. Parade rest is like stealth camouflage for privates. Troops should stand at parade rest every chance they get. It makes NCOs think they’re too afraid to break the rules.
Technical Sergeant Aaron Allmon is a decorated combat photographer. He is one of the Air Force’s best, having served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was named 2008 Military Photographer of the Year. He documented all branches of the United States military, regular forces and special operations alike, during his tenure in the Air Force’s 1st Combat Camera Squadron. After his combat tours, he went to Hawaii to recover remains of the U.S. war dead in Asia.
As he fought post-traumatic stress and debilitating back pain, the Air Force sent him to Minot, North Dakota in 2012 to train airmen there on the skills he mastered so well. He struggles to this day. After 19 years in service, the Air Force wants to send him up the river. He faces 130 years in prison in an ongoing court martial trial.
His crimes are not theft, rape, murder, arson, or anything close to violence. The Washington Times found his trespasses against fellow airmen in the Minot public affairs office amount to “three kisses and six touches, plus a series of reported inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.” All are unwelcome personal contact. The report also alleges Allmon touched knees and a woman’s back, kissed someone’s forehead and shoulders, and made the aforementioned inappropriate remarks.
If Allmon did what the Air Force alleges, he should certainly face punishment for it. No one is questioning the women who came forward to accuse the Minot NCO. What is in question is the severity of the punishment he faces if convicted.
Allmon’s sister Lisa Roper is a San Antonio business executive. She is mounting her brother’s defense to the tune of what she believes will be $200,000. The court martial is a felony court, which came as a surprise to one of the accused’s legal defense attorneys, Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army judge advocate and now law professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
“Even assuming all the charges are true, which they are not, this conduct as charged would warrant nonjudicial punishment, not the highest level of action at a general court-martial where Aaron could lose all his retirement benefits and go to jail,” Addicott told the Washington Times.
The presiding officer at Allmon’s Article 32 pretrial hearing in December 2014 was Lt. Col. Bendon Tukey. He questioned the prosecution’s stacking of charges and sentences during a post-trial recommendation.
“In many of the individual specifications,” Tukey wrote, “it could be argued that the accused was not so much motivated by sex or a desire to humiliate or degrade as simply being socially maladroit and crass.”
How did the sentencing get so far out of hand? How did a case like this even come so far? An experienced former agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) told WATM a few important things to remember to clarify Allmon’s situation. Agents are not identified because of the nature of their work.
The first thing to remember is Allmon is not charged with any Article 120 offenses (rape, sexual assault, other sexual misconduct). The only physical contact violation is an Article 128 violation for Simple Assault. When OSI opens an investigation of this type, it is usually because the victim or victims contacted the base Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or Special Victims Counsel.
On the sentence of 130 years, the agent told us initial allegations can differ greatly from what is actually charged for the court martial. OSI consistently disproves allegations or finds additional misconduct in the course of these cases. OSI has to investigate any other potential victims. The standard procedure in a sexual assault case to identify behavioral indicators that the subject may be a serial sex offender. They will talk to anyone who may possibly have been victimized. They certainly would have talked to anyone with whom Allmon worked.
What is charged in the docket is what he will be tried on. However, the docket doesn’t list all of the specifications. You could have one charge of assault, but four specifications of different actions that all count as assault. When lawyers continue to add up the specifications, then that can be called “piling on.” There could have been a rape allegation that was disproved, but other issues could still justify the preferral of charges. No one ever gets the maximum sentence, but there is certainly some strategy in piling on the charges. It allows for negotiation for a pre-trial agreement, the military version of a plea deal.
If the Air Force couldn’t get a court martial, they wouldn’t offer him an Article 15 for demotion. The Air Force would keep reprimanding Allmon until he was forced to get out as a Technical Sergeant (E-6). The agent believes this case is going to be about a few months to maybe a year in jail, but definitely a bad conduct discharge or possible a dishonorable.
Sure, the Academy Awards have categories like “Best Actor” and “Best Adapted Screenplay,’ and, yes, military movies like “American Sniper” and “The Imitation Game” are in the mix this year. But all of that falls somewhat short of capturing the true military cinematic essence that this year’s crop of films produced. Here are nine categories that the Oscars forgot and the winners in each:
1. Best Misuse Of Government Property By A Leading Man: Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Because Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle was a super badass sniper, he had a phone so that generals and even the president could call him to tell him who he should put the crosshairs on next. What did Cooper’s Kyle use the phone for? To call his wife, usually right before a firefight was about to break out. And once it did he wouldn’t hang up (in order not to alarm her or anything).
2. Best Use of Kristen Stewart’s Bitch Face By An Actress In A Leading Role: Kristen Stewart, “Camp X-Ray”
Kristen Stewart plays a U.S. Army guard at Gitmo who develops a sympathetic relationship – through a prison door – with one of the detainees. But her sympathy is buried under the same expression she’s used in every movie she’s ever been in, that signature bitchy pouty girl face, so it’s hard to tell when she’s sympathetic and when she’s bored or pissed off. But, hey, like B.B. King said, “You can play just one note if it’s the right one.” We say bravo, Ms. Stewart.
3. Best Supporting Actor In A Role About The Fact All Vets Are Doomed: Brad Hawkins, “Boyhood”
Brilliantly filmed over a 12-year period, director Richard Linklater’s gem focuses on the life of a sometimes single mom and her two kids. The mom’s third love interest is a returning vet who’s just back from Iraq. He seems like a nice, well-adjusted guy, but after a while he’s holding down a job as a prison guard and sitting on the front porch guzzling beer and yelling at the son about being a good-for-nothing, which is to say they got it exactly right because that’s what always happens to returning vets.
4. Best Portrayal Of The Perils Of Having Sex In Combat: “Fury”
Brad Pitt’s Sherman tank crew stumble across the home of a war-weary German family with a hot daughter, and they enjoy a bit of normalcy. One of the crew hooks up with the daughter, and once they’re done the crew leaves and minutes later the family’s house gets blown to smithereens by an air strike.
5. Best WTFO? Moment: “300 – Rise of Empires”
In the middle of a kick ass war-at-sea between ancient sailing ships, General Themistocles suddenly produces a horse that he rides all over the deck while slashing and stabbing his foe. But it really gets good when the horse – without any hesitation – gallops through flaming wreckage, leaps into the water, and then jumps onto an enemy ship where Themistocles continues his savaging of the enemy – truly the year’s best WTFO? military movie moment.
6. Most Dramatic Flame-out Of A Military Movie Franchise: “Jarhead 2”
Three words: Straight. To. DVD.
7. Best Actress In A Role About The Joys Of Being A Military Mom: Michelle Monaghan “Ft. Bliss”
Michelle Monaghan plays a single mom soldier who returns home after 15 months in Iraq only to find that her 6-year-old son has forgotten who she is. (What, did the rest of family hide all the pictures of her? And no Skype?) About the point her son starts to warm to her she’s sent back to Iraq because that’s how the Army rolls. If the military wanted you to have a kid they would have issued you one.
8. Most Groundbreaking Guerrilla Warfare Sequence: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
One of the conniving chimps uses cute chimp moves to mollify two humans just long enough to get one of their automatic weapons and blow them away with it.
9. Best Actor In A Role About The Tortured Souls Of Those In The Intelligence Community: Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the intel genius who knows a thing or two about code breaking. Cumberbatch’s Turing is at odds with his sexual orientation and anti-social and basically pained by everything in his life – in other words, he’s a lot like most of those in the intel community.
Ray Allen, a 10-time NBA All-Star, recently participated in a USO holiday tour with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. On this tour, the athlete, along with other celebrities, visited service members in Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Germany.
Now back in the states, Allen has spoken about much the trip meant to him, both as the son of an Air Force metals technologist and as a retired athlete.
NBA Legend Ray Allen meets with service members during a troop engagement at Incirlik Air Base, Dec. 5, 2016. (Photo: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
One of the topics Allen touched on during an interview with Sports Illustrated was the way military terms pop up in sports discussions, even though they don’t really fit:
In the NBA, often times we’ll be in the locker room and we’ll talk about “going to war” and “going into battle” and “being in the foxhole,” all these terminologies that we equate with being at war. I have such a greater appreciation for the conflicts going on around the world, now I try to not use those terms out of respect.
NBA legend Ray Allen, left, fires an M240 machine gun at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area during this year’s USO Holiday Tour, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
Allen also told SI about how a comment from Dunford helped him appreciate the military’s expeditionary mindset, and how service members are constantly working to make sure that conflicts rarely come to American shores:
One of the things that General Dunford said that resonated with me was, “We’re over here at war, my job is to make sure that we have all away games.” So when I got back on U.S. soil, I thought about how privileged we are.
While speaking to USA Today, the NBA player took a moment to discuss how different life is in a combat zone, but that being there with professional warfighters made him feel safe:
“I (felt) more protected than I’ve ever felt in my life, being on that tour. I had some bad guys with me. Guys who knew how to handle weapons, that had been in combat. I’m looking to my left and right, and I’m like ‘I’m safe, I feel good about where I am, because these guys know what they’re doing.’ And that’s what I want to tell everybody, any athlete, from the NBA to baseball to football…join up with the USO and take a tour. It’ll give you a greater perspective on war, it’ll give you a greater perspective on the people that are fighting the war.”
In the mid-1930s, baseball players Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Moe Berg (with a few others) formed an all-star group of baseball players who went on a goodwill tour of Japan to play some exhibition games. Ruth and Gehrig were already legends. Berg was a scholar with a degree from Princeton and a law degree from Columbia. He also spoke seven languages. But he wasn’t a baseball legend. He was a third-string catcher when he departed for Japan, and that visit might have changed the world forever.
World travel was in Berg’s blood. After his first season with the team that would become the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent time in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. He toured Italy and Switzerland during the next year’s offseason, instead of working on his game. He was transferred to the Midwest. He improved slightly and moved up to the White Sox, where he moved from shortstop to catcher. It was as a catcher that he traveled to Japan to teach seminars on baseball.
Ruth and Gehrig came with Berg on his second trip to Japan. He spoke Japanese and addressed the Japanese legislature with a welcome speech. While the all-stars were playing an exhibition in Omiya, Japan, Berg went to Saint Luke’s Hospital in Tsukiji, to visit the daughter of American ambassador Joseph Grew. Except he never saw Grew’s daughter. Berg’s language ability allowed him to talk his way onto the roof of the hospital. Once there, he used the 16mm film camera given to him by MovietoneNews to record his trip, to instead record the city and its harbor.
Berg’s footage was used by American intelligence agents to plan bombing runs over Tokyo during the coming Second World War, including the Doolittle Raid. Berg started the war monitoring the health and fitness of U.S. troops stationed in the Caribbean and South America for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. In 1943, he was recruited by “Wild” Bill Donovan into the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the American CIA.
Berg was dropped into Yugoslavia to assess the strength of Chetniks loyal to King Peter and the Communist partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. His assessment of Tito’s superiority led to the U.S. support for Tito. Berg also was assigned to assassinate German nuclear scientist Werner Heisenberg if the Germans were working on the atomic bomb. Berg determined the Germans would not be able to develop the bomb before war’s end and let Heisenberg live.
Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1945 but turned it down. His war service changed Berg forever. Often described as “strange,” he appeared to his friends to be more comfortable alone with books than around people. Moe Berg never told anyone what he did as a spy. When asked, he would just put his finger to his lips, as if that part of his life were a secret. He tried spying on the burgeoning Russian nuclear program for the CIA but returned little information and his contract was not renewed. He lived with relatives for the rest of his quiet life. After his death in 1972, his sister accepted the Medal of Freedom on his behalf.
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.
The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.
In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.
1. The Brits arrive on the continent
The seeds of Dunkirk were laid on Sep. 3, 1939, when the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France following Germany’s invasion of Poland and amidst the obvious German military buildup of the late 1930s. Eight first and second-line infantry divisions as well as a number of support troops had arrived by May 1940, spending most of their time training and preparing defenses.
The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.
2. The Germans invade
On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.
3. Allied countries collapse
The German blitzkrieg advanced faster and harder than most Allied leaders could believe, and countries quickly collapsed. One of the world’s greatest forts was captured in Belgium in only hours. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and others surrendered within weeks.
4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches
As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.
5. The Panzers stop
The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.
The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.
6. The evacuation begins
On May 26, Operation Dynamo was launched with the goal of evacuating 45,000 troops within 48 hours before the beaches fell. British defenders helping to hold Calais sent their own evacuation ships to Dover to help evacuate those troops at Dunkirk. Calais fell that evening; all British and French forces there were killed or captured.
7. The evacuation runs for 10 days
The pace of the evacuation started slow on May 26 with 8,000 men removed, but increased in efficiency quickly result in more men getting off.
Within the first few days, Royal Navy officers working the “Mole,” a pier-like breakwater that protected the harbor from ocean currents, turned it into an improvised dock that evacuated 1,000 troops an hour at its peak. Additional men embarked from improvised piers and the beaches themselves.
One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.
The crews of the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” grew on May 29 when the BBC broadcasted an appeal “for men with experience of motorboats and coastal navigation.”
The fleets of navy and civilian vessels crossed back and forth across the English Channel, rescuing about 338,000 troops, mostly British and French, by June 4 when Operation Dynamo ended.
Learn more about the events of May and June 1940 in the video below:
YouTube, World of Tanks North America