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Shopping malls were created with nuclear war in mind

Ah, the American shopping mall — filled with department stores, gag gifts, and five or six pretzel shops per floor. It’s hard to imagine a United States that isn’t anchored around these retail utopias.


But the shopping mall is only 60 years old, and — while they were partially envisioned as a way to get people to stay near stores and spend money — they were designed to spread the American population away from industrial centers and provide shelter in case of nuclear war.

Southdale Mall, designed to entice shoppers and shelter survivors in the 1950s, still exists as Southdale Center. Photo: Wikipedia/Bobak Ha’Eri

The first was Southdale Mall near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Southdale and many of the malls that followed were designed by Victor Gruen, an Austrian immigrant who fled Nazi Germany in 1938.

Gruen’s main goal when designing malls was that they should act as self-contained downtown areas. All the best parts of 1950 cities without any of the cars, crime, and unrest that he loathed. Climate-controlled to an eternal spring, his designs featured green space and were surrounded by apartments and office centers.

When Gruen began proposing his indoor malls to civic and business leaders, he packaged it as a civil defense measure. It was to be a perfect cornerstone of the “life belts” around major cities.

The idea for “life belts” had been gaining traction since 1950. It called for a circle of civil defense infrastructure, like shelters and hospitals, to be built just far enough from city centers that they would survive a nuclear bomb strike on the city.

Civil defense in the 1950s called for people to take what shelter they could. Photo: Wikipedia/Library of Congress

When plans were made for Southdale Mall, civic leaders asked for it to be built at a location 10 miles from Minneapolis’s city center, two miles from the edge of an expected blast. It was nestled between two highways so people could arrive quickly during an attack.

It was constructed of steel and reinforced concrete. A large fallout shelter and a 10,000-kilowatt generator sat underground in case they were needed for an emergency. Plans were drawn to turn shops into food production centers during a crisis.

Other malls, like Randhurst Mall near Chicago and Park Lane Mall in Reno, incorporated shelters and other aspects of Gruens’s designs. But the shopping center as fallout shelter concept didn’t really catch on.

As the Cold War progressed civil defense leaders instead called for shelters beneath other types of buildings. Schools, fire and police stations, and even churches were designed and constructed with built-in shelters.

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11 incredible videos of weapons firing in slow motion

The U.S. military uses some awesome weapon systems, but many of them are even more impressive when you can slow down the action and see exactly how the weapon engages and destroys its targets. We scoured Youtube and found some of the best.


1. Tanks

(Funker530, YouTube)Tanks hardly need an explanation. This compilation video includes a few different types of munitions and lots of nice explosions as rounds leave the barrel.

2. Javelin

(Gung Ho Vids, YouTube)

The Javelin is primarily an anti-tank missile that attacks from above, though it can be used against aircraft and buildings in a direct fire mode. An initial charge blows the missile away from the launcher before the propellant sends the fire and forget missile to its target.

3. TOW Missile vs. Tank

(Funker530, YouTube) Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles serve a primarily anti-armor role. The missiles in this video are one of the variants that allow for top-down attacks, exploding above the target to penetrate the tank through its thinner turret armor as opposed to a direct hit.

4. M2 .50-cal machine gun

(Vickers Tactical, YouTube)The M2 is beloved by troops. For the uninitiated, this video of the M2 chewing through a car should quickly give you an idea of why.

5. Dillon Minigun

(FullMag, YouTube)The M134 fires 7.62mm rounds, which makes it a minigun when compared to larger calibers like the 20mm Vulcans but still a big badass compared to most weapons floating around. These weapons are used extensively by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).

6. Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle

(FullMag, Youtube)Developed by the US Navy for use by its special operators, this weapon is an extremely modified version of the M16. It is also now used by Army Special Forces. It fires standard NATO 5.56mm rounds.

7. Det Cord

(FullMag, YouTube)Det cord is a thin cord of explosives that detonates at four miles per second. When watching it at normal speed, it seems like the whole thing goes off at once. In extreme slow-mo though, you can watch the detonation move through the cord.

8. Tomahawk Missile

(okrajoe, Youtube)The Tomahawk missile has many variants, from conventional surface attack to a nuclear version to ones that drop cluster munitions. If you want to see extreme slow-motion video of a Tomahawk striking its target, check out this video.

9. 40mm semi-automatic grenade launcher

(Vickers Tactical, YouTube)The M32 MGL is a semi-automatic grenade launcher that looks like an old-western revolver on steroids. It’s in service with the US Marine Corps and can bring a lot of controlled, accurate pain quickly.

10. U.S. Navy Railgun

(defenseupdate, YouTube)Currently in tests with the U.S. Navy, the electromagnetic railgun has been a dream for years. Judging by videos like these, and the fact that the railgun is scheduled for sea trials in 2016, that dream may soon be a reality.

11. Fully-automatic M4

(The Slow Mo Guys, YouTube)Most military guys are familiar with the M4, though few get any trigger time with the fully automatic version. Here, you can see the full-auto M4 in all its glory as it’s slowed way down. The entire video is capturing action that took place in just over two seconds.

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North Korea is getting closer to a nuclear bomb that can hit the US

North Korea has spent decades developing nuclear devices and the missiles to launch them while threatening to flatten cities in the US, Australia, and Asia.


Though experts in the past could credibly dismiss those threats as fantasy, North Korea has recently made swift progress toward that end.

“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it happened in the next few months,” Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider in May of the potential for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“They have a higher tolerance for risk. If it fails, it fails. I don’t think that greatly concerns them. They’re more interested in trying to demonstrate what they’re trying to do. [There’s] a lot of political messaging going on with these tests.”

North Korea first tested a nuclear device in 2006, and it has tested missiles since 1984. The missiles started with limited capacity and could be fired only at short ranges. Initial nuclear tests were weak and ineffective.

A North Korean anti-aircraft missile drives through Pyongyang. (Photo by Stefan Krasowski via Flickr)

But now the country seems poised to make a leap toward missiles that could cross the globe with almost unlimited firepower.

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, told South Korea’s Yonhap News on June 26 that the North Koreans could produce tritium, an element that can turn an already devastating atomic bomb into a hydrogen bomb.

Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider that while atomic bombs release enormous amounts of energy through fission, hydrogen bombs increase that energy by combining it with fusion, the same reaction that powers the sun.

“There is no theoretical upper limit on the maximum yield of a hydrogen bomb, but as a practical matter, it can’t be too large or heavy to fit on its intended delivery system,” said Schwartz, who noted that the largest hydrogen bomb designed, Russia’s Tsar Bomba, had an explosive yield of 100 megatons.

Such a bomb, if dropped on Washington, DC, would flatten buildings for 20 miles in every direction and leave third-degree burns on humans 45 miles out, or past Baltimore.

A huge expanse of ruins left the explosion of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945 in Hiroshima. 140,000 people died because of the disastrous explosion.

“Those possibilities are sufficiently worrisome that I maintain that the crisis is here now,” Hecker said, not when North Korean missiles “are able to reach the US.” He added, however, that it would take more time for North Korea to weaponize hydrogen bombs. US spy satellites have recently seen increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, but no conclusions can yet be drawn. In the past, North Korea has claimed it has built hydrogen bombs, though not credibly.

On the missile front, North Korea has made fast progress, surprising many experts contacted by Business Insider, who now say the country could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this year.

A recent rocket-engine test from North Korea could serve as a bad omen. In the past, North Korea has tested rocket engines less than a year before testing the missiles that would use them. Experts said North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test could indeed have been in preparation for an ICBM.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Hecker urged the US to diplomatically engage with North Korea to get it to adopt a “no use” policy with its nuclear arsenal, a concession from the total denuclearization the US currently demands.

Denuclearization so far has been a nonstarter with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has written the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution as a guarantor of its security.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon,” Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not going to stop ’cause they get bored.”

For now, it seems inevitable that North Korea will get it.

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Terrorists are creating their own social media platforms

Islamic State militants are developing their own social media platform to avoid security crackdowns on their communications and propaganda, the head of the European Union’s police agency said on May 3.


Europol Director Rob Wainwright said the new online platform had been uncovered during a 48-hour operation against Internet extremism last week.

“Within that operation it was revealed IS was now developing its very own social media platform, its own part of the Internet to run its agenda,” Wainwright told a security conference in London. “It does show that some members of Daesh (IS), at least, continue to innovate in this space.”

Social media is already challenging to regulate as it is.

During a Europol-coordinated crackdown on IS and al Qaeda material, which involved officials from the United States, Belgium, Greece, Poland, and Portugal, more than 2,000 extremist items were identified, hosted on 52 social media platforms.

Jihadists have often relied on mainstream social media platforms for online communications and to spread propaganda, with private channels on messaging app Telegram being especially popular over the past year.

Technology firms, such as Facebook and Google, have come under increasing political pressure to do more to tackle extremist material online and to make it harder for groups such as Islamic State to communicate through encrypted services to avoid detection by security services.

Also read: The US is amping up its cyber war force

However, Wainwright said that IS, by creating its own service, was responding to concerted pressure from intelligence agencies, police forces, and the tech sector, and were trying to find a way around it.

“We have certainly made it a lot harder for them to operate in this space but we’re still seeing the publication of these awful videos, communications operating large scale across the Internet,” he said, adding he did not know if it would be technically harder to take down IS’s own platform.

Wainwright also said he believed that security cooperation between Britain and the EU would continue after Brexit, despite British warnings it is likely to leave Europol and cease sharing intelligence if it strikes no divorce deal with the bloc.

“The operational requirement is for that to be retained. If anything we need to have an even more closely integrated pan-European response to security if you consider the way in which the threat is heading,” he said.

Related: DARPA held a contest to identify evil propaganda robots on Facebook and Twitter

Europe, he added, is facing “the highest terrorist threat for a generation”.

However, Wainwright said there were important legal issues that would have to be thrashed out and it was not easy “to just cut and paste current arrangements”.

“The legal issues have to be worked through and then they have to be worked through within of course the broader political context of the Article 50 negotiations (on Britain’s planned exit from the EU),” he said.

“In the end I hope the grown-ups in the room will realize that … security is one of the most important areas of the whole process. We need to get that right in the collective security interest of Europe as a whole, including of course the United Kingdom.”

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15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

The military is full of interesting lingo. The Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army all have their own unique phrases. Some of these are so good, the civilian world just can’t resist picking them up when it hears them. Here are 17 phrases that jumped from the military ranks to the civilian sphere.


1. “Balls to the walls” (also, “Going balls out”)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rob Shenk

Meaning: To go as fast as one possibly can.

From military aviation where pilots would need to get their aircraft flying as fast as possible. Their control levers had balls on the end. Pushing the accelerator all the way out (“balls out”), would put the ball of the lever against the firewall in the cockpit (“balls to the wall”). When a pilot really needed to zoom away, they’d also push the control stick all the way forward, sending it into a dive. Obviously, this would put the ball of the control stick all the way out from the pilot and against the firewall.

2. “Bite the bullet”

Meaning: To endure pain or discomfort without crying out

Fighters on both sides of the American Civil War used the term “bite the bullet,” but it appears they may have stolen it from the British. British Army Capt. Francis Grose published the book, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1811 and used “chew the bullet” to explain how proud soldiers stayed silent while being whipped.

3. “Boots on the ground”

Meaning: Ground troops engaged in an operation

Credited to Army Gen. Volney Warner, “boots on the ground” is used to mean troops in a combat area or potential combat area. After the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the term saw wide use and has ceased to refer exclusively to military operations. It can now be used to refer to any persons sent out to walk the ground in an area. It’s been employed in reference to police officers as well as political canvassers.

4. “Bought the farm”

Photo: U.S. Navy

Meaning: To die

Thought to date back to 1950s jet pilots, the phrase quickly spread to civilian circles. There is no clear agreement on exactly how the phrase came about. It could be from war widows being able to pay off the family farm with life insurance payments, or farmers paying off their farms with the damage payout they’d receive when a pilot crashed on their land, or the pilots who wanted to buy a farm after they retired being said to “buy the farm early” when they died.

5. “Caught a lot of flak”

Meaning: To be criticized, especially harshly

Flak is actually an acronym for German air defense cannons. The Germans called the guns Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Flieger means flyer, abwehr means defense, and kanonen means cannon. Airmen in World War II would have to fly through dangerous clouds of shrapnel created by flak. The phrase progressed in meaning until it became equated with abusive criticism.

6. “FUBAR”/”SNAFU”/”TARFU”

Meaning: Everything about the current situation sucks

All three words are acronyms. FUBAR stands for “F*cked up beyond all recognition,” SNAFU is “Situation normal, all f*cked up,” and TARFU is “Things are really f*cked up.” FUBAR and SNAFU have made it into the civilian lexicon, though the F-word in each is often changed to “fouled” to keep from offending listeners. The Army actually used SNAFU for the name of a cartoon character in World War II propaganda and instructional videos. Pvt. Snafu and his brothers Tarfu and Fubar were voiced by Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig fame.

7. Geronimo

Photo: US Army Institute of Heraldry

Usage: Yelled when jumping off of something

“Geronimo” is yelled by jumpers leaping from a great height, but it has military origins. Paratroopers with the original test platoon at Fort Benning, Georgia yelled the name of the famous Native American chief on their first mass jump. The exclamation became part of airborne culture and the battalion adopted it as their motto.

8. “Got your six”

Meaning: Watching your back

Military members commonly describe direction using the hours of a clock. Whichever direction the vehicle, unit, or individual is moving is the 12 o’clock position, so the six o’clock position is to the rear. “Got your six” and the related “watch your six” come from service members telling each other that their rear is covered or that they need to watch out for an enemy attacking from behind.

9. “In the trenches”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ernest Brooks

Meaning: Stuck in a drawn out, tough fight.

Troops defending a position will dig trenches to use as cover during an enemy attack, reducing the chance they’ll be injured by shrapnel or enemy rounds. In World War I, most of the war occurred along a series of trenches that would flip ownership as one army attacked another. So, someone engaged in fierce fighting, even metaphorical fighting, is “in the trenches.”

10. “No man’s land”

Meaning: Dangerous ground or a topic that it is dangerous to discuss

“No man’s land” was widely used by soldiers to describe the area between opposing armies in their trenches in World War I. It was then morphed to describe any area that it was dangerous to stray into or even topics of conversation that could anger another speaker. However, this is one case where civilians borrowed a military phrase that the military had stolen from civilians. “No man’s land” was popularized in the trenches of the Great War, but it dates back to the 14th century England when it was used on maps to denote a burial ground.

11. “Nuclear option”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Meaning: A choice to destroy everything rather than give in on a debate or contest

Used most publicly while discussing fillibusters in the Senate, the nuclear option has its roots in — what else — nuclear warfare. In the Cold War, military leaders would give the commander-in-chief options for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons from nuclear artillery to thermonuclear bombs. In the era of brinksmanship, use of nuclear weapons by the Soviets or the U.S. would likely have ended in widespread destruction across both nations.

12. “On the double”

Meaning: Quickly, as fast as possible

Anyone who has run in a military formation will recognize the background of “on the double.” “Quick time” is the standard marching pace for troops, and “double time” is twice that pace, meaning the service member is running. Doing something “on the double” is moving at twice the normal speed while completing the task.

13. “On the frontlines”

Meaning: In the thick of a fight, argument, or movement

Like nuclear option, this one is pretty apparent. The front line of a military force is made up of the military units closest to a potential or current fight. Troops on the frontline spend most days defending against or attacking enemy forces. People who are “on the frontlines” of other struggles like political movements or court trials are fighting against the other side every day. This is similar in usage and origin to “in the trenches” above.

14. “Roger that”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Meaning: Yes

This one is pretty common knowledge, though not all civilians may know why the military says, “Roger that,” rather than “yes.” Under the old NATO phonetic alphabet, the letter R was pronounced, “Roger” on the radio. Radio operators would say, “Roger,” to mean that a message had been properly received. The meaning evolved until “roger” meant “yes.” Today, the NATO phonetic alphabet says, “Romeo,” in place of R, but “roger” is still used to mean a message was received.

15. “Screw the pooch”

Meaning: To bungle something badly

“Screw the pooch” was originally an even racier phrase, f*ck the dog. It meant to loaf around or procrastinate. However, by 1962 it was also being used to mean that a person had bungled something. Now, it is more commonly used with the latter definition.

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America’s Navy commander in Asia has some tough talk for Kim Jong-un

The commander of the US Pacific Fleet and South Korea’s defense minister said they agreed to prepare a “practical military response plan” to what Adm. Scott Swift described as Pyongyang’s “self-destructive” acts, following the country’s sixth nuclear test.


Swift, who oversees 200 ships and submarines, 1,180 aircraft, and more than 140,000 sailors, also said the US Navy plans to deploy strategic assets, including a carrier strike group, to the peninsula, Yonhap reported.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo welcomed the proposal, and requested the Pacific Fleet commander play a pivotal role for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, according to the report.

“If there’s a desire to have another carrier and there’s a desire to have more ships, more submarines, we have the capability and capacity to support that direction,” Swift said.

Adm. Scott H. Swift, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford

The US naval commander described the US-South Korea alliance as “ironclad” and told reporters in Seoul that North Korea’s provocations will not weaken bilateral ties.

“If [Kim Jong Un] is trying to separate the alliances and the allegiances that we have in the region, it’s having the opposite [effect],” Swift said.

Concern had been rising in South Korea after US President Donald Trump tweeted a criticism of South Korea’s North Korea policy, calling the approach “appeasement.”

 

Trump later tweeted he is “allowing Japan  South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” a day after the White House said the president had approved the purchase of “many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea.”

On Sept. 5, Swift dismissed reports of a US-South Korea rift, calling any relationship between two countries “multidimensional.”

Song and Swift said North Korea’s nuclear test was an “unacceptable provocation” that poses a grave threat to peace and security in the Asia Pacific as well as the world.

The provocation also further isolates North Korea and places more hardship on ordinary North Koreans, they said.

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‘Bridge of Spies’ brings the Cold War to life

In the early days of the Cold War, tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. rose to a fevered pitch as anti-Communist paranoia spread across the United States. It’s little wonder the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in Brooklyn in 1957 saw many people clamoring for his execution with few lawyers willing to take his case.


So starts DreamWorks and Fox 2000 Pictures’ new film Bridge of Spies. Set against a backdrop of real events, this Cold War dramatic thriller, penned by Joel and Ethan Coen, is the story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), former U.S. Navy officer, General Counsel for the Office of Strategic Services during WWII, and prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials. Bridge of Spies starts well after the war, with Abel’s (Mark Rylance) arrest. Donovan, whose anti-Communist and pro-American credentials are impeccable, was living in Brooklyn with his family at the time, working as an insurance lawyer.

“He was a prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes,” Hanks said of Donovan. “That means he wasn’t the type of soldier that went off and wanted to kill as many Nazis as possible; he was a guy who wanted to nail as many Nazis as possible, using the letter of the law.”

Abel is questioned by the FBI but refuses to cooperate, declining their offer to turn on his country, and is detained in federal prison pending trial. Donovan is highly regarded within the legal community for his profound skills as a negotiator, but has little experience with allegations of this nature and magnitude and isn’t eager to get involved. Advocating such a deeply unpopular defense would make him a public figure and subject his family to scrutiny, disdain, and potential danger.

“It was simply a piece of history that was so compelling,” Spielberg said. “Personally for me, to know that something like this, a man who stood on his principles and defied everybody hating him and his family for what he thought he needed to do  —equal protection under the law, even for an alien in this country, even for a Soviet accused spy.  That was, to me, a righteous reason to tell the story.”

Donovan eventually agrees to represent Abel, as he is committed to the principles of justice and the protection of basic human rights and wants to ensure Abel receives a fair trial, regardless of his citizenship. As he prepares his defense strategy, a bond begins to develop between the two men, one built on mutual respect and understanding. Donovan admires Abel’s strength and loyalty and mounts an impassioned plea, arguing that his actions were that of a good soldier following instructions on his country’s behalf, but to no avail.

“The real Donovan, when he was defending Abel, was interviewed at the courthouse,” Hanks recalled,” and said the reason why he took the case, and the reason why he carried it all the way to the Supreme Court: ‘You can’t accuse this man of treason.  He’s not a traitor.  He’s actually a patriot to his cause.  Only an American can be a traitor, only an American can commit treason against their own country.  He’s [Abel] just a man doing his job, in the same way we have men doing their jobs over here.’ As soon as you start torturing the people we have, you give the other side permission and cause to do the same exact thing.  That’s not what America stands for — as soon as you start executing anybody you think has gone against your country, you’re not that far removed from the KGB and the Stasi.  That’s not what America was about. This is what Donovan took with him from the get-go.”

Sometime later, an American U-2 spy plane is shot down over Soviet airspace while on a reconnaissance mission. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), is convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in the U.S.S.R. The CIA, denying any knowledge of the mission, fears Powers may be coerced into revealing classified information. Having witnessed Donovan’s skills in the courtroom, CIA operative Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) secretly reaches out to recruit him for a national security mission of great importance. Fueled by a love for his country, unwavering belief in his convictions and a tremendous amount of courage, Donovan is soon on a plane to Berlin to negotiate a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

“I like making pictures about people who are – who have a personal mission in life, or at least in the story, the life in the story,” said director Steven Spielberg. “Who start out in a certain, with certain low expectations, and then overachieve our highest expectations for them. That’s the kind of character arc I love dabbling in as a director, as a filmmaker.”

Through Donovan’s story, we get a chilling view of the events which would dominate much of the rest of the 20th century. Interactions with the German Democratic Republic (GDR — East Germany), the Stasi (East German Secret Police), and how East German-Russian relations would come to divide the people of Germany and the entire world. Spielberg recreates everything in painstaking detail, from The U.S. Air Force uniforms of the the era and the U-2 shootdown at 70,000 feet to 1962 Berlin and the brutality of the Berlin Wall.

“We shot that on the border of Poland and Germany, in a town called Breslau. [The Polish name is] Wroclaw,” Spielbeg recalled. “And there’s still bullet holes in all the buildings from World War II there, they never repaired it.  So we went to the area closest to the east of Berlin, that looked just like East Berlin, and we actually built that wall.”

Spielberg’s fascination with the Cold War dates back to childhood, when he remembers his father and grandfather and their stories of the deep- seeded feelings of animosity and distrust which existed between the U.S. and Russia at the time.

“It was a very dangerous time to be in the headlines for standing up for a spy,” Spielberg added, “Because as a kid growing up, I felt a tremendous sense of fear of the Atomic bomb and Soviet Russia.”

Just as Spielberg created the cold, blue, slightly desaturated look that would come to define World War II movies and shows in years to come, he may have just done the same for the Postwar years in Bridge of Spies. He creates a bright, dreamy world with an almost comic-book like use of color. The colors are vivid in the areas which overshadow the characters, such as the green Stasi uniforms of the GDR and red Soviet flags. Everywhere in the film, the lights are bright and the shadows are dark, creating a stark contrast on par with the contrast of East vs. West.

The film isn’t all drama. There are great humorous moments peppered throughout the film with Hanks’ trademark dry wit. Every time Hanks is on screen with someone else, the interplay takes the film to another level. Bridge of Spies is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Outstanding performances by Amy Ryan (BirdmanGone Baby Gone) as Donovan’s wife Mary, and Alan Alda (M*A*S*HThe Aviator) as his boss Thomas Watters round out an excellent cast who deliver the quality we’ve come to expect from such an elite group every minute they’re on screen. The cast, a script written English dramatist Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers, with Spielberg’s masterful direction complete the essential elements for a truly engaging, entertaining film.

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The Army is using this FPS video game to help design its weapons of the future

The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.


Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.

(Photo from U.S. Army)

“What we want is two-way communication, and what better medium to use than video games,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, ESP project lead with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.

“Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field — the strengths and weaknesses,” said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. “And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon — how to adapt quickly.”

Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.

Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.

Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.

A screenshot of the Army’s video game Operation Overmatch. (US Army photo)

One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds — if not thousands — of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.

“In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes,” he said. “We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game — we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios.”

The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.

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The next Red Flag should really be called ‘Falconapaloosa’

(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)


Well, the Red Flag exercise slated for August 15-26, Red Flag 16-4, is going to be very… well, take your pick. Interesting in that a number of foreign air forces are going to be at Nellis Air Force Base to participate. But it could also be awkward given some of those air forces who are among the visitors.

First, a quick rundown on what Red Flag is. During the Vietnam War, the Air Force had learned that most of the losses had been pilots who were in their first ten missions. After ten missions, a pilot’s chance of survival increased. Held at Nellis Air Force Base since 1975, the purpose of Red Flag is very simple: To provide Air Force, Navy, Marine, Army, and allied pilots an experience as close to combat as possible – without using live ordnance.

Of particular interest is that Israel is taking part in this upcoming Red Flag. To say that Israel and Islamic-majority countries are not friendly in general is pretty much an understatement. Israel has fought major wars against Arab nations that were Islamic in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006. Pakistan has not been Arab, but the country has been known to house a number of Islamic extremists. The United Arab Emirates is relatively moderate when compared to other Arab countries, but the Arab-Israeli issues are still present. There may be awkward moments at the O-Club and the debriefs.

However, it may also be interesting to see those three countries at the upcoming Red Flag. All three use the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter – but their Falcons are very different. In fact, this Red Flag provides a rough guide to the evolution of the F-16.

Pakistan’s F-16s mostly come in the F-16A variety. The F-16A/Bs were the first versions to really see service. The original design for the F-16 was to be a low-cost lightweight fighter for daytime operations. It was exactly that at first. The plane, though, has now become a deadly all-weather fighter, starting with the F-16A/B Air Defense Fighter. Mid-Life Upgrades and Operational Capability Upgrades have made these early Falcons capable all-weather fighters. Some of the earliest F-16A/B models are now becoming target drones.

Israel’s F-16s are mostly the F-16C/D versions. These were designed from the outset to be all-weather fighters capable of using missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM in beyond-visual-range engagements. The F-16C/Ds are arguably the backbone of the United States Air Force’s inventory of combat aircraft – and the latest versions include the capability to fire the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). These planes have served in a number of other air forces, too. Israel also has an enhanced F-16 known as the F-16I, which is a custom version that operates with a two-man crew.

The United Arab Emirates has the only F-16Es in existence. Perhaps the ultimate F-16 in service today, the F-16Es add conformal fuel tanks for longer range, and it also comes with more modern electronics, including an active electronically scanned array radar. These birds probably give the F-16I a close run for their money.

Japan will be missing this Red Flag – meaning its version of the F-16, the Mitsubishi F-2, will not be present. The F-2 can best be described as an F-16 that went to BALCO or Biogenesis and received steroids or Viper Growth Hormone. It has top of the line electronics and can carry a larger bomb load than most F-16s.

In short, Red Flag 16-4 will be very interesting. Not only for the many countries there but also to see how the F-16 has evolved since it entered service in 1978.

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There was a time when duels ‘downsized’ the officer ranks

In 1814 the War of 1812 was rising in intensity and the young American nation found itself struggling to mount a serious defense against the British juggernaut. Compounding America’s problems of short-manning and a limited supply of weapons was the fact that officers kept killing each other in duels over matters of honor, Donald R. Hickey said in his book, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict.


Duelists fighting to the death over perceived insults. Painting: Public Domain

“One in twelve American navy officers who died on active duty before 1815 were killed in duels, eighteen in all,” Stephen Budiansky wrote in Perilous Fight; “easily twice that number had fought a duel, and every officer lived with the knowledge that his reputation for courage was always liable to be tested on the field of honor.

A Smithsonian.com article noted an even grimmer statistic saying, “Between 1798 and the Civil War, the Navy lost two-thirds as many officers to dueling as it did to more than 60 years of combat at sea.”

One spot of ground near Washington, D.C. was popular for both duelists and journalists. At least 26 duels, many of them between military officers, were fought there. In one duel in 1820, Commodore Stephen Decatur, a decorated naval officer, was killed by Commodore James Barron over a years-old disagreement.

Commodore Stephen Decatur’s cocky tweet before his duel with Commodore James Barron.

The disagreement stemmed from the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair and was the root cause of 8 other duels as well. Officers fought each other to the death to determine who should be blamed for the USS Chesapeake‘s surrender to the HMS Leopard in a skirmish in 1807.

Gen. Andrew Jackson was nearly killed in a duel in 1806 when he dueled attorney Charles Dickinson and was shot within inches of his heart. Jackson plugged the wound with a handkerchief before killing Dickinson.

Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of New Orleans two weeks after the War of 1812 ended. Not photographed: The hole in his chest from the nearly fatal dueling wound he shrugged off. Painting: Public Domain.

It got so bad that in 1814 the War Department threatened to discharge duelists in a failed attempt to bring the practice to an end.

This would have been a direct reversal of common military culture at the time. In 1813, a regimental commander refused a duel from one of the doctors in his unit. The doctor was later convicted of insubordination but immediately pardoned.

Other officers from the same camp had convinced the commanding general that it was a greater injustice that a duel had been refused than that a doctor had posted insubordinate notices. When the war was over, the Army kept the insubordinate doctor but released the colonel from service.

Abraham Lincoln, before he was president, nearly cut down Army officer James Shields. Lincoln had ridiculed Shields in the press and Shields demanded the chance to defend his honor. Lincoln chose broadswords as the weapon and, on the dueling ground, used his much larger arms to cut down a branch that was over Shields’ head.

With the encouragement of the crowd, the men called off the duel. During the Civil War, then-Brig. Gen. Shields defeated Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Kernstown, an important victory for the Union.

Although generally frowned upon, duels still happened until after the Civil War.

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The 6 rations troops are thankful the military got rid of

A good meal after a hard day in the field can make everything a little bit better. MREs aren’t that meal but they try to be. Everyone has their favorite ration meal, even if he or she has to doctor it up a bit by mixing different parts from other packages (here’s a list of ration recipes).


Related: These 17 hilarious reviews of new MREs from troops in the field will bring back memories

No matter how U.S. military rations change, there is always one meal in the box which makes you wonder who thought it would be a good idea. This is a list of those meals that made us yearn for the days of lettuce and powdered eggs from a field mess.

1. Vegetable Omelette

It’s understandable the military would want to come up with vegetarian options. Why anyone decided eggs would be a good idea is what’s hard to understand. Cheese tortellini wasn’t bad, why not use that as a starting point?

Instead, we have this monstrosity, aka the “vomelet,” which has all the flavor of cold scrambled eggs and all the texture of dried papier maché. It’s every bit what you imagine eating Spongebob Squarepants must be like.

(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

2. Ham and Lima Beans

This is a throwback meal to the days of C-Rations. Lima Beans and Ham (aka “Ham and Motherf**kers”) was so bad, it was the Voldemort of field grade lunches, as troops wouldn’t even dare to say this meal’s name. When GIs gave rations to hungry civilians in Korea, the Koreans would throw this particular meal back at them. Troops added cans of cheese sauce and/or cracker crumbs to try to make this war crime palatable.

(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

3. Jamaican Pork Chop

Jah, mon! Come on have little slice of this leather with some pepper on it. Uncle Sam try’nta save jah money by feeding jah garbage rejected by hog farms.

Seriously, if we’re talking about jerks, it’s the clowns who wanted to give us some of our favorite international cuisine but decided Jamaica was close enough. This is like eating the sole of your boot with noodles. To be fair, the guys over at MRE Info love this one.

(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

 4. Country Captain Chicken

Country Captain Chicken will give you Current Traumatic Stress Disorder. Imagine someone squished together a handful of Chicken McNuggets, flattened it out, then dried it in the sun for ten days. Then imagine they soaked the newly formed patty in a bath of tomato sauce and citrus juice, and what the hell, let’s throw a couple of almonds in there. Chunks of tomato and black beans round out the most awful thing anyone ever tried to pass off as food.

(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

5. Buffalo Chicken

Buffalo Chicken might be the signature flavor of America and while the MRE version of Buffalo Chicken may not be all that bad, the effect on your stomach is like having forty tailgating Bills fans making a mess of your insides. Dig the latrine before you crack this bad boy open.

6. Beef Frankfurters

You know a meal has to be good when its nickname is “Fingers of Death,” right? Right. Beef Frankfurters deserved every single insult ever lobbed at them. While I can understand the urge to give troops in the field a taste of home through a good ol’ American hot dog, if you’ve ever tried this ration, the only home it makes you think of is Hannibal Lecter’s.

(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

For the record, the military does try to taste test these things on service members. When they created a new menu in 2007, the received some interesting responses. The Smoking Gun found the comments for some of the tested meals, in case you’ve ever wondered just how some of these meal ever made it to production.

Do they still serve Chicken Tetrazzini?

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This is how Army snipers train to be one-shot killers

During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.


To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.

Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian and co-trainer Tarrol Peterson look for snipers during the 10-day sniper training course at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.

The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.

Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.

XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.

Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, move to a new location for a training scenario during the XCTC Exercise on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”

Staff Sgt. John Brady, a sniper instructor at the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighter School at Fort Drum, New York, explains why a sniper from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was spotted.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.

US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”

Brady instructs snipers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on hasty scope maintenance.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.

US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.

US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

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Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again