Your local exchange’s package store could soon have a surprise for you military history buffs: a little taste of “Old Blood and Guts” for your tumbler.
Kentucky’s Boundary Oak Distillery is now distributing a liquor bearing the face of the famous Gen. George S. Patton. Even though it hails from Kentucky and is made by a bourbon distillery, the libation isn’t actually bourbon. Instead, the manufacturers call the barrel-aged cane liquor “Patton Armored Diesel” after the tradition Patton started during World War II.
According to Boundary Oak, that World War II-era drinking tradition included a “drink, a cup, and a sign his troops associated with Armored Diesel.” The bootleg hooch was made differently from division to division, using a mixture that included bourbon, whiskey, scotch, and white wine. One variation even had a shot of cherry juice to represent “the blood of our enemies.”
Patton commanded the 7th Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily in World War II and then led the 3rd Army through France and Germany after the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. He died in a car accident shortly after the end of the war in Europe.
He is one of the most celebrated leaders in the history of the United States Army.
Waters will help promote Patton Armored Diesel, which retails for around $46 per bottle.
Its first big promotion features a limited edition collector’s case for the bottles. The case is designed to look like a mini version of the general’s footlocker, complete with the stenciled “PATTON” lettering on the lid.
“We’re not trying to glorify alcohol, we’re just trying to glorify him,” said Goodin in the same AP interview. “This generation, they enjoy craft American spirits, and we want to give them a history lesson along with a good drink.”
Kiessling, who works at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, gave Business Insider his personal views on North Korea, which do not represent the Pentagon’s official stance.
“If you’re really concerned about an ICBM from anyone, go back and look at history for what everyone has ever done for ICBMs,” said Kiessling. “All early liquid ICBMS are siloed.”
Through a painstaking analysis of imagery and launch statistics from North Korea’s missile program, Kiessling has concluded that the road-mobile, truck-based missiles they show off can’t actually work as planned, and may instead be purposeful distractions from a more capable missile project.
In a paper for Breaking Defense, Kiessling and his colleague Ralph Savelsberg demonstrated a model of the North Korean ICBM and concluded its small size made it basically useless for reaching the US with any kind of meaningful payload.
History suggests that building a true liquid-fueled ICBM that can be transported on a truck presents huge, if not insurmountable problems, to designers.
“The US and the Soviets tried very hard and never managed to reach a level of miniaturization and ruggedness that would support a road-mobile ICBM,” said Kiessling, referring to the minaturization of nuclear warheads needed to fit them onto missiles.
ICBMs that use liquid fuel, as North Korea’s do, are “very likely to crumple or damage the tankage” while being carted around on a bumpy truck.
“While it may not be impossible, it’s bloody difficult and extremely dangerous” to put a liquid-fueled ICBM on a truck, according to Kiessling.
Instead, the US, Soviets, and Chinese all created silo-based liquid-fueled missiles, as the static missiles are more stable and less prone to sustaining damage.
But there’s no evidence of North Korea building a silo for missile launches, and Kiessling said that could be due to a massive deception campaign that may have fooled some of the world’s top missile experts.
Kiessling thinks that North Korea has actually been preparing for a silo-based missile that combines parts of the Hwasong-14, its ICBM, with its space-launch vehicle, the Unha. Both the Unha and the Hwasong-14 have been tested separately, and Kiessling says they could easily be combined.
This analysis matches the comments of Mike Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who told Business Insider he saw the Hwasong-14 as an “interim capability” that North Korea was using to demonstrate an ICBM as quickly as possible.
Elleman believes that North Korea well develop a “heavier ICBM” that “may not be mobile,” but can threaten the entire continental US and carry a heavier payload, including decoys and other penetration aides.
But other prominent analysts disagree with Kiessling’s model, saying he incorrectly judged the size of the Hwasong-14. To that, Kiessling says that North Korean imagery, which has all been purposefully released by a regime known to traffic in propaganda, is geared towards deception.
“One of the hardest problems imaginable is to find something you’re not looking for,” said Kiessling, of a possible missile silo in North Korea.
“If I was in the place of Kim Jong Un, and I wanted to have a cleverly-assembled ICBM program, I’d do it the way everyone else does it,” said Kiessling, referring to silo-based missiles. “But at the same time, you run a deception program to distract everyone else from what you’re doing until you’re done.”
A silo would also prove an inviting target for any US strikes on North Korea, as the target can’t hide once its found. If the US were to find out that North Korea hadn’t succeeded in miniaturizing its warheads enough to fit on its mobile missiles, a smaller-scale strike against fixed targets may seem like an attractive option.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted a joint air mobility exercise with Airmen from the 21st Airlift Squadron, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Cali. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Grady Jones, 3rd AMCT Public Affairs, 4th Inf. Div.)
Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.
The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.
Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.
Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.
Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.
“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.
This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.
Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.
As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.
“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.
Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.
Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.
Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.
“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.
Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.
For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.
Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.
Air Force Navy Robotics
The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.
In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.
These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.
The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.
Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.
At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.
US forces tend to believe because a nation is poor, they don’t have any fight in them. Remember that the enemies we typically fight have home field advantage.
2. Don’t f*ck with Delta Force
Enough said — and probably the coolest line in the movie.
3. Understanding what you can’t control
It’s a common misconception that the ground troops know why they’re sent to a fight.
The truth is — there’s always a mission behind the mission. But that doesn’t matter, because it boils down in the end to surviving and taking care of your men. That’s real leadership.
4. Life doesn’t always make sense
After watching one of the hardest scenes in the film, a Ranger’s death, Sgt. Eversmann (played by Josh Hartnett) questions himself and over-analyzes his own leadership. Honestly, no matter how much you train, you can’t predict sh*t.
Don’t want to put a variable optic up top? Try an Aimpoint magnifier instead.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember — this is just a public service “be advised message,” and we’re saying this without the slightest trace of tergiversation. All we’re doing is letting you know these things exist and might be of interest to you. This isn’t a critique or a review any more than it is rectopexy.
It’s been a long time coming (we first saw it debuted back at SHOT 2016), but the new Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier is now available.
Use it as a a budget friendly, responsibly-armed-citizen-version of its almost bombproof military cousin, or throw it up to your peeper as a monocular and perv on the cougar who lives across the street.
Aimpoint 3X-C — ain’t she somethin’?
The 3X-C is designed to be used in conjunction with all Aimpoint sights for better reaching-out-and-touching someone, or for observation if your fetish job is an ISR role. You can use the variable dioptric (-2 to +2) setting to fine tune it to your specific eyeball as required.
Remember that the 3X-C utilizes the Aimpoint red dots as the aiming reticle. You won’t need to worry about re-zeroing when you shift between magnified (i.e. with the 3-XC) or non-magnified (after you’ve snapped it back to the side) aiming.
The 3X-C is encased in a rubber cover that makes it easy and comfortable to grip (that’s what she said), but more importantly, it absorbs shock and impact. Internal optical adjustments make aligning the magnifier a task even grunts can do easily.
Note that the 3X-C is only compatible with 30mm ring mounts. It doesn’t have the same 4-hole mounting plate the “pro” models do. It is NOD (NVD) compatible.
The 3X-C has a 6° field of view, exit pupil of 6.5mm, and eye relief of 56mm. It will function in a wide enough variety of climes that if it doesn’t work where your’e living, you probably need to just pack up your shit and move.
Don’t forget you’ll need a mount (believe it or not some folks do). Figure out ahead of time what sort of co-witness you’re going to prefer (absolute or lower 1/3) and make sure you’re not using some peculiar size/shape BUIS, then get your mount.
There are many options out there, and of course Aimpoint offers one as well. Their AR Ready Mount is a lever release Picatinny (LRP) mount with a 39mm spacer. Like all their magnifiers, the Aimpoint 3X-C works with their own proprietary TwistMount. You can also buy it with the FlipMount. If you already own the former, buy the upper portion of the latter (it will work with the old base) and you’re good to go.
Or, you can just wait for that 6x (C) magnifier that oughta be out really soon…
You know. Whatever your “shooting” preferences are.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
Snipers serve in all branches of the military — including the Coast Guard. That may surprise some, and even more astonishing is that the Coast Guard snipers shoot to kill — engines, that is.
These personnel, known as “airborne precision marksmen,” serve with the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, or HITRON. According to GlobalSecurity.org, HITRON has ten MH-65C Dolphin helicopters, which replaced eight MH-68A Stingray helos.
The target these “airborne precision marksmen” must hit with fire from M107 .50-caliber rifles measures about sixteen inches by sixteen inches. That infamous thermal exhaust port was larger, but the MH-65Cs are not moving as fast as an Incom T-65 X-wing.
They also take their shots much closer.
According to the video below, HITRON has stopped over 161 tons of cocaine from entering the country, worth over $9 billion. So, take a look and see how these marksmen stop the narcos.
Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.
Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.
In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.
While traveling in northern Italy, a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed the bloody repercussions of a Solferino battle between Austrian and Franco-Sardinian forces. The battle had left approximately 40,000 troops missing, wounded and dead. Both armies and residents of Solferino were inadequately equipped to deal with the situation. Nevertheless, Henry Dunant completely abandoned the original intent of his trip and organized the locals to cater to the soldiers’ injuries, feed and console them.
Establishment of The Red Cross Symbol
Based on what he witnessed in 1859, Henry Dunant published a book titled “A Memory of Solferino,” which lobbied and captured the need to establish national relief organizations. The organizations would be composed of trained volunteers who would offer medical assistance to injured non-combatants and war-wounded soldiers, notwithstanding their fighting sides.
A Swiss committee, the international committee for relief to the wounded, was established to develop a comprehensive plan for national relief associations. By 1863, the committee held an international conference set up in Geneva to address and establish a possible course of action to enhance medical services on the battlefield. At the end of the conference, the attendees had proposals that addressed the neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers, the establishment of national relief societies for wounded soldiers, and the implementation of volunteers for relief assistance on the battlefield.
The committee eventually transformed into the international committee of the red cross (ICRC) and adopted an emblem of a red cross against a white background. This symbol would assist combatants in identifying medical workers on the battlefield.
Evolution of The Red Cross Emblems
At the outset of the ICRC, a red cross on a white background was the original protection symbol. Despite that, the red cross symbol is not the only symbol displayed on medical personnel during wars. During the Russo-Turkish War, the Ottoman Empire rejected the red cross as it reminded the Muslims of the Crusaders, and this resulted in the use of the red crescent emblem that is a red crescent on a white background. In 1878 the ICRC declared that the emblem would serve as a symbol for the red cross volunteers in Islamic countries.
The Israelites also felt that none of the emblems worked for them, resulting in the adoption of The Magen David Adom emblem. The Magen David Adom is commonly translated in English as the Red Star of David. On June 22, 2006, the ICRC recognized this emblem for use by the Israelite and Palestine nations. As an alternative, the emblem can be used where religious strife results in confusion over the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.
The red crystal was adopted as an additional emblem and is symbolized by a red diamond on a white background. It also denotes neutrality, where countries feel that the red cross and red crescent have religious, political, or cultural connotations.
International Protection of Red Cross Volunteers
The ICRC has instituted a pledge that affords protection to Red Cross volunteers. The ICRC vows to give precedence to the security of the Red Cross volunteers when deploying them to disaster-stricken areas by ascertaining safe access to those areas. Aside from that, the organization will ensure smooth relief activities and consign them at an opportune moment.
The ICRC also emphasizes that all the Red Cross volunteers will be offered insurance that ensures that they will be fully compensated if anything happens.
According to the Geneva Conventions, medical personnel are entitled to special protection from attacks and may not be captured when they are in the service. If an enemy detains them, they must be respected and protected. Medical personnel shall enter any area where their services are essential, subject to such supervisory and safety measures. At the same time, medical personnel shall not be forced to discharge acts or carry out work contradictory to medical ethics.
Two Marine veterans playing “Pokemon Go” in a Los Angeles suburb on Jul. 12 ended up catching an attempted murder suspect instead of a Pikachu.
Javier Soch and Seth Ortega were hunting Pokemon near a museum when they saw a man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her three sons, according to reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The Marines talked to the man, who was agitated but coherent. He asked for cigarettes and shelter and the Marines told him to check the local police station for help.
The Marines kept their eyes on the man as he walked off. “We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch told reporter Matt Hamilton.
The man interacted with two more families. He continued to act suspiciously but did not do anything illegal — at first.
“[We] walked across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega told an ABC affiliate.
The veterans sprung into action. Soch stayed with the family while Ortega sprinted after the man. The man attempted to flee, but he couldn’t get away from the Marine.
He was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance, but the police then learned that the man had a warrant out for attempted murder in Sonoma, California. He will be extradited to face charges there.
The U.S. government warns Americans against traveling to North Korea, specifically stating that travel to the Hermit Kingdom risks “arrest and long-term detention.” There have actually been many Americans held by North Korea, most were subsequently sentenced to a fine and years of hard labor. It happened most recently in January 2016, when 21-year-old Otto Warmbier was arrested for stealing a political banner from a hotel. Warmbier was sentenced to fifteen years “for crimes against the state.”
Warmbier will likely not be the last American detained by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the North’s full, ironic moniker). He’s actually the thirteenth American to be arrested there since 1996. Most are detained for a number of days but less than a full year. The only exception being Kenneth Bae, who held for nearly two years on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.
Three of those Americans were released only after the interventions of former American presidents acting as diplomats. Since the U.S. does not have official relations with the DPRK (and are still technically at war), the governments cannot speak directly, so when the former presidents flew to Pyongyang, the U.S. government considered their trips “private, humanitarian, and unofficial.”
In March 2009, Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were caught and detained for illegally entering North Korea. They were held for 140 days before former President Bill Clinton made an unannounced trip to the North Korean capital to meet with then-President Kim Jong-Il. The two were sentenced to twelve years of hard labor but were released within hours of President Clinton’s arrival. The journalists flew back to the U.S. with Clinton.
In 2010, Aijalon Gomes was held for 213 days for illegally entering the country. After Gomes attempted suicide in captivity, an American consular envoy flew to Pyongyang to request the release of Gomes but was unsuccessful. That’s when former President Jimmy Carter hopped on a plane and met with Kim Jong-Il in August 2010. Gomes was freed the next day and left the DPRK with Carter.
In addition to Warmbier, North Korea is currently holding Kim Dong-Chul, a naturalized American citizen, for espionage. He has been held for 153 days at this writing.
With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.
During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.
“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”
To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.
“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”
Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”
It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.
The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.
“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.
The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.
Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.
A new HBO documentary premiering this month claims the United States, desperate to beat the Soviet Union to the moon, purchased space technology from former Yugoslavia.
But how could an Eastern European Communist country defy the Soviets without their knowledge? The answer starts with Yugoslavia’s longtime leader, Josip Broz Tito.
Tito was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI, becoming Austria-Hungary’s youngest Sergeant Major ever. He was captured by the Russians and helped the Red Guard take down the last Czar during the October Revolution. He would later become the leader of the most effective World War II resistance forces fighting Nazi occupation in Yugoslavia. After the war, he became a Communist dictator, but the only one free of Soviet influence.
Very adept at handling the Russians, Tito once wrote to Stalin: “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.”
In the early days of the Space Race, capturing the technology took money, power, and meant a large return for the ideology that got to the moon first. Once the USSR put the first satellite and then the man in space, the U.S. felt the sting of that early defeat.
A new film, called “Houston, We Have A Problem” alleges that the former Yugoslavia was a secret third player in the Space Race. The Yugoslavians made great technological leaps, based on the 1929 writings of Slovenian Rocket Engineer Herman Potočnik, whose book “The Problems of Space Travel” marked the first discussion of long-term human habitation in space, the first designs for space stations, and the importance of geostationary orbit. The documentary alleges Werner von Braun, the Nazi inventor of the V-2 Rocket and later the Saturn V Rocket for the United States, which carried the Apollo Program to the moon, received unpublished Potočnik diaries captured by Tito after Potočnik’s death.
Tito found the diaries in 1947. After conflicts with Stalin in 1948 where Tito asserted Yugoslav independence, Tito implemented the Yugoslav Space Program. By 1960, the film alleges, the CIA determined that Yugoslavia had developed operation space flight technology based on these writings. In March 1961, the film says Yugoslavia sold its complete space program to the United States. Just two months later, President John F. Kennedy gave the speech that announce the U.S. goal of reaching the moon within the coming decade.
The burst of growth in Yugoslavia following the 1960’s is supposed to be (from the filmmakers’ points of view) a result of the influx of currency from the sale of the space race technology. There could be other mitigating circumstances behind that rapid growth. One Canadian researcher believes that growth came the $47 billion in war reparations Yugoslavia received from the former Axis powers. The questions don’t stop there, however.
“The trailer draws a lot of links between events that may or may not have happened in some cases and connects the dots between a number of things that aren’t necessarily connected whatsoever,” Bill Barry, NASA’s Chief Historian, told Radio Free Europe. “There’s a lot of coincidence in time, but just because two things sort of happened one after the other does not necessarily mean that there’s causation involved. There’s a very big stretch involved here.” Barry does acknowledge the influence of Potočnik and his work, however.
The film’s evidence also centers around “Object 505,” a secret Yugoslav Army post on the Croatia-Bosnian border that was Top Secret and inaccessible, even to the top Yugoslav Army brass. The film’s crew visits the still-mysterious installation in the film.
“It was very mysterious and one couldn’t enter it easily,” former Yugoslav Army officer and aviation Lieutenant Ivan Prsa told Radio Free Europe. “Only selected people could enter this underground facility and that’s why it is still unknown to the public.”
This is the director’s original trailer:
In an interview with Radio Free Europe’s Balkan Service, the film’s director, Ziga Virc, tried to downplay some of the more incredulous claims that made his film’s trailer an internet sensation.
“We are in the phase of gathering all the facts, but we still need a lot, a lot of confirmation. We still need a lot of documents and archive-gathering so we can confirm,” Virc said. “I would not like to be too sensational about this topic.”
“Houston, We Have a Problem” is listed by HBO as “docufiction… exploring the myth of the secret multi-billion-dollar deal behind America’s purchase of Yugoslavia’s clandestine space program in the early 1960s.” The film was screened at 2016’s TriBeCa film Festival and will be in select theaters in May 2016.