That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942 - We Are The Mighty
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That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942


On the morning of June 13, 1942, a German submarine stole up to the coast of New York. Inside was Hitler’s hope of an America in flames. Four Nazi saboteurs with crates of explosives, costumes, and money, climbed out of the hatch and moved to shore in a rowboat with two German sailors.

Their objective was to cripple the power of America to make war, primarily by disabling industrial necessities like aluminum and hydroelectric power production but also by terrifying the American populace so they’d vote to get out of it.

As the men made their way in the rowboat to the New York coast, another team was in the Atlantic, bearing down on Florida. Operation Pastorius, the German invasion of the U.S. by sabotage, was in effect.

The Teams

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The New York Team. Photos: FBI

The New York and Florida teams were each composed of four men. All were German, all had spent time in America, and all were trained in a special school for sabotage.

The leader of the first team was George J. Dasch, a veteran of World War I who had fought for Germany but emigrated to America after the war. In 1939, he had returned to Germany and was recruited into the sabotage plot soon after America joined the war.

Dasch had three more men on his team. Ernest P. Burger was a long-time Nazi who had taken part in Hitler’s first grab for power at the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. He fled to America to escape brawling charges, living there for six years and becoming a citizen. Heinrich Heinck and Richard Quirin were machinists who had lived in America for 12 years each.

If it sounds like the team members were misfits, it’s because they were. Burger, the long-time Nazi and veteran of the Beer Hall Putsch, had even spent time in a concentration camp for writing a college paper critical of the Gestapo.

They had received only 18 days of special training, mostly Jiu Jitsu, weapons, and explosives instruction in the German woods with some field trips to power plants. Dasch, the team leader, was known to nap through much it.

The first team lands in New York and the mission immediately goes awry

The Florida team left from a submarine base at Lorient, France on May 26, 1942. Dasch and the New York team left on May 28, but since the New York route was shorter, they arrived at the American coast first on June 13.

The mission faced problems from the start. The submarine they were riding in accidentally ran aground 200 meters off the coast before launching the rowboat. So, as the saboteurs were approaching the shore, the German captain was struggling to get his boat out to sea before the rising sun exposed it to growing traffic on the coastal road.

On the boat, the saboteurs were dressed as German marines. When they arrived on the coast, they immediately changed into civilian cloths. While the rest of the team began burying their crates of explosives and money, Dasch and another man crossed over a nearby dune. After cresting the hill, they saw a flashlight approaching the group through thick fog.

Coast Guard Seaman 2nd Class John Cullen came upon the wet German on his normal foot patrol. Dasch claimed he was part of a fishing party that had run ashore. When Cullen offered them shelter and food at the nearby Coast Guard station, Dasch refused and claimed the men were worried because they had been fishing without a license.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
John C. Cullen. Photo: US Coast Guard Oral History Program

Cullen was already suspicious, but then Dasch asked if Cullen would like to ever see his mother and father again. As Cullen realized they were threatening to murder him, a third German came over the dune with a sea bag and yelled something to the first two in German.

Cullen realized then what he was dealing with: German spies or saboteurs. Dasch ordered the third man back behind the sea dune and turned back to Cullen. “We’ll give you some money, and you forget about this,” Dasch said according to Cullen’s account in a Coast Guard History interview. He took the money to prove his story and ran back to the Coast Guard station.

Using the money as proof, Cullen convinced the other men at the station and four of them returned to the beach to find it empty except for a pack of German cigarettes. As the men searched the beach, they smelled diesel exhaust. Suddenly, they felt a large vibration as the German submarine escaped the sand bar and headed out to sea.

They called another station to report the incident, and soon, the island was swarming with soldiers and artillery. Coast Guardsmen and a Naval intelligence officer dug up the buried explosives cache and turned it over to the FBI, who then took over the investigation.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
All of the saboteurs crates were recovered. Photo: FBI

As the island was being locked down, the FBI was beginning the largest manhunt in its history and George Dasch was putting his own plan into motion.

Dasch betrays the conspiracy

The FBI rushed to keep the story quiet while hunting down the men as fast as they could, but they didn’t have any real leads. Still, they needn’t have worried. Dasch had been ordered to kill anyone who saw them, and the reason he didn’t appears to be because he was already planning on betraying the mission.

Once they had stowed the gear on the beach, the Germans moved to a train station and split up. Dasch revealed his plan to Burger, the saboteur who had spent time in a German concentration camp. Dasch wanted to turn all the evidence over to the FBI, expecting to be accepted as heroes by the American government. Burger agreed to the new plan and Dasch called FBI headquarters.

Unfortunately, the agent on duty who fielded the call thought it was a prank and hung up on Dasch. Dasch slowly made his way to D.C. to reveal the plot.

When he arrived, he was punted from agent to agent who all thought he was pulling their leg until, in frustration, he dumped the entire bag mission money, $84,000 (worth $1 million today) onto the agent’s desk. Finally, he had their attention and was able to expose the whole plot.

Dasch handed over a handkerchief that showed where all of the mission’s American contacts lived, but he couldn’t remember how to make the invisible ink appear since he had slept through those classes. Agents in the FBI’s lab eventually figured the ink out, and agents staked out all the addresses listed. They quickly captured the rest of the New York team as well as all four members of the Florida team.

J. Edgar Hoover, when reporting the events to President Franklin Roosevelt, failed to mention that one of the German’s had turned evidence and claimed full credit for the FBI. Roosevelt ordered military tribunals and sought the death penalty against each spy, including Dasch and Burger.

Trials and executions

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The Germans were tried in a secret military tribunal. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

A short trial was held in a Washington, D.C. basement and all eight men were given the death penalty. Roosevelt read the transcripts from the trial and, learning that Dasch and Burger had betrayed the plot and turned state’s evidence, commuted their sentences to 30 years of hard labor for Dasch and life imprisonment for Burger.

In secret, the other six members of Operation Pastorius were executed.

Burger and Dasch would serve six years in prison before being released by order of President Harry Truman and deported to Germany where they were received as traitors. Cullen received a Legion of Merit from the Army for his part in stopping the Germans.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Photo: US Coast Guard Oral History Program

Hitler attempted one more time to send spies into America, landing two spies on the coast of Maine. Those men were caught after the FBI received a tip from a Boy Scout.

(h/t Stuff You Should Know podcast)

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Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

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Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

NOW: 17 Laws every Taliban militant needs to follow

OR: 4 of the most famous deserters in U.S. military history

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The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II

The legendary rock band Kiss is known for their makeup, over-the-top stage show, and hits like “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City.”


They aren’t known as historians, although two of the band’s members — Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer — have remarkable stories to tell about what their families went through during World War II. And equally remarkable is how these stories link the two members of Kiss to each other.

Backstage at a Kiss concert in northern Virginia in late July, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer talked about his father’s military service. James B. Thayer retired as a brigadier general in the mid-60s, but in 1945 he was an first lieutenant in charge of an anti-tank mine reconnaissance platoon that made its way across France into southern Germany. The unit saw a lot of action, including battles with Waffen SS troops – among the Third Reich’s most elite fighters – that involved bloody hand-to-hand combat.

As the platoon made its way farther south they stumbled upon the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. “The SS had just fled,” Tommy Thayer said. “They left behind 15,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees who were in bad shape.”

Ironically enough, based on time and location, among the refugees that U.S. Army Lieutenant Thayer liberated was most likely a family from Budapest that included a teenage girl who would later give birth Gene Simmons, Kiss’ outspoken bassist and co-founder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbocCi_OZ_U
“My mother was 14-years-old when they took her to the camps of Nazi Germany,” Simmons explained. “If it wasn’t for America, for those who served during World War Two like James Thayer, I wouldn’t be here.”

As a result of this connection, the band has thrown its clout behind the Oregon Military Museum, which will be named in honor of the now 93-year-old Brigadier General Thayer. Tommy Thayer is on the museum’s board, and the band recently played at a private residence in the greater Portland area to raise money and awareness for the effort.

“The idea that Americans enjoy the kind of life that the rest of the world is envious of is made possible – not by politicians – but by the brave men and women of our military,” Simmons said. “The least we could do is have a museum.”

“There is evil being done all over the world,” Simmons said. “And the only thing that keeps the world from falling into complete chaos is our military.”

Beyond supporting the Oregon Military Museum, in the years since 9-11, Simmons has worked as a military veteran advocate. Among some of his more high-profile efforts is the band’s hiring of veterans to work as roadies for Kiss on tour.

While other celebrity vet charities could rightly be criticized as something between Boomer guilt and vanity projects, the bass guitarist’s desire to help vets is fueled by what his mother’s side of the family went through to make it to America a generation ago.

Simmons has a few things to say about national pride, something he thinks the country has lost a measure of.

“When I first came to America as an eight-year-old boy people were quiet when the flag was raised,” Simmons said. “We all stood still.”

To Simmons’ eye that respect is lacking in too many Americans now, particularly younger Americans who are surrounded by information and media but may not appreciate the relationship between history and their daily lives.

“Just stop yakking for at least one minute,” he said. “The rest of the day is all yours to enjoy all the benefits that the American flag gives you.”

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This is the deadliest airplane ever, period, end of discussion

In the 1950s, Lockheed Martin designed the C-130 with transport in mind, by the end of the 1960s, Boeing converted the lumbering giant into one of the deadliest aircraft in the world. Its endurance and capacity to carry munitions made it the perfect AC-47 Spooky gunship replacement.


Related: This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

Like the AC-47, the new, AC-130 was capable of flying faster and higher than helicopters, and its excellent loiter time allowed it to deliver concentrated fire to a single target on the ground. The gunship first saw action during the Vietnam War and has continued to receive updates. The newest version of the gunship, the AC-130U Spectre, uses the latest sensor technologies and fire control systems to improve range and accuracy.

This video perfectly shows why Boeing received an $11.4 million indefinite contract by the U.S. Air Force. Watch it now:

Video: American Heroes Channel, YouTube

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A new congressional report hints that Russia has better tanks than the US

The M1A2 SEP Abrams has ruled the world of armor since Operation Desert Storm. But that was over 25 years ago – and tank design innovation hasn’t stood still.


In fact, everyone is trying to get a better tank — particularly the Russians. Well, if a major tank in your inventory had a very poor performance like the T-72 did in Desert Storm, you’d be looking to upgrade, too.

And the upgraded tanks could have an advantage over the M1A2, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Russia’s first effort at an upgrade was the T-90 main battle tank. According to Globalsecurity.org, the T-90 is an evolutionary development of the T-72. It has the same gun as the tank that flopped during Desert Storm, but it did feature some new survivability enhancements, like the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic countermeasures system.

The tank saw a lot of exports, most notably to India, which has plans to buy up to 1,600 of these tanks, according to Sputnik International. Syria used T-90s acquired from Russia in 2015, according to Al-Masdar News, and Algeria also has a substantial arsenal of T-90s, according to a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency.

The T-90, though, is not quite capable of standing up to the Abrams, largely due to the fact it is still an evolved T-72.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
T-90 with the Indian Army (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The T-14 Armata, though, is a very different beast. According to Globalsecurity.org, it bears more of a resemblance to the Abrams and Leopard 2 and has a remote-controlled gun in an unmanned turret. Specs on that site note that it not only has a new 125mm gun, but also carries two AT-14 anti-tank missiles. According to the London Telegraph, British intelligence has claimed that “Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”

Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that the combination of the Armata’s ability to take a larger gun in the future and its active protection system could be game-changers.

T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“This has the potential to greatly reduce the firepower of Nato infantry. Of course, there are few Armata yet, and it is not clear how rapidly they will enter service,” an IISS land warfare specialist and former British army brigadier told the Telegraph. “But as they do, they will increase the effectiveness of Russian armoured forces.”

Could the Armata take down the Abrams? That remains to be seen. It’s not like the Abrams has stood still since it was introduced in 1980. And an M1A3 version is reportedly in development, according to a 2009 Army Times report.

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How America’s automakers supplied the allies during World War II

When Isoroku Yamamoto warned that Japan had no chance to win World War II, he famously cited America’s industrial might. One of the biggest areas where that strength came into play was with the automotive industry.


As this video by Fiat Chrysler shows, the automakers did step up big when World War II hit. One notable example not covered in the video is that most of the Avengers were not built by Grumman, they were built by General Motors (and thus, they were called TBMs, as opposed to the TBF for the Grumman-built versions). GM also built a lot of Wildcats as the FM and FM-2.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft guns. (Screenshot from Fiat Chrysler video)

Chrysler, though, was very good at building tanks. First the M3 Lee (or Grant) was rolling off the assembly lines — in some cases before the factory was completely built! The Grant was eventually replaced by the M4 Sherman. They also built lots of trucks — including the half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks that were ubiquitous in the military.

This video notes that Chrysler was responsible for about 25 percent of America’s tank production — more than all the tank production of Nazi Germany. What is also notable is that many designs that came to Chrysler were improved by its engineers.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Tank treads produced by Chrysler. (Screenshot from Fiat Chrysler video)

Check out the five-minute video from FCA America that explains the U.S. automakers’ amazing role in supplying the troops in World War II.

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Previously removed pages of 9-11 report show possible link between terrorists and Saudi government

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942


New documents released by the White House July 15 show both the FBI and CIA found substantial evidence that several of the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from officers with the Saudi Arabian intelligence service while preparing for their attacks on Washington and New York.

While the intelligence described in the documents leaves some doubt on how strong the link between the 19 terrorists and the Saudi government was, it is the first time since 2003 that information on any ties between al Qaida and Saudi Arabian intelligence connected to the 9/11 attacks has been made public.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report says. “There is information … that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”

The newly-released documents are 28 pages from the so-called “9/11 Report” ordered by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks that were removed from the final draft in an effort that some say was intended to shield one of America’s most important Middle East allies from embarrassment.

But pressure has been mounting on the Obama Administration to release the formerly classified pages by some in Congress and by attorneys for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks.

The documents describe tactical help several of the attackers received from suspected Saudi intelligence operatives here in the U.S., including housing assistance, meetings with local imams and even one case where officials believed a Saudi operative was testing airline security during a flight to Washington, D.C.

“According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeen of being [REDACTED],” the report says. “Al-Qudhaeen was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a ‘dry run’ to test airline security.”

While the newly-released pages paint a detailed picture of how some suspected Saudi government officials and intelligence agents had ties to the al Qaida attackers and may have helped them plan and execute the attack, it’s unclear whether the effort was officially sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.

Congressional investigators “confirmed that the intelligence community also has information … indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi government in the United States may have other ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups,” the report says. “Neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”

While not necessarily a “smoking gun,” the most damning evidence in the pages deals with Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, alleged Saudi intelligence officers who provided direct assistance to “hijackers-to-be” Kahlid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in 2000. Both men were financed by a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and they used those funds to secure housing and other incidentals for the future hijackers.

Along with illustrating how protracted the terrorists’ 9/11 planning was — taking place over several years — this newly-released section of the report also shows that the FBI dropped the ball on several occasions, failing to share intelligence between headquarters and the San Diego field office and summarily ending an investigation into the suspicious funding of a mosque construction — an investigation that — in hindsight — may have allowed the FBI to stymie the chain of events that eventually led to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Editor-in-chief Ward Carroll contributed to this report.

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Why tech execs want to ban robot weapons

Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.


Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

 

The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”

The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.

What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.

The United Nations has scheduled a November meeting to discuss the implications of autonomous weapons. It has created a group of governmental experts on “lethal autonomous weapon systems.” The letter asked the group to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

Founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company SparkCognition, Amir Husain, signed the letter but insists that he is against any ban or restrictions that would stifle progress and innovation. He pointed out that the campaign was organized by professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was meant to highlight the “potential dangers of autonomous weapons absent an international debate on these issues.”

The industry wants a healthy debate on the benefits and risks of AI and autonomy, Amir told RealClearDefense in a statement. But a blanket ban is “unworkable and unenforceable.” Scientific progress is inevitable, “and for me that is not frightening,” he added. “I believe the solution — as much as one exists at this stage — is to redouble our investment in the development of safe, explainable, and transparent AI technologies.”

Wendy Anderson, general manager of SparkCognition’s defense business, said that to suggest a ban or even tight restrictions on the development of any technology is a “slippery slope” and would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, as other countries will continue to pursue the technology. “We cannot afford to fall behind,” said Anderson. “Banning or restricting its development is not the answer. Having honest, in-depth discussions about how we create, develop, and deploy the technology is.”

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

August Cole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and writer at the consulting firm Avascent, said the concerns raised by tech leaders on autonomous weapons are valid, but a ban is unrealistic. “Given the proliferation of civilian machine learning and autonomy advances in everything from cars to finance to social media, a prohibition won’t work,” he said.

Setting limits on technology ultimately would hurt the military, which depends on commercial innovations, said Cole. “What needs to develop is an international legal, moral, and ethical framework. … But given the unrelenting speed of commercial breakthroughs in AI, robotics, and machine learning, this may be a taller order than asking for an outright ban on autonomous weapons.”

But while advances in commercial technology have benefited the military, analysts fear that the Pentagon has not fully grasped the risks of unfettered AI and the possibility that machines could become uncontrollable.

“AI is not just another technology,” said Andy Ilachinski, principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He authored a recent CNA study, “AI, Robots, and Swarms: Issues, Questions, and Recommended Studies.”

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Defense has to be concerned about the implications of this debate, he said in an interview. AI is transforming the world “to the level of a Guttenberg press, to the level of the Internet,” he said. “This is a culture-shifting technology. And DoD is just a small part of that.”

Another troubling reality is that the Pentagon has yet to settle on the definition of autonomous weapons. In 2012, the Department of Defense published an instruction manual on the use of autonomous weapons. That 5-year-old document is the only existing policy on the books on how the US military uses these systems, Ilachinski said. According to that manual, a weapon is autonomous if “once activated, it can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.”

Policies and directives are long overdue for an update, he said. “We need to know what AI is capable of, how to test it, evaluate it.”

He noted that the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, published two studies on the subject in 2012 and 2016 but provided “no good definition of autonomy or AI in either of them.” These are the Pentagon’s top experts and “they can’t even get it straight.”

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Something about Musk’s warning strikes a chord with scientists that truly understand AI, Ilachinski observed. When Google’s Deepmind created a computer program in 2015 that beat the world’s Go champion, it was a landmark achievement for AI but also brought the realization that these algorithms truly have minds of their own. “This is an issue of great concern for DoD.”

There are areas within AI that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around. In advanced systems like Deepmind’s AlphaGo, “you can’t reverse engineer why a certain behavior occurred,” Ilachinski said. “It is important for DoD to recognize that they may not able to understand completely why the system is doing what it’s doing.”

One reason to take Musk’s warning seriously is that much is still unknown about what happens within the brains of these AI systems once they are trained, said Ilachinski. “You may not be able to predict the overall behavior of the system,” he said. “So in that sense I share the angst that people like Elon Musk feel.”

On the other hand, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, Ilachinski added. The United States can’t let up because countries like China already are working to become the dominant power in AI. Further, the Pentagon has to worry that enemies will exploit AI in ways that can’t yet be imagined. Anyone can buy a couple of drones for less than a thousand dollars, go to the MIT or Harvard website, learn about AI, download snippets of code and implant them in the drones, he said. A swarm of smart drones is something “would have a hard time countering because we are not expecting it. It’s very cheap and easy to do.”

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Drink ’em if you got ’em: 5 alcoholic beverages with military health benefits

Drinking in the military is rather common (and always in moderation), as anyone who’s served long enough to make it to the barracks knows.


That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

Everyone has their own reasons to imbibe (fun, tradition, bets, etc.), but perhaps the most important reason is for health reasons. Here are five alcoholic beverages with little-known health benefits.

1. Gin and Tonic

Health Benefit: Anti-malarial

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

The Gin and Tonic was created by the army of the British East India Company to give to soldiers serving in India and other tropical locations where malaria was common. The tonic of the time had large quantities of quinine, a malaria preventative, dissolved in it and thus tasted terribly bitter. To compensate, the soldiers mixed their daily gin ration with sugar and lime into the tonic water to make it more palatable. Unfortunately, the quinine levels of tonic have been severely reduced so Gin and Tonics won’t be making a comeback as a replacement for the dreaded malaria pills.

2. Red Wine

Health Benefit: Anti-Radiation

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Maybe they never smile because their teeth are stained red.

Well ahead of their time, the Soviet Navy issued a ration of red wine to its sailors onboard nuclear submarines because it decreased radiation absorption (or more likely calmed the nerves and stomachs of sailors being exposed to radiation on their shoddy submarines… remember K-19?) As it turns out, they were correct to give the sailors red wine. The results of a 2008 study show that resveratrol, a natural anti-oxidant in red wine, can protect cells from radiation damage. So talk to your CBRNE NCO to see if he has any anti-radiation medicine stashed in his office.

3. Rum

Health Benefit: Mental Well-Being

Anyone who has ever served aboard a ship at sea knows life can be tough, but todays modern amenities make things much more bearable. For early sailing ships heading out over the horizon, this was not the case. Enter alcohol. Originally the sailors were served beer but it had a tendency to spoil, so it was replaced by spirits, in particular, rum.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The daily ration was apparently a bucket.

To help the sailors cope with the tough life of sailing they were given a daily ration of rum (known to the British Empire as a ‘tot‘). It is also likely that sailors were given the rum to steady their nerves before a battle. Much to the dismay of sailors, rum rations were discontinued some time ago, with the Royal New Zealand Navy being the last to do so in 1990.

4. Beer

Health Benefit: Surviving life in the military

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
All the cool kids do it.

While this may sound like either a no brainer or a stretch, the benefits of beer for troops are numerous. First of all, beer has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. While all the PT troops do helps, the beer helps relieve stress, which is a major cause of high blood pressure and every service member knows the military is a stressful place. Speaking of PT, drinking beer can help prevent fractures and improve bone density, relieve joint pain, and has been shown to be a better post-workout recovery than water. Beer can also help fight colds and infections. Finally, drinking beer has been shown to decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and can improve creativity. But remember: all of this is when consumed in moderation, so take it easy on the case in your wall locker.

5. Whiskey

Health Benefit: Weight loss

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Pictured: Fat Burning supplements.

Have you been enjoying the health benefits of beer a little too much, noticed that your run time is suffering and you are having trouble passing height and weight? Have no fear, whiskey is here to save the day! Whiskey, already a favorite of American troops, has many of the same health benefits of beer without the calories or cholesterol. Whiskey also has the added benefit of containing antioxidants, which fight cancer and aging. So if you need to get back into fighting shape, pass on the beer and get some good old fashioned American whiskey.

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The Air Force wants to roll out a cheaper attack aircraft to fly alongside the A-10

The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.


Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.

Also read: This 1973 war is why the Air Force thinks the A-10 can’t survive in modern combat

However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.

Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents during the 2011 Aviation Nation Open House on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 2011. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.

In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.

“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”

However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.

Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.

Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.

It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.

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Air Force jets will control small groups of drones

The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.


At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
US Air Force

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot.  As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
US Air Force

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the service’s carrier-launched F-35C will be the last manned fighter produced, given the  progress of autonomy and algorithms allowing for rapid maneuvering. The Air Force, however, has not said something similar despite the service’s obvious continued interest in further developing autonomy and unmanned flight.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
US Air Force

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

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6 ways the Army was the perfect primer for ‘Batman’

The whole world mourned June 9 at the news that Adam West, the Army veteran and actor who brought “Batman” to the silver screen, had died at the age of 88 after a battle with cancer.


Adam West was born, and drafted into the Army, as William West. In the military, he was in charge of standing up TV stations at San Luis Obispo, California, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. But if it seems odd that the star of a farcical show like the 1966 version of “Batman” got his start in the Army, it was actually the perfect way to prepare for such a ridiculous show.

Here are six reasons why:

1. Renaming everything to some arbitrary standard like “bat cuffs,” “bat time,” and “bat channel,” makes sense for anyone who has had to relearn names for Velcro, Duck Tape, and zipper

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Batman and Robin stand with their utility belts. (Photo: Greenway Productions, Public Domain)

Batman wore a bat belt that contained bat pills and bat cuffs which came in handy for the show that played twice a week at the same bat time, same bat channel. While all of that seems like nonsense to civilians, soldiers are used to fastening “hook and loop fasteners,” taping items down with “100 mph tape,” and securing their blouses with “slide fasteners and tab thongs.”

Those are ridiculous ways of referring to Velcro, Duck Tape, and zippers, which are all brand names that the Army can’t use in official doctrine. So young Billy West would have gotten used to using the Army names. It was probably easy to start calling everything “bat” later in life.

2. Dealing with a group of ne’er-do-wells like the “Batman” villains is old hat for anyone who has dealt with an Army squad

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The villains of the 1966 Batman film. From left to right, the Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, and Joker. (Photo: Greenway Production, Public Domain)

Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Archer, and other crazy villains were always hatching insane schemes in the Batman TV show. But, once again, the Army would’ve prepared the future Bruce Wayne for this.

Soldiers decide to get high with spice and bath salts? Yup, sounds about right. Troops smuggling liquor overseas by pouring it into Listerine bottles and mixing in food coloring? Seen it. Enlisted hijinks are basically Silver Age Batman ridiculous, just without the fancy gadgets and costumes.

3. Having to mentor a grown adult while treating them like a child is how all specialists deal with new privates

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
(Photo: flickr/BATMAN)

One of the more awkward truths about the Batman is that Robin, the Boy Wonder, was actually a 21-year-old man when the show began. The grown adult Adam West had to act like mentoring another grown man while treating him like a child wasn’t sort of weird.

But again, the Army is perfect preparation for this. After all, most specialists have only been in the military for a few years and they can be assigned responsibility of a private first class who has been in the Army a couple of years. So, 24-year-old  supervising 20-year-olds.

4. Spending all of your time with an attractive lady without giving in is easy for any NCO who had to ignore their co-ed lieutenant’s good looks

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
Adam West’s Batman and Catwoman almost kiss. (Photo: YouTube/InnuMaccaband)

One of Batman’s greatest villains was Catwoman, who definitely had a thing going on with Batman. But Batman refused to give in to it (though he almost kissed her once, and a later incarnation of Batman ran off to Europe with her).

But any specialist or sergeant who has pulled overnight duty with an even moderately attractive officer knows what it’s like to weigh the consequences of “fraternization” over and over. Chances are, young and attractive Billy West had to say no to a few female sergeants and officers, or at least find the right place to give in without getting caught.

5. Only in the military and “Batman” can the little stuff be crucial during an emergency

This is a small one, but most organizations will let little things go during an emergency. But Batman doesn’t accept any of that crap from Robin. Proper grammar is important, and Batman corrects Robin even as Catwoman tries to get away on a rocket.

You know, just like a sergeant major yelling about gloves during a firefight or reflective belts during literally anything.

6. Working within made-up rules is easy for anyone who has dealt with UCMJ and Rules of Engagement

Batman runs into some pretty stupid bureaucratic problems during the show, like that time the Riddler sues Batman (while using riddles to explain his scheme, because of course he did) for false imprisonment and assault.

While the details of the case seem insane, Billy West probably sat through the Uniform Code of Military Justice briefing where soldiers are told they technically can’t engage in anything other than “missionary”-style sex because of Article 125.

Really think anyone who was briefed on Article 125 will be thrown for a loop by Gotham’s insane judges?

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China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

China’s military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang’s military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.


report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.

China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.

Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea’s new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea’s artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.

In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as “a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely.”

That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942
The THAAD missile system. Lockheed Martin photo.

Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.

In response to North Korea’s missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful THAAD missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad’s powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China’s ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.

Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.