An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history - We Are The Mighty
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An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.


You could travel faster in your car

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Wikipedia

Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.

They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Wikipedia

You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.

A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Wikipedia

This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Wikipedia

Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.

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The Pentagon wants an ‘aerial dragnet’ to find enemy drones on the battlefield and in US cities

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
DARPA


The Pentagon’s research and development outfit wants to stop “UAS-enabled terrorist threats” with a new system it’s calling Aerial Dragnet that would track slow, low-flying drones — or what the military calls unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

“As off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release. “Especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.”

DARPA is soliciting proposals for the program, which seeks to provide “persistent, wide-area surveillance” of multiple drones on a city-wide scale.

Drones have become a mainstay on the battlefield — especially where the US is involved — but many other countries have, or are producing, drones for use in combat. Then there are the smaller, off-the-shelf types, which have even been used for surveillance purposes and to deliver explosive devices by terrorist groups like ISIS, for example.

The proliferation of drones is going to continue, so it looks like DARPA wants a sort-of “super drone” that will tell US forces where all the other little ones are on the battlefield. That is a ways off, since the the Aerial Dragnet research program will take more than three years, after which it’s up to the Pentagon on whether any of the research is implemented in the field.

“Commercial websites currently exist that display in real time the tracks of relatively high and fast aircraft — from small general aviation planes to large airliners — all overlaid on geographical maps as they fly around the country and the world,” Jeff Krolik, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. “We want a similar capability for identifying and tracking slower, low-flying unmanned aerial systems, particularly in urban environments.”

Krolik also works on another DARPA program called “upward falling payloads” — a way of parking drones in sealed cases on ocean floors around the world, where they can be remotely activated to “fall” up and take a look around should trouble occur.

DARPA said the program is mainly designed to protect deployed troops, but the system “could ultimately find civilian application to help protect US metropolitan areas.”

The agency is hosting a proposers day on September 26, and full proposals for those interested in getting the contract are required by November 12.

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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.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
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.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
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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Troops pick which Army job is the best

People approach joining the Army as if all soldiers are the same, but there are actually a ton of different jobs recruits can enlist for. And since soldiers are willing to leave reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, it’s easy to see which recruits might re-enlist without prompting and which will spend the next few years counting down to the end of their contract.


1. Human Resources Specialists

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Means

Human resource specialists apparently love being in the Army, giving it a rating of 4.3 out of 5. It looks like sitting behind a desk at headquarters isn’t a bad way to earn the GI Bill.

2. Psychological Operations

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Bedet

Psychological Operations soldiers gave their career a 4.3 as well. Multiple reviewers cited their free foreign language training and incentive pays as reasons they like their job.

3. Artillerymen

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Army

Artillery has the highest rating of the combat arms branches with a 4.1. Considering the fact that they get to pull strings and make stuff go boom all day, this isn’t a huge shocker.

4. Combat Engineer

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

 

Considering the fact that combat engineers are stuck with missions like route clearance, it’s surprising that they rated their time serving as a 4 out of 5. But sappers are crazy like that and explosives are fun.

5. Communications specialists

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Pfc. Chris McKenna

 

The Commo guys also gave the Army a 4 out of 5. This is a broad category, including everyone from Satellite Communications Operators to Cable Systems Installer-Maintainers.

6. Army Pilots

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller

 

Helicopters are awesome, and their pilots rated serving at 3.9 out of 5. Some of the lower ratings came from OH-58 pilots who are understandably disappointed that the Army has gotten rid of their scout aircraft.

7. Cavalry

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Edward Martens

 

Cavlarymen cited their long work hours and the danger of combat arms as drawbacks, but the adrenaline rush, The benefits, and working outside were huge positives. The average review was a 3.9.

8. Army Special Forces

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bradley C. Church

Like the cavalry, Special Forces soldiers gave the Army a 3.9. Reviews cited the incentive pays for Special Forces and the professional environment as big positives. SF guys also get free language training.

9. Intel Analyst

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Army Spc. Nathan Goodall

 

Intelligence analysts gave the Army a 3.8 out of 5. In charge of collecting data from the battlefield and figuring out what the enemy is doing, these guys spend a lot of time locked in secure offices seeing photos and reports no one else gets to.

10. Army Infantry

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

 

The iconic rifleman may be all over the recruiting posters, but sleeping on rocks and rucking 100 pounds of gear isn’t exactly an ideal weekend. They still gave their employer a 3.7 rating, so it must not be all bad.

11. Army Medic

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

Everyone loves medics, but they only rated the Army as a 3.6, so the feeling isn’t mutual. That 3.6 probably comes from their easy access to IV bags for curing hangovers, not from having to look at everyone else’s infections.

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USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at a group of Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 8. The incident comes less than two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.


According to Reuters, the shots were fired after the Iranian vessels ignored requests by radio to slow down as they approached the American warship and came within 900 yards.

Similar harassment took place this past summer, with Iranian speedboats making close passes to USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Squall (PC 7), which also fired warning shots.

Iran also threatened U.S. Navy aircraft in September. In November, Iranian speedboats pointed weapons at a U.S. Navy helicopter.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired on U.S. Navy vessels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles this past October. The destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) defeated three attacks in the space of a week, and USS Nitze carried out a retaliatory strike on radar sites. This past September, while campaigning for the White House, Trump vowed that Iranian vessels harassing U.S. Navy forces would be “shot out of the water.”

The Iranian vessels were described in the Reuters report as “fast attack vessels.” These vessels, sometimes called “Boghammers,” are speedboats with a variety of weapons, including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.

According to “Combat Fleets of the World,” Iran has over 180 of these vessels. During the Iran-Iraq War, they were used to attack oil tankers.

A July, 1988 skirmish between those speedboats and the cruiser USS Vincennes and the frigates USS Sides and USS Elmer Montgomery lead to the downing of an Airbus passenger jet.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

The USS Mahan is the first of seven Flight II Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These ships have a five-inch gun, a 29-cell Mk 41 VLS forward, a 61-cell Mk 41 VLS aft, Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

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NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve started with a misprinted phone number

This year, NORAD — the North American Aerospace Defense Command  — celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of tracking Santa’s progress as he delivers presents to the good boys and girls of the world. Every year on Christmas Eve, NORAD purports to track Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world. This year, starting at 12:01 am on December 24, interested folks can track Santa via NORAD’s Santa Tracker Website, mobile phone apps, and through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ via the handle @NORADSanta.


An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Volunteers monitor phones and computers while tracking Santa Claus at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. More than 1,200 volunteers from across the base and community join to cover shifts spanning the 23 hours of tracking that the North American Aerospace Defense Command hosts annually. (Photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh)

The program started somewhat by chance on December 24, 1955 when a Sears department store placed an ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper telling children they could telephone Santa Claus. However, the telephone number printed was erroneously that of the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center (CONAD), NORAD’s predecessor.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Santa visited Peterson AFB for his NORAD mission brief in preparation for Christmas Eve Dec. 16. People can find out where Santa is Dec. 24 all day by calling NORAD at 1-877-Hi-NORAD or by visiting www.noradsanta.org. (Photo by: MC2 (AW) Bansil, Jhomil,) NORADSanta

Santa visited Peterson AFB in 2014 for his NORAD mission brief in preparation for Christmas Eve. (Photo by: MC2 (AW) Bansil, Jhomil)

Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty that night and told his staff to give all children who called in a “current location” for Santa Claus — and a Christmas Eve tradition was born, now known as the “NORAD Tracks Santa” program. 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Colonel Harry Shoup, USAF

OnStar subscribers can press the button in their vehicles and ask for Santa’s location, Windows Phone users can ask Cortana, and starting at 6 a.m. Eastern Time, the kids can just dial  toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or send an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

NORAD’s Santa operation has come a long way. Today it seems as complex as the hunt for Osama bin Laden but when it first started it was just a number children could call.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, told NPR’s StoryCorps about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.“The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ “

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’

Read the full story of Col. Shoup establishing NORAD Santa Tracker at NPR’s StoryCorps.

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‘Avengers – Age Of Ultron’ lays claim to ‘greatest ensemble in the history of cinema’

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
(Photo: Marvel Studios)


How does director Joss Whedon follow the success of the first Avengers movie, that $220 million budget ensemble cast epic that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide?

“With the smallest thing I can think of,” Whedon said at a recent gathering of the cast at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California. “What little moments are there between these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet? What conversations have they not had? It’s never the big picture stuff – although that’s cool too – it’s how can I get inside their hearts? What’s funny about them? I write reams and reams of paper just thinking about the tiniest part.”

But “tiny” is not the first word one might use to describe the sequel, “Avengers – Age of Ultron.” It is a big movie in most ways that picks up where “Avengers” left off, taking the interpersonal and witty aspects of the team to the next level while hurtling full tilt across the screen for the duration.

“I read the script, and I said, ‘This is great; let’s go shoot it,'” said Robert Downey, Jr., who returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man. “It’s a Swiss watch to begin with, and Josh really created some great new situations for Tony to be in.”

James Spader plays Ultron – the evil robot who’s trying to use artificial intelligence to destroy the world – and the actor found the Whedon’s production process a challenge to keep up with.

“I really was just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very quickly,” Spader said. “I arrived in London and within the first half hour they put on a suit and all this gear and I went through a range of motion and within 15 minutes I was watching me on a monitor move around this big room as Ultron. That pace was what it was throughout the entire project.”

Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, a character who many fans felt got short shrift in terms of screen time in the first movie. But that’s not the case in “Age of Ultron.”

“I speak in this movie, which is awesome,” joked Renner. “And I become part of the team, which is awesome, and dive into some killer aspects of the character.”

As Renner’s Hawkeye role grew so too did that of Black Widow, played once again by Scarlett Johansson.

“There some sense of normal in a way at the beginning of Avengers 2,” Johansson said. “But at the end she let her guard down. . . She had this moment of false hope. She put in the work and there should be some kind of personal pay off, but she realizes her calling is a greater one. That’s not something she’s necessarily thrilled about, but that’s what’s most heroic about her.”

Johansson (who was pregnant during the shooting of the film) also allowed that her action sequences were the result of a multi-person effort. “There’s a team around me that is super supportive in helping all of Widow’s fight moves and badass motorcycle riding happen. All that work being seamless takes a lot of choreography and team spirit.”

Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Dr. Banner who turns into The Hulk when provoked, and when asked what methods he draws on acting-wise to differentiate between the two forms, he joked, “I was helped out by the fact that I’m green and huge. That helped with the distinction between the two characters. I can’t take full credit for that except for the accent I was using, maybe.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige summed up the state of the Avengers brand by reflecting on how far it’s come in the last ten years or so: “It started with the notion of making these movies ourselves and becoming Marvel Studios, and then it continued with Robert in ‘Iron Man 1’ and having Samuel L. Jackson come in in the end and say, ‘You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet,’ thinking that most people wouldn’t know what that meant . . . but the world got it much more quickly than I anticipated.”

Feige pointed down the table at the cast and said, “It’s the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history, and it just keeps getting better and better.”

Now: Revolutionary War history gets complicated in Season Two of ‘Turn’

OR: Watch ‘Captain America’ in under 3 minutes:

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10 crazy but true facts about Saddam Hussein

Dictators tend to be colorful people. They’re constantly alone, afraid of lots of weird things, and really paranoid everyone’s going to kill them. They have absolute power but their egos are eggshell thin. They’re fragile, volatile and worry all the time. Or maybe they’re just a little crazy from the non-stop high of having absolute power. 

A look back at other dictators shows that all of them have strange quirks. For example, Hitler refused to eat meat but thought it was fine to take meth every day. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was so obsessed with JKF that he sent someone to collect the air around the late president’s grave. Duvalier though the air would help him control JKF’s spirit. Spoiler alert: that didn’t work. Muammar Qaddafi’s crush on Condoleezza Rice rivals anything we’ve ever seen come out of Hollywood.

And that’s just the beginning. The deeper you look at dictators, the more bizarre you realize they are. They’re all a little bizarre. Saddam Hussein was no different. 

1. He penned a best-selling romance novel

His book was originally published anonymously, but everyone knows Hussein wrote “Zabiba and the King“. In the decade between its publishing and the Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator encouraged Iraqi artists to tell stories fabricated stories about the “idyllic life” of citizens in Iraq. He wanted to “bring the feats of the ‘Mother of All Battles’ home to the people.”

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Typical of an ego-driven dictator, the author of the book claimed he wanted to remain anonymous … all the while feeding leaks to the news. Iraqi newspapers started to report that Hussein might be the author and the legend was born. The novel became an immediate bestseller. Then it was turned into a musical spectacular. We’re not sure if we’d ever be able to sit through that performance, though. 

The CIA believes the book was probably ghostwritten with Hussein’s guidance. 

2. He received a UNESCO award for raising Iraq’s quality of life

Hussein served as the Ba’ath Party vice-chairman from 1968 to 1979. In that time, he created a nationwide literacy program, setting up reading circles in Iraq’s cities. Missing these classes was punishable by three years imprisonment.

He built roads, schools, and hospitals and carved out a public health system that was tops in the region. The UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization honored his achievement in helping to eradicate illiteracy in his country.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
(Iraqi News Agency)

Then, in 1979, he seized power. His actions in the coming years would make his development work look like a planned deception.

3. A Saddam-like character was featured in a Justice League comic

In a 1999 comic book, the Justice League of America – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and others – watched as UN weapons inspectors were ejected from the rogue Middle East nation of Kirai. Meanwhile, a well-meaning but naive new member of the League name Antaeus kills the dictator (who looks a lot like Saddam) of the country rather than do things the JLA way.

The country descends into a multi-faction civil war, ethnic conflict, regional powers exerting military influence, and a battlefield for the ongoing fight between Sunni and Shia Islam.

This was in 1999. If only President Bush read DC Comics.

4. He wiped out an entire civilization

Saddam accused Iraq’s Marsh Arabs of colluding with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In order to kill them all easier, he drained the legendary marshes – once thought to be the biblical garden of eden. The 9,000-square kilometer area was slowly dwindling to 760 by the time of the 2003 American invasion.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
(Photo by Salim Virji, used by permission)

The people inhabiting those wetlands were either killed or forced to flee Saddam’s paranoid wrath. After the dictator’s ouster, the Iraqis destroyed the dams preventing water from flowing back into the wetlands and its ancient inhabitants started to return.

In 2016, UNESCO named the wetlands a World Heritage Site.

5. Hussein pledged $94 million to help America’s poor

Well before September 11, 2001, changed the future of American foreign policy and the day before President George W. Bush took office, Saddam Hussein sought to send $94 million to the United States. The reason: “humanitarian aid for the “homeless and wretched Americans living in poverty.”

6. He received the key to the city of Detroit

The year he took power in Iraq, Hussein received a congratulatory note from Reverend Jacob Yasso in Detroit. The dictator sent Yasso and his congregation of Chaldean Christians $250,000. Chaldeans are a sect of Christianity with roots in modern-day Iraq.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Yasso (right) presents the Key to Detroit to Saddam Hussein. (Iraqi State Media)

Saddam invited Yasso to come to Baghdad for a meet and greet. Yasso decided to gift the Iraqi dictator with the key to the city of Detroit, courtesy of then-Mayor Coleman Young. As a way of saying thanks, Hussein then gave the church another $200,000.

7. He hated Froot Loops

The personal jailer for Saddam, while he was a prisoner, fell to U.S. Army Spc. Sean O’Shea, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman. O’Shea mopped the floors in Saddam’s cell, served him meals, and was essentially a sort of valet for Saddam Hussein.

The old man gave him advice on everything from women to home remedies. One of the few times O’Shea ever “saw him look defeated” was when the jail ran out of Raisin Bran Crunch and had to serve the guy Froot Loops. The dictator hated them.

(Read more about Spc. O’Shea’s life with Saddam over at GQ)

8. He offered to debate George W. Bush on live TV

In an effort to prevent the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the dictator offered to debate U.S. President George W. Bush on live TV. In a three-hour interview with CBS News, he offered a satellite link-up to debate the U.S. President.

“I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue – a debate – with your president,” CBS quoted Saddam as saying. “I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.”

The White House said the offer wasn’t a serious one but Hussein reiterated his stance.

“This is something proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people of the United States and the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke.”

9. He commissioned a Qur’an written in his own blood

Despite the fact that using blood to write a Qur’an is considered haram – forbidden – in every sect, branch, an offshoot of Islam, that never stopped Saddam Hussein. He commissioned one on his 60th birthday. Calligrapher Abbas Shakir Joudi wrote 6,000 verses and 336,000 words of the Qur’an using 50 pints of blood over the course of two years.

 

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

 

If you’re a blood expert who questions if it’s possible to give that much blood over two years, you aren’t alone. A blood donation expert once estimated it would have taken at least nine years to safely donate that much blood. That sort of thing never stopped Saddam Hussein either.

10. Young Saddam was raised by a single mother and wanted to be a lawyer

Saddam was raised by his mother after his father popped smoke one day. His dad was a shepherd, so there’s no real telling where he went. But the major male influence in Saddam’s life was his uncle, who was a member of the Ba’ath Party. Saddam’s brother died from cancer. Then his mom couldn’t afford to take care of him. So, Saddam got shipped off to live with his Arab nationalist uncle and a dictator was born. Saddam eventually went to Egypt to study law. But that was only after a failed assassination attempt on the sitting Iraqi president, Abd al-Karim Qasim. 

When Qasim was ousted for good in 1963, Saddam the educated lawyer returned to Iraq and the Ba’ath party.

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This former top-secret missile base is being slowly exposed

Camp Century, a top-secret, subterranean, experimental missile base established in Greenland during the Cold War, may be exposed in the coming years due to accelerating climate change.


The camp was originally built in 1959, and the U.S. told the Danish government — who administered Greenland at the time — that the experimental base would be constructed to test the feasibility of a nuclear-powered base built under the ice. America also removed ice core samples to collect atmospheric and climate data from throughout the planet’s history.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
A drill that ran under the ice at Camp Century. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, unbeknownst to the people of Greenland or the Danish government, America also tested a concept dubbed Project Iceworm. Iceworm called for hundreds of ballistic missiles to be moved underneath the Arctic ice on subterranean trains.

These missiles would have been some of the only ones capable of reaching the Soviet Union at that time.

According to The Guardian, Century was:

Powered, remarkably, by the world’s first mobile nuclear generator and known as “the city under the ice”, the camp’s three-kilometre network of tunnels, eight metres beneath the ice, housed laboratories, a shop, a hospital, a cinema, a chapel and accommodation for as many as 200 soldiers.

The project was eventually scrapped because the ice in the area was moving at a faster than anticipated rate, potentially causing tunnels to collapse and railroads to break and twist.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
One of Camp Century’s subterranean tunnels. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Advances in missile design and new diplomatic agreements made the project largely moot. Weapons based in places like Turkey gave the U.S. the ability to threaten the Soviet Union directly with nuclear attack.

But America still had to decide how to decommission the top-secret base. It did so by removing the nuclear reactor and essential equipment. Then it left the rest of the base to be swallowed up by the ice.

Camp Century received more snowfall nearly every year than was able to melt off in the warm months. That would have caused the radioactive waste from the reactor as well as the poisons in pools of septic and industrial discharge relatively safe to bury. As long as the contaminants remain frozen under meters of ice, there would be no threat to anyone or the ecosystem.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
The entrances to Camp Century’s nuclear reactor. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But rising temperatures now reduce the surplus snowfall every year. The good news is that scientists don’t think that melting snow and ice will outpace falling snow until 2090, and it could take as much as another 100 years for Century to emerge from its tomb once again.

When that happens, everyone is going to get a good look at America’s dirty laundry as well as literal pools of soldier poop.

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The Army just appointed the first female Special Forces battalion commander

Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.


It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.

It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.

And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.

Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.

“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”

But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.

“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”

Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.

“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1hqYavS96U
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.

“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”

Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.

“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.

And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.

In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.

“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.

She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
A U.S. Army Cultural Support Team member from Special Operations Task Force – East, shakes the hand of a young Afghan, while on a presence patrol. The purpose of the patrol was to gain atmospherics from local villagers, and for the CST to interact with Afghan women, Kunar District, May 24.

Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.

But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.

Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.

Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.

Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.

The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces personnel from 3rd Special Forces Group perform room clearing and close quarters battle operations at Naval Station Pascagoula, Miss., during Southern Strike 17, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.

Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.

“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”

Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.

With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.

In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.

For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.

Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.

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11 things that are only funny to submariners

We asked the sailors of the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood, a Facebook group for U.S. Navy submariners, what some of their funniest experiences were while underway and got over 230 funny comments. Here are 11 of the best replies:


*Note: identities kept anonymous per group’s request.

1. The shoe polish prank.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
HappyHaptics, YouTube

The best items for this prank are binoculars, periscopes and sound powered telephones. Yes, it’s a bit childish but hilarious when you’ve been cooped up for weeks on end.

2. When civilians or people not in the submarine community ask if the subs have windows.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount Television/Orvelin Valle/We Are The Mighty

Facebook group comment: When people ask if we had windows I’d tell them we had a big screen just like on Star Trek and that we could communicate face to face. You should have seen their faces.

3. Sending a NUB (Non Useful Body) to machinery to get a machinist’s punch.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Burn After Reading, Focus Features

4. Sending a NUB to feed the shaft seals.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Shaft seals are mythological creatures new sailors are sent to go looking for on a fool’s errand by another sailor. The shaft seals are actually a series of interlocks and safety mechanisms that ensure the integrity surrounding the ship’s main propulsion shaft, and not nautical mammals.

5. Farting into the ventilation that takes air from one compartment into another.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Fresh Movie Trailers, YouTube

Facebook group comment: We had a mech who’d stand watch on the ERUL (engine room upper level) that used to fart into the ventilation return that took air from the ERUL to the maneuvering control room. Then we’d all look around to figure out who sh-t themselves. About a minute later, we’d see him staring through the window at us with a grin bigger than Tennessee.

6. Preparing a NUB to go hunting when the 1MC (the ship’s public address system) announced “the ship will be shooting water slugs.”

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 3rd Class Corwin Colbert.

Water slug refers to shooting a submarine’s torpedo tube without first loading a torpedo — like firing blanks with a gun.

7. Waking a sleeping shipmate and shouting “Come on man, we’re the last ones!!” while wearing a Steinke hood or SEIE.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment MK-10 suite. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jhi L. Scott

A Steinke hood is used to escape a sub stranded on the ocean floor.

8. Trimming a shipmate’s webbed belt when he is trying to lose weight.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Image: The Belt Whole Sale

Facebook group comment: I’d trim about a quarter inch every couple of days from his webbed belt while he was trying to lose weight. He will say, “I’ve lost 10 pounds,” to which I’d respond, “why is your belt still tight?”

9. Pranking the XO (Executive Officer) by stealing the door to his stateroom.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer/ Orvelin Valle/ We Are The Mighty

It is tradition to prank the XO by stealing the door to his stateroom before transferring to another unit. This is huge because the CO (Commanding Officer/captain) and the XO are the only ones aboard who don’t have to share their rooms. It’s all in good fun, as is the XO’s retaliation. For example, we’ve heard of an XO who replaced his missing door with a tall sailor. Yes, that’s right, a real person. He even held a handle and made creaking noises when the XO opened the door.

10. Getting drunk sailors back on the boat after a port visit.

Facebook group comment: We’d laugh as we came face to face with the stumbling fools reeking of booze and debauchery. Me and the other watch stander would tie a line around the drunks and lower them down the aft battery hatch. The first few times were rough, they’d bang around going down but we eventually became good at it. Hell, sometimes I was one of those stumbling fools but they took care of me as I took care of them.

11. Pranking the JOOD (junior officer of the deck) with a trim party.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
National Geographic, YouTube

The prank is performed on a newly qualified Dive Officer, Chief of the Watch or JOOD where men and other weights are shifted fore and aft to affect the trim of the boat.

Trim definition (for non-sailors): Both on a submarine and surface vessels, a ship is designed to float as level as possible in the water. When the majority of the cargo weight is shifted to one end of the ship, the ship will begin to tilt.

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
National Geographic, YouTube

*BONUS!

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
15 Turns To Nowhere, Facebook

Articles

Today in military history: Russia tests ICBM

On Aug. 26, 1957, the Soviet Union announced the successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Both the United States and the Soviets had been in a race to perfect a nuclear-capable long-range missile since World War II. 

In July of 1957, the U.S. launched an ICBM called the SM-65 Atlas, which was as successful as a modern North Korean missile test or a sloppy hookup after too many drinks: It was just an embarrassing failure to perform.

A month later, the Soviets announced their own ICBM test had gone swimmingly…though no details were given, leading to some dubious though wary reactions from the US. 

The launch of Sputnik two months later, however, would give the Russians the edge in the space race, causing the U.S. to accelerate its efforts to close the “missile gap.”

Today, Russia has an agreement on space cooperation with the United States until the end of December 2030 (in spite of the United States’ newly formed Space Force).

According to DW, “The agreement was first signed in 1992 and has since been extended four times. The pact included joint work on the International Space Station, which Russia said at the beginning of March will continue until 2028. It also included cooperation between Roscosmos and NASA — the two countries’ space agencies — as well as Russian rockets ferrying astronauts and supplies to the ISS, after NASA shelved its space shuttle fleet.”

At a time when political relations between the U.S. and Russian remain tense — the U.S. has accused Russia of hacking and election interference, among other actions — many still believe that science must transcend politics.

Featured Image: Atlas 2E Ballistic Missile on display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum, Gillespie Field, El Cajon, California.

Articles

The US is about to revolutionize naval combat

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Members of the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team operate a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) alongside guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Pasquale Sena


After more than a decade of research and development, the US Navy stands on the edge of a paradigm shift.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service puts these technologies in perspective:

“Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer’ for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution.”

In the slides below, see where the US Navy is at in fielding these revolutionary technologies, and how they will change the future of naval warfare.

The US Navy’s defense dilemma

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Already, the onboard defenses on US Navy ships are some of the best in the world, but with growing threats from ever-advancing anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles from China and Russia, the US Navy is left with some bleak options.

1. Avoid operating in waters within range of advanced anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles (the South China, the Black, and Baltic Seas to name a few).

2. Change the entire fleet structure to rely on smaller surface ships and submarines, and less so on large platforms like aircraft carriers.

3. Improve onboard missile defenses to effectively counter even the most advanced anti-ship missiles.

With the US’s global network of allies and interests, the first option is unthinkable. The second option would vastly change the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, dull the power-projection capabilities provided by US aircraft carriers and amphibious assault vessels, and cost a fortune.

Source: Congressional Research Service

The problem with traditional guns and defenses

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci

“Powder guns have been matured to the point where you are going to get the most out of them. Railguns are just beginning,” Tom Boucher, the railgun program manager for Office of Naval Research, said to AFP.

There are two problems with the Navy’s current onboard missile defenses.

Firstly, traditional naval missile defenses rely on ammunition. So no matter how effective surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or close-in-weapons systems (CIWS) are, they have a finite amount of rounds that can be depleted.

Secondly, “Navy SAMs range from about $900,000 per missile to several million dollars per missile, depending on the type.”

Since SAMs protect the lives of US Navy sailors, these costs are acceptable, but still unsustainable throughout a prolonged conflict. Simply put, the missiles and rounds used to defend navy ships hugely tax an already strained defense budget.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Solid State Lasers

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. | US Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

Solid State Lasers, (SSLs) spectacularly overcome the limitations of traditional defenses, while introducing a few limitations of their own.

Right now, naval planners are developing SSLs to provide defense against small boats and UAVs within the range of one to a few miles, “and potentially in the future for countering ASCMs and ASBMs as well.”

The laser system offers brilliant advantages over traditional rounds both in depth of magazine and cost per shot.

An SSL can fire continuously until the ship supporting it runs out of fuel to generate electricity, which would take a long, long time. Additionally, the cost of firing an SSL is comparable to running a heavy duty appliance. The Navy cites the cost per shot of an SSL at around $1 per.

But SSLs rely on line of sight, and are therefore not all-weather weapons. Clouds, rain squalls, even particles in the atmosphere can sap effectiveness from the laser system. Additionally, it poses a threat to human targets, as it could blind them, and blinding weapons are prohibited by the Geneva convention.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG)

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego on July 8, 2014. | US Navy photo

The EMRG uses magnetic fields created by extremely high electrical currents to “accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at [speeds of] 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph,” 30 or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4.”

The projectile, traveling at a mind-boggling 1.5 miles per second, rips through the atmosphere with such speed that the atmosphere around it, as well as the tungsten of the projectile itself, erupt into an awesome fireball despite the fact that no explosives are used.

With a range of up to 100 miles (in just a few seconds) the EMRG can take out distant targets as well as incoming threats.

Unlike the SSL, the EMRG fires physical rounds, and therefore has a much more limited magazine depth. However, the cost per shot of the inert rounds is a very small fraction of what today’s guided missiles cost.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Hyper Velocity Projectiles (HVPs)

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, shows off a Hypervelocity Projectile (HVP) to CBS News reporter David Martin during an interview held at the Naval Research Laboratory’s materials testing facility. | US Navy photo by John F. Williams

In developing the revolutionary EMRG, the Navy realized they needed an equally revolutionary projectile— enter the HVP, a streamlined, percision guided round.

Though it was designed for railguns, the aerodynamic design of the HVP lends itself to other, existing applications. For instance, when fired out of the Navy’s 5 inch or 155 mm guns, the HVP reaches speeds of around Mach 3— about twice as fast as a normal round, but about half as fast as the EMRG fires it.

The HVP has GPS coordinates entered into it, and once fired, the fins on the rear of the round guide the projectile towards it’s target in any weather conditions.

HVPs are much more expensive than the normal rounds a Navy gun fires, but their speed means they can intercept missiles, which makes them a much cheaper alternative to guided missiles. Plus, as they are backwards-compatible with existing Navy platforms, HVPs could be deployed tomorrow if need be.

Source: Congressional Research Service

An affordable revolution in defense

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Slide 5 from Navy briefing entitled “Electromagnetic Railgun,” NDIA Joint Armaments Forum, Exhibition Technology Demonstration, May 14, 2014, LCDR Jason Fox, USN, Assistant PM [Program Manager], Railgun Ship Integration, Distribution. | NAVSEA GraphicThis graphic shows how the US Navy can leverage HVPs and EMRGs to maintain their asymmetrical advantage over rising powers for years to come, without relying on million-dollar missiles.

Source: Congressional Research Service

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