That time 621 Brits rammed a suicide ship into a Nazi fortress - We Are The Mighty
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That time 621 Brits rammed a suicide ship into a Nazi fortress

In 1942, a group of British commandos and sailors launched a daring raid to cripple the Nazi drydocks at St. Nazaire, France — the only facility in the northern Atlantic that could handle repairs to Germany’s largest battleships.


The raid consisted of 18 vessels and 621 British servicemen who ran a destroyer loaded with explosives into the Nazi-held docks.

The drydock at St. Nazaire — often called the Normandie docks after the French passenger ship Normandie that the docks were originally constructed to support — was the only facility capable of repairing the legendary German battleship Tirpitz if it was damaged.

The Tirpitz was a strategic target for the British.

The HMS Campbeltown as it was being converted to resemble a German warship for the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

Britain’s audacious plan was dubbed “Operation Chariot.” It called for the HMS Campbeltown, a former U.S. destroyer that was traded to the United Kingdom, to sail straight down the river approach to Normandie.

When it reached the target, the ship would ram the drydock at full speed.

The Campbeltown had a 4-ton bomb nestled in the hull that would be set to go off in the early morning hours after the ramming.

Fifteen motor launches — 112-ft. long wooden boats with little armor or firepower — along with a motor torpedo boat and a motor gunboat provided a 17-ship escort for the Campbeltown.

These ships were supposed to provide some cover for the destroyer and evacuate the sailors and commandos after the mission.

British Motor Torpedo Boat 74 before it took part in the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

The entire convoy left England on March 26, 1942. Only a few senior officers believed the mission had any chance of success, and even those thought that there was little or no chance that any of the men would make it home alive.

The fleet sailed down to the entrance to the waterways and turned east for the final five-mile trip upriver. As they turned, the commander ordered the fuzes on the bombs be lit. The men had approximately eight hours until their ship would blow sky high.

A Royal Air Force bombing mission was supposed to distract the defenders for as long as possible, but cloud cover caused the crews to not drop their bombs for fear of causing French casualties. Instead, the circling planes just alerted the Germans that something was going on.

British commandos rush with scaling ladders. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The Campbeltown had been modified to make it appear a little like a German ship, and it flew a German flag. But the camouflage job wasn’t particularly good.

The first few German defenses let the ships pass unmolested, but the flotilla quickly came under scrutiny.

Initially, British signallers using a stolen German code book were able to provide the right responses to challenges, but the Nazis got wise to the ruse and opened fire on the British.

Dozens of artillery emplacements and machine guns on both banks of the river started shooting the Campbeltown as other machine guns concentrated on the smaller ships.

The motor launches were quickly engulfed in flames as rounds pierced the external fuel tanks on the wooden decks and turned the boats into raging bonfires.

The Campbeltown proceeded upriver even after the helmsman was killed. The man who stepped up to replace him was also killed.

Finally, the scientist who had designed the bomb in the Campbeltown’s hold stepped up and steered the ship forward.

The commandos and sailors silenced as many German guns as they could, but survivors said the ship was still alight with the fire and sparks kicked up by the constant volleys hitting the Campbeltown.

Despite the fierce fire, the Campbeltown was able to strike the dock and ran aground on its lip.

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

The surviving commandos spilled off of the ship and rushed to their assigned targets, setting bombs on the pumping house, the winding houses, and the caissons that made the drydock work.

Despite the commandos wounds and fatigue, they got the job done, knocking out the dock’s infrastructure.

But when they arrived back at their pickup point, nearly all of the motor launches were sinking or on fire. The commander gave the order for the men to disperse into small groups and attempt to fight their way to the Spanish border, 350 miles away.

British prisoners are escorted by German troops in the final hours of the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: German army archives)

Most of the men were captured or killed during the attempted escape through the French city. The Germans treated the British fighters well, probably in honor of their bravery for having attacked a fortress at 10 to 1 odds.

Only 227 British troops made it out. Five fought their way to France, and 222 made it to safety on the surviving boats.

The prisoners left in the town were dismayed to see that the Campbeltown did not blow up on schedule. At 10 a.m., hours after the bomb was set to blow, the ship was covered in German soldiers.

Some of them were walking with their French girlfriends on the ship’s decks.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Sam Beattie, one of the mission commanders who later received the Victoria Cross for his actions, was being mocked by a German officer for trying to break the docks with a flimsy ship when the bomb blew. Then the bomb went off.

The remains of the HMS Campbeltown sit in the Normandie dry dock after a bomb in the ship’s hull rendered the docks unusable. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The resulting damage killed most of the men nearby and did so much damage to the dock that it wasn’t operable again until 1947.

The mission resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses and four Croix de Guerre, Britain and France’s highest awards for valor. Another 80 awards were given to the men who carried out the raid.

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Here are Hillary Clinton’s answers to 11 questions posed by the military community


Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.

This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.

1. What key policy positions does your party hold that make you choose to be affiliated with it?

Though I have been a Democrat for decades, I grew up in a Republican household in Illinois. Regardless of who I vote for, many of my guiding principles have come from my Methodist faith—including the idea that you should “do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of e Pluribus Unum: “out of many, we are one.” I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

2. In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?

My father was a World War II veteran, having served as a Navy chief petty officer. Growing up, I learned from his experiences, but I understand that our service members, veterans, and their families experience many different challenges today. The issues facing our service men and women are vast and varied, but we will take important steps to ensure that our country is aligning the demands of a military career with the realities facing 21st-century families. We must not only recognize the sacrifices that our service men and women make but how their efforts keep us safe and allow us to prosper at home.

In an era of uncertain budgets, we need to ensure our military has the resources and support they need to cope with the nearly two decades of conflict they have faced. While I am all for making sure we are stretching our dollars and cutting the fat out of budgets, we cannot impose arbitrary limits on something as important as our military. We will work to end the sequester and get a budget deal that supports our military, our families, and our country.

We need to ensure we are modernizing all branches of service and investing in new technologies, so that we remain an agile force, ready to meet all challenges be they land, air, space, or cyber.

We must ensure that we are not only caring for our service men and women physically but that they have access to the mental health care they needed. I will ensure we enhance Defense Department programs to help remove the stigma of mental health issues. With this expansion in services, we must also provide our veterans the support they need when it comes to battling homelessness and addiction, and the far too many instances of veterans attempting and committing suicide.

We must do more to support military families as they prepare for deployment or care for a wounded warrior. That is why I am committed to extending paid family and medical leave policies. For families that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country—our Gold Star Families—we must also ensure that they have ongoing access to benefits, and enhanced gratuity payments for surviving spouses.

3. What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?

In addition to my experience being raised by a proud veteran, I have had the privilege of working with and on behalf of our military members, veterans, and their families throughout my career in public service.

As First Lady, I fought to have Gulf War Syndrome recognized, to ensure our service members received the care they required.

As a senator, I served on the Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to opportunity to continue those efforts to improve care and expanding military health benefits. During my tenure, I fought to make affordable health insurance available to more National Guard and Reserve members and their families and to expand services for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries . I worked across the aisle to expand benefits for our service members, increase survivor benefits and pass the post-9/11 G.I. bill. I worked with Senator McCain to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. These funds were critical in building the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio.

I also lead a successful effort to block the Department of Defense’s plan to close schools on military bases in the middle of wartime. I continued to fight for our bases and the military communities they supported. I fought to protect Fort Drum, securing continued funding and support for its community. In 2005, the base was supporting over 110,000 people and, given the human and economic impact, I knew the people of New York could not afford to lose this important resource.

Finally, as Secretary of State, I worked alongside President Obama, offering advice and support as he made decisions regarding our military personnel. I had the privilege of meeting and working alongside service members in our embassies and bases around the world.

4. In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?

I was outraged by the scandals at the Veterans Administration. Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and we must ensure they have access to a system that puts their needs first. We must reform veterans’ health care to ensure that all our veterans have access to care that is both timely and high quality. The Veterans Health Administration must be a veteran-centric provider of service-connected care. We must ensure our veterans receive care from providers who understand the unique challenges they face. This includes improving care for our female veterans and expanding care for our Native Veterans, many of whom live far away from existing medical centers. We must tackle the epidemic of veteran suicide, and expand services for mental health issues. Far too many former servicemen and women face addiction and homelessness. I will encourage states to require licensed prescribers to have a minimum amount of training so that our veterans can benefit from better prescriber practices.

As president, I will also ensure that we streamline efforts between the Department of Defense and the VA when it comes to coordinating inpatient services across federal health delivery programs, synchronizing procurement, and ending the delay in developing a fully functioning electronic health record system.

We must take these important steps to improve care, while blocking the efforts to privatize the VA. Privatization will not solve the problems facing the VHA, and our veterans deserve better. Health care is only part of the reforms we must make across the federal government to modernize our veterans’ benefits. We must improve the processing of disability claims, secure veterans’ educational benefits, and strengthen tax credits and programs that help veterans transition into new careers. Finally, we must provide the VA with the budgetary certainty it needs to provide consistent and quality care for our veterans, and encourage a culture of accountability.

5. Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12-26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?

While we fight to ensure no person should have to choose between serving their country and preserving their family, military families often make amazing sacrifices alongside their service members. In addition to the impact moves have on the careers of military spouses, military children often face numerous moves throughout their school careers.

The unemployment and underemployment of military spouses is not good for our country and costs our economy up to $1 billion per year. To help support military families, I will promote policies that help break down the difficult state credentialing processes that often serve as barriers to job opportunities for military spouses.

I will also work with states to standardize licensing requirements and reduce barriers for those looking to work across state borders. I will fight to expand public hiring preferences and engage industries to favor spousal hiring, as they have done with our effort to hire veterans. We must also devote resources to help expand work-from-home positions. We will promote financial readiness by expanding consumer protection and prohibiting bill collectors from contracts that service federal loans. We will also expand financial training initiatives targeted at military spouses to ensure they have tools to prepare for their future and the future of their families.

Further, for those families with two service members, we will work to reform the assignment process, not only increasing tandem assignments but ensuring that we are allowing these partners to continue to progress in their careers. All Americans deserve a good-paying job, and the opportunity to succeed in their careers—our military spouses and service members are no exception.

6. Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?

Small businesses across the country are growing and hiring, creating nearly two-thirds of new American jobs. As president, my administration will take steps to ensure it is easier to start a business and make that business profitable. For businesses that safeguard public health and safety, I will dedicate federal funding to support innovative programs and offset forgone licensing revenue. I will expand the efforts of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development to ensure that we are providing entrepreneurship training, counseling, and small business loan guarantees for our veterans.

I will ensure that entrepreneurs in our underserved communities have access to training and mentorship programs, partnering with local business leaders, community colleges, and minority-serving institutions. I will fight to streamline regulation and cut red tape for our community banks and credit unions to ensure our veterans have the capital they need to start their business. Far too many dreams die in the parking lots of American banks. We will also expand and streamline the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program—providing lenders the low-cost capital they need to invest in small businesses in their communities.

We will also make it cheaper and easier to file taxes and pay for tax relief, allowing small business owners to focus on growing their company instead of spending large amounts of time on paperwork. We will make it easier for these entrepreneurs to work with the federal government by guaranteeing faster response time when they inquire about federal regulations, help them loan support, and increase federal contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. We need to encourage our veterans to harness the skills they learned in leadership and apply them to civilian life. These reforms are only the start of ensuring we are providing them the tools they need to succeed following their service.

7. Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?

I strongly believe that when our families are strong, America is strong—and when military families are strong, our military is strong. To ensure we have strong military families, we must take steps to remove any barriers to a good education for our children. I will ensure that Defense Department schools are strong and focused, that we are candidly assessing where we need to improve these schools, and that we take the concrete steps to correct any problems. For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For military families looking to pursue higher education, I will ensure that we are protecting the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, especially the provision that allows these educational benefits to be transferred to spouses and children of military personnel. I will also continue efforts to crack down on for-profit schools that have exploited tens of thousands of students, including our veterans.

8. What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?

I have held a variety of roles that gave me important insight into the role of Commander-in-Chief. As a Senator from New York, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to develop relationships and work alongside leaders in our military. I also stood with the people of my state as we reeled from the tragedy of the September 11 terror attacks and worked to rebuild. While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

9. Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?

The responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief are not ones I take lightly. I want military families across the country to know that if elected, I will ensure that our country honors and respects them throughout their service, and beyond. As president, I would make a solemn oath to ensure our military is the best trained, best equipped, most capable fighting force in the world. Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing

Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing high-quality care for our veterans.

Most importantly, I want our military families to know that I will listen. I will not only listen to your needs, and the needs of your service members—I will also listen to my advisors and the military leadership with whom I will work closely. The decisions of a Commander-in-Chief must be made with careful consideration, and I promise to be thoughtful and deliberate in all my efforts—especially those that impact our military personnel and their families.

10. Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces—an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?

As president, I will make Joining Forces a permanent part of the Executive Office of the President. This initiative has done too much good work—building partnerships across sectors to better support our military and veterans—to allow it to discontinue. The Obama Administration has made great strides to lift up and support military families, and I will ensure that if elected, my administration continues and builds upon this important work.

These efforts will include creating a standing President’s Council on Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families. I will also direct White House and Defense Department leadership to conduct town hall meetings across the country—allowing us to hear directly from a diverse set of military families about their needs and where our government can better serve them. Based on these town halls, I will ensure we develop an implementation plan to focus on the areas they have highlighted as needed for improvement. By engaging federal, state, and private sector resources, we will ensure that we are best meeting the needs of our military families.

11. What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?

I have had the immense privilege of spending many years of my life serving the American people. I have traveled across the country and around the world from my time as First Lady of Arkansas, to First Lady of the United States, to Senator, to Secretary of State, and now as the Democratic Nominee for President. On these trips, people have allowed me into their homes and introduced me to their families. It is important for me to listen to these stories, and I draw my motivation and understanding from what is going on in people’s lives.

And I have tried to share my life in return. Before anything else, I am Chelsea’s mother and Aidan and Charlotte’s grandmother. Though I have dedicated my career to the American people, my family will always remain my priority and greatest accomplishment.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

In 1793, noted French scientist Joseph Dombey departed Le Havre, France bound for Philadelphia. His mission was to meet with Thomas Jefferson and give him two of the rarest items on Earth. Unfortunately for Dombey, fate had other intentions and storms pushed the ship he was aboard well of course. And so it was that around the time he was supposed to deliver his precious cargo to Jefferson, he found himself instead at the mercy of British pirates. Being French in this situation wasn’t exactly ideal, so at first he attempted to pass himself off as Spanish, but his accent gave him away. Dombey was eventually taken to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat where he ultimately died before he could be ransomed.

So what was the precious cargo he was to have delivered as a gift to the United States? Two small copper items (of which only six sets existed on Earth at the time) — standards representing a meter and a grave, the latter better known today as a kilogram.


At the time, the United States, having already become one of the first nations in the world to adopt a decimal, base ten system for currency was strongly considering doing the same with the system of weights and measures to get rid of the hodgepodge of British weights and measures system mixed with others also commonly used throughout the young nation. Thus, with the initial strong support of then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and thanks to a desire to continue to strengthen ties between France and the United States, adoption of the new French metric system seemed close at hand. Along with a trade agreement concerning grain export to France, Dombey was to deliver the meter and grave standards and attempt to argue the system’s merits to Congress who, at the time, were quite open to adopting these units of measure.

Thomas Jefferson.

(Rembrandt Peale)

Of course we all know how this turned out — Dombey never got a chance to make his arguments and thanks to concerns about whether the metric system would even stick around at all in France, combined with the fact that trade between Britain and the U.S. would be hindered by such a change, the U.S. eventually decided to abandon efforts to adopt the metric system and mostly stuck with the British system, though the U.S. Customary Units and what would become the Imperial System would soon diverge in the following decades.

But as more and more nations came to adopt this new system of weights and measures, the U.S. slowly began to follow suit. Fast-forwarding to 1866 and with the Metric Act the U.S. officially sanctioned the use of the metric system “in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings” and provided each state with standard metric weights and measures. In 1875, the United States was one of just 17 nations to sign the “Treaty of the Metre” establishing, among other things, the International Bureau of Weights and Measure to govern this system.

Fast forward a little under a century later and the full switch seemed inevitable in the United States after the 1968 Metric Study Act. This ended up being a three year study looking at the feasibility of switching the United States to the metric system. The result? a report titled A Metric America: “A Decision Whose Time Has Come”recommending the change and that it could be reasonably done in as little as 10 years.

Unfortunately, the public was largely either apathetic or strongly opposed to making the switch. (According to a Gallup poll at the time, 45% were against it.) This was nothing new, however. A huge percentage of the time a given people of a nation have been asked by their government to switch to the International System of Units, the general public of those nations were largely against it, even France itself, who went back and forth for decades on the issue, contributing to the United States’ hesitation to adopt it in the early going. Brazil actually experienced a genuine uprising when the government forced the change in the late 19th century. Over a half century later, British citizens still stubbornly cling to many of the old measurements in their day to day lives, though have otherwise adopted SI units.

So why did all these governments frequently go against the will of their people? Arguments for the economic benefits simply won out — as in so many matters of government, what businesses want, businesses often get. So the governments ignored the will of the general public and did it anyway.

But in the U.S. the situation was different. Not having the pressure from being bordered and economically as bound to one’s neighbors as in Europe, and being one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses itself, the immediately economic benefit didn’t seem so clear. For example, California alone — one of 50 states — if it were its own nation would have the 5th largest economy in the world. Texas and New York state aren’t far behind when compared to nation’s of the worlds economies at 10th and 13th respectively, let alone the other 47 states.

Seeing lesser readily apparent economic benefit, and not having the same geographic pressures as in Europe, in the 1970s many big businesses and unions were in strong opposition to the change, citing the cost of making the switch and, on the latter side, unions worried that such a change would make it easier to move jobs that formerly used customary units oversees, given that now such product could more easily be purchased from abroad.

Swayed, when the 1975 Metric Conversion Act was signed by President Gerald Ford, it had largely lost its teeth. While it did establish a board whose job it was to facilitate the nation’s conversion and put forth various recommendations, the act did not have an official timeline and made the switch voluntary.

Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, in the decades since, the United States actually has largely switched to the metric system, just the general public (both domestic and international) seem largely ignorant of this. The U.S. military almost exclusively uses the metric system. Since the early 1990s, the Federal government has largely been converted, and the majority of big businesses have made the switch in one form or another wherever possible. In fact, with the passage of the Metric Conversion Act of 1988, the metric system became the “preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce”.

In the medical field and pharmaceuticals. the metric system is also used almost exclusively. In fact, since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, even the units of measure used by the layperson in the U.S., the yard, foot, inch, and pound, have all been officially defined by the meter and kilogram.

Speaking of the general public side, nobody in the U.S. blinks an eye about food labels containing both metric and customary units (required thanks to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, with the majority of states since also allowing metric only). The gram is commonly used to measure everything from the amount of flour to add in a recipe to how much marijuana one buys from a shop or, where it’s still illegal, their local dealer. And if you were to ask someone to pick up a two liter of Dr. Pepper or how a person did running a 10K, most everyone in the United States would know exactly what you are talking about. Beyond this, you’d be hard pressed to find a ruler in the United States that doesn’t include both inches and centimeters and their common divisors.

Further, in school, both customary units and the metric system are taught. Yes, while Americans may generally have little practical need to learn a second language, most are, at least for a time, reasonably fluent in two very different systems of measurement.

As with languages unpracticed, however, once out of school, many lose their sense of the latter from lack of use and concrete perspective. It’s one thing to know what 100 and 0 degrees Celsius refers to with respect to water, it’s a whole different matter to “get” what temperature you might want to put on a jacket for. However, students who go on to more advanced science classes quickly pick up this perspective as they become more familiar and, thus, the scientists of America aren’t at the slightest disadvantage here, also contrary to what is often stated in arguments as to why the U.S. should make the switch a bit more official than it already is. All students that go along that path become just as familiar as their European brethren, if a little later in life.

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown)

This all brings us around to why the United States hasn’t made the switch to the metric system more official than it already is. Primarily three reasons — cost, human psychology, and, at least on the general public side, little readily apparent practical reason to do so.

As to cost, while there has never been a definitive study showing how much it would cost the United States to make the switch official and universal, general estimates range even upwards of a trillion dollars all things considered. Why so high?

To begin with, we’ll discuss a relatively small example in road signs. Installing street signs is an incredibly expensive affair in many places for a variety of reasons. For instance, in 2011 the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed it costs anywhere from ,000 to ,000 PER SIGN, though they later clarified those were worst case and most expensive scenarios and sometimes the signs and installation can ring in ONLY around ,000. Bronlea Mishler of the DOT explains,

Installing a sign along a highway isn’t quite as simple as pounding some posts into a ground and bolting on a sign — that’s why the cost is so variable. There are two ways to replace a sign. One way allows us to install it under old rules; the second way requires us to follow new federal standards… The old rules apply if we are just fixing something, not building something new. Installing a sign alongside the road counts as fixing something — basically, just giving drivers more information. If we install a sign on the side of the road, it would cost: ,000 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets; ,000 for two steel posts and concrete; ,000 to clear brush and other landscape work before and after installation; ,000 for maintenance crews to set up traffic cones, work vehicles, program highway signs and spend the evening doing the work. Total: ,000…. The new rules apply if we’re doing a new construction project. Costs would be higher because we would have to bring everything up to the current highway code. These often involve putting up a sign bridge, a steel structure that spans the entire freeway to hold up multiple signs. Typical costs include: ,600 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets because the sign must be bigger; ,000 for the sign bridge. Total: ,600.

WSDOT Deputy Regional Administrator Bill Vleck also stated, beyond many of these signs needing to be special ordered on a 1-off variety (think a highway sign with city name and distance marker) and often being much larger than most sign makers make, drastically increasing cost, some of the seemingly exorbitant costs are due to special features of the signs few know about. For instance, Vleck states, “If there’s an auto accident, if a car hits that sign post and there’s any kind of injury involved, the state is going to be liable, so we’re looking potentially at a multi-million dollar settlement in those kind of situations… [So] it would have to be a breakaway type sign post, and it has to be specially fabricated so that if a car hits that sign, it reacts appropriately and doesn’t come down and basically take out the occupants.”

For your reference here, in 1995, it was estimated that approximately 6 million signs would need changed on federal and state roads. On top of that, it was noted that approximately just shy of 3 million of the nations about 4.2 million miles (6.8 million km) of public roads are actual local, with an uncertain number of signs in those regions that would need changed.

That said, the rather obscene costs quoted by the aforementioned Washington State DOT would likely be grossly overestimated on a project such as this, with prices massively reduced if special laws were passed to remove much of the red tape, and given the extreme bulk orders that would be called for here, including for the signs themselves and contracts to dedicated crews to make this happen as fast as possible.

For example, in 1995, Alabama estimated they could swap out all the signs on federal highways for a mere per sign (0 today) on average.

(Photo by Ludovic Charlet)

Perhaps a better rubric would be in looking at Canada’s switch, swapping out around a quarter of a million signs on their then 300,000 miles (482,000 km) or so of road. The total reported cost? Only a little over million (about million today) or around 4 per sign in today’s dollars.

Extrapolating that out to the minimum 6 million signs would then run approximately id=”listicle-2635564449″.5 billion + whatever additional signs need swapped out on the 3/4 of the rest of the roads not accounted for in that 6 million sign estimate. Not an insignificant sum, but also relatively trivial for the U.S. taxpayer to cover at about per person + some uncertain amount for the local road signs that need changed.

Moving on to far greater expenses — industry and wider infrastructure.

While it’s impossible to accurately estimate the cost of such a change to American businesses as a whole, we do get a small glimpse of the issue when looking at a NASA report studying the feasibility of swapping the shuttle program to full metric. They determined the price tag would be a whopping 0 million for that project alone at the time, so decided it wasn’t worth the cost for little practical benefit… Now extrapolate that out to the approximately 28 million businesses in the United States, their software, their records, their labels, machinery, employee training, etc. needing switched like some sort of Y2K event on steroids. Thus, while it’s impossible to know for sure, many posit the cost could swell into the hundreds of billions of dollars, if not even creep into the trillion territory — in theory at least.

At this point, even the most ardent supporter of the metric system in the United States may be rethinking whether it would be worth it to make the switch more official than it already is. But don’t fret metric supporters the world over!

To begin with, the raw cost of making the switch doesn’t actually tell the whole story here. In fact, it tells a false story — while the gross total of making the change would be astronomical, it turns out the net cost likely wouldn’t be much, or anything at all.

You see, beyond it noted that, for example, on average Australian businesses saw a 9-14% boost directly attributed to the switch when they made it, back in the United States when companies like IBM, GM, Ford and others spent the money to make the change, they universally found that they made a profit from doing this. This was largely from being able to reduce warehouse space, equipment needs, streamline production, lower necessary inventories, as well as taking the opportunity to, at the same time, remove inefficiencies that had crept into their respective businesses with regard to these systems. They were also able to more uniformly manage their businesses abroad and domestic to the same standards and systems. As a very small example, GM reported they were able to reduce its number of fan belts they had to manufacture and stock from about 900 sizes to 100 thanks to everything that went into the switch.

In some cases the businesses also noted new international markets opening up, both in sales and ability to more easily, and often more cheaply, acquire product abroad. All of this resulted in a net profit extremely quickly from investing the money into making the switch.

(Photo by Fleur Treurniet)

As you might expect from these types of benefits, an estimated 30% of businesses in the United States have largely already switched to metric.

Granted, these are generally larger companies and various small businesses dealing mostly locally might not see such a benefit. However, with the increasing globalization of supply chains, many small businesses would likely still see some benefit.

Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to construction, that general industry has lagged well behind others in switching, and, as you might imagine, the existing infrastructure of the nation from roads to bridges to homes to drill bits to screws to the architectural plans for all of it being based on customary units would not be cheap to change and it isn’t clear here what the net cost would be. However, as in all of this, the cost could potentially be mitigated via a slow phaseout approach with grandfathering allowed, similar to what other nations did, though in most cases on a vastly smaller scale than would be seen in the United States.

All this said, we here at TodayIFoundOut would like to posit that what the international community actually finds irksome about the United States not using the metric system is not United States businesses who deal abroad or United States scientists or even the government — all of which largely use the metric system and all of which have little bearing on what Pierre sitting in his mother’s basement in France is doing at a given moment.

No, what upsets Pierre is that the U.S. general populace does not use the metric system in their day to day lives. Why is this irksome? Beyond just the human drive for uniformity amongst one’s community, in this case of the global variety, because English websites the world over, keen to get some of those sweet, sweet U.S. advertising dollars, cater to the U.S. audience and use the units that said audience is more familiar with, those not familiar are often left to Google a conversion to the units they are familiar with. The alternative is for said websites to include both, but that often makes for a break in the flow of the content, something we here at TodayIFoundOut regularly wrestle with finding a proper balance with.

This brings us around to the human side of the argument. To begin with, while the United States would unequivocally see many benefits to joining the rest of the world in some good old fashioned metric lovin’, as you might expect given the lack of immediately obvious benefit to the layperson, few among the American public see much point. After all, what does it really matter if a road sign is in kilometers or miles, or if one’s house is measured in square feet or square meters?

While some cite the benefits of ease of conversion to other units in a given system, in day to day life, this is almost never a thing that’s cumbersome in the slightest. If it was, Americans would be clamoring to make the change. The argument that ease of conversion between units should be a primary driver for the public to want the change simply doesn’t hold water in an era where, on the extremely rare occasion people actually need to make such a precise conversion in day to day life, they have little more than to say “Hey Google”. And in most cases, even that isn’t necessary when you’re reasonably familiar with a given system.

(Photo by Makarios Tang)

Perhaps a poignant example of how, when you’re familiar, a non base 10 system of measure really isn’t that complicated to deal with in day to day matters, consider that the world still uses 1000 milliseconds in a second, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. What few realize about this is that the original metric system actually attempted to simplify this as well, dividing the day into 10 hours, with 100 minutes in each hour, etc. Unfortunately, most people didn’t see the benefit in switching when also factoring in having to swap out their existing clocks. Nobody has much seen a need to fix the issue since, not even the most ardent champion of the metric system for its ease of conversions compared with imperial or customary units.

And while you might still be lamenting the stubbornness of Americans for not seeing the genuine benefits to themselves that would likely be realized here, we should point out that virtually every nation in the world that uses the metric system has holdover units still relatively commonly used among laypeople that aren’t metric, for simple reasons of not seeing a reason to stop, from calories to horsepower to knots to lightyears and many more. Or how about, have you ever flown on a plane almost anywhere in the world? Congratulations, you’ve in all liklehood unwittingly been supporting the use of something other than the metric system. You see, the pilots aboard, from French to American, use a feet based, Flight Level, system for their altitude, and knots to measure their speed. Just two standards that, much like the American public and their road signs, nobody has seen much practical reason to change.

Now to more concrete human psychology for not making the switch, which has gradually been converting more and more Americans from general apathy to the anti-switch crowd as the decades pass — when one group of humans tells another group what to do, occasionally using terms like “idiot units” and starting flame wars in comments of every website or video posted on the web that uses or discusses said units- you will universally get resistance if not outright hostility in response. This is not an American thing, as so often is purported- this is a human thing.

Try forcing the French government to mandate by law that French is dead and English is now to be universal spoken for the sake of better international trade, economics, and relations. You might argue that in a not insignificant percentage of the world English is already the standard in such international business dealings, but that is really little different than the current situation in business in the U.S. concerning the metric system. What we’re talking about is how the general populace of France would react if the government mandated such a change, and even more so if outside nations were pressuring it. Again, it’s not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

Beyond that, as anyone whose ever done anything online is well aware of — humans hate change. Loathe it. Make any change to, say, a format or style of video, no matter how small, and rest assured no matter if the change is unequivocally vastly superior and the audience universally comes to agree with that, a not insignificant number of one’s audience will complain, sometimes vehemently, at first. More directly we see this again and again throughout the history of various nations making the change to SI. Again, resistance of change is not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

(Photo by patricia serna)

But fret not world. You see, slowly but surely the United States has been converting to metric and, for most practical purposes for those outside of the United States, other than having to see it on websites (which, again, we posit is the real driver of people’s ire the world over), the switch has already been made. So much so that at this stage while the cars made in America may say miles per hour on the speedometer, the makers of those cars are using metric to measure and build the things. The very military that defends American’s right to use “Freedom Units” has long since largely converted to the un-free variety.

In the end, money talks, and, for much the same reason other big holdouts like the UK ultimately gave in, as American businesses who have interest in dealing internationally continue to make the switch, they are seeing to it that the metric system more and more creeps into the daily lives of Americans. This will only continue until the inevitable complete adoption. Slowly but surely America is inching towards metric, largely without anyone domestic or abroad noticing.

Want to make the switch take longer? Continue calling them “idiot units”, a mildly humorous statement from a certain point of view given that it takes more brainpower to use customary units than metric, making the latter far more tailored to idiots. And continue to start flame wars in comments comprising mostly of personal attacks rather than using the many and very legitimate and rational arguments that exist as to why it would be of benefit for the people of the United States to make the switch. In the end, we all know there is no better way to convince someone to do something than making the whole thing a religious war, with you on one side and they on the other…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Colonel Harry Shoup, USAF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 things ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember

There are only two recruit depots where U.S. Marines are made, and one of them has a reputation for being “Hollywood.”


Due to their close proximity to Tinseltown, Marines who graduate from MCRD San Diego are usually called “Hollywood Marines” by their MCRD Parris Island, S.C. counterparts and often ridiculed as having an easier training and lifestyle.

Regardless of who you think has the tougher training, here are some things only ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember about their initial training.

1. The Yellow Hell

Photo: Marine Corps

While standing on the yellow footprints is a tradition at both locations, MCRD San Diego takes it much further. The base is a sprawling 388 acres and every building on base is yellow. The renowned architect Bertram Goodhue designed the buildings in a Spanish colonial revival style, and while there are currently 28 of those buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, the only history recruits will remember is that they are in yellow hell.

2. Planes, planes, and more planes!

Photo: Flickr

No matter how long or short your flight is from your home to MCRD, the drive from the airport to base is a mere five minutes. By checking out this Google satellite view you can see that the base is literally on the opposite side of the runway fence. At first the constant deafening noise of airplanes taking off and landing every few minutes is annoying, but recruits get used to it real quick. In fact, some use it to their advantage, by counting the planes as if they were sheep to go to sleep at night dreaming about their next flight home. Recruits endure the mental kick in the stomach while running along side the runway fence watching planes take off with happy newly graduated Marines and their families.

The planes also provide a symbolic sense of comfort. I went to MCRD in August 2001 and one month later the 9/11 attacks occurred. When first told of the attacks by our drill instructors, we felt it may have been some sort of trick. However, once they pointed out the airport was shut down and no planes were taking off, the sky all of a sudden seemed desolate with an eery silence. When the planes were allowed to fly again days later, a sense of relief was felt by all.

3. Perfect Weather

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Katalynn M. Rodgers

San Diego enjoys gorgeous weather year-round with an average temperature of 70.5 degrees and minimal humidity. However, recruits don’t go there for a vacation, they go to become Marines. Drill instructors are quick to remind recruits of the many beautiful women in bikinis sunbathing at one of the several beaches within a short distance from the base. No matter how difficult things may get, recruits can find comfort in knowing tomorrow will be another beautiful day with clear skies to train.

4. Bus Trips

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua Young

Not all recruit training takes place at MCRD San Diego. To complete the second of three phases, they are moved 45 minutes north to Camp Pendleton. The ride takes recruits through San Diego’s beautiful north county and it’s the first time recruits are off base since arrival. They are supposed to keep their heads down but it’s common to sneak a glimpse at the beautiful landscape around them and think about home or what’s in store for them at Camp Pendleton. Similarly, on the way back to MCRD to finish the last phase, it gives recruits a time of reflection on completing the demanding training they just endured during second phase and realize they are that much closer to graduation.

5. Mountains, hills, and ridges

Second phase recruit training takes place at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton and includes marksmanship, rifle qualification, close combat, field training, and the gas chamber. But ask any recruit and the one memory that first comes to mind are the many hills they had to hike creating many feet blisters. Camp Pendleton is notorious for its mountains, hills, and ridges that are perfect for grueling hikes. The most famous of which is known as ‘The Reaper’, or ‘Grim Reaper’. With full packs on, it is the last and final monumental hill to climb during the 54 hour exercise known as The Crucible in which they have already climbed several with only eight hrs of sleep.

6. Padres Baseball

Although not every platoon or company at MCRD gets this luxury, those who do get a chance to be recognized by the local community for their newly committed service to this great nation. Although the seats are in the highest sections of the stadium and they are strictly guarded by their drill instructors, it’s a welcome change of pace from the intense and stressful daily training.

7. The San Diego Skyline

Photo: Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe that just outside the gates of MCRD sits beautiful downtown San Diego. For three months, recruits have dreamt of exploring all the reasons why San Diego is called “America’s Finest City.” Now that they have graduated, it’s common for the nation’s newest Marines to proudly wear their dress uniforms as they eat and celebrate with friends and family throughout the city.

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The F-35 may be ready for prime time

After achieving an awesome air-to-air kill ratio of 15-to-one, the F-35 trounced ground targets at the US Air Force’s Red Flag exercise — and now the world’s most expensive weapons system may finally be ready for the front lines.


For the first time ever, the F-35 competed against legacy aircraft and simulated surface-to-air missile batteries at “the highest level threats we know exist,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. George Watkins, an F-53 squadron commander.

“Just as we’re getting new systems and technology, the adversary’s threats are becoming more sophisticated and capable,” said Watkins, nodding to the expansive counter-stealth and anti-air capabilities built up by the Russians and Chinese over the years.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

But the F-35 program has long carried the promise of delivering a plane that can outsmart, outgun, and out-stealth enemy systems, and the latest run at Red Flag seems to have vindicated the troubled 16-year long program. Not only can the F-35 operate in heavily contested airspace, which render F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s as sitting ducks, but it can get more done with fewer planes.

“I flew a mission the other day where our four-ship formation of F-35As destroyed five surface-to-air threats in a 15-minute period without being targeted once,” said Maj. James Schmidt, a former A-10 pilot now flying F-35s.

Four planes taking out five SAM sites in 15 minutes represents nothing less than a quantum leap in capability for the Air Force, which prior to the F-35 would have to target threats with long-range missiles before getting close to the battle.

An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. | US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“We would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out. Now between us and the (F-22) Raptor, we are able to geo-locate them and precision target them,” Watkins said, adding that F-35s are so stealthy, “we can get close enough to put a bomb right on them.”

But that’s only one of the multi-role F-35’s jobs. After obliterating ground threats, F-35 pilots said they turned right around and started hammering air threats.

The F-35 came out of Red Flag such a ringing success that Defense News reports that the strike aircraft is now being considered at the highest levels for overseas deployments.

Airmen load a bomb into the F-35A’s internal bomb bay. | US Air Force

“I think based on the data that we’re hearing right now for kill ratios, hit rates with bombs, maintenance effectiveness … those things tell me that the airplane itself is performing extremely well from a mechanical standpoint and … that the proficiency and skills of the pilots is at a level that would lead them into any combat situation as required,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office told Defense News.

With that success on record, Pleus will now consider deploying a small group of six to eight F-35s overseas as part of a “theater security package” to help train and integrate with US allies.

UK and Australian contingents participated in this installment of Red Flag. Both countries plan to buy and operate the F-35 in the near future.

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Military officers in WWI were the masters of the word ‘f*ck’

There are a lot of words that carry a certain weight when said by the right person at the right time.


And you’ll be sure to remember it if it’s dirty enough.

As proven by John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

Related: Patton’s famous speech was way more vulgar than the one in the movie

American troops are no exception. The only problem is that from the moment we join the service, we get indoctrinated into a world of shouting and expletives.

We should all get service-connected for hearing loss. Seriously. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It turns out World War I was no different, and it wasn’t even the beginning.

Etymologists – people who study the history of languages and trace word meanings – found it difficult to follow the lineage of the word “fuck” for a long time. The word itself is so taboo in the English language that no one would ever write it down — even for historical documentation.

And they all have Inigo Montoya tattoos. (MGM/20th Century Fox)

Luckily for us, the Oxford English Dictionary started following it in 1897, just in time for the First World War.

The OED only followed the word’s history but never included it in its dictionary – it was illegal to print in publications by the Comstock Act of 1873. The law stopped absolutely no one from using it in everyday speech, least of all the military troops in the trenches.

Some of the OED’s research includes this line from John Brophy’s “Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918.”

“It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant said, ‘Get your f—ing rifles!’ it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said ‘Get your rifles!’ there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger.”

Sometimes what you don’t say really is as important as what you do.

Somewhere out there, there’s a smug First Sergeant, nodding their head.

The definition of the word itself survived intact from its initial meaning, “to have sexual intercourse with,” and has been similarly pronounced and spelled since its first appearances in the 16th century.

OED found mention of the word as “fuccant” in a “scurrilous” Latin-Middle English hybrid poem, called “Flen Flyys,” about what local monks did with the wives of the nearby town of Ely, and thus why they did not get into heaven.

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US special operators are inviting these companies to the ‘Thunderdrone’

It’s not just about air shows or conferences anymore for defense aerospace companies.


Firms are showcasing their goods for US military leaders outside the usual weapons buying process, facing off with one another to prove who has the best platform — and who could win the big contracts.

“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said August 9 during a media day for the service’s “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the most recent opportunity for plane-makers to strut their stuff.

She also gave a sneak peek into the service’s plans for more rapid acquisition experiments in the future, including an upcoming drone battle dubbed, “Thunderdrone.”

Wilson said the service wants to look at drone swarm data and performance, and other ways small unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles can be used on the battlefield and beyond.

The Thunderdrone drone-battle event, to be held September 5 through November 3, will take place in a “state-of-the-art, 7,000 square-foot, indoor drone test range for drone experimentation, prototyping, and testing,” according to its host, Tampa-based SOFWERX.

SOFWERX is a partnership between US Special Operations Command and the Doolittle Institute, a rapid innovation office that works to bring service members collaborative solutions by connecting private companies with the Defense Department.

USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Thunderdrone will bring together defense, industry, and academia to test “drones (sea, land, air, and space), tactical swarms, payloads (kinetic/non-kinetic), and their associated data science applications for the Special Operations community,” SOFWERX says.

Part of the “rapid prototyping event” aims to apply innovative thinking to “existing or envisioned ​voids” warfighters may face and come up with solutions, the organization’s website says.

How a drone’s performance will be measured has not been disclosed, but the special operations community will give feedback, the site says.

In addition, “using SOF and USSOCOM feedback, Thunderdrone may also pick and fund a select few technologies for further development following the [rapid prototyping event],” SOFWERX says.

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These 5 new military technologies will make your combat lifestyle POG-easy

Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.


1. Robo-Parachutes

The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.

2. Stealth Coating

It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.

3. Smart Tanks

DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.

4. Space Drones

NASA’s Proteus Unmanned Space Shutte (U.S. Air Force photo)

DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.

5. Jetpack-Assisted Running

The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.

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Two Hellfire missiles found on a passenger flight

Serbian officials got a surprise last Saturday when a bomb sniffer dog found two Hellfire missiles on a passenger flight that had arrived from Lebanon.


US Navy sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile into its case onboard the USS Jason Dunham. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

Some reports have stated that the missiles were live, but Serbian officials investigating the incident told Reuters that the Hellfire missiles may have been training rounds.

The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.

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7 coolest ways to blow up the enemy’s HQ

Dude, your enemy sucks. I don’t know who they are (is it ISIS? Are you fighting ISIS right now?), but they’re really dangerous and I’m pretty sure they just said something untoward about your mother. It’s time to take out most of the leadership in one fell swoop by hitting their headquarters.


But how do you blow up an entire castle/fortress/tent (again, I don’t know who your enemies are. Nazi Germans? They liked castles…)? Here are seven plans that will always work, but you may want to pack some ear plugs. Spoiler alert: there will be explosions:

1. Cruise missile to the face

This is a Tomahawk Cruise Missile. It will absolutely ruin the day of any recipients. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leah Stiles

You still have at least three days of killing the enemies’ goons before you can get inside the building to send them to their makers, but all the leadership may flee before you arrive. What should you do?

Time for a cruise missile. These bad boys fly at low levels below most radar coverage, turning and winding their way through mountain passes and other obstacles until they reach their target. Once they arrive, they’re going to “disrupt” the headquarters pretty hard.

2. Sustained artillery barrage

Naval artillery barrages are still artillery barrages. (Photo: U.S. Navy PH1 Jeff Hilton)

Of course, if you’ve already gotten your forces close to the enemy headquarters, it can be fun to put on the world’s most lethal fireworks show and all-percussion concert. Just give your artillerymen a few minutes warning, and they’ll be ready to orchestrate a masterpiece.

3. Bombing mission

Ooooh. Hope you didn’t recently redecorate or anything. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris)

If you already own the airspace (which, with the F-22, is likely), then you can get all the pyrotechnics of a cruise missile strike at a fraction of the cost per weapon. Just send a few fighters to keep your bombers and ground attack planes safe and let nature take its course.

Warheads on foreheads.

4. Close combat air/close air support

The Warthog in all her glory. Sorry, sorry–the Thunderbolt II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

If you realize that the castle/fortress/tent is a headquarters only at the last minute, you may not have time to do the full integration and planning needed for a standard bombing mission. All of a sudden, that JTAC in your unit stops being the butt of all those Air Force jokes and starts being the answer to your prayers.

The JTAC will tell all those nearby air assets where the guys who need to die are, where the nearest friendlies are, and from what angle you will be filming them for the YouTube video. The pilots will take care of the rest.

5. Clear the HQ with infantry, then let the engineers go nuts

The engineers use controlled detonations to get rid of buildings. It looks kind of like this except, instead of just the door blowing up, everything blows up. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff)

No air assets at all? Feel like you didn’t coordinate this attack very well but now isn’t the time for armchair generals. Let the infantry run wild and take the building by force. You won’t get the immediate satisfaction of an air strike, but the combat engineers come with the grunts and are pretty good at destroying literally anything. Expect your C4 stock to fall low very suddenly.

Of course, if your infantry is carrying enough missiles and mortars, you may not need the engineers.

6. Tanks at close range

Army 1st Infantry Division Soldiers conduct a live-fire accuracy screen test to calibrate the tank’s fire control system on Nov. 13, 2014, in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Austin McGuin)

Hey, if you brought a bunch of armored beasts with 120mm cannons on the front, you know what to do. High explosive rounds are the obvious choice for the mission, but this writer humbly suggests trying canister shot. It takes longer and there’s no tactical advantage, but watching the building get chewed up by a constant barrage of steel balls would be pretty entertaining.

7. Screw it–hit it with nukes

(Photo: U.S. Archives)

Is the building too thick for canister shot? And high explosive rounds? And bunker busters and artillery and engineers? Oh well. Time for the ultimate trump card. Just be sure to accurately measure the effects of any lithium included in the mix. That stuff can quickly ruin your day at the beach.

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Trump’s new national security adviser could undo early foreign-policy changes

President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is considering shaking up the White House’s foreign-policy team, giving him more latitude to access and control the Department of Homeland Security and other defense agencies, The New York Times reported Wednesday night.


Citing two anonymous officials, The Times said McMaster could undo changes the Trump administration made during its first days in office.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in 2014 (U.S. Army photo)

Among those changes under consideration, according to The Times:

  • Bringing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back into a cabinet-level committee.
  • Rejoining the Homeland Security Council with the National Security Council. Their initial separation was seen as a way to limit the power of Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser last week.

It was unclear whether McMaster would attempt any changes that would affect the standing of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was given a seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee. That move alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers because of Bannon’s lack of experience in foreign policy.

With Flynn out of the picture, McMaster, who has bipartisan and military support, may head both security councils. But one senior official who supported Bannon’s role told The Times it wouldn’t change under any reorganization.

Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this week that while McMaster had full autonomy to organize his staff, Trump would have to approve any changes to Bannon’s status.

Related: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Critics of Bannon’s seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee have been calling for his removal. Mike Mullen, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed “grave concern” over Bannon’s position.

“Given the gravity of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politicized,” Mullen said in an NPR interview published on Wednesday.

“Bannon’s presence as a member of that body politicizes it instantly,” he said.

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That time a bad radio call won the WWII Battle of Cape Esperance

Anyone can tell you that in combat, good communications are important. But there was one time that a miscommunication helped the U.S. win a significant naval surface action off Guadalcanal.


That bit of lucky confusion happened on the night of Oct. 11, 1942. That was when Japan decided to carry out what was called a “Tokyo Express” run. These runs delivered troops, often dashing in under the cover of darkness. This was necessary because American planes at Henderson Field were very capable of taking down enemy ships in the daylight hours.

Gilbert C. Hoover (US Navy photo)

To take Henderson Field, Japan had to reinforce the troops on Guadalcanal — especially because the Americans had, in the middle of September run a substantial convoy to Guadalcanal at the cost of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). During that month, at the battle of Edson’s Ridge, the Marines had repelled an attack, inflicting substantial losses on the Japanese ground troops.

According to “The Struggle for Guadalcanal,” Volume Five in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” on Oct. 9, 1942, an American convoy carrying the 164th Infantry Regiment, part of the Americal Division, departed for Guadalcanal. Three United States Navy task forces covered the transports.

One was centered around the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), which had launched the Doolittle raid almost six months prior. The second was around the battleship USS Washington (BB 56). The third was a group of cruisers and destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Norman Scott, who had his flagship on the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco (CA 38).

USS San Francisco (CA 38), flagship of Admiral Norman Scott during the Battle of Cape Esperance. (US Navy photo)

In addition to the San Francisco, the heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City (CA 25), the light cruisers USS Helena (CL 50) and USS Boise (CL 47), and the destroyers USS Laffey (DD 459), USS Farenholt (DD 491), USS Duncan (DD 485), USS McCalla (DD 488) and USS Buchanan (DD 484) were part of Task Force 64, which had the assignment of securing Ironbottom Sound until the transports finished unloading.

At 11:32 that night, the radar on the USS Helena detected a Japanese force of three heavy cruisers (the Aoba, Kinugasa, and Furutaka) and the destroyers Fubuki and Hatsuyuki. American radar tracked the Japanese force, which was covering a supply convoy. At 11:45 that night, Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover on board the Helena would send a fateful message to Admiral Scott, “Interrogatory Roger.” He was requesting permission to fire. Scott’s response, “Roger,” was intended to acknowledge receipt of the request. But “Roger” was also used for granting permission to fire, according to Morison.

Rear Admiral Norman Scott (US Navy photo)

Hoover would assume the latter, and at 11:46, the USS Helena opened fire with her fifteen six-inch guns. According to NavWeaps.com, the Mk 16 six-inch guns could fire up to ten rounds a minute. In that first minute, as many as 150 rounds would be fired by that ship. Other American ships also opened fire, and the Aoba, the flagship of the Japanese force, took the brunt of the American fire. The Japanese commander, Rear Adm. Aritomo Goto, was mortally wounded early on.

Thrown into confusion, the Japanese force initially believed they had been fired on by their troop convoy. Eventually, they began to return fire, but the battle’s result was never in doubt. The Aoba would be badly damaged, and the Furutaka and the Fubuki would be sunk by the end of the battle.

The Americans would lose the destroyer USS Duncan, while the Boise and Salt Lake City were damaged and returned to rear bases for repairs, along with the destroyer Farenholt.

USS Helena (CL 50). This ship’s 15 six-inch guns each could fire ten rounds a minute. (US Navy photo)

Norman Scott had won a tactical victory, thanks to that communications foul-up, but the Japanese landed their reinforcements that night. On the night of October 13, the battleships Kongo and Haruna delivered a devastating bombardment against Henderson Field, but couldn’t prevent American reinforcements from arriving.

Later that month, Japanese forces would fail to take Henderson Field, while a naval offensive would be turned back in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands at the cost of the Hornet.

The two men involved in that communications foul-up would see action about a month later off Guadalcanal when Japanese battleships tried to again bombard Henderson Field, only to be stopped by Daniel Callaghan.

Rear Adm. Norman Scott would be killed in action in that engagement. Hoover would survive, and be left in command of the surviving ships. As he lead them back, the anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) would be sunk by a Japanese submarine. Rather than try to rescue survivors, Hoover radioed the position of the survivors to a patrolling B-17, expecting a request to be relayed to the South Pacific.

It never was. Only ten men would survive from the Juneau. According to Morison, Hoover was relieved of his command. An obituary from an unknown newspaper dated June 10, 1980 available at usshelena.org noted that Hoover, a three-time Navy Cross recipient, retired from the Navy in 1947, and served in various capacities until his death.