Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also read: National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.

“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.

Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.

Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.

“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
Soldiers of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. | Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.

“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.

Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”

As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.

Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:

— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.

— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.

— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.

“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.

“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”

Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.

“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”

Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”

“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.

“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.

The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.

In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.

In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”

Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.

“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US will leave Syria when the last of ISIS is defeated

President Donald Trump has tentatively decided to withdraw the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria once the last remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been eliminated, the White House said April 4, 2018.

The White House statement gave no timeline for a pullout that has been opposed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but said, “We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans.”


“The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed,” the statement said, adding the U.S.-led coalition remains “committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated.”

However, once the mission to destroy ISIS is completed, the U.S. can focus on withdrawal, the statement said.

In the absence of the U.S. military, “We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges,” it continued.

The White House issued the statement after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on April 4, 2018, that Trump had reached a decision on whether to order Mattis to begin planning for withdrawal.

At a breakfast with defense reporters, Coats did not say what the decision was, but said it was reached after “all hands on deck” discussions between Trump and his national security team April 3, 2018, at the White House.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Mattis, who has argued that the U.S. military needs to remain to provide security for recovery efforts, and the return of refugees, attended the discussions on the potential withdrawal, Pentagon officials said.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces after the defeat of ISIS would leave the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to an uncertain fate.

With the backing of U.S. airpower and artillery, the mostly Kurdish SDF has driven ISIS from most of its strongholds in Syria, and in 2017, claimed the so-called ISIS capital of Raqqa after a lengthy siege.

However, the dominant force in the SDF is the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Kurdish militia that Turkey has labeled a terrorist group.

In January 2018, Turkish forces, and their Free Syrian Army proxies began “Operation Olive Branch” to drive the YPG from border areas. The Turkish offensive is now focused on the crossroads town of Manbij, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in support of the local Manbij Military Council.

At the end of March 2018, Special Operations Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Texas, and British Sgt. Matt Tonroe, 33, were killed by an improvised explosive device in Manbij while reportedly on a mission to capture or kill an ISIS operative.

On April 4, 2018, as the White House pondered withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were meeting in Ankara to coordinate their next steps in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.

In a joint statement, the three presidents said they would oppose efforts to undermine the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose ouster had once been a key goal of U.S. policy.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
In 2015, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia met in Moscow to discuss the military operations in Syria.
(Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

The three presidents said they are against “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Syria,” a possible reference to U.S. opposition to Assad.

At the end of March 2018, Trump said he had lost patience with the costs to the U.S. in blood and treasure of involvement in the Middle East and wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria “very soon.”

At a joint White House news conference on April 4, 2018, with the leaders of the Baltic states, Trump said, “I want to get out” of Syria.

“I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation,” he said. “It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS; we will be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it is time to come back home. And we are thinking about that very seriously.”

However, Trump appeared to leave open the possibility that U.S. troops would remain in Syria if others picked up the costs of their presence.

“We’ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others in the area as to what we’ll do,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision, and I said, ‘Well you know, you want us to stay, maybe you’re gonna have to pay.’ “

At the same time that Trump was speaking at the White House, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, was arguing for a continued U.S. military presence in Syria to defeat ISIS and provide security for recovery efforts.

“The hard part is in front of us,” Votel said at a U.S. Institute of Peace Forum at which representatives of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development spoke of their ongoing efforts to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS.

Votel said U.S. troops in Syria had the mission of “consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes, [and] addressing the long-term issues of reconstruction and other things that will have to be done. Of course, there is a military role in this, certainly in the stabilization phase.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

First US service member to test positive for the coronavirus is finally recovered after 49 days in isolation

The first US service member to test positive for the coronavirus has recovered after spending 49 days in isolation.

A 23-year-old soldier stationed in South Korea became the first US service member to fall ill as the coronavirus spread from China to countries around the world. He tested positive on February 26, and his wife tested positive two days later.


US Forces Korea said in a statement Thursday that the soldier has returned to his off-base residence outside Camp Caroll and is waiting for a decision on when he can return to duty.

The soldier “was cleared from isolation after having been asymptomatic for more than seven days, being fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications, successfully passing two consecutive COVID-19 tests with negative results at least 24 hours apart, and being cleared by USFK medical providers,” USFK explained.

South Korea was, at one point in time, one of the worst hit locations outside of China, but the situation in the country has stabilized. South Korea has had only around 10,000 cases with a little over 200 deaths.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

South Korea and U.S. Army Joint Security Area Security Battalion fire team members perform a four-man carry of a simulated injured service member during a joint search and recovery exercise April 8, 2016, at Camp Bonifas, South Korea. 51st Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention firefighters assisted in the exercise by teaching South Korea and U.S. Soldiers how to safely enter a crashed aircraft to rescue individuals.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Dillian Bamman)

While there were roughly two dozen USFK-related cases, only two US service members were infected. There are over 28,500 US military personnel in South Korea.

USFK said that it “continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect the Republic of Korea against any threat or adversary while maintaining prudent preventive measures to protect the force.”

As of Wednesday, 2,486 US service members have tested positive for the coronavirus worldwide, with 85 requiring hospitalization. While 446 have recovered, two have died from related complications, according to the latest figures from the Pentagon.

The hardest hit US service branch has so far been the Navy with 951 cases. The majority of those cases are aboard the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has reported more than 600 coronavirus cases.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China drives massive nuclear missile through midday traffic

The Chinese government drove a massive, nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missile through the streets of a large city, much to the surprise of passersby.


The weapon is believed to be a DF-41, China’s latest ICBM still in the final stages of development. It was seen making its way through a traffic circle in Daqing, a city of over one million people in Heilongjiang province.

The missile is supposedly capable of carrying large thermonuclear weapons. That includes as many as 10 smaller warheads known as multiple independent reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, which allow it to hit multiple targets with one shot. It has an estimated maximum range of 9,300 miles, putting it in the range of most of the continental U.S. To put the weapon’s range in perspective, the distance from Daqing to Washington, D.C., is only approximately 6,400 miles.

Also read: Air Force defends nuclear cruise missile

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This VA patient portal will save you all kinds of time

When the closest VA clinic is miles away, or you have a hard time traveling from place to place, the last thing you want to do is make a trip to the doctor’s office. We get that. Your time is valuable.

In 2005, VA created My HealtheVet next to a coffee shop inside the Portland VA Medical Center. The small kiosk (and floppy disk drives) are long gone. However, the concept remains the same. Give veterans’ the opportunity to play an active role in their health care while saving them time in the process.


Today, over 4.9 million veterans have registered online for VA’s patient portal, My HealtheVet, to refill their prescriptions, download and share their medical records, schedule and view appointments, and send secure messages to their health care teams.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Over 140 million prescriptions refilled

Get this: My HealtheVet has refilled more than 143-million prescriptions over the last 14 years. It could take you just a couple of clicks to order your next prescription. And it will be delivered right to your doorstep.

It’s easy to sign up for an account, and it’s completely free! You can even upgrade your account the next time you’re at a VA clinic to access all of My HealtheVet’s features:

  • Refill prescriptions online
  • Schedule and view VA appointments
  • Download and share your medical records, including medical images
  • Send secure messages to your health care teams
  • Access to mental health resources
  • Gain knowledge through the Veterans Health Library

Click to learn more information about My HealtheVet and start saving time today!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks

The Taliban has reportedly made a major concession to the US during their peace talks in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As US diplomatic officials and leaders of the insurgent group discuss the end of the 17-year war in Afghanistan, one source familiar with the talks told the Journal that the Taliban has agreed to oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad.”


The concessions, if finalized, would seem to support an eventual US withdrawal on the grounds that Afghanistan, even under the Taliban, would not become a safe haven for terrorists to train and launch attacks outside the country. The Taliban continues to use brutal tactics against civilians and coalition forces, including suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices to gain control of more of the country against the faltering government.

US negotiators, now in their fourth day of talks in Doha, Qatar, have sought assurance that the Taliban would not support militant groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

During a Sensitive Site Exploitation mission, a U.S. Navy Seal talks to local Afghani villagers about the movements of Al Qaida and Taliban, Jan. 24, 2002.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tim Turner)

Sources familiar with the talks have told the Journal that that was previously a promise the Taliban was not willing to make due to the group’s relationship with al-Qaeda.

The group formerly led by Osama bin Laden formed in Pakistan but was able to establish roots in Afghanistan in the 90s. After the terror attacks on 9/11, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar refused to acknowledge Bin Laden’s role in the attacks or cooperate with US authorities, according to the Journal.

Although he would later acknowledge al-Qaeda’s responsibility, Taliban militants, who are still carrying out attacks on Afghan forces and coalition partners, hold Bin Laden in high regard. Because of this, leaders of the insurgency have previously refused to take steps to oppose al-Qaeda, sources told the Journal.

Their stance appears to have softened, as Taliban leadership has now reportedly agreed to oppose militant groups in Afghanistan; sources also told the Journal the leaders are no longer demanding an immediate and complete withdrawal of US forces, which American officials have argued might lead to civil war.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Upgrade advances A-10’s search capability

A-10C Thunderbolt IIs assigned to active duty fighter squadrons here are in the process of having new lightweight airborne recovery systems installed.


The LARS V-12 is designed to allow A-10 pilots to communicate more effectively with individuals on the ground such as downed pilots, pararescuemen and joint terminal attack controllers.

Related: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

The LARS system provides the A-10 pilots with GPS coordinates of ground personnel and enables them to communicate via voice or text, according to Staff Sgt. Andre Gonzalez, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician.

The systems upgrades are being installed by the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
An A-10C Thunderbolt II upgraded with a new lightweight airborne recovery system V-12 rests on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 21, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mya M. Crosby

“This urgent operational need arose in August (2016),” said Timothy Gray, 309th AMARG acting director. “Air Combat Command and the A-10 Program Office asked me if AMARG could complete 16 aircraft by 16 December. I said ‘Absolutely!’ It was awesome to see Team AMARG take on this massive logistical challenge, build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits (to) execute the requirement.”

In the last three months, the technicians have completed LARS installations on 19 aircraft from Davis-Monthan and Moody AFB, Ga., which will ultimately provide pilots and ground personnel downrange with a valuable search capability.

“A-10 pilots take the Combat Search and Rescue role very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing them back to U.S. soil safely.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it looks like when Marines fire their biggest guns

Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.

And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.


For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.

An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.

But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.

While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.

And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.

There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.

There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.

There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.

And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.

Articles

24 photos that show US Navy flight ops up close and personal

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
(Photo: U.S. Navy)


America’s aircraft carriers are the heart of the US Navy and serve as American territory floating around the world, allowing the US to project massive air and sea military might.

During flight operations, an aircraft carrier’s deck is an extremely dangerous place with expensive fighter jets and helicopters landing and taking off on a short runway. However, sailors and airmen mitigate risks by fine tuning the chaos with coordination and precision.

Here are 27 pictures to prove there is really nothing quite like America’s aircraft carriers.

Tiger cruise participants commemorate their voyage with a spell-out on the flight deck on the USS Carl Vinson.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

An MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy Photo

An aircraft director guides an F/A-18C Hornet onto a catapult aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kilho Park

An aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan J. Mayes

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron 41 lands aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors stow an aircraft barricade after flight deck drills aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors conduct a special patrol insertion/extraction exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paolo Bayas

Ship executive officer addresses Sailors on the flight deck during an all-hands call on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Bell

USS Bonhomme Richard conducts flight operations.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks

A pilot confirms the weight of his jet prior to launch on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo

Airman position model aircraft on a planning board in the flight deck control center aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Murphy

Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate signals a C-2A Greyhound on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo

USS Theodore Roosevelt conducts vertical replenishment.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Christopher Harris

USS Essex sailors scrub the flight deck.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Adam M. Bennett

A landing craft air cushion enters the well deck of USS Kearsarge in Gulf of Aden.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corbin J. Shea

USS Essex conducts deck landing qualifications.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley J. Gee

USS John C. Stennis conducts helicopter operations.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez

A Super Hornet launches from the deck of USS Enterprise.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman

Sailor signals for sailors to set up the aircraft barricade during a drill aboard USS George Washington.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob D. Moore

MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lands aboard USS Essex.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam M. Bennett

An AV-8B Harrier launches from USS Makin Island.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kory Alsberry

Sailors conduct a chock-and-chain evolution with an SH-60 Sea Hawk aboard USS Wasp.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rawad Madanat

An airman directs an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy Photo

Sailors prepare an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the USS Ronald Reagan.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
U.S. Navy photo

Articles

That time Nixon wanted commies to think he was crazy enough to nuke them

Eighteen B-52 bombers took off from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington on October 10, 1969, each loaded with nuclear weapons. Although the bombers were headed toward Moscow, the goal was to influence outcomes around Hanoi. The bombers’ mission was to proceed directly to the Soviet Union in order to convince the Soviets that America at the hands of President Nixon was willing to resort to nuclear war to win in Vietnam.


A critical component of Nixon’s foreign policy was to make the leaders of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc think he was insane — like really insane — and he wanted the Communist leaders of the world to believe that he was ready to start World War III to prevent communist expansion.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

“I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war,” Nixon told his Chief of Staff. “We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

Tough talk against a guy who went on the record willing to lose 10 Vietnamese for every invader.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

In 1968, Nixon campaigned on ending the war in Vietnam, but well into his first year in office, the North Vietnamese vowed to sit at the bargaining table in Paris “until the chairs rot.” Nixon wanted the Soviet leadership, widely seen as the puppeteers of North Vietnam’s leaders, to force the Vietnamese regime to conclude a peace agreement. The true intent of the plan was so secret, not even Gen. Bruce K. Holloway, commander of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command knew the mission’s true purpose. The facts about the operation, called Giant Lance, were not made public until a 2000 Freedom of Information Act request revealed it.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

The bombers flew along Soviet airspace for three days as other nuclear forces around the world — destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, and Sea of Japan — all executed secret maneuvers that were designed to be detectable by the Kremlin. In response Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin met with Nixon to discuss the raised state of alert of U.S. forces.

The Madman Theory worked in that respect. Dobrynin warned the Soviet leadership that “Nixon is unable to control himself even in a conversation with a foreign ambassador,” about Nixon’s “growing emotionalism” and his “lack of balance.” Nixon would order an end to Giant Lance suddenly on October 30.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen
A B-52 takes off in support of Giant Lance. Presumably, everyone on board is slightly nervous. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

The plan didn’t end the war in Vietnam, however. It was the president’s belief his Madman Theory did lead to agreeable terms for the SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) and his anti-ballistic missile treaties with the Soviet Union in 1972. That same year Nixon would drive the North Vietnamese back to the bargaining table each time they tried to leave through a series of bombing campaigns on North Vietnamese targets with operations Linebacker and Linebacker II.

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

NOW SEE: 17 Wild Facts About the Vietnam War

OR:  This Marine was the ‘American Sniper’ of the Vietnam War

Articles

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

‘Top Gun’ is a classic and arguably one of the most visually stunning aviation movies ever made. Few movies in cinematic history have been as prolific in contributing to the pop culture lexicon, as well. (Who among us hasn’t said, “I feel the need for speed” in random social situations?) And if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it chances are they’ll list ‘Top Gun’ as one of the reasons.


Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make ‘Top Gun.’ Real-life air-to-air combat doesn’t lend itself to the silver screen in that it’s super technical, very chaotic, and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time. So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. and the late-great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain movie-goers.

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But, even allowing for that, ‘Top Gun’ has a bunch of cringe-worthy technical errors that cause it to be as much cartoon as tribute. Here’s WATM’s list of the big ones (annotated by the exact time they occur). After reading them we guarantee you’ll never look at the movie the same way again.

(4:23) CATCC controller is sweating. Those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics.

(4:26) Bald-headed guy (played by actor James Tolkan) walks in wearing cover, something the crew doesn’t do on Navy ships unless they’re on watch on the bridge. What is this guy’s billet anyway? CAG? Carrier CO? Tomcat squadron skipper? (He’s an 0-5, so that would make him too junior for the first two, but he acts like he’s in charge of everything.)

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(4:33) (Not an error but a technical note): MiGs-28s are actually F-5Fs painted black. (Top Gun still uses F-5s as aggressor aircraft.)

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(4:45) GCI controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.

(4:56) Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.

(5:00) RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. (Wouldn’t want a radar that pointed back at the crews. That would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.)

(6:00) Tomcat’s wings are swept fully aft, which means — at that altitude — that the aircraft is going supersonic or the pilot commanded them into that position, which he wouldn’t do because the airplane doesn’t turn that well in that configuration.

(7:21) Standby gyro is un-caged as Maverick “goes for missile lock” by twisting a nob on the mid-compression by-pass selector — a system that has nothing to do with the Tomcat’s weapons suite.

(8:00) Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” Well, whatever the ROE, the question is moot until you do some pilot shit and actually maneuver your jet into a position to commit a weapon.

(9:01) As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.

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(9:03) The RIO wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.

(9:59) Merlin taps on a fuel gauge that doesn’t exist in the rear cockpit of the F-14, only in the front cockpit. (The RIO only has a fuel totalizer.)

(10:06) Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.

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(10:12) Cougar has a photo of his wife and baby taped over the airspeed gauge to the left of the altimeter. Meanwhile the vertical speed indicator shows he’s descending at 6,000 feet per minute, which would be an aggressive dive. At the same time the altimeter, which shows he’s at 31, 500 feet, is set to standby with the barometric pressure dialed to 28.32 when it should be at 29.92.

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F-14 A Tomcat cockpit. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

(10:26) ICS comms (intra-cockpit chatter) can be heard in air ops.

(10:48) A ball call (the transmission indicating the pilot sees the Fresnel lens that gives him glide slope information for landing) would not include the pilot’s call sign.

(10:57) Goose has the same non-existent rear cockpit fuel gauge as Merlin.

(10:58) Maverick crosses the ramp with his hook down and then a second later he has the hook up. (It takes several seconds to cycle between fully up and fully down.) Then he pulls the throttles aft to go around, which would reduce engine power, as somebody screams “Cougar!” over the radio.

(11:06) Maverick instantly bolters — in full burner, no less — with the hook down again.

(12:25) Cougar never calls the ball when instructed but gets a “roger, ball” from the LSO.

(12:27) There’s no way Cougar wouldn’t have been waved off based on that wild approach. He gets at least five “power” calls and no “wave off” call. The Air Boss would have had Paddle’s ass after that.

(12:51) Cougar traps, leaves lights on (Case I or Case III approach? Unclear here), and immediately shuts the jet down instead of taxiing out of the landing area. Maverick is still airborne, low on gas, and needs to land but can’t now because Cougar has fouled the landing area and has to be towed out of the wires.

(13:00) Nice stateroom for a squadron CO. (He’s an 0-5, fer crissakes.) Again, what’s this guys’ billet?

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(13:58) First glimpse of random patch assortments on flight suits as Maverick and Goose get chewed out by skipper in his really nice stateroom. (And everybody’s sweating.)

(14:19) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “With a history of high-speed passes over five air-controlled towers.” Not sure what those are but they must be different than ground- or water-controlled towers.

(15:36) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time” and dismisses the crew to head for Top Gun, thereby committing professional suicide by not getting the only information that anyone above him in the chain of command would care about that particular day.

(16:06) “Um, tower, there’s some dork riding a motorcycle down one of the taxiways shaking his fist at us.”

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(16:59) There is no Santa Claus. And there’s no such thing as the Top Gun Trophy.

(17:46) Slider is a lieutenant (junior grade). That’s too junior for a Top Gun slot.

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(18:32) Navy leaders would be reprimanded for encouraging arrogance because the Navy spent money on posters that read “excellence without arrogance.”

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(20:02) Goose quips, “Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man; what happened?” So he’s a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the “RIOs as second class citizens” vibe left the community with the F-4.

(25:52) A hangar isn’t the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs.

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(26:29) Charlie briefs, “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” Must be because black paint is lighter than other colors.

(26:37) Charlie briefs, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” Those must be different than upright flight tanks.

(26:54) Anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.

(27:36) Maverick makes a big deal about how the information regarding his MiG encounter is classified and then proceeds to reveal it in front of the entire group with no idea of whether they have clearance or not. Again, they’re briefing in a hangar. Not exactly a SCIF.

(28:42) Jester says, “All right, gentlemen, we have a hop to take. The hard deck on this hop will be 10,000 feet. There will be no engagements below that.” Of course we haven’t briefed any of the other details of this event — including ACM rules of engagement — because Charlie has wasted our time hitting on Maverick, but whatever . . .

(29:53) Smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel . . . a stupid idea when you’re about to enter a dogfight.

(30:01) First merge happens very low to the ground over the desert, not exactly a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(30:51) Goose says “Watch the mountains!,” words never spoken during an air combat maneuvering event with a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(31:31) Maverick “hits the brakes” by pushing the throttles forward, which would increase power, not decrease it.

(31:49) Jester’s evasive maneuver in the A-4 is an aileron roll – not exactly an effective move in terms of creating the sort of lateral displacement that might defeat an enemy’s weapons solution.

(32:08) Goose says, “We’re going ballistic, Mav. Go get him,” which makes no sense because a pilot has no control over a ballistic airplane.

(33:34) Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.

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(35:52) Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds . . .”

(37:10) Any lieutenant whose fitness report reads “He’s a wildcard. Completely unpredictable. Flies by the seat of his pants” would be done flying, not to mention unqualified for a Top Gun slot.

(38:26) Goose says to Maverick, “They wouldn’t let you into the Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” There are lots of reasons not to get admitted into a service academy — low SAT scores, for instance. Being the dependent of a veteran isn’t one of them; in fact, that status qualifies the candidate for a Presidential nomination.

(39:26) Maverick explains to Charlie during a TACTS debrief, “If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” She replies, “But at that speed it’s too fast.” Um, what are you guys talking about, and what language are you even speaking?

(51:43) Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million. Maybe she wasn’t including the cost of the two engines, which could have been a subtle dig on his energy management skills.

(55:31) Why is Hollywood eating an orange on the flight line?

(55:45) More dumping of gas going into a dogfight.

(56:30) Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him (in accordance with safely of flight rules).

(57:26) Logic of the engagement is ridiculous. Maverick lets Jester go and then flies in parade formation behind Hollywood who’s saddled in super-close behind the other bandit. Hollywood whines at Maverick not to leave him when he should just shoot the bandit right in front of him, and then Maverick leaves to go after Viper and ultimately winds up getting shot because Goose does a shitty job of keeping their six clear (at 59:23).

(57:49) More fuel dumping.

(58:42) HUD display looks nothing like the real thing.

(59:04) Maverick switches to guns but HUD symbology stays the same.

(1:06:16) Iceman transmits, “I need another 20 seconds then I’ve got him” while flying so close that if he took a gun shot he’d probably FOD his own engines with the debris from the airplane in front of him. What does he need 20 seconds for?

(1:06:56) Goose says “Shit, we got a flameout. Engine 1 is out.” The RIO has no engine instruments in the rear cockpit of the F-14.

(1:07:13) Iceman transmits, “Mav’s in trouble. He’s in a flat spin and headed out to sea.” When an airplane is in a flat spin it is not heading anywhere except straight down.

(1:07:22) Goose reports, “Altitude 8,000. 7,000. Six, we’re at six.” They should have ejected already. NATOPS boldface (immediate action steps committed to memory) procedures read like this: “If flat spin verified by flat attitude, increasing yaw rate, increasing eyeball−out G, and lack of pitch and roll rates: 8. Canopy – Jettison. 9. EJECT – RIO Command Eject.”

(1:07:23) Goose says “We’re at six [thousand feet]” while the altimeter shows 2,200 feet.

(1:07:48) See step 8 above. If Goose had followed procedures he wouldn’t have died.

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(1:14:20) A Field Naval Aviator’s Evaluation Board (FNAEB — pronounced “fee-nab”) would not look like a judicial proceeding held in a courtroom.

(1:23:08) Viper tells Maverick about the day his dad died like this: “His F-4 was hit. He was wounded but he could have made it back. He stayed in it. Saved three planes before he bought it.” And Maverick doesn’t respond by saying, “That makes no sense, sir. How does a pilot save three planes after his jet is hit? Why are you bullshitting me?”

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(1:23:20) Viper explains, “It’s not something the State Department tells dependents when the battle occurred over the wrong lines on some map,” which ignores the fact that the Pentagon would be pissed if some random State Department dude spoke to surviving family members at all.

(1:26:50) Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.

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(1:27:24) Again: What. Is. This. Guy’s. Billet?

(1:28:56) Pilots salute cat officers for launch with oxygen masks off.

(1:29:08) Maverick walks on the flight deck during flight ops without his helmet on.

(1:32:10) Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.

(1:33:08) Random lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults.

(1:34:47) Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that.

(1:36:41) Ice says, “I’m going for the shot” while at close range behind a bandit, but he switches from ‘Guns’ to ‘Sparrow/Phoenix’ — the long range, forward-quarter weapons.

(1:36:54) Missile magically transforms from an AIM-7 Sparrow into a AIM-9 Sidewinder in flight.

(1:37:48) Maverick shoots a Sparrow in the rear quarter at short range, which wouldn’t work because the AIM-7 needs a lot of closure to guide.

(1:38:02) Again the missile magically transforms from a Sparrow into a Sidewinder in flight.

(1:38:54) Once again Maverick ‘hits the brakes’ by advancing the throttles, which would make the airplane speed up.

(1:39:47) Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.

(1:41:14) Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with.

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(All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures except as otherwise indicated.)

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Army answers Navy with a high-gloss spirit spot of its own

Army West Point has just revealed its most crucial and secret operation in the war against Navy team spirit in a video released across social media channels this morning.


The Navy fired their first video of this year recently.

The video is currently hosted on the West Point U.S. Military Academy Facebook page and depicts an operation that centers around the Army 1st Spirit Forces Group but also incorporates the 82nd Airborne Division, the U.S. Army Pacific Command, and other major units.

It appears that the mission objective may be the Navy’s mascot, Bill.

See what we know so far in the video below:

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7 craziest commando missions of World War II

World War II was an exciting time for special operations and commandos. The advent of airborne operations gave them a whole new angle of approach, and the sheer scale of the war guaranteed that they’d have plenty of chances to use their skills.


But even accounting for those things, operators on both sides of the war distinguished themselves with daring missions.

Here are eight of the craziest:

1. A costly canoe raid against German ships

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(Photo: Royal Marines Museum)

The “Cockleshell Heroes” were a group of British Royal Marines assigned the task of launching from a submarine and canoeing miles up the River Gironde to place limpet mines against the hull of German ships. The mission hit problems almost immediately as canoes were lost to tide and river obstacles.

Only two of the original five made it to the Bordeaux-Bassens docks. The four men who crewed the canoes placed mines on a few ships, which damaged some commercial vessels. While the material damage was limited, it boosted British morale and forced the Germans to devote more resources to defense in a way similar to the U.S. Army Air Force’s Doolittle Raid.

2. The failed attempt to kill Erwin Rommel

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(Photo: German Federal Archives)

Operation Flipper had the lofty goal of crippling an Italian headquarters and intelligence office as well as killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. The mission was beset by bad weather and the assault force that hit the German officer’s headquarters was smaller than planned.

Still, the British commandos broke into the headquarters building only to learn that Rommel had been delayed in Rome by his own weather problems. Only two raiders survived, but even Rommel admitted that it was a “brilliant operation.” He had the senior officer, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, killed and buried with full honors and photos sent to the family.

3. Norwegian resistance destroys Germany’s nuclear stockpile, twice

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(Photo: Public Domain)

A first attempt on the Norsk Hydro Plant, where radioactive heavy water was processed and stored, failed but the survivors and their reinforcements hit the plant on Feb. 28, 1943, despite suffering from starvation and exhaustion. They were able to blow the storage facilities, setting German nuclear research back by at least months.

Months later, a new stockpile of German heavy water was being transported on a ferry when the Norwegian Resistance attacked once again, sinking the ferry and ending Germany’s last best chance at a nuclear reactor or bomb. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both raids.

4. German paratroopers take the world’s strongest fort

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Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fortress in May 1940, but it fell to 85 German paratroopers with the right plan. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In 1940, the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fort. Constructed from 1932-1935, it was heavily armed and guarded by upwards of 800 soldiers. But Germany had to destroy or negate it to get the blitzkrieg into Belgium.

They did it in a single morning with 85 paratroopers. The men landed on the fort in gliders and quickly took hold of large sections of it, destroying or capturing the guns aimed at the countryside. When the rest of the German army arrived, the remaining defenders surrendered.

5. Benito Mussolini is rescued from a mountaintop retreat by German paratroopers

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(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In July 1943, Italian defeats turned the country against Benito Mussolini and he was exiled to a series of locations. A German commander was able to track the dictator to Gran Sasso, a mountaintop ski resort accessible only by cable car or glider. At 6,300 feet, it was too high even for an airborne assault.

German Capt. Otto Skorzeny led the glider assault. The paratroopers brought along an Italian general in the hopes that he would prevent a shootout. It worked. The Italian guards decided not to fight when the gliders crashed into the mountains and the paratroopers stormed out. Skorzeny and Mussolini departed on a small, high-altitude plane.

6. British commandos steal a German radar station

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(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

The insane plan for Operation Biting called for five groups of British paras to land in German-occupied France, capture a German radar station, and then make off with key pieces of the technology. The men landed under cover of darkness and quickly captured the building. They even managed to grab two technicians with intimate knowledge of the advanced German radar.

Paratroopers who missed their drop zone arrived late to destroy a German pillbox, a situation that almost ended with the withdrawing commandos being killed. Luckily, the men arrived in time to destroy the pillbox as it swept fire on the other commandos. The British escaped with their prize.

7. The British turn an entire ship into a bomb

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The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

Dubbed the “Greatest Raid of Them All,” the St. Nazaire Raid targeted the only German-held dry dock for heavy ships on the Atlantic that was accessible without passing German defenses. But the dry dock was heavily armed and far upriver.

The British sent a small flotilla of vessels led by the converted HMS Campbeltown. Sixteen were small motorboats, twelve of which were destroyed without reaching shore. But the Campbeltown managed to ram the gates of the dry dock. The Germans captured 215 of the 600 attackers and killed 169 more, but explosives hidden in the Campbeltown exploded the next morning, crippling the facilities.

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