The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War

“The job of the Ravens was to, literally, look for trouble. And they often found it . . .”


—Orr Kelly, FROM A DARK SKY, The Story of U.S. Air Force Special Operations

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
The Cessna O-1 Bird Dog FAC aircraft was unmarked when flown by Raven Forward Air Controllers. Photo: Wikipedia/US Air Force

Two wars were being waged in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s. One was the “public war” in Vietnam. Highly publicized and highly controlled from Washington, it had all the media trappings associated with major military operations. The other was a “secret war” in Laos. Waged under the tightest of security, little oversight and with minimal assets compared to the conflict in Vietnam, its objective was to interdict and destroy the flow of men, equipment and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. Responsibility for conducting day-to-day air operations, in what one pilot called a “high risk, no-bullshit war,” was assigned to volunteers operating under the call sign Ravens, a small group of unconventional and incredibly fearless air combat controllers thinly disguised as civilian operatives.

The reason the campaign in Laos had to waged in secret was the terms of the Geneva Accords signed between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) on July 23, 1962, that guaranteed the neutrality of the Kingdom of Laos, a land-locked nation abutting Vietnam’s western border. One of the provisions in the Accords was the requirement that all foreign military forces had to leave Laos. Though the United States complied North Vietnam ignored it. Laotian Prime Minister Price Souvanna Phoumo’s request for American military aid against North Vietnam’s violation presented President John F. Kennedy’s administration with a quandary: how to comply with the prince’s request without violating the accords. Another concern was that official American military involvement might inspire a tit-for-tat response by China and the Soviet Union that risked escalating hostilities, touching off World War III.

But Laos’ strategic location, along with the fear that doing nothing would cause the country to go communist, caused President Kennedy to direct the Air Force to formulate a plan to assist Laos. Working in partnership with the CIA, the result was a covert operation placed under the command of America’s ambassador to Laos, William Sullivan, and later his successor G. McMurtrie Godley, who closely controlled all American activities there. Air Force Attaché Colonel Gus Sonnenburg and his successors directed air operations. The covert air program began modestly with the deployment in 1963 of four combat control team sergeants, call sign Butterfly.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
A CIA U-10D Helio Courier aircraft sits on a covert mountaintop landing strip (LS) “Lima site” in Laos. The planes were owned by a CIA front company, Air America. Photo: Wikipedia

To get around the Geneva Accords restrictions, the Air Force Butterfly NCOs (and all subsequent volunteers) were scrubbed of their military identity and given a new civilian cover for the duration of their deployment in Laos, a process colorfully referred to as “sheep dipping.” Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of the spotter aircraft, Butterflies would issue targeting instructions to Thai, Laotian, and later Hmong pilots trained through Project Water Pump. Originally created to teach indigenous and Thai pilots how to conduct Search and Rescue missions from forward bases along the Laotian border with Vietnam, Water Pump was soon expanded to train pilots for combat roles.

The Butterfly program came to an abrupt end in April 1966 when General William Momyer, the 7th Air Force commander, learned that the Butterflies were NCOs, and not jet fighter pilots, per doctrine. The following month, on May 5, 1966, Air Force lieutenants Jim F. Lemon and Truman (“T.R.”) Young, upon returning to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base after directing air strikes at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam, were presented with an offer they couldn’t refuse by their commanding officer: volunteer for a secret program, and a variety of minor disciplinary breaches including “rat-racing” (unauthorized acrobatics in O-1 Bird Dogs) and furniture broken during an excessive outburst of enthusiasm at a recent party would not appear in their personnel files. The lieutenants volunteered and the Raven program was launched.

The Ravens were part of a new air campaign in Laos begun in 1967 under the code name Palace Dog/Project 404. FACs for the program included pilots trained by Colonel Henry “Heinie” Aderholt following his tour of duty as commander of the 56th Air Commando Wing at Nakhon Phanom. After that deployment he was assigned deputy chief of staff for operations at the Special Air Warfare Center (now Air Force Special Operations Force) at Eglin Air Force Base.

After completion of their training and upon arriving for duty in Vietnam the FACs were informed that after six months they could volunteer for special duty through the Steve Canyon Program. After being successfully vetted and screened, the volunteers were sent to the American embassy at the Laotian capital of Vientiane where they were sheep dipped and assigned.

Mavericks, with an aggressiveness and courage bordering on the foolhardy, and stamina to endure flying twelve or more hours a day under some of the most harrowing combat and weather conditions, the Ravens and their Hmong counterparts the Nokateng (Swooping Bird) fought the war from bases at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet, and Long Chieng, flying O-1 Bird Dogs, O-2 Skymasters, modified for combat AT-28 Trojans, Porter Pilatus and other aircraft.

To say that the flights were dangerous is an understatement. Of the 191 who served as Ravens, thirty-one paid for their dedication with their lives.

Major Mike Cavanaugh was a Raven in 1969. He recalled that the intensity of action over Laos caused them to become extraordinarily adept at spotting signs of enemy presence. “One time,” he recalled, “I saw bushes which came to a ninety- degree angle. The clever devil that I am, I know that bushes don’t grow in ninety- degree angles. That’s all I had to go on; I hit it with a set of fighters. I uncovered pallet after pallet of 122 mm rockets. . . . [W]e had secondary explosions for two solid days.”

One Raven’s routine was to do a dawn patrol scouting flight before breakfast,looking for such signs of enemy activity as smoke from cook fires that might indicate an enemy bivouac, or trails where the early morning dew had been brushed away by troop traffic. Upon returning for breakfast, he’d have a checklist of locations to investigate later that morning.

On one flight another Raven, Captain Karl L. Polifka, spotted a suspicious mound in the Plaine des Jarres (Plain of Jars), so named for the thousands of megalithic stone jars scattered throughout it. After alerting the base of his finding, he was informed that Intelligence indicated it was the entrance to a cave storing 500 barrels of fuel. Polifka called in a fighter-bomber who dropped a guided bomb on the mound. The resulting explosion created a fireball 1,000 feet across and was so hot that a passing rain cloud was sucked into its vortex.

While the Ravens participated because they were volunteers, their Hmong counterparts fought because it was their country. Polifka said that the Hmong pilots’ dedication was “unsurpassed by any combat pilot anywhere. . . . They seemed to have no fear, although I do think they had a vision of early mortality.” Raven Darrel Cavanaugh said, “In close, they were damned accurate. They liked to get down there and mix it up with the bad guys.”

The best pilot among the Hmong, and his admirers argued the best combat pilot in Laos regardless of nationality, was Ly Leu (also spelled Lee Lue). A schoolteacher and son-in-law to the charismatic Hmong leader General Vang Po, Captain Ly Leu was the first Hmong to volunteer for Project Water Pump. After completing T-28 training and earning his wings at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, he returned to Laos to wage war against the communists. His motto was “Fly ’til you die”

The Ravens who worked and fought with him loved him. One Raven who observed Ly Leu in action recalled that in strafing runs it was not unusual for him to fly twenty feet above the ground and that his idea of strafing “was to stick a .50 caliber gun in the enemy’s ear and pull the trigger.” From dawn to dusk, Ly Leu flew non-stop, as many as ten missions a day. After returning from a mission, to reduce downtime he’d assist in loading ordnance for the next mission before flying off again. When he landed at dusk he was so tired he had to be lifted out of the cockpit. Ly Leu averaged 120 missions a month and racked up more than 5,000 sorties during his career. On July 12, 1969, the newly promoted Major Ly Leu flew his final mission. Attacking Pathet Lao forces in Moung Soui, northwest of the Plaines des Jarres, he was shot down and killed by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Posthumously promoted by General Vang Po to lieutenant colonel, in gratitude the Americans posthumously awarded Ly Leu the Silver Star.

Though Ravens operated throughout Laos, their major base was at Long Chieng (or Long Tieng). Located southwest of the Plaine des Jarres in Xiangkhouang Province in the north central highlands of Laos, Long Chieng (officially code-named by the Americans Lima Site 30, but usually referred to as Lima Site 20 Alternate, or just “Alternate”) was located in a mountainous valley at an elevation of 3,100 feet. The Hmong are mountain dwellers and General Vang Pao made Long Chieng his headquarters, eventually gathering 30,000 troops into his guerilla army.

At its peak of operations, Long Chieng had a population of more than 40,000, and its airfield conducted about 400 flights a day, making it one of the busiest in the world. Long Chieng gained a reputation of being “the most secret place in the world” because despite its size (it was the second largest city in Laos after the capital, Vientiane, and had the world’s largest Hmong population), it never appeared on any map.

Compared to the air war over Vietnam, the forces available in Laos were negligible—the number of Ravens in Laos at any one time was always small, and General Vang Pao’s air arm often numbered less than a dozen serviceable aircraft. That was a major reason why Hmong pilots flew the high number of missions they did. Even so, they were not alone in the skies. Raven FACs, who also flew a grueling schedule, became expert in calling in Air Force assets when needed, whether it was to aid Hmong ground troops in danger of being overrun or taking out a target of opportunity.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
An armoured North American T-28D-5 Nomad plane at Long Tieng airfield in Laos. Photo: Wikipedia

In some cases, the enemy ironically helped the Ravens in their interdiction missions. Polifka recalled that enemy troops had been taught that an AK-47 was capable of shooting down an F-4 Phantom, something that was possible if it was flying a low-flying strafing mission. Cruising at 12,000 feet or more was another matter. But Polifka said the enemy troops didn’t take that difference of distance into account.

He recalled there would be times that he’d be on a Raven mission, flying between 2,500 and 3,000 feet and he’d look down and suddenly see a ridge line light up with muzzle flashes. “[Enemy troops] wouldn’t really be shooting at [me]; they would be shooting at a bunch of F-4s flying somewhere.” With the enemy soldiers having revealed themselves, Ravens would then call in an air strike. He said, “We know of one case where there were three survivors of a five-hundred-man battalion that straggled into a regimental command post.”

By 1969 Raven guided air operations had become so deadly and successful that Vang Pao was able to switch from guerrilla to conventional war and launch an offensive that wrested control of the Plaine des Jarres from the Pathet Lao. Though because of what happened in Vietnam ultimate victory in Laos was not achieved, the record of the Ravens’ accomplishment demonstrated that when the time came, a handful of highly skilled, dedicated, resourceful, and courageous men could accomplish a mission others regarded as impossible.

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Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of

Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”


So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
It probably looked nothing like this.

Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.

And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.

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Air Force F-35A will likely deploy within 2 years

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth


Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.

“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While the Marine Corps has publically said it plans to deploy its Short-Take-off-and-Landing F-35B aboard an amphibious assault ship by 2017, the Air Force has been reluctant thus far to specify a deployment date for its F-35A variant.

However, Harrigian did say the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to recent mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations.

“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.

During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.

The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.

A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
U.S. Air Force photo

“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.

F-35A “Sensor Fusion”

The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.

Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.

“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane.  You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.

Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.

“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment

The Air Force plans to announce what’s called Initial Operational Capability, or IOC, of its F-35A at some point between August and December of this year; seven F-35As are preparing for this at Hill AFB, Utah.

There is an operational unit at Hill AFB which, this coming June, is slated to go to Mountain Home for its training and preparation. They are the 34th Fighter Squadron

“All of this is part of a robust schedule of activities,” Harrigian added.

Following this development, the F-35A will be ready for deployment, Harrigian explained.

Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.

Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.

“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.

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5 ways your platoon would be different with Rambo in charge

The early 1980s brought us some epic action movies like “Conan the Barbarian,” “Blade Runner,” and let’s not forget “E.T.”


Although these films were fun to watch, they didn’t have the impact on veterans like the movie “First Blood” did.

Directed by Ted Kotcheff, John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was a former Green Beret who just wanted to visit his Vietnam buddy when things took a turn for the worse and he ended up battling a small town’s police force after an unlawful arrest.

Rambo is a badass — case closed.

Related: 5 heroic movie acts a military officer would never do

But we’ve always wondered what it would have been like to serve under his command. Here’s our take on how being in Rambo’s platoon would be.

1. Alternate shooting techniques

In most boot camps we’re taught proper weapons handling. But forget all those safety briefs you were forced to listen to when Capt. Rambo reports in as the new commanding officer, because every shot you fire from here on out will be from your hip.

Plus it looks awesome if you can handle the recoil. (Giphy)

2. No bayonets

Having the ability to mount a knife on the barrel of your rifle isn’t enough.

If you were in Rambo’s company, your blade would have to be up to such standards that it can slice a bad guy up and be thrown across the room with perfect precision.

Aim for the center mass (Giphy)

3. Your new sidearm

Rambo is going to require you to replace your 9mm service pistol with a crazy deadly bow and arrow that will make your enemy blow up wherever they stand.

What a sh*tty way to die. (Giphy)

4. Uniform changes

You must be shirtless at all times when you go to war. That is all.

It’s time to gear up and get in the fight! (Giphy)

Also Read: 5 epic military movie mistakes

5. No sick call

You won’t be allowed to go to medical to get patched up if you have some needle and thread handy — you’ll just do it yourself.

Going to the hospital is for p*ssies (Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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The F-35B can take off like an Olympic ski jumper now

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo: Youtube


The F-35B Lightning II aircraft can now take off from a “ski jump,” reports Kelsey D. Atherton at Popular Science.

The Marine Corps’ version of the jet — built for vertical landings and short takeoffs from ships — was successfully tested taking off down a short runway with the assistance of a “ski jump” on Tuesday, according to IHS Jane’s. Interestingly, as Atherton notes, the test was for the benefit of NATO partners with “ski jumps” on their aircraft carriers, not for the U.S. Navy, which does not use them.

Jane’s writes:

For the F-35B, the ‘ski-jump’ will be used to launch jets from the decks of the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales carriers being built for the UK Royal Navy, and may be adopted by other customers such as Italy. Phase I testing will continue for two weeks, ahead of the Phase II trials to take place through the third quarter of the year. The MoD did not disclose what Phase II will entail, but it will likely feature shipborne trials aboard the Queen Elizabeth (QE) aircraft carrier (the first of the two QE-class ships).

So here it is. The F-35B, trying for Olympic gold:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=10v=BJvV2N791Ok

NOW: Navy officer feels the need for NASCAR speed

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US bombers conduct live-fire drill near North Korean border

Two US Air Force bombers have conducted a rare live-fire drill in South Korea and flown close to the heavily militarized border with North Korea — a show of force following North Korea’s test-launch of a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile.


South Korea’s military said in a statement that the exercise was meant to “sternly respond to the series of North Korea’s ballistic-missile launches.”

The statement said the long-range B-1B bombers, accompanied by South Korean jet fighters, simulated an attack on enemy ballistic-missile batteries and precision air strikes against underground enemy command posts.

It said each US bomber dropped a 900-kilogram laser-guided smart bomb that was designed to destroy a fortified bunker.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
A B-1 in action. Photo from USAF.

The bombs were dropped on targets at a firing range about 80 kilometers south of the land border with North Korea. The planes then flew close to the border before turning back to Anderson Air Base in Guam from where they were deployed.

“Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demonstrated strong determination to thoroughly punish the enemy for its provocative acts, and showed off their capability to pulverize enemy command posts,” the South Korean statement said.

The US Air Force said two of its B-1B bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea late on July 6 in a move that asserts the right to treat the area as international territory, despite China’s territorial claims in the busy waterway.

Those flights were conducted after the US bombers participated in a joint training exercise with Japanese jet fighters over the neighboring East China Sea — just to the south of the Korean Peninsula.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Two US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, conducted training with fighter aircraft from the Japan Air Self Defense Force and a low-level flight with fighter aircraft from the Republic of Korea. Photo by US Forces Korea

Washington wants China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop its research into long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

Also in response to North Korea’s July 4 test, which demonstrated that North Korea’s arsenal is capable of striking parts of Alaska with an ICBM, US and South Korean forces on July 5 fired ballistic missiles in a drill simulating an attack on North Korea’s leadership.

South Korea said that test was meant “as a strong message of warning.”

The US Missile Defense Agency said on July 7 that it would soon test an anti-ballistic-missile system in Alaska.

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Here is how the Navy feels about finders keepers

The Navy tends to be very strict when people recover items from sunken wrecks. In fact, when an Enigma machine was taken from the wreck of U-85, the Navy intervened. They even tried to grab a plane they left lying around in a North Carolina swamp for over 40 years.


The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
A U.S. Marine Corps F3A-1 aircraft of Marine Air Group 91 commanded by LCol Joseph M. Renner. (U.S. Navy photo)

According to a 2004 AP report, the plane in question was very valuable. It was the only known surviving Brewster F3A “Corsair.” Well, let’s be honest here. The F3A can best be described as a Corsair In Name Only, or CINO. Brewster’s Corsairs had problems — so much so that in July, 1944, the Navy cancelled the contract and Brewster went out of business less than a month after D-Day.

Brewster was also responsible for the F2A Buffalo, a piece of crap that got a lot of Marine pilots killed during the Battle of Midway.

According to that AP report, the story began with a fatal accident on Dec. 19, 1944, which killed Lt. Robin C. Pennington, who was flying a training mission in the F3A. The Navy recovered Pennington’s body and some gear from the Corsair, then left the wreck. Eventually, the plane was recovered by Lex Cralley in 1990, who began trying to restore the plane. A simple case of “finders keepers, losers weepers,” right?

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War

Nope. The Navy sued Cralley in 2004 to get the plane back. After the report appeared, comments were…not exactly favorable towards the Navy at one normally pro-military forum.

Eventually, then-Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) got involved. According to a May 28, 2004 report by Hearst News Service, Jones eventually authored an amendment that settled the lawsuit by having the Navy turn the F3A over to Cralley.

The Navy usually has been very assertive with regards to wrecks. According to admiraltylawguide.com, in 2000, the Navy won a ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal preventing Doug Champlin from salvaging a TBD Devastator that had survived both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

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The Russians are using tactical reindeer to patrol the arctic

It’s well known by now that Russia is winning the race to snatch up the Arctic’s untapped oil and gas reserves that are becoming more accessible due to climate change.


In the last few years, Russia has activated a new Arctic command, four new Arctic brigade combat teams, 14 new operational airfields, 16 deepwater ports, a new military base, and more.

They reportedly have 40 icebreakers with 11 more in the making, and even recently unveiled a giant nuclear one.

They’ve also developed several armored vehicles and other systems designed for cold-weather fighting, including a radar-guided-missile system called the SA-15 Gauntlet, the T-72 main battle tank, and the Pantsir-SA artillery system.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Pantsir-SA air defence system on DT-30PM transporter chassis. Wikimedia Commons photo from Vitaly Kuzmin.

But with all this and more, they still sometimes use antiquated technology.

Check out some of their old school methods below.

Russia still uses animal transports, like reindeer seen below, for certain kinds of missions in the Arctic.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

Above is a shot of members of Russia’s Northern Fleet motorized rifle brigade being pulled around by reindeer.

The reindeer require less maintenance and fuel than motorized vehicles and can cover great distances without getting tired.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

Source: Sim Tack, chief analyst at Force Analysis, and former Stratfor analyst, and Omar Lamrani, a Stratfor analyst.

The reindeer can also be more mobile on rough terrain and sometimes go places vehicles can’t, like through thick forests or over frozen lakes.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

Source: Sim Tack, chief analyst at Force Analysis, and former Stratfor analyst and Omar Lamrani, a Stratfor analyst.

Russian troops also use sled dogs and skis.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

Reindeer and dog sleds are probably best suited for reconnaissance or other specialized tasks.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

Source: Sim Tack, chief analyst at Force Analysis, and former Stratfor analyst.

And Russia isn’t the only country to still use animal transports. The US has a Mountain Warfare Training Center in California where they train Marines to ride horses and load pack animals.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

The US and Russia also use dolphins for underwater mine detection as well.

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Navy SEAL Team 6 members say they are getting worn out from years at war

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks and the launching of the War on Terror, the US has drastically expanded the role of special operators within the military.


Among the operators playing an oversized role, SEAL Team 6 — made particularly famous for the Osama bin Laden raid — has played critical roles in operations ranging from Afghanistan to Iraq to Somalia.

However, this outsized role within the US war machine has contributed to fatigue and serious traumatic injuries within the SEAL Team 6, an in depth report on the role of the SEAL Team 6 by The New York Times finds.

“Your body is trashed,” a recently retired SEAL Team 6 operator told the Times. “Your brain is trashed.”

On the whole, special operators have “been involved in tens of thousands of missions and operations in multiple geographic theaters [since September 11], and consistently uphold the highest standards required of the U.S. Armed Forces,” US Special Operations Command told the Times.

One former operator told the Times that SEAL Team 6 served as “utility infielders with guns.”

The focus on special operations teams and drone strikes is part and parcel of President Obama’s light footprint strategy of counter-terrorism which believes in having US allies, backed and trained by Special Operations Command, playing the key role in security operations.

“They have become sort of a 1-800 number anytime somebody wants something done,” former Senator Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat and a member of the SEALs during the Vietnam War, told the Times.

Furthermore, America’s elite warriors are not ones to complain.

“SEALs are a lot like N.F.L. guys: They never want to say ‘I am taking myself out of the lineup,'” Dr. John Hart, the director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas, which has treated SEALs, told the Times.

“If they send guys back in who already have the effects of a concussion, they are constantly adding a dose of a hit to an existing brain condition. The brain needs sufficient time to heal.”

SEAL Team 6 has suffered more causalities since September 11 than in the rest of its history, the Times notes.

The increasing reach of US special forces since 9/11 has raised issues about the “dark side” of secret missions in foreign countries.

Check out The Time’s full report »

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

When a stranger says “Thank you for your service” to a veteran, it’s often an awkward — and short — conversation. For some veterans, being thanked for their job seems odd: I didn’t really do much, some may think. You’re thanking me for something you don’t even understand is another thought that may come to mind.


When I hear it, I cordially say thank you back. In my opinion, it takes some guts for a random stranger to approach and express that appreciation. But I sometimes think it may be the wrong sentiment. Sadly, “Thank you for your service” has become the end of the conversation, not the beginning. It’s a phrase that has become a punchline in military circles — thought as empty and overused — and takes away from what could be a chance for civilians to ask questions and really understand what troops have done.

Air Force veteran Elizabeth O’Herrin responds in a similar way, saying “my pleasure” in response. But was it really? As she explains in a wonderful essay at the website Medium, the exchange of pleasantries can take a quick turn:

Upon returning home, being thanked for my service became something I found awkward. My experience was not that traumatic. It was not that dangerous. It didn’t truly feel like a sacrifice. Other people certainly deserved a thank you, but not me. Not when I remembered leaning over a guy who had just lost his leg, scrubbing blood from his hands, attempting a conversation to soothe him when he was incoherent, doped up on morphine. Digging through his bag to find his Purple Heart because he became panicked when he couldn’t remember where they put it. I dug through the normal shit he packed in his bag earlier that day, back when he had two legs, like bubble gum. “Thank you for your service.”
I didn’t deserve much thanks for anything.

O’Herrin, who helped fuse bombs on jets that were later dropped on the bad guys, is and should be proud of her service. Like many of the post-9/11 military generation, she volunteered at a time of war and performed an essential job that most certainly resulted in saved lives on the ground.

In her essay, she recalls seeing a wounded veteran on the D.C. metro, and making eye contact with his mother. She struggles in that moment with wanting to tell the mother — who has no idea she is a veteran — that she understands at least some of what she’s going through. She wants to empathize with her, and tell her that she feels her pain.

“But I knew I couldn’t say something without sounding vapid and empty, swiping at some semblance of shared experience and missing entirely,” O’Herrin writes.

In this experience, she learns an important point, and one that perhaps all veterans should take to heart. While “thank you for your service” can sometimes sound like an empty phrase, just remember in that time before you heard it, that person had to work up the courage to approach when they were not obligated in any way. Far from the awful homecoming of our Vietnam veterans who were sometimes cursed by those who never served, this generation of veterans should accept that phrase and embrace it.

“They wanted me to know they felt something, and chose to say it,” O’Herrin writes in her closing. “And I feel grateful for their words.”

Now read the entire thing over at Medium

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This lone Soviet tank was ready to fight the entire Nazi invasion of Russia

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany broke its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, invading the Russian-held area of Poland. Nazi tanks streamed across the border between the two occupiers, arriving in the Lithuanian town of Raseiniai the next day.


The resistance there almost threw a wrench in the entire Nazi war plan.

As the Nazis advanced on the town, Soviet mechanized divisions moved to defend it. The local tank garrisons happened to be equipped with Kliment-Voroshilov tanks, an advanced armored vehicle invulnerable to almost anything the German infantry could throw at them.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
A Kliment-Voroshilov Tank, taken out by German infantry.

Anti-tank weapons were useless. The Nazis tried everything to disable the KV tanks — other tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, but nothing worked. Even the vaunted sticky bomb couldn’t stop them.

According to the Russian Daily newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets, German tanks and infantry advanced on the city but suddenly, well behind enemy lines, one Soviet KV tank drove into the middle of road and stopped — for a full day.

As this day wore on, the KV started tearing up Nazi anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns as “armor piercing” rounds bounced right off the tank’s skin. The Russians even took out 12 trucks. German engineers threw satchel charges at the tank, with little effect.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
German guns, destroyed by the lone KV at Raseiniai. Photo from the personal archive of Maxim Kolomiets.

According to MK, Nazi battle group commander Colonel Erhard Raus wrote in his account of the action that an 88-mm anti-aircraft gun couldn’t even put a dent in the KV tank’s armor.

“… It turned out that the crew and the tank commander had nerves of steel. They calmly watched the approach of anti-aircraft guns, without interfering with it, as long as it didn’t not pose any threat to the tank. In addition, the closer the anti-aircraft gun, the easier it is to destroy. A critical time in the duel of nerves, when settlement began to prepare the gun to fire. While gunners, nervous, bridged and loaded the gun, the tank tower turned and fired the first shot! Every shot hit the target. The heavily damaged antiaircraft gun fell into the ditch.”

The KV harassed the attacking Germans throughout the night and by morning, the full force of the German infantry attacked the lone KV tank. The tank struck down as many as possible with its machine guns, but it wasn’t enough. The troops were finally able to throw grenades down the tank’s hatches and kill the crew.

Pitched fighting at Raseiniai lasted three days. The lone Soviet tank delayed them by a full day, taking on two full Nazi mechanized divisions.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War

Russians have tried for years to postulate why the lone tank stopped and didn’t even try to maneuver. The most likely reason is that the tank ran out of gas. Red Army supply lines to Lithuania weren’t very good to begin with and a Nazi invasion sure wouldn’t have helped.

For 22 hours, the KV blocked the road, preventing the Germans from advancing into greater Russia, destroying or killing every Nazi man and machine in sight.

The Eastern Front of World War II is remembered by history for its brutality. Prisoners and war dead between the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army were treated with shocking disregard by any standard on both sides. The Nazis considered the Russians subhuman — theirs was a war of extermination.

In this instance, however, the German troops removed the Russian tank crew from their KV and buried them in the nearby woods with full military honors. Colonel Raus recounted in his memoirs:

“I am deeply shocked by this heroism, we buried them with full military honors. They fought to the last breath … “
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Missile defense test reportedly fails after sailor presses wrong button

A missile defense test went awry last month after a Navy sailor accidentally pressed the wrong button, an investigation into the matter revealed.


The Missile Defense Agency conducted a test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor in late June. A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, the MDA explained in a statement at the time. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones detected and tracked the missile using the on-board radars and launched an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which ultimately failed to intercept the target.

An MDA investigation into the failure revealed that a sailor pressed the wrong button, causing the missile to self-destruct. The MDA reported that there were no problems with either the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor or the Navy’s Aegis combat system, according to Defense News.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
A Standard Missile-3. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

A tactical datalink controller mistakenly identified the incoming ballistic missile as friendly, causing the missile to unexpectedly self-destruct mid-flight, according to sources familiar with the recent missile intercept test.

The test in late June was the fourth flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which is being developed by Raytheon and is a joint missile defense project between the US and Japan. The new interceptor was developed to counter the rising ballistic missile threat from North Korea.

North Korea has tested a batch of new short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles this year, increasing the threat to its neighbors and extending the danger to targets in the US.

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
US Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the THAAD to South Korea. Photo courtesy of DoD.

The failed test was preceded by a successful test in May of the ground-based, mid-course defense system, which defends the US against intercontinental ballistic missiles. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Earlier this month, the US successfully tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a THAAD unit in Alaska eliminating a target missile launched from an Air Force Cargo plane to the north of Hawaii.

The failure of the SM-3 Block IIA, which was tested successfully in February, initially represented a setback. That the cause of the failure was likely human error may come as a relief for those involved in the weapon’s development.

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This veteran needs your help to build a Global War on Terror memorial

Andrew Brennan’s grandfather pulled him out of school after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, like many parents and grandparents did that day. As soon as his car left the parking lot, Brennan’s grandfather, a World War II veteran, turned to him and said words the future Army officer would never forget.


“The war that’s going to follow this is going to change your generation. You need to be on the right side of it,” he said.

When Brennan turned 17, he tried to drop out of school to join the Marine Corps. His father’s response was something akin to “the hell you are,” but the young man’s resolve was the same. He felt he should be doing something. He felt needed.

The Pennsylvania native eventually attended West Point and served in Afghanistan. But his mission didn’t stop there. He lost friends there, as many post-9/11 veterans did. Now he looks to the Vietnam generation for an example of what comes next.

global war on terror memorial Andrew Brennan, a U.S. Army veteran, in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo from Andrew Brennan).

While recovering from a hiking injury, Brennan met some bikers who were rolling to the nation’s capital as part of Run for the Wall, a Vietnam veterans’ tradition where motorcycle enthusiasts drive cross-country to meet at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

“I bump into these guys, and I’m really taken aback by it,” Brennan says. “All these awesome traditions that started around their memorial inspired 30 years’ worth of group healing for the Vietnam generation.”

The riders continue on in the annual tradition called Rolling Thunder which advocates for full accountability of all prisoners of war and troops missing in action from U.S. wars. Brennan did the math. In the next 10 years, the Vietnam veterans may not be able to make the ride. Vets from the Global War on Terror will soon be the ones making noise for American POW/MIAs.

And Brennan wondered what memorial they’d ride to.

He wondered where 3 million veterans who lost family and friends in the Global War on Terror would grieve. There is no memorial for his war because the 1986 Commemorative Works Act requires groups like Brennan’s to wait 10 years after the conflict ends before a memorial can be considered.

It took 60 years to get a World War II memorial built on the Mall and 42 to build a Korean War Memorial. Twenty-five years after Desert Storm, there is still no memorial for that conflict.

Brennan realized he needed to change that law. His continuing mission is to erect a memorial for the post-9/11 generation of veterans. A feat easier said than done.

With the mentorship of Jan Scruggs, whose efforts built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in 1982, Brennan started his own nonprofit, the Global War On Terror Memorial Foundation.

His memorial idea is written in a broad way so he can be as inclusive as possible. From the likes of Johnny Michael Spann, the first American killed in Afghanistan who worked for the CIA to operators from other “three-letter agencies,” Brennan believes the country’s longest and most unconventional war should recognize all who fought it — including the unconventional forces.

“I really want to make sure that we’re able to honor the folks we’ve lost and will lose in the future while paying tribute to the service we all provided,” Brennan says. “I also want to honor the veterans that aren’t wearing the uniform anymore.”

The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War
(Photo by Katie Lange/ Department of Defense)

Brennan is the real deal. He’s met with senators and congressmen and enjoys broad, bipartisan support. Actually getting an amendment introduced is a different feat altogether, but he’s willing to play the long game. His initiative is a decade-long development plan, but he needs the veteran community to mobilize to get the law changed and the ball rolling.

Go to the Take Action page of the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation’s website to support Brennan and the GWOT Memorial Foundation.

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