American television personality Montel Williams wants the Democratic presidential candidates to talk about a Marine veteran imprisoned in Iran, and he’s using his star power to make it happen.
In addition to questions asked by the moderators at Tuesday’s debate, CNN is soliciting questions from anyone via Facebook and Instagram, some of which will end up being asked by Don Lemon. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Williams — who served in the Marine Corps and Navy — asks about Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran held in Iran for more than four years, the longest of any American held there.
“What will the candidates do to bring him home so that his father’s dying wish to see his son just one more time comes true?” Williams asks.
Born in Arizona to Iranian immigrants in 1983, Amir Hekmati served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps — mostly as a translator — and he was discharged in 2005 as a sergeant. In 2011, he decided to visit his extended family in Tehran, but soon after he arrived, he was arrested and sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the CIA, according to Al Jazeera America.
Iran later released a videotaped confession of Hekmati, where he admitted to being recruited into companies affiliated with the CIA with the goal of infiltrating Iranian intelligence.
“Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN in 2012. “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”
Hekmati’s death sentence was later repealed in March 2012 and a new trial was ordered, though that has yet to take place. He continues to be held in prison in Tehran with little contact with the outside world, though he was able smuggle a letter out of jail, according to The Guardian. In it, in which he addressed Secretary of State John Kerry, he wrote:
For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.
Sometimes the hardest drinking sailors and soldiers are the ones supposed to be keeping everyone else in check. Here are four times when officers led the barroom charge:
1. The guy in charge of 450 nukes got too drunk for the Russians in Moscow.
It takes a lot too be considered too drunk in Moscow, but Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey took a trip there in Jul. 2013 and managed it. Among other incidents during the trip, he allegedly went to a Mexican restaurant to meet two suspicious foreign women, got extremely drunk, and tried to convince the restaurant band to let him play with them. Carey was later fired from his position.
2. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (may have) drunkenly rode through Army camps.
The famously-alcoholic Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was in a steamship on the Yazoo River in 1863 when he ran into journalist Sylvanus Cadwallader. Cadwallader later described working with Grant’s security detail and aides to unsuccessfully stop his drinking by confining the general to his wardroom.
At Stone River, this resulted in Cheatham’s two brigades being late to the attack, allowing Union Forces on the run to regroup and re-establish their lines. The recovered Union forces later managed a stunning artillery barrage that caused 2,000-3,000 casualties in four hours.
4. A Navy admiral was fired for drunkenly wandering a Florida hotel naked.
Rear Adm. David Baucom was one of the Navy’s top logistics officers until he was fired for wandering around a Florida hotel naked and drunk on Apr. 7, 2015 during a conference.
With more than 6,000 ships and 150,000 troops involved, along with nearly 12,000 aircraft, D-Day stands as the largest amphibious assault in history. The Allies pulled together every resource available to breach Hitler’s Fortress in Europe, but they had to do so without America’s experts in amphibious warfare. The U.S. Marine Corps was busy pushing back the Japanese in the Pacific, island by island. Here’s how Eisenhower and his generals did it.
Planning for D-Day pits allies against each other
The demands of D-Day caused fights for resources. The Americans and British fought over when to make Normandy the priority while the Army was pitted against the Navy for resources, according to historical essays from “Command Decisions.”
The stress between the American and British leadership centered on an American belief that the British wanted to spend more time consolidating gains in the Mediterranean rather than pivot to France and open the new front in the war. The Americans thought that British leadership wanted to spend more time in Southern Europe to gain political power there, while British planners thought the focus should remain in the area a little longer to force Germany to move more reinforcements away from Normandy.
For the Army and Navy, the fight was over how shipbuilding assets should be used. The Army wanted more landing craft while the Navy needed shipbuilders focused on repairing and rebuilding the deepwater fleet that had been diminished by Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare, and escort duties for convoys.
Both problems were settled at the Cairo-Tehran conferences in 1943. British leaders assured the U.S. that they were committed to crossing the English Channel in 1944. The issue of new landing craft was settled due to two factors. First, the Navy had reduced need for new ships as German submarines were sinking fewer craft. Second, Churchill decried the shortage of landing craft, pledging his country would focus on constructing ships for the landing if the Americans would increase their effort as well.
Heavy German defenses force the Allies to do the unexpected
The obvious points for an Allied force to invade Normandy in the 1940s were the large port at Pas-de-Calais or the smaller ports at La Havre and Cherbourg. German defense planners reinforced these zones to the point that invaders would either fail to reach the beaches or be immediately pushed back upon landing. Instead, the Allies created a plan to land at a beach instead of a port.
The final plan was to land between Le Havre in the east and Cherbourg in the west. The invading forces would spread from there while airborne troops would jump ahead onto key objectives, securing bridges, destroying artillery, and wreaking havoc on the enemy communications. The plan faced numerous challenges, though two stood out.
This would leave the Allies with relatively lightly-defended beaches, but a huge logistics problem once they had landed. Large ships would have no deepwater piers to pull up to and no cranes to remove supplies from cargo holds.
The Allies would ultimately get around this through the construction of “Mulberry Harbors,” prefabricated, floating piers protected by sunken World War I ships and caissons. The first piers were operational by June 14 and allowed vehicles and supplies up to 40 tons to drive from deepwater ships to the shore.
Weather delays D-Day but also saves it
The movement of supplies and soldiers to Britain had taken place over two years, culminating in a massive troop buildup in 1944. But the day of the invasion had to be set for small, three-day windows centered on proper tides and moonlight. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, set the invasion date for June 5, 1944 and trusted British Capt. James Stagg to make the weather decision for proposed invasion dates.
Stagg and the British meteorologists found themselves in disagreement with the Americans as to the weather for June 5. Stagg recommended delaying the invasion due to storms the British predicted, while the Americans thought a high pressure wedge would stave off the storms and provide blue skies. Luckily, Eisenhower only heard directly from Stagg and accepted his recommendation. D-Day was pushed to June 6.
The Germans, meanwhile, also predicted the storms but thought they would last for at least a week or more. With this weather forecast, the German high command went ahead with war games and pulled its troops away from the coastal defenses so they could practice defending the coasts. The head of German land defenses, Gen. Erwin Rommel, left to give his wife a pair of birthday shoes. The beaches would be more lightly defended and lack key leadership when the Allies arrived.
June 6, 1944: D-Day
Though the weather wouldn’t clear for hours, Stagg recommended to Eisenhower that he go ahead with the June 6 invasion. Just after midnight, the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.
Prior to the beach landings, 23,000 American, British, and Canadian paratroopers dropped through heavy cloud cover to begin securing what would become the flanks of the main force at the beaches. They also struck at key logistics and communications hubs, allowing for the eventual push from the beach while also weakening the Germans’ ability to organize their counter attacks. Allied bombers struck targets on the beaches, preparing the objectives for the main force.
The landings on the Normandy coast began at 6:30 a.m. with the 8th Regimental combat team under Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt at Utah Beach. Soldiers at Utah experienced a successful, relatively light invasion. Over the next few hours, Allied troops were landing at Gold, Juno, Sword, and Omaha Beaches.
“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell,” said Pvt. Charles Neighbor, a veteran of Omaha Beach. By nightfall, the other four beaches were held with forces pushing between two and four miles inland. At Omaha, Allied soldiers continued to fight against pockets of resistance.
D-Day cost the lives of 4,413 Allied soldiers and between 4,000 and 9,000 Germans. The remaining pockets of resistance on Omaha Beach were conquered on June 7, and the Allies began the long push to Berlin. The War in Europe would rage for nearly another year before Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 20 he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week’s use of the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.
On Jan. 25 the Pentagon said U.S. strikes in Yemen killed five al-Qaida fighters.
Mattis, who assumed office hours after President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, hasn’t publicly discussed such numbers. He said April 20 his view was colored by lessons learned from the Vietnam war, when exaggerated body counts undermined U.S. credibility.
“You all know the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam war and it’s something that’s stayed with us all these years,” said Mattis, who was in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli government leaders on April 21.
He met April 20 with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The publicity created by the bombing in Afghanistan caught many Pentagon leaders by surprise, leading to questions about whether U.S. commanders fully considered the strategic effects of some seemingly isolated decisions.
The Pentagon also has been criticized for its declaration that an aircraft carrier battle group was being diverted from Southeast Asia to waters off the Korean Peninsula, amid concern that North Korea might conduct a missile or nuclear test. The announcement led to misinformed speculation that the ships were in position to threaten strikes on North Korea.
Mattis said he is confident his commanders are properly weighing their actions.
On Sept. 6, a US commander apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.
The leaflets dropped Sept. 4, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.
Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”
Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.
Attorneys for Taya Kyle have asked a federal appeals court judge to toss a lower court’s $1.8 million defamation judgment awarded to Jesse Ventura, AP is reporting.
The former Minnesota governor emerged victorious in his lawsuit against “American Sniper” Chris Kyle in July 2014, in which he alleged Kyle lied in his book and in subsequent interviews that he had punched Ventura because he made disparaging remarks about troops in Iraq. The jury sided with Ventura in the matter.
Chris Kyle died before the verdict in Feb. 2013, and the $1.8 million judgment was passed on to his estate.
Though the jury sided with Ventura, Taya Kyle’s attorneys argue that Ventura’s side acted improperly by telling them the book’s insurance would be “on the hook” for the damages, and not the estate.
Taya Kyle’s attorney argued that line from Olsen’s closing argument is one of the reasons the appeals court should throw out the award and order a new trial. And on this issue in their questioning, the appeals court appeared to side with Kyle. Chief Judge William Jay Riley even said, “In my experience that was over the line, tell me why we shouldn’t grant a mistrial over that.”
Thirty media companies, including the Washington Post and the New York times, have filed a brief in support of Taya Kyle, arguing the $1.8 million award is excessive and that mistakes were made during jury instructions. In their arguments, Ventura’s attorney stressed that the jury believed Ventura’s witnesses and did not believe Kyle’s.
CBS Local reports there is no time limit for when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals could make its ruling, but they are usually made within a few months.
“It’s my name and my reputation that I’ve spent 40 years building,” Ventura, a former Navy SEAL, told the Star-Tribune. “If they order a new trial, we’ll go at it again.”
A member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 3, Chris Kyle is considered the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, with more than 160 confirmed kills. He wrote about his life, training, and multiple deployments as a Navy SEAL in his book “American Sniper,” which inspired a movie of the same name released in 2014.
Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.
The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.
“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”
On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.
“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”
Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.
Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.
“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”
The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.
If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.
There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.
Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.
Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”
Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.
“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”
Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.
While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.
According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.
Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
Netflix partnered up with huge modern directors to tell the story of five filmmakers who chose to put their careers on hold and serve in World War II.
Based on Mark Harris’ best-selling book, “Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War,”the new Netflix series “Five Came Back” is about five filmmakers (John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens) who served in the war, then returned to share what they learned with the world through their art.
With interviews by Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Lawrence Kasdan, and Paul Greengrass, and narrated by Meryl Streep, “Five Came Back” explores the role filmmakers have during tumultuous times.
“Americans did not realize the extent of the threat Hitler posed,” narrates Streep.
The “five” created films that brought the reality of the war to the American people, and, in doing so, “changed the world.”
It’s not like ISIS didn’t know the attack on Mosul was coming. After all, Mosul is one of the last major cities in Iraq that the group holds. So the radical Islamic fighters prepared for the battle that is now raging on the outskirts of Mosul by doing a few things, including destroying the runways at the vital Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq.
Qayyarah West sits within Iraq’s Ninawa Province to the south of Mosul and is an obvious logistics base for an attack on the city.
The C-130, one of the military’s most versatile cargo planes, needs at least 3,000 feet of safe runway to make an assault landing. Even then, the short runway lowers the available total weight with which aircraft can land or takeoff.
So the Air Force needed to take a base with no usable runways and get it ready to take in tons of cargo in a short period. A team of engineers from the Air Force flew to the base to attempt the task. They undid two years of ISIS destruction in only three weeks.
The Air Force deployed a small team to assess the damage, then sent the full team to begin repairs. Over the three-week period, the airmen judged which parts of the runway were unsafe for operations, cut out those sections of asphalt, and then fixed just those spots.
“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles told a military journalist. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”
Once the engineers found hard surface, they ensured everything was level and firm, then rebuilt the section of runway from the ground up. And the airmen completed their work just in time. The first C-130s arrived on Oct. 21, less than a week after the Iraqi Army began their offensive to retake Mosul.
The repaired runway provides a more robust logistical capability for the invasion, allowing more ammunition and other supplies to fly in. And Qayyarah West has served the coalition in other ways as well, such as housing the American Paladins providing artillery support to the Iraqi advance.
Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, served with British Naval Intelligence during World War II, and his service influenced the character and his stories.
Fleming was recruited into the Royal Navy in 1939 by Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Head of Naval Intelligence. Fleming entered as a lieutenant and quickly promoted to lieutenant commander. Although initially tasked as Admiral Godfrey’s assistant, Commander Fleming had greater ambitions. He is widely believed to be the author of the “Trout Memo” circulated by Godfrey that compared intelligence gathering to a fisherman casting for trout. In the memo, he independently came up the plan to use a corpse with false documents to deceive the Germans, originally conceived by another agent and later used in Operation Mincemeat.
Fleming was obsessed with collecting intelligence and came up with numerous ways to do so, some seemingly right out of spy novels. One such mission, Operation Ruthless, called for acquiring a German bomber, crashing it into the English Channel, and then having the crew attack and subdue the German ship that would come to rescue them. Mercifully, it was called off. Fleming was also the mastermind of an intelligence gathering unit known as (No. 30 Commando or 30 Assault Unit, 30 AU). Instead of traditional combat skills, members of 30 AU were trained in safe-cracking, lock-picking, and other spycraft and moved with advancing units to gain intelligence before it could be lost or destroyed.
Fleming was in charge of Operation Goldeneye and involved with the T-Force. These would also influence his work. Operation Goldeneye was a scheme to monitor Spain in the event of an alliance with Germany and to conduct sabotage operations should such an agreement take place. Fleming would later name his Jamaican home where he wrote the James Bond novels “Goldeneye.” It would also be the title of seventeenth James Bond movie. As for the T-Force, or Target Force, Fleming sat on the committee that selected targets, specifically German scientific and technological advancements before retreating troops destroyed them. The seizure by the T-Force of a German research center at Kiel which housed advanced rocket motors and jet engines was featured prominently in the James Bond novel “Moonraker.”
In the actual creation of the character James Bond, Fleming drew inspiration from himself and those around him. Fleming said the character of James Bond was an amalgamation of all the secret agent and commando types he met during the war. In particular, Bond was modeled after Fleming’s brother Peter, who conducted work behind enemy lines, Patrick Dalzel-Job, who served in the 30 Assault Unit Fleming created, and Bill “Biffy” Dunderdale, who was the Paris station chief for MI6 and was known for his fancy suits and affinity for expensive cars. Fleming used his habits for many of Bond’s. He was known to be a heavy drinker and smoker. Bond purchased the same specialty cigarettes Fleming smoked and even added three gold rings to the filter to denote his rank as a Commander in the Royal Navy, something Fleming also did.
Bond’s code number, 007, comes from a means of classifying highly secretive documents starting with the number 00. The number 007 comes from the British decryption of the Zimmerman Note, labeled 0075, that brought America into World War I. Bond received his name from a rather innocuous source, however, an ornithologist. Bond’s looks are not Fleming’s but rather were inspired by the actor/singer Hoagy Carmichael, with only a dash of Fleming’s for good measure.
Fleming did draw on those around him for other characters in the James Bond novels. Villains had a tendency to share a name with people Fleming disliked while other characters got their names from his friendly acquaintances. The character of M, James Bond’s boss, was based on Fleming’s boss Rear Admiral Godfrey. The inspiration for the single-letter moniker came from Maxwell Knight, the head of MI5, who was known to sign his memos with only his first initial, M. Also, the fictional antagonistic organization SMERSH, takes its name from a real Russian organization called SMERSH that was active from 1943-1946. In the fictional version, SMERSH was an acronym of Russian words meaning “Special Methods of Spy Detection” and was modeled after the KGB; the real SMERSH was a portmanteau in Russian meaning “Death to Spies” and was a counterintelligence organization on the Eastern Front during WWII.
Cover of a 1943 SMERSH Manual
Finally, the plots for many of the Bond novels came from real-world missions carried out by the Allies. “Moonraker” is based on the exploits of the 30 AU in Kiel, Germany, while “Thunderball” has loose connections to Fleming’s canceled operation Ruthless. Fleming also ties in his fictional world to the historical one after the war and during the Cold War.
Fleming’s novels became very popular during his life and have remained so long after his death in 1964. His work spawned one of the most successful movie franchises in history.
Just before midnight on Feb. 27, 1943, a team of 10 Norwegian commandos crouched in the snow on a mountain plateau and stared at a seemingly unassailable target. It was a power plant and factory being used by the Nazis to create heavy water, a key component for Germany’s plans of developing nuclear reactors and a nuclear bomb.
The Norsk Hydro plant was surrounded by a ravine 656 feet deep with only one heavily-guarded bridge crossing it. Just past the ravine were two fences and the whole area was expected to be mined. On the factory grounds, German soldiers lived in barracks and walked patrols at all hours.
As a bonus, the whole area was covered by a thick layer of snow and the men were facing two causes of exhaustion. Six of the men were worn out from five days of marching through snow storms after they were dropped 18 miles from their planned drop zone. The other four men were survivors of an earlier, failed mission against the plant. They had survived for months in the mountains on only lichen and a single reindeer.
Still, to keep the Germans from developing the atom bomb, they attacked the plant on Feb. 28. The radio operator stayed on the plateau while the other nine climbed down the ravine, crossed an icy river, and climbed the far side soaking wet.
Once at the fence, a covering party of four men kept watch as the five members of the demolition party breached the first and then second fence lines with bolt cutters. The men — wearing British Army uniforms and carrying Tommy guns and chloroform-soaked rags — arrived at the target building.
Unfortunately, a door that was supposed to be left open by an inside man was closed. The team would later learn that the man had been too sick to go to work that day. Plan B was finding a narrow cable shaft and shimmying through it with bags of explosives. The covering party provided security while the demolition team split into two pairs, each searching for the entrance.
Lt. Joachim Ronneberg and Sgt. Frederik Kayser were the first to find the shaft. When they couldn’t immediately find the other pair in the darkness, they proceeded down the shaft alone and pushed their explosives ahead of them.
A historical display showing the Norwegian saboteurs planting explosives on the water cylinders. The mannequin in the back represents the night watchman. (Photo: Wikipedia/Hallvard Straume)
They dropped into the basement of the factory and rushed the night watchman. Kayser covered the man with his gun and Ronneberg placed the explosives on the cylinders that held the heavy water produced in the plant.
Suddenly, a window shattered inward. Kayser swung his weapon to cover the opening but was pleased to find it was only the other demolition pair, Lt. Kasper Idland and Sgt. Birger Stromsheim. They had been unable to find the shaft and were unaware that the others were inside. To ensure the mission succeeded, they had risked the noise of the breaking window to get at the cylinders.
Idland pulled watch outside while Ronneberg and Stromsheim rushed to finish placing the explosives. Worried that German guards may have heard the noise, they cut the two-minute fuses down to thirty seconds.
Just before they lit the fuses, the saboteurs were interrupted by the night watchman. He asked for his glasses, saying that they would be very challenging to replace due to wartime rationing. The commandos searched the desk, found the spectacles, and handed them to the man. As Ronneberg again went to light the fuses, footsteps approached from the hall.
Luckily, it wasn’t a guard. Another Norwegian civilian walked in but then nearly fell out of the room when he saw the commandos in their British Army fatigues.
Kayser covered the two civilians with his weapon and Ronneberg finally lit the 30-second fuses. Kayser released the men after 10 seconds and the commandos rushed out behind them. Soon after they cleared the cellar door, the explosives detonated.
Jens Poulsson, a saboteur on the mission, later said, “It sounded like two or three cars crashing in Piccadilly Circus,” according to a PBS article.
The cylinders were successfully destroyed, emptying months worth of heavy water production onto the floors and down drains where it would be irrecoverable.
The teams tried to escape the factory but a German guard approached them while investigating the noise. He was moving slowly in the direction of a Norwegian’s hiding spot, his flashlight missing one of the escaping men by only a few inches. Luckily, a heavy wind covered the noise of the Norwegian’s breathing and dispersed the clouds of his breath. The guard turned back to his hut without catching sight of anyone.
The team left the plant and began a treacherous, 250-mile escape on skis into Sweden, slipping through Nazi search parties the entire way.
Germany did repair the facility within a few months and resumed heavy water production. After increased attacks from Allied bombers, the Germans attempted to move this new heavy water back to Germany but a team of Norwegian saboteurs successfully sunk the ferry it was transported in. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both the factory and the ferry sabotage missions.
The SF Hydro, a ferry that was destroyed by saboteurs when the Nazis attempted to move heavy water with it. Photo: Wikimedia Commons