Some of these ratings can last for decades, even centuries – like Boatswain’s Mate (BM) – while others go away or merge into others. The following ratings are examples of jobs that have been dissolved to create new ones or added to the responsibilities of already existing ones:
1. Journalist (JO)
JOs are like traditional journalists, they gather news about people, places and activities in the Navy, and report it to the military and civilian communities via radio, television, and newspapers.
2. Photographer’s Mate (PH)
(Photo: U.S Navy)
PHs are the Navy’s professional photographers. They’re work includes field photography, portraits, aerial photography, reconnaissance photography, photo editing, filming and other visual audio work.
3. Illustrator/Draftsman (DM)
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
DMs are the Navy’s version of a graphic designer, they create original art, technical illustrations, graphics for briefings, visual aids and publications for the Navy.
4. Lithographer (LI)
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
LIs are the Navy’s version of a Print Designer, they run print shops and produce printed material used by the Navy, such as magazines, newspapers, forms and training materials.
Mass Communication Specialist (MC)
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
In 2006, the Navy merged the ratings of Journalist, Photographer’s Mate, Illustrator/Draftsman, and Lithographer to form Mass Communication Specialist. Since the merger, MCs are required to perform all the duties associated with the former rates.
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
This is the name designation for sailors who specialized in visual communications, such as flag semaphore, visual morse code, and flag hoist signaling.
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
In 2004, the navy merged Signalman into the Quartermaster rating. QMs specialize in ship navigation and visual communications.
6. Storekeeper (SK)
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
SKs are in charge of purchasing, procurement, shipping, receiving, issuing equipment, tools and anything else obtained through the supply system.
7. Postal Clerk (PC)
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
PCs manage the Navy’s mail system, which is similar to the civilian postal service. The difference, however, is operating from ships and remote locations.
Logistics Specialist (LS)
In 2009, the Navy merged the ratings of Postal Clerk and Storekeeper to form Logistics Specialist. They use financial and database systems to manage all logistical functions and are required to perform all the duties associated with the former rates.
Most vets will have you believe that he or she joined because it’s their patriotic duty. While that may be part of the reason, Blake Stilwell’s alcohol-fueled honest answer sums it up for a lot of the troops:
“At 18, and with my only experience being a sea food cook, I don’t know where I was going to go,” Stilwell said. “It was either the Air Force or ‘Deadliest Catch,'” he claimed, referring to the popular Discovery show about king crab fishing off the coast of Alaska.
Luckily, there are tons of benefits that service members receive. From cash bonuses to the G.I. Bill, the military takes care of its own. And then there are the little-known advantages of service life — the perks.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss their favorite perks of service life.
For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.
During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.
It didn’t work.
Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.
“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.
In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.
Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.
A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.
Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.
Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.
“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.
The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.
Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.
In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.
None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.
With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.
The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.
Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.
“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”
After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.
The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.
“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”
Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.
In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.
With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.
The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”
In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.
The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.
Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.
For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.
According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.
But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!
The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.
Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.
Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.
Since 9/11, almost 58,000 American troops have either been killed or wounded in the war on terrorism. And according to the Pentagon, each of those casualties qualifies for the Purple Heart medal — whether awarded in person or posthumously.
But it turns out that most of those pinned with the distinctive badge would wear an actual medal that’s been in DoD stocks for over 70 years.
How is this possible? Believe it or not, according to a Dec. 2003 report by HistoryNewsNetwork.com, the military had over 120,000 Purple Heart medals in stock at the time, even after suffering almost 81,000 killed in action and nearly 257,000 wounded in action between the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
How did the Department of Defense end up with so many spare Purple Hearts on hand? The answer goes back to 1945.
We may remember it as the year the war ended, but back then, the question was how it would end.
The United States was planning for the invasion of Japan, codenamed Operation Downfall. The fight was expected to be very nasty. A 1998 article in Air Chronicles cited one estimate of 394,859 casualties. The Department of Defense ordered nearly half a million Purple Heart medals to award to casualties.
According to a 2015 post at HotAir.com, Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu involving 14 divisions of troops, was slated to take place on Nov. 1, 1945. Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu with 25 divisions, would have begun four months later.
Thanks to a pair of airplanes named Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, the invasion of Japan never took place. Many of the implements used to win World War II were either scrapped, sold off, or disposed of. But the medals were kept. The book “Blood Trails” by Christopher Ronnau described how Vietnam vets received Purple Hearts originally meant for use two decades earlier.
HistoryNewsNetwork.com reported that in 2000, the government finally ordered the production of more Purple Heart medals, but only to re-stock what was then known as the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Arianna Gunn is relentless. Yes, that’s a rating in the Coast Guard. And it’s no joke to the men and women who work that job. The Coast Guard, like any force in history, runs on its stomach.
Gunn’s drive to serve fresh, delicious, inventive, bar-raising gourmet meals to the crew members of her Coast Guard Cutter, Cochito, powers that vessel as surely as the twin diesels in its engine room. As it conducts long patrols of U.S. coastal waters, searching, rescuing and advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, Gunn’s role in maintaining operational morale cannot be overstated.
Like Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl learned when he joined the Cochito on patrol, as far as ship’s cooks go, FS2 Gunn is in a class of her own.
She’s not a recipe follower so much as a recipe pioneer. She gathers her ingredients at local markets and farm stands. She joyfully invents dishes working in a galley the size of a closet. She defines the rhythm of the Cochito’s days at sea by the anticipation and delivery of each of her remarkable meals.
“There are times during this job, during a search and rescue case off shore, we don’t sleep, it’s too rough to eat, it’s almost unbearable. And coming back into calmer waters, looking forward to that amazing home cooked meal, that just brings everybody together,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Coast Guard Cutter Cochito.
We could wax on about the culinary virtuosity of FS2 Gunn, but instead, we’ll hit you with some optics as an appetizer.
Uncle Jesse would say “Have mercy.” (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
The U.S. Navy is pursuing a massive, fleet-wide upgrade of a shipboard defensive weapon designed to intercept and destroy approaching or nearby threats such as enemy small boats, cruise missiles and even low-flying drones and aircraft, service officials said.
The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.
The weapon is designed to counter incoming enemy attacks from missiles, small arms fire, drones, enemy aircraft and small boats, among other things. It functions as part of an integrated, layered defense system in order to intercept closest-in threats, service officials explained.
“Phalanx provides a ‘last ditch’ gun-based, close-in defense to the Navy’s concept of layered defense,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng told Scout Warrior.
The weapon is currently on Navy cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels. The upgrades are designed to substantially increase capability and ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment, Navy officials said.
The overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.
The Block 1B configuration provides defense against asymmetric threats such as small, fast surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles through the addition of an integrated Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor.
The Navy is now upgrading all fleet Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 0 and 1 Close-In Weapon Systems to the latest Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 configuration, Eng said. The plan is to have an all CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 fleet by fiscal year 2019, he added.
The Navy has also embarked on a series of planned reliability improvements (known as Reliability-Maintainability-Availability Kits) in order to keep the CIWS fleet population viable and affordable for the next several decades, Eng said.
An upgrade and conversion of an older CIWS Phalanx configuration to Phalanx Block IB averages around $4.5 million per unit and a Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade kit averages $931,000 per unit, Navy officials said.
The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC), service officials added.
Navy officials said Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer, officials added.
Army Staff Sgt. Richard R. Arsenault was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for valorous actions taken only two weeks apart in Vietnam.
The action that netted him the Distinguished Service Cross ended in his tragic death.
Arsenault was assigned to Advisory Team 43 supporting Republic of Vietnam forces opposing the North Vietnamese Army. On May 12, 1972, he accompanied a Vietnamese Regional Force unit in a combat operation in the Hua Nghia Province. Arsenault not only went on the mission, but he volunteered to act as the radio operator.
The radio operator is a high-value target for an enemy force. The antennas clearly point out who is carrying the system, and taking down a radio and its operator cuts the force off from certain battlefield tools like artillery and close air support.
Despite the risks, Arsenault carried the system into battle and maneuvered near the front under heavy concentrations of mortar, machine gun, small arms, and rocket fire, according to his Silver Star citation. Arsenault moved up with the senior American advisor to Vietnamese forces in the district and used his M16 to suppress enemy fire.
As the fight ground on, it become a closer and tighter affair until the two forces were within 40 yards of one another, throwing grenades and using pistols to try to gain the upper hand. When eight NVA soldiers tried to flank Arsenault’s element at close range, he took them out with hand grenades and his rifle.
The friendly Vietnamese forces were victorious, and Arsenault continued to work with them as a military advisor.
Just a little later, Schwabe and Arsenault’s column was struck by a company-sized enemy ambush. Arsenault spotted the rocket being fired and tackled Schwabe to the ground while alerting others to the threat just before the rocket hit.
The friendly forces were able to dart to limited cover in a nearby graveyard, saving the lives of the 12th Group command element and allowing them to devise a response to the ambush.
Unfortunately, while Arsenault had saved Schwabe’s life, Arsenault was killed by the first rocket and Schwabe was wounded and knocked unconscious.
Last year Wing Nut Wick published a compilation of the best Naval aviation footage captured from the cockpits of Navy jets called Hornet Ball 2014. This year a similar video compilation surfaced from Navy West Coast squadrons published by Joe Stephens.
In similar fashion, some of the most incredible Hornet footage was captured in HD and paired with some of the sickest EDM beats (Electronic Dance Music). The latest version features precision video editing and could stand on its own as a music video. Too bad MTV no longer plays that sort of stuff; it would surely give any artist in the top 20 list a run for their money.
It opens with a breathtaking flyover of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) that perfectly displays the might of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. There’s nothing like a floating fortress of freedom that projects power over any horizon.
It follows the Aviation Ordnancemen (AOs) — the sailors in red jerseys — loading the Hornets with bombs.
The plane captain — sailors in brown jerseys — gives the pilot a greeting salute before the officer proceeds to his final plane check before climbing into the cockpit. It is the plane captain’s responsibility to have the jet ready to fly. These men and women are usually some of the youngest in a squadron.
After all of the preflight inspections, the Hornet is handed off to the ship’s aircraft handlers in yellow jerseys for launch positioning.
Final flight systems check.
Full afterburners and FIRE!
The footage is awesome! Here’s a screen grab from the cockpit.
Refueling in mid air.
Refueling up close.
Super slo-mo firing.
You’ll never see a sunset quite like this.
Approaching the flight deck.
A breakaway into the sunset.
A missile launch from a destroyer.
A daring landing in thick fog.
An incredible flyby viewed from the air.
A view of Mount Fuji.
From the flight deck to the insane aerial acrobatics from our finest men and women, this video truly captures the Navy fighter experience. The video is 13 minutes long but it’s worth watching.
The US-led annual multinational military exercise Cobra Gold kicked off in Thailand on Monday, despite a faltering relationship between the two countries following Thailand’s military coup in May 2014.
Cobra Gold 2015 is scaled down due compared to past years because of the frosty relations between Thailand’s ruling military junta and the US. But it’s still a massive military exercise even in a reduced form. This year 13,000 personnel from 7 participating nations have joined in the exercises, the AP reports.
The participant countries are Thailand, the United States, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, while India and China are taking part in humanitarian training missions. Even though the exercise is smaller than in the past, the scope of Cobra Gold has grown since the first one was held in 1982 and involved only the US and Thailand.
Exercises in Cobra Gold 2015 include jungle survival training and civic assistance programs in underdeveloped regions of Thailand.
Survival training is a big part of Cobra Gold. Thai Marines demonstrate how to capture a cobra in the wild.
US Marines then help decapitate the cobra and take turns drinking its blood. Cobra blood is surprisingly hydrating and can be used as a temporary replacement for water if a Marine is lost without supplies.
Thai Marines also teach their counterparts how to recognize edible jungle fruits.
Like cobra blood, several of the fruits can serve as an improvised source of hydration.
Marines are also instructed in the proper way to eat scorpions and spiders. Spiders are eaten after their fangs are ripped off, while scorpions are edible once the stinger is removed.
Aside from survival lessons, participant countries also take part in construction projects to build greater regional cooperation in the event of disasters like typhoons or plane crashes. Here, Chinese and US soldiers work together to build a school as part of Cobra Gold 2015.
It goes without saying that the US Army is continuously testing and adding new weapons to its arsenal.
For example, the Army recently began to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with the M17 and M18, but has only delivered them to soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Therefore, the pistols are not yet standard issue.
While the Army continues to stay ahead of the game, it undoubtedly has a multitude of weapons for its soldiers.
And we compiled a list of all these standard issue weapons operable by individual soldiers below, meaning that we didn’t include, for example, the Javelin anti-tank missile system because it takes more than one person to operate, nor did we include nonstandard issue weapons.
Check them out:
The M1911 is a .45 caliber sidearm that the Army has used since World War I, and has even begun phasing out.
The Army started replacing the M1911 with the 9mm M9 in the mid-1980s.
The M11 is another 9mm pistol that replaced the M1911, and is itself being replaced by the M17 and M18 pistols.
The M500 is a 12-gauge shotgun that usually comes with a five-round capacity tube. The Army began issuing shotguns to soldiers during World War I to help clear trenches, and has been issuing the M500 since the 1980s.
The 12-gauge M590 is very similar to the M500 — both of which are made by Mossberg — except for little specifications, such as triggers, barrel length, and so forth.
M26 modular shotgun accessory
The M26 is “basically a secondary weapon slung underneath an M4 to allow the operator to switch between 5.56 and 12-gauge rounds quickly without taking his eyes off the target or his hands off of his rifle,” according to the US Army.
M14 enhanced battle rifle
The M14, which shoots a 7.62mm round, has been heavily criticized, and the Army is currently phasing it out.
The M4 shoots 5.56mm rounds and is a shortened version of the M16A2.
Almost 30 years after being convicted for espionage, Jonathan Jay Pollard will be eligible for parole in November 2015 — and the U.S. may release him. In 1987, Pollard became the first American ever convicted for passing intelligence to a U.S. ally. In espionage acts the U.S. says were unnecessary, Pollard was personally adamant Israel was not getting the full intelligence picture due to a U.S. ally and so took it on himself — as a civilian member of U.S. Navy intelligence — to provide that information.
Pollard didn’t go to trial because he pled out to get leniency for himself and his wife. He was handed a life sentence, with eligibility for parole after 30 years.
He has become a cause célèbre in some Jewish and Israeli circles. Yet both sides of the American political aisles argue against his release: the conservative publication National Review and the liberal Slate both published pieces against it, and many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.
Pollard’s disclosures to Israel have never been fully revealed to the public. A 46-page memo viewable by Pollard and his defense attorneys was provided to the court at his sentence hearing by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who said Pollard gave information that caused grave damage to the national security of the United States.
This included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next. It was this specific disclosure which led the sentencing judge to send Pollard away for life.
The full disclosure of secrets Pollard passed to Israel are so damaging the memo detailing the gravest of them is itself Top Secret; he essentially revealed the “sources and methods” of all American intelligence gathering. Secretary Weinberger asserted Pollard had a photographic memory and the ability to go on disclosing secrets into the foreseeable future (a summary is available here).
“It is difficult for me, even in the so-called ‘year of the spy,'” wrote Weinberger, “to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel. That information was intentionally reserved by the United States for its own use, because to disclose it, to anyone or any nation, would cause the greatest harm to our national security.”
In his defense trial, Pollard claimed he was motivated by altruism for Israel’s security and not greed, but was still paid $11,000 (almost $24,000 adjusted for inflation) and a diamond and sapphire ring he used to propose to his girlfriend. He would eventually receive $2,500 (more than $5,700 in 2015) each month for his work for Israel, as well as cash for hotels, meals, and other luxuries. Pollard admitted to taking the money. The government alleged he was a habitual drug user who burned through cash as fast as he could get it. In the above video, Marion Bowman called him a very “venal person.”
The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. When the Israelis were asked to return the material, they returned only low-level classified documents, but the U.S. was aware of more than 10,000 documents Pollard passed, at times by loads in suitcases, copied by Israeli agents with two high-speed copiers in a DC apartment. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator handling the Pollard case, later detailed more than a million documents.
“By his own admission, he gave enough information to fill a space six feet by six feet by ten feet.”
A Texas native, Pollard attended Stanford University and graduated in 1976. After a few failed attempts at graduate school, he also failed to get a job at the CIA, being unable to pass the polygraph test necessary for the CIA’s Top Secret clearance. He was able to get a job at the Naval Intelligence Support Center, Surface Ships Division. While there, his boss tried to fire him, but he was instead reassigned to a Naval Intelligence Task Force.
Along the way he had a meeting with Adm. Sumner Shapiro, the Commander of Naval Intelligence Command, which led to the admiral ordering his security clearances revoked. Shapiro, who insists Pollard was too low ranking to know what the U.S. was sharing with Israel, described Pollard as a “kook,” saying “I wish the hell I’d fired him.” His clearance somehow wasn’t revoked but was downgraded, only to be returned after Pollard filed a lawsuit to get it back.
In college, Pollard made a lot of outrageous claims; he was an agent of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service (who have an active policy of not spying on the U.S.), he claimed to have killed an Arab while guarding a kibbutz in Israel, and that he was a Colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces. None of this was true, but in June 1984, while working at Task Force 168, he met an actual Colonel in the Israeli Air Force, Aviem Sella. Pollard volunteered to spy for Israel, telling Sella his belief there were secrets the U.S. was not sharing with Israel that were vital to Israeli interests.
In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.
He was caught when a coworker noticed he was removing classified material from the work center, but didn’t seem to be taking it anywhere relevant. He was put under surveillance and the FBI caught him moving classified documents. He told the FBI he was taking them to another agency for a consultation, but that turned out to be false. During the voluntary interview, Pollard asked to call his wife, using a code word (“cactus”) which meant the game was up and that she should destroy all the classified material in their home.
Pollard agreed to a search of his house, which turned up documents his wife missed. Since there was no proof of passing the documents on, the case was given to his supervisors. When they asked him to submit to a polygraph, he admitted to passing the documents on but didn’t mention Israel. Meanwhile, Pollard’s neighbor — himself a naval officer — began to cooperate with the FBI, handing over a 70-pound suitcase full of classified material Mrs. Pollard gave him for safekeeping. Pollard and his wife were again put under surveillance by the FBI.
This time, Pollard and his wife tried to seek asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. but were turned away. They tried invoking the Israeli Law of Return, but were still rebuffed. As soon as he left the embassy, he was taken down by FBI agents. His wife evaded capture for a few more days, alerting Sella and allowing all the Israelis involved to escape via New York.
When U.S. investigators traveled to Israel, the Israelis were uncooperative, forcing every question and answer to go through Hebrew-English translation (everyone spoke English), purposely creating a schedule designed to tire the investigators, denying them sleep, stealing items from their luggage and withholding Sella’s identity. Most of the documents taken by Israel were not returned.
Pollard pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. The terms of agreement included the caveat that neither Pollard nor his wife could speak publicly about his crimes or the kind of information that was passed on. Pollard and his wife immediately broke that plea in an interview with the Jerusalem Post and then 60 Minutes where he told them the kind of information he passed.
Among the information Pollard admits giving to Israel:
Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
Regular PLO operations plans
Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
Soviet fighter jet information
Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs
The Israelis first insisted Pollard was part of a rogue operation but later admitted their complicity in 1998. Pollard’s supporters argue his intelligence leaks weren’t pertaining to the United States but they fail to mention the problems surrounding Israeli use of the information, such as the possible outing of CIA sources abroad. The same supporters also argue against the severity of his life sentence, saying prosecutors didn’t seek it, but the judge gave it to him anyway after receiving the full details of the damage Pollard caused via the Weinberger memo, and that may other spies were given far more lenient treatment.
Pollard’s detractors counter this with the accusation that Israel may have turned over the same information to the Soviet Union in order to get the Soviets to allow more Jewish emigres to leave the Soviet Union for Israel — including the ways the U.S. Navy tracked Soviet submarines worldwide. Israel is also believed to have traded Pollard’s intelligence to other nations.
He gave Israel information about VQ-2 electronic surveillance plans, which allowed the U.S. to monitor the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982-83 evacuation of Beirut, and American bombing of Libya in April 1986. This revealed American “time and place acquisition methods,” allowing Israel to track America’s own intelligence capability in the Mediterranean and even over Israel itself.
In a 1998 Washington Post Op-Ed, three former Navy Intelligence Chiefs argue that Pollard has a nest egg hidden away in foreign banks, and that with the “sheer volume of sensitive information betrayed, Pollard rivals any of the traitors who have plagued this nation in recent times.” They added that the movement to release Pollard is a “clever public relations campaign.”
“Goodfellas” would have been a totally different movie if Ray Liotta’s character had taken time out to join the Army and get himself straight.
But the real-life mobster Henry Hill — which Liotta played in the film — actually did just that.
Despite what Scorsese’s 1990 movie would have you believe, Hill joined the Army in 1960 at age 17, when he was sent to Fort Bragg and became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.
According to Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy,” (which was later adapted to the movie “Goodfellas”), Hill joined the Army to avoid scrutiny after a Senate investigation was launched to look into union ties to organized crime. In all, about 5,000 names were released by the report — including members of the Lucchese crime family that Hill worked for.
So Hill enlisted to go dark and take a step back from the crime family he served.
Sort of gives a whole new meaning to the term “E-4 Mafia,” right?
The young mobster spent three years as an enlisted soldier. He maintained his criminal contacts and hustled in the military the same way he hustled on the streets of New York. He sold tax-free cigarettes, loan sharked his fellow troops, and sold the extra food he picked up while on KP, according to Pileggi.
Hill spent two months in jail for stealing a sheriff’s car and getting into a bar fight with some Marines. But by the time he was released from the stockade, his enlistment was up. So he returned to what he called “the life,” and ended up getting so far in, he could never get out.
Not without ratting on his friends, that is.
In the video above, Hill talks about his time in the Army (fast-forward to 6:55). He spent time at Forts Dix, Benning, Bragg, and Lee. He called his time in the Army “the most fun I ever had.”
From there, he went on to restart his wiseguy career. He specialized in arson, but was also known for intimidation, stealing cars and holding up cargo trucks as they left JFK airport in New York.
After getting busted for narcotics trafficking (which was forbidden by the Lucchese family – it carried a death sentence), Hill eventually turned on the family and became a material witness for the government. He is famous for sharing his story with Associated Press reporter Pileggi.
Director Martin Scorsese made Pileggi’s book into the legendary movie “Goodfellas,” starring Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci.