The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks - We Are The Mighty
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The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks

The U.S. Coast Guard was on scene just over an hour after the first plane hit during the 9/11 attacks. Members of the service evacuated half a million people from Lower Manhattan and stayed on to help clean up New York.


The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Coast Guard Petty officer Billy Bashaw, from Station Fire Island, bows his head in sorrow onboard his rescue boat Sept. 11. Bashaw has close friends who work in the World Trade Center who are still unaccounted for. (USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto)

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Manhattan was thrown into chaos as more than 500,000 people fled towards the water. They were looking for any way to get off the island and away from the dust, debris, and fire that came from the World Trade Center.

No one on the ground at the time knew for sure what was really happening. What New Yorkers did know is that they wanted to flee to safety, and on that sunny Tuesday morning the Coast Guard took immediate action. The first tower was struck at 8:46, and by 10 AM, more than 40 Coast Guard cutters and boats flooded towards the southern tip of Manhattan.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Coast Guard crewmembers patrol the harbor after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Terrorist hijacked four commercial jets and then crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto

“We felt the impact of the plane hit the Pentagon as we watched New York on TV,” then-Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral James Loy recalls, “and we knew that it was a large-scale terrorist attack.”

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Seen is an aerial view of Pentagon after a hijacked airline crashed into it Sept. 11. Terrorist hijacked four commercial jets and then crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. (U.S. COAST GUARD PHOTO)

Loy relied on his junior officers to put into action their exhaustive search and rescue and port security training. Those men and women quickly realized they couldn’t go at it alone.

A radio call to any boats that could help came from Lt. Michael Day, the Chief of Activities New York – Waterways Oversight Branch.

“United States Coast Guard aboard the pilot boat New York,” he called. “All mariners, we appreciate your assistance.”

He went on to ask for any vessels to head for several areas set up by the Coast Guard to help shuttle more than 500,000 people off the island. They also had to recover people who attempted to swim towards Staten Island and Jersey City.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
New Yorkers rushed to the Lower Manhattan water front at Battery Park to try to escape the collapse of the World Trade Center towers September 11. They were later evacuated by ferries and tugboats from all over New York harbor. (USCG photo by Chief Brandon Brewer)

Nearly 80 vessels shuttled supplies and personnel between Manhattan Battery and Jersey City as a part of the relief and clean-up efforts in the days following the attack. Loy also changed the course for every cutter on the Atlantic coast to cease migrant and drug interdiction operations and to begin defense readiness and port security operations.

The Coast Guard continued to stand the ready-guard in the weeks and months following 9/11. The world was unsure of whether the attacks would happen again. The Coast Guard guarded every nuclear power plant on navigable U.S. waters. They worked tirelessly and around the clock for months, a part of the recovering and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center, as well as performing their regular duties.

“You could just see the exhaustion in everyone’s eyes as they worked, unrelenting in trying to just find a survivor,” reflects Senior Chief Machinery Technician Tina Claflin, who served with Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team as a Machinery Technician 2nd Class, on her time working in the clean up efforts.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks

Coast Guardsman were not always in their iconic blue uniforms that morning. Several reservists were in New York as first responders, including Christian Waugh, a New York City firefighter, and Port Securityman 1st Class. Waugh, along with Lt. William Cosgrove, NYPD and Zachary Vause, NYFD, carried the body of Rev. Mychal Judge out of the north tower just moments before it collapsed.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks

The father of the Coast Guard – the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton – is buried in the Trinity Churchyard, just steps away from where the World Trade Center stood. In the wake of the attacks, as Loy and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Vince Patton stood near Trinity Church, they realized how powerful the house of worship stood as a monument.

It sustained only a broken window and was a place of refuge for recovery workers. As Loy looked around the ash and debris-strewn churchyard, he looked at Patton and told him that they had to clean it. Patton first looked at Loy and thought “Has the old man lost his mind?” but realized Loy was looking across the yard at Hamilton’s grave.

Patton spoke with Senior Chief Petty Officer Steve Koll, the Command Senior Chief at Activities New York, and less than 24 hours later was sent back to New York. Patton estimated the job would take nearly 100 people days to finish. Koll, who had just a few dozen on hand, finished the job in less than a day.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Koll and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Vince Patton, adjust the flag placed at the grave site of Alexander Hamilton, the ‘father of the Coast Guard’, Thursday at the cemetery of Trinity Church, a few blocks away from the WTC disaster site. (USCG photo by PA2 Mark Mackowiak)

While the Coast Guard remembered its history, it also mourned the loss of current members. Jeffrey M. Palazzo, a New York City Fire Fighter and Machinery Technician 1st Class in the Coast Guard Reserves was trapped as the North Tower collapsed, his remains never recovered. Police officer and Port Securityman 2nd Class Vincent G. Danz also lost his life in the North Tower, looking for survivors with the Bronx’s Emergency Service Unit. His remains were lost until December 2001.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
The Master Chief of the Coast Guard Vince Patton, reads some of the messages Thursday that have been applied to the first responder fire truck near the World Trade Center disaster site. Patton was visiting the site to pay respects and to visit with the Coast Guard personnel who are assisting in the recovery. (USCG photo by PA2 Mark Mackowiak)

In everything the Coast Guard did in the aftermath of 9/11, the service didn’t forget its core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. As Patton reflected on the efforts in New York, he said: “When we all rallied around honor, everything just fell into place.”

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The crazy story of the man who fought for Finland, the Nazis, and US Army Special Forces

Larry Thorne enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1954, but he was already a war hero. That’s because his real name was Lauri Törni, and he had been fighting the Soviets for much of his adult life.


Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He quickly rose to the rank of captain and took command of a group of ski troops, who quite literally, skied into battle against enemy forces.

In 1942, he was severely wounded after he skied into a mine, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.

Unfortunately for Törni, Finland signed a ceasefire and ceded some territory to the Soviets in 1944 to end hostilities. But instead of surrendering, he joined up with the German SS so he could continue fighting. He received additional training in Nazi Germany and then looked forward to kicking some Commie butt once more.

But then Germany fell too, and the Finn-turned-Waffen SS officer was arrested by the British, according to War History Online. Not that being put into a prison camp would stop him either.

“In the last stages of the war he surrendered to the British and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp,” reads the account at War History Online. “When he returned, he was then arrested by the Finns, even though he had received their Medal of Honor, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for treason.”

He ended up serving only half his sentence before he was pardoned by the President of Finland in 1948.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Getting to America

Törni’s path to the U.S. Army was paved by crucial legislation from Congress along with the creation of a new military unit: Special Forces.

In June 1950, the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years. Just two years later, the Army would stand up its new Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.

More than 200 eastern Europeans joined Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, according to Max Boot. One of those enlistees was Törni, who enlisted in 1954 under the name Larry Thorne.

“The Soviets wanted to get their hands on Thorne and forced the Finnish government to arrest him as a wartime German collaborator. They planned to take him to Moscow to be tried for war crimes,” reads the account at ArlingtonCemetery.net. “Thorne had other plans. He escaped, made his way to the United States, and with the help of Wild Bill Donovan became a citizen. The wartime head of the OSS knew of Thorne’s commando exploits.”

A Special Forces legend

Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain just as war was on the horizon in Vietnam.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But first, he would take part in a daring rescue mission inside of Iran. In 1962, then-Capt. Thorne led an important mission to recover classified materials from a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed on a mountaintop on the Iran-Turkish-Soviet border, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Though three earlier attempts to secure the materials had failed, Thorne’s team was successful.

According to the U.S. Army:

Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.

In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, War History Online writes. According to Helsingin Sanomat, his wounds allowed him to return to the rear away from combat, but he refused and instead requested command of a special operations base instead.

On Oct. 18, 1965, Thorne led the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos to interdict North Vietnamese movement down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Using South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, his team was successfully inserted into a clearing inside Laos while Thorne remained in a chase helicopter to direct support as needed. Once the team gave word they had made it in, he responded that he was heading back to base.

Roughly five minutes later while flying in poor visibility and bad weather, the helicopter crashed. The Army first listed him as missing in action, then later declared he was killed in action — in South Vietnam. The wreckage of the aircraft was found prior to the end of the war and the remains of the South Vietnamese air crew were recovered, but Thorne was never found.

Thorne’s exploits in combat made him seem invincible among his Special Forces brothers, and with his body never recovered, many believed he had survived the crash and continued to live in hiding or had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, according to POW Network.

“Many believed he was exactly the sort of near-indestructible soldier who would have simply walked back out of the jungle, and they found it hard to believe he had been killed,” writes Helsingin Sanomat.

In 1999, the mystery was finally put to rest. The remains of the legendary Special Forces soldier were recovered from the crash site. DNA confirmed the identities of the air crew, while dental records proved Törni had died on that fateful night in 1965, reported Helsingin Sanomat.

“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Sean Swindell said during a ceremony in 2010.

NOW: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

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New trailer for WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the story of a heroic Army medic

Mel Gibson has returned to the director’s chair after a 10-year hiatus with the WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge.”


The film tells the tale of real-life Army medic Desmond Doss. Torn between his conscientious objection to violence and his desire to serve his country in its time of greatest need, Doss joined the Army as a medic but refused to carry a weapon.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks

Despite suspicion and contempt from his fellow soldiers, Doss repeatedly braved danger and even disobeyed orders to make sure his countrymen made it home alive. Doss received the Medal of Honor for his actions, one of only three conscientious objectors to ever do so.

Gibson is no stranger to the classic American war film, having previously starred in “We Were Soldiers” and “The Patriot.” “Hacksaw Ridge” is the actor’s first directing outing since 2006’s “Apocalypto,” but that film and 1995’s “Braveheart” proved Gibson is right at home capturing epic battles on film.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is now playing in theaters nationwide. Watch the trailer below.

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US may deploy Patriot missile defense to Russian border

U.S. defense officials say a long-range Patriot missile battery may be deployed to the Baltic region later this year as part of a military exercise.


If the move is finalized, it would be temporary, but still signal staunch U.S. backing for Baltic nations that are worried about the threat from Russia.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting one of the Baltic countries — Lithuania. And he’s declining to confirm the specific deployment.

But Mattis says “we are here in a purely defensive stance.”

U.S. officials say the Patriot surface-to-air missile system could move into the Baltic region during an air defense exercise in July. They say it would be gone by the time a large Russian military exercise begins in August and September.

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‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

Army Maj. Gen. “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell was at the top of the list for high commands as America entered World War I. A 1904 West Point graduate with lots of intelligence experience in World War I and extensive time in the Pacific, he was expected to take on some of the most important commands and win.


And initially, it looked like that would happen, but two of the biggest commands of the war slipped through his fingers. He was assigned to lead the invasion of North Africa when America was ready to deploy forces across the Atlantic, but was recalled to take another mission. He was later assigned to lead the invasion of Japan…until the atomic bombs made it unnecessary.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
General Chiang Kai-shek, Madam Chiang Kai-shek, and Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell celebrate the day after the Doolittle Raid strikes Tokyo. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense Capt. Fred L. Eldridge)

Instead, Stilwell spent most of the war in what was an important backwater, the Chinese-Burma-India Theater. Stilwell was in the middle of preparing Operation Gymnast, the landings of North Africa which would later be conducted as Operation Torch, when he learned that he was on the short list to command U.S. forces in CBI.

Stilwell didn’t want the job. He hoped to invade North Africa. From there, he would have a decent shot at commanding the European theater or at least all troops taking the fight to Italy.

This was a reasonable expectation. Operation Gymnast became Operation Torch and was passed to then-Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s success in North Africa led to an appointment as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. A few years later, he used his status as a war hero to run for president.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell eats C-rations as a Christmas meal in 1943 while not-at-all wishing that he had commanded the invasion of North Africa instead of that punk kid Dwight Eisenhower. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Stilwell, meanwhile, was sent to the CBI theater where he was charged three major jobs. He was to command all U.S. forces in the theater, lead the Lend-Lease program in China, and serve as the chief of staff for Chiang Kai-shek, the Supreme Allied Commander for the China theater.

He was facing a tough job, but Stilwell dove into it. He assumed control of an integrated force in Burma in 1942 and prepared an offensive against the Japanese.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
American forces assigned to GALAHAD rest in Burma during a movement in World War II. GALAHAD would be better known by history as Merrill’s Marauders. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But it was too late for that. Before Stilwell could lay the groundwork, a new Japanese thrust overcame Chinese forces and sent them reeling back. The rest of the Allied forces in the area, mostly Americans under Stilwell, were forced to follow. This caused the loss of Burma and a severing of important logistical corridors.

The overall retreat was so disorderly that important railways were shut down thanks to crashes and traffic jams. Stilwell had to lead a group from his headquarters on vehicles and then on foot after the air corridors were closed. The vehicles eventually had to be abandoned because of the bad roads, and so Stilwell and a select group walked through the jungle out of Burma.

The group has started with 80 members and emerged from the jungle with 114, having picked up 34 strays and suffered no losses — possibly the only large group to do so.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Kachin Rangers stand in formation. (Photo: U.S. Army)

For the next two years, Stilwell had to rely on a small group of Americans leading guerrilla operations in Burma to keep the Japanese off kilter. Army Col. Carl F. Eifler led a small group of U.S. soldiers who recruited the local Kachin people into an insurgency against the Japanese. The force was credited with killing 5,428 Japanese troops and recovering 574 isolated Allied troops, mostly downed aircrews.

But Stilwell didn’t want to disrupt the Japanese in Burma, he wanted it back. In 1944, he was able to lead a force that retook the region. One of the most famous units in the effort was Merrill’s Marauders, led by Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill. Merrill was one of the survivors that left Burma with Stilwell. Merrill had survived the evacuation despite suffering a heart attack.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Merrill’s Marauders move through the China-Burma-India Theater on the Ledo Road. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

Stilwell was finally removed from CBI in 1944, mainly due to staff and national politics. He was sent to the Ryukyu Islands where he took over the 10th Army on Okinawa. It was in this position that he was tapped to lead the invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall.

Luckily for him and his men, though not for his career and legacy, the invasion was made unnecessary by the Japanese surrendering to MacArthur in 1945.

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Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

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The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

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The Army proved semi-auto sniper rifles could kick ass in Vietnam

With the Army’s decision to adopt the Heckler and Kock G28 as the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System to be the replacement for the M110, it seems as if semi-automatic sniper rifles are a new thing.


Nope. In fact, during the Vietnam War, the Army was proving a semi-auto could be a very lethal sniper rifle. They took a number of M14 rifles — which were being phased out in favor of the M16 rifle — and added a scope.

I hope you like gun-speak — there are some sweet (technical) nothings coming your way…

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The M21 Sniper Weapon System. (US Army graphic)

The M14 had a lot going for it. It fired the 7.62x51mm NATO round — the same one as the M60 machine gun and the M40 sniper rifle the Marines used. But there were two huge differences between them that made the M21 a much more lethal rifle.

The M40 is a bolt-action rifle that carries five rounds in an internal magazine. The M14/M21 rifle is a semi-auto that has a 20-round detachable box magazine. The baseline M14 was deadly enough — Chuck Mawhinney is said to have used an M14 rifle to take out 16 of the enemy in one incident during the Vietnam War.

Once a Redfield scope (the three-to-nine power Adjustable Ranging Telescope) was added to the rifle and match-grade ammo was added to the M14, Army snipers had a real weapon.

Adelbert Waldron would use that rifle to become America’s top sniper with 109 confirmed kills. For the record, that’s 16 more kills than Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock has – and Hathcock was the third-best Marine sniper, behind Mawhinney (103 confirmed kills) and Eric England (98).

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Specialist Fourth Class (SFC) Theodore Amell scans the horizon with an M21 sniper weapon system for threats while on patrol near Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M14 also saw action in Grenada for the Army. Inexplicably, after proving the M21 was an awesome system, the Army chose to go back to the outdated bolt-action with the M24.

But the War on Terror soon saw the M21 making a comeback. The M24 is still sticking around, now upgraded to the M2010 configuration, but was also slated to be replace by the M110.

In short, the Army is re-proving what they proved almost five decades ago — that a semi-auto rifle can be an awesome sniper rifle.

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This is how the US could save billions of dollars on bombs

The U.S. Navy may have come across a common sense way to save billions on bombs, according to statements made from U.S. officials at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.


For years now, the Navy has been working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network to help detect, track, and intercept targets using a fused network of all types of sensors at the Navy’s disposal.

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An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship. The F-35C Lightning II is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

Essentially, NIFC-CA allows one platform to detect a target, another platform to fire on it, and the original platform to help guide the missile to the target. The system recently integrated with F-35s, allowing an F-35 to guide a missile fired from a land-based version of a navy ship to hitting a target.

Remarks from Cmdr. David Snee, director for integration and interoperability at the warfare integration directorate, recently revealed that NIFC-CA could also help save the Navy billions on bombs.

“Right now we’re in a world where if I can’t see beyond the horizon then I need to build in that sort of sensing and high-tech effort into the weapon itself,” Snee told conference attendees, as noted by USNI News.

“But in a world where I can see beyond the horizon and I can target, then I don’t need to spend a billion dollars on a weapon that doesn’t need to have all that information. I just need to be able to give the data to the weapon at the appropriate time.”

According to Snee, with an integrated network of sensors allowing the Navy to see beyond the horizon, the costly sensors and guidance systems the U.S. puts on nearly every single bomb dropped could become obsolete.

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Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Shirley Shugar, from Joppa, Ala., takes inventory of ordnance in the bomb farm aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)

In the scenario described by Snee, today’s guided or “smart bombs” could be replaced with bombs that simply receive targeting info from other sensors, like F-35s or E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

Essentially, the “smart” part of the weapon’s guidance would remain on the ship, plane, or other sensor node that fired them, instead of living on the missile and being destroyed with each blast.

The Navy would have to do extensive testing to make sure the bombs could do their job with minimal sensor technology. But the move could potentially save billions, as the U.S. military dropped at least 26,000 bombs in 2016, the vast majority of which contained expensive sensors.

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7 ‘oh crap!’ revelations about the state of today’s military

In early February, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines testified before before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the state of the U.S. military as the Trump administration takes office.


And many of the revelations from that testimony are disconcerting, to put it mildly. Here are some of the moments that will have you saying, “Oh, crap!”

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Photo: U.S. National Guard Master Sgt. Mark A. Moore

1. The average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years old

Take an average Air Force plane, and it was made in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The last KC-135 was produced in 1965, the last B-52 was produced in 1962, the last F-15C was built in 1985, and the last F-16C for the Air Force was built in 2001. These are planes that will be around well into the next decade and beyond.

In other words, many of the planes the Air Force relies on are OLD.

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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off from the base during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Aggressor pilots are trained to act as opposing forces in exercises like RF-A to better prepare U.S. and allied forces for aerial combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

2. The Air Force has only 55 fighter squadrons

Not only are the planes old, the number of fighter squadrons in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard has declined from 134 in 1991, the year of Operation Desert Storm, to 55 today. That is a decline of nearly 60 percent.

Yes, today’s precision weapons allow fighters to destroy multiples targets in one sortie, but sometimes, you still need numbers. The few active units we have are running their planes into the ground.

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An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet before a flight. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

3. The Air Force is short by over 1,500 pilots

The Air Force’s pilot shortage was reported by FoxNews.com to be around 700 last year. Now, the service is reporting the total is over twice that estimate. This is not a good situation, senior leaders say.

Planes are no good without pilots – and even new technology to make any plane an unmanned aerial vehicle will have some limits. If the balloon were to go up, where would the pilots come from? Probably the instructor cadres – which could be bad news for keeping a sufficient supply of pilots trained up in times of war.

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Photo: US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

4. Only three Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight in the event of a major war

The Army cut its force structure from 45 brigade combat teams to what became an eventual total of 30. Yet despite the reduction of combat brigades, 1/3 of the Army’s brigade combat teams are considered ready, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn.

Of those 10 brigades supposedly ready for combat, only three of these could fight today if the balloon went up. Three out of 30 – and that is the active-duty component. Just what, exactly, is the state of the National Guard? Do we really want to know?

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The Apache racked up 240 hours of combat during Just Cause. (Photo: U.S. Army)

5. 75 percent of Army Combat Aviation Brigades are not ready

Believe it or not, the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams are in better shape than its Combat Aviation Brigades. Only 1/4 of those units are ready – and these provide AH-64 Apaches for close support, as well as the Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters needed to transport troops and supplies.

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Photo: US Marine Corps

6. 80 percent of Marine aviation units can’t train properly

Remember how the Marines had to pull about two dozen Hornets from the boneyard? Well, even with that, four in five Marine units cannot give their pilots and air crews proper training because they do not have planes.

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Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Cole (DDG 67) maneuver into position behind three Japanese destroyers during a photo exercise. USS Cole is in the center of the photograph. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)

7. The Navy is smaller than it has been since 1916

Today’s ships are very capable combatants. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer could probably sink or cripple most of a carrier’s escorts from a battle group off the coast of Vietnam fifty years ago.

But today, the Navy has a grand total of 274 ships. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, in 1916, the Navy had all of 245 ships. Even if we were to reach the proposed 355-ship level, it would only have the Navy to roughly the size it was in 1997.

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China just tested a new weapon that could blind the US military

China has tested a new anti-satellite weapon, marking a new threat to American space assets like reconnaissance satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Dong Neng 3 missile was previously tested on two occasions, including this past December.


According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the test took place late last month, and was not successful due to a problem with an upper stage of the missile. The test was broadcast on the Internet by a number of users in China near the launch facility. This has been part of a long process as China has pushed to acquire the means to carry out warfare in space.

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Satellite image showing a Kiev-class carrier under construction. (NRO photo)

“Since the early 1990s China has developed four, possibly five, attack-capable space-combat systems,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said. “China may be the only country developing such variety of space weapons to include: ground-based and air-launched counter-space weapons; unmanned space combat and Earth-attack platforms; and dual-use manned platforms.”

Harsh Vasani from Manpaul University in India, noted that the purpose of those systems would be to “counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel—Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance]. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.”

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Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson successfully launched an anti-satellite, or ASAT, missile from a highly modified F-15A on Sept. 13, 1985 in the Pacific Missile Test Range. He scored a direct hit on the Solwind P78-1 satellite orbiting 340 miles above.(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul E. Reynolds)

The United States has carried out a number of its own anti-satellite tests in the past. Most notable was the 1980s-vintage ASM-135 ASAT missile, capable of being launched by F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighters. After a 1985 test, though, Congress prohibited further tests against satellites, and the program was ended in 1988. The ASM-135 could destroy satellites anywhere from 350 to 620 miles above the Earth.

In 2008, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) used a RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3 to destroy a failed satellite. Operation Burnt Frost was a success, with the failed satellite being destroyed 133 nautical miles above sea level. China and Russia protested the operation.

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This image shows the interception of a satellite by a SM-3 missile fired by the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) in 2008. (US Navy photo)

American defense officials claim that the United States has “very robust” capabilities in space. But Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten says that China and Russia have been developing space-warfare capabilities.

Hyten noted that Chinese and Russian threats to American space systems will be “a much nearer-term issue for the commander after me, and for the commander after that person, it will be more significant because the gap is narrowing quickly” between American capabilities and those of China and Russia. A 2013 test of an earlier missile in the Dong Neng series reached up to 18,600 miles over the earth.

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Gen. John E. Hyten, USAF, commander of United States Strategic Command. (DOD photo)

“It’s not very complicated. You treat it as a war-fighting domain. And when you do that, the answers are not that complicated. You have to have increased maneuver capabilities on our satellites. We have to have defensive capabilities to defend ourselves. These are just war fighting problems,” he said.

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5 times criminals changed the course of wars

Crime doesn’t pay… except when it helps decide the course of a war. Here are five cases of criminals joining the war effort:


1. The Jewish Mafia opened the New York docks to the Navy so Nazis there could be caught

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The Normandie lies in the New York harbor after a suspect fire damaged her. Photo: US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation

During World War II, Nazi U-Boats were a major threat on the East Coast and the Navy suspected Nazi saboteurs and sympathizers to be behind a few incidents such as the sinking of the cruise ship Normandie.

Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky wanted to help European Jews, and that meant helping the Navy. He got them past longshoremen blockades at the docks, had his men violently break up gatherings of Nazi sympathizers, and even helped capture a group of Nazi saboteurs who holed up in a New York hotel.

2. The mobster “Lucky Luciano” aided Operation Husky from a cell in New York.

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Troops and equipment come ashore on the first day of the invasion of Sicily. Photo: Royal Navy C. H. Parnall

Lansky wasn’t the only mobster to help the Navy. Charlie “Lucky” Luciano was in prison but volunteered to jump into Europe to rally friends and associates in Sicily and Italy to help the Allies invasion of the “soft underbelly of Europe.”

The Navy turned him down for frontline duty, but did allow him to contact his associates in the area. They responded with photos, maps, and other reconnaissance, aiding the risky Operation Husky.

RELATED: This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

3. A single vigilante in the Civil War crippled Union shipping on the Tennessee River.

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Jack Hinson. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Jack Hinson was a dutiful informant for both sides during the American Civil War, but he spent most of his time trying to stay out of the whole thing and just run his farm. But then the Union executed and beheaded two of his sons on suspicion of Confederate activity.

Hinson went nuts. He had a custom sniper rifle made and began straight murdering any and every Union soldier he could get a shot off at, starting with the lieutenant and sergeant who led the execution of his sons.

4. D-Day was made possible by boats popularized by smugglers.

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Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

Andrew J. Higgins was a successful businessman who began building boats for trappers and lumbermen in Louisiana operating in the bayou. There is speculation that he may have ran booze himself, which may or may not have been true, but his boat business was definitely fueled by bootleggers.

That ended up being good for the Marine Corps and Army, because that booming boat business provided the armored boats that landed troops across the Pacific and on the Normandy beaches.

5. A Pirate queen won a war against the Chinese, British and Portuguese navies.

鄭一嫂-Ching-Shih-Pirate-queen Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the early 1800s Ching Shih was a Chinese prostitute that a pirate lord was in love with. He married her and the two grew his fleet from 200 to 600 ships before he died in a storm. Shih then built an entire pirate nation with a code of laws and a fleet of 1,800 ships. The Chinese emperor raised a force to bring her down, but that failed and so he asked for help from the British and Portuguese.

After the trilateral alliance failed to defeat her in over two years of war, she offered the Chinese government to disband her fleet if her leaders were offered positions in the Chinese navy, she was given a royal position, and the Chinese paid for the pirates to transition to a life on land. The government agreed and the war ended.