The Tuskegee Airmen's trial by fire in 'Operation Corkscrew' - We Are The Mighty
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The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Pantelleria and Lampedusa, two islands located about 50 miles off the Tunisian coast, were strategically located in the middle of the intended path of the Allied fleet for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Pantelleria was garrisoned by an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Axis troops, mostly Italian, and was home to radar stations that tracked Allied ship and air traffic. Its defenses included 15 battalions of coastal guns, pillboxes, and other defensive works.


Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had long been an advocate of seizing the two islands, stating that if “left in the enemy hands, they would be a serious menace; secure in our hands they would be a most valuable asset.” The “asset” was Pantelleria’s airfield, the only one close enough and large enough to accommodate the five squadrons of short-range Allied fighters needed for close air support for the invasion.

Eisenhower initially encountered resistance from his British senior subordinate commanders, who felt that defenses on Pantelleria were so strong that assaulting forces ran a serious risk of failure. But Eisenhower insisted, assigning Lt. Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, commander of Northwest African Air Forces, “with the mission to reduce the island’s defenses to such a point that a landing would be uncontested,” making Pantelleria “a sort of laboratory to determine the effect of concentrated heavy bombing on a defended coastline.”

Codenamed “Operation Corkscrew,” the air offensive kicked off on May 18, 1943. From then until the invasion date of June 11, the island came under constant air attack from heavy and medium bombers and fighter-bombers.

One of the squadrons flying missions to Pantelleria was the 99th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the son of the nation’s first African-American general, the first squadron of African-American pilots of the “Tuskegee Experiment” program to see action in the war. The squadron arrived in Morocco on May 1, 1943.

As this was a time of Jim Crow in the United States, the pilots and ground crew encountered the indignities and slights of segregation and racism they had experienced back home. But one pleasant surprise was Col. Philip “Flip” Cochran, the inspiration for cartoonist Milton Caniff’s hero Flip Corkin in the syndicated newspaper strip Terry and the Pirates and later co-commander of the 1st Air Commando Group, who enthusiastically went out of his way to give the pilots combat training.

Lt. Spann Watson remembered Cochran as “a great guy” and said, “Cochran helped the 99th learn how to fight.” Davis added his praise, noting, “We all caught [Cochran’s] remarkable fighting spirit and learned a great deal from him about the fine points of aerial combat.”

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Pantelleria would be the 99th’s baptism of fire. The squadron averaged two missions a day. In addition to escorting bombers, the pilots also conducted dive-bombing and strafing missions. Though the pilots did not shoot down any enemy planes, they did damage several and were successful in driving away air attacks on the bombers – which suffered minimal or no losses, a foretaste of defensive tactics that would define the Tuskegee Airmen’s reputation in the war.

In the three-week air campaign, 6,400 tons of bombs were dropped on targets on Pantelleria. On June 11, assault craft carrying troops from the British 1st Division headed toward Pantelleria’s beaches. But, contrary to British predictions of beaches bathed in blood, before the troops could land, the Italian governor capitulated. The garrison on Lampedusa surrendered the next day. The only casualty was a soldier bitten by a mule.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Eight Tuskegee Airmen in front of a P-40 fighter aircraft | U.S. Air Force photo

The swift fall of the islands went straight to the heads of some senior strategic air commanders, who now believed airpower alone could change the course of the war. Spaatz went so far as to claim “the application of air [power] available to us can reduce to the point of surrender any first-class nation now in existence, within six months from the time that pressure is applied.”

For the 99th, Corkin’s training assistance had a payoff beyond the battlefield. Following the surrender of Pantelleria, Davis received a message from area commander Col. J. R. Watkins: “I wish to extend to you and the members of the squadron my heartiest congratulations for the splendid part you played in the Pantelleria show. You have met the challenge of the enemy and have come out of your initial christening into battle stronger qualified than ever. Your people have borne up well under battle conditions and there is every reason to believe that with more experience you will take your place in the battle line along with the best of them.”

Davis would have a long and distinguished career in the Air Force, retiring in 1970 with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1998, he was advanced to the rank of general (retired list). He died in 2002.

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How watching movies helped this sniper achieve record-breaking kill shots

Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison set the world record for a sniper kill twice in November of 2009 while serving in Afghanistan.  Near the end of a three-hour firefight between British forces and Taliban insurgents he spotted the machine gun team that was pouring lead onto his buddies. But his distance estimate put the two fighters 900 meters outside of the effective range of his rifle.


The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo: Wikipedia

But he didn’t give up. He figured he would have to fire 6 feet high, and 20 inches to the left of his target to account for the drop of the bullet, the estimated wind, and the spin of the earth. Even with his weapon balanced on the firm compound wall, it was a seemingly impossible task.

Harrison took the shot. He waited six seconds for the round to hit the target. It missed. He saw the enemy react, trying to figure out where the shot came from. He fired again. This time the bullet found its mark. The gunner slumped over his weapon, dead. Harrison lined up on the other insurgent and squeezed the trigger.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Again, he watched for six seconds only to see the third shot miss and again he steadied himself and took aim. The fourth shot downed the second enemy fighter.

An Apache later used its lasers to measure the distance between the two spots and calculated it at 2,475 meters, just over 1.5 miles. The two longest sniper kills in recorded history belonged to Harrison.

Harrison later revealed his unique training regimen: “Each night I got my DVD player, put it at the end of the corridor and watched a film while lying in a firing position behind my rifle,” he told The Daily Mail. “Once I had mastered the stillness, I started balancing a ten pence piece on the end of the barrel, just to really hold myself to account.”

Harrison later had both arms broken by a roadside bomb, but after he healed he returned to the fight in Afghanistan.

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New report shows vets more civic-minded than non-vets

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
VA Secretary Robert McDonald listens as Got Your 6 Managing Director Chris Marvin explains the findings of the 2015 Veterans Health Index at the National Press Club.


The veteran community has always shared a general sense of the positive elements of what they brought to their communities as a result of their experiences in uniform, and now a new report has quantified the value of them.

The 2015 Veterans Civic Health Index, created by Got Your Six and a handful of other veteran-focused organizations, was released to the public today at an event at The National Press Club featuring Secretary Robert A. McDonald of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D – Hawaii). Key findings include the following:

  • Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually – 25 percent more than non-veteran volunteers.
  • Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix neighborhood problems, and fill community leadership roles.
  • 7 percent of veterans are involved in civic groups compared to just 5.8 percent of non-vets.
  • 48 percent of veteran always vote in elections – 16 percent more than non-veterans.
  • 62.5 percent of veterans trust their neighbors compared to 55.1 percent of non-veterans.

The report defines “civic health” as “a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems” and goes on to say that it impacts local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, among other benefits that strengthen communities.

VA Secretary McDonald wasn’t surprised by the report’s positive findings and attributes the results to veterans’ sense of respect for others over themselves.

“Deep down we all feel a sense of inadequacy which we deal with by associating with others we respect,” he said. “And among veterans there’s always someone who commands more respect than ourselves. If you’re a clerk it’s the infantryman. If you’re an infantryman, it’s the combat veteran. If you’re a combat veteran, it’s the wounded warrior. And if you’re a wounded warrior, it’s the fallen soldier.”

Got Your 6 officials said they released this study as part of their ongoing effort to combat common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.

“The civilian population has a misconception that veterans are ‘broken,’ disconnected, and unable to cope with civilian life,” Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin said. “The reality is much more complex.”

The public perceives that veterans are unemployed, homeless, and undereducated, but the report claims that over the past eight years, veterans have consistently earned more than their non-veteran counterparts, that veterans only comprise 8.6 percent of the current homeless population, and that veterans who participate in the GI Bill program complete their degree programs at a similar rate to the general population’s traditional postsecondary student.

“As a combat wounded veteran I’ve experience many different reactions to my service,” Marvin said. “The ones that rub me the wrong way are ones that focus on my deficits or treat me like a charity case. The ones that resonate the most are the ones that challenge me.”

An infographic of the entire report can be seen here.

Now: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015

And: 11 quotes that show the awesomeness of Gen. George Patton 

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time World War II vets violently overthrew corrupt politicians in Tennessee

When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.


However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:

“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.

“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”

By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.

Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.

What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo: Wikipedia/Brian Stansberry

 

Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.

While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.

White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”

The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.

Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.

A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.

The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.

The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.

The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.

 


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube/ Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions

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These new changes to the USMC physical fitness program are effective immediately

The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.


The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Revisions have been made to the U.S. Marine Corps physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the Body Composition Program (BCP). All final changes to BCP will take effect as of January 2017.

“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”

Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.

The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.

So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.

Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.

Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.

Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
U.S. Marines perform a combat fitness test. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.

Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.

“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

Related: Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.

Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.

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This ‘RoboCop’ handgun is a suppressor and pistol all in one

When it debuted as a prototype a couple years ago, what was billed as the world’s first integrally-suppressed handgun available to the everyday Joe seemed a bit far fetched.


It was a Rube Goldberg contraption — with a Smith Wesson MP 9mm frame and this weird chunk of metal bolted onto the front, a crazy action and mismatched parts. But the thing was quiet and functional and promised to change the way shooters thought about the art of the possible.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Fast forward two years, and suppressor giant SilencerCo is poised to release its new Maxim 9 handgun to the commercial market. And by the looks of it, Omni Consumer Products would be proud. And heck, maybe the Detroit PD would be interested in picking a few up even if RoboCop is still a thing of science fiction.

“This gun is disruptive by design; it is the future of firearms,” says SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron. “Additionally, the Maxim 9 is just the beginning, as we intend to make more integrally suppressed platforms so all types of firearms can be quiet out of the box.”

Now more than a combination of prototype parts, the Maxim 9 is a handgun built from the ground up by SilencerCo, which holds about 75 percent of the U.S. market in suppressors but has strayed into the high-tech shooting accessory market and now the pistol-making world. With a 4.38-inch barrel and an overall length of just over 9.5-inches in its shortened configuration, the Maxim 9 is just 2-inches longer than a Glock 17 — but shoots with a bark under 140 dB (an unsuppressed 9mm comes in at around 160 dB).

Think about that. Most suppressors add on another 4-to-6 inches to the length of a handgun, so a Glock 19, for example, would stretch out to a whopping 12 inches or more. Not something you could carry every day and draw at a moment’s notice.

But SilencerCo hopes to make the Maxim 9 an everyday carry gun for law enforcement, teaming with holster makers to build off-the-shelf options for the men and women in blue.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
The Maxim 9 comes standard at a full length of 10.75 inches but can be shortened to just over 9.5 inches. (Photo from SilencerCo)

“The Maxim 9 solves a dilemma that customers have had for decades: do they choose a short, loud pistol or a quiet, yet longer pistol with a sound suppressor attached to the muzzle,” SilencerCo says. “Now, consumers can have the best of all worlds in this short-but-quiet firearm that retails for less than a quality pistol and quality silencer combined.”

And now the Maxim 9 has all the bells and whistles of today’s state-of-the-art handguns, including an under-barrel KeyMod accessory rail, a slide cut for a pistol optic and aggressive stippling.

Sure, its suggested retail price is around $1,400, but SilencerCo has a point. A handgun and silencer all in one and not having to deal with pistons, threaded barrels and all that? And come on, who wouldn’t want to look like RoboCop at the range or on the job?

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


ARMY:

Soldiers, assigned to KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East’s Task Force Hurricane, made up of Soldiers from The National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, hiked to the peak of Mount Ljuboten in southern Kosovo, Aug. 23, 2015.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by 1st Lt. Krista Yaglowski/US Army

Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Africa, work with French Armée de Terre service members to offload a Puma helicopter from a United States Air Force C-17 in support of Operation Barkhane at Camp Kossei in N’Djamena, Chad, Aug. 23, 2015.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Morgan Salingue/US Army

NAVY:

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) participates in a night underway replenishment (UNREP) with Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr./USN

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) Sailors aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conduct a night replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8).

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/USN

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2015) U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25).

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos/USN

AIR FORCE:

An F-15C Eagle flies over East Anglia, England, Aug. 27, 2015, during a flyover event at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The F-15C, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, circulated until it flew in unison with the U.K. Avro Vulcan XH558 to mark the first and last time these aircraft will fly together.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride/USAF

Staff Sgt. Saber Barrera, with 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck and refueling maintenance, works with a co-worker to replace an engine starter in Southwest Asia, Aug. 27, 2015.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Racheal E. Watson/USAF

Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Stott, the 90th Medical Group superintendent, splashes through muddy water Aug. 29, 2015, during the second annual mud run at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The run attracted more than 100 Airmen and their families.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle/USAF

MARINE CORPS:

An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, from 2nd Tank Battalion, hides in the brush during a defensive maneuver on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2015.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Cpl. Ryan Young/USMC

Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, practice loading and unloading rounds during sustainment training on Aug. 21, 2015. The CAAT, composed of heavy machine gunners and anti-tank missilemen, is used to combat hardened targets as well as provide security.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Sgt. Paris Capers/USMC

A Marine assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, climbs a rope as part of the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by Cpl. Will Perkins/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Leading the way in maritime drug interdiction, the USCG Cutter Adelie interdicted an estimated 2,900 pounds of marijuana Saturday. This is the second interdiction of illegal drugs by Washington-based patrol boats within the last week.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by USCG

The 47ft motor lifeboats were conducting approaches to one another for training.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo by USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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This sub sank because its commander couldn’t flush his toilet

In April 1945, being a German submariner was a dangerous prospect. Allied sub hunters had become much more effective and German u-boats were being sunk faster than they could be built. Technical breakthroughs like radar and new weapons like the homing torpedo were sinking the Germans left and right.


For the crew of U-1206, the greatest threat was actually lurking in their commander’s bowels. German Navy Capt. Karl-Adolf Schlitt was on his first patrol as a commander when he felt the call of nature and headed to the vessel’s state-of-the-art toilet.

While Allied subs had toilets that flushed into a small internal tank that took up needed space in the submarine, the Germans had developed a compact system that expelled waste into the sea. The high-tech system even worked while the sub was deep underwater.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
The Kriegsmarine was running out of things to be excited about, so this was kind of big (Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, the toilet was very complex. By doctrine, there was a toilet-flushing specialist on every sub that operated the necessary valves. The captain, either too prideful or too impatient to search out the specialist, attempted to flush it himself. When it didn’t properly flush, he finally called the specialist.

The specialist attempted to rectify the situation, but opened the exterior valve while the interior valve was still open. The ocean quickly began flooding in, covering the floor in a layer of sewage and seawater. The specialist got the valves closed, but it was too late.

The toilet was positioned above the battery bank. As the saltwater cascaded onto the batteries, it created chlorine gas that rapidly spread through the sub and threatened to kill the crew. Schlitt ordered the sub to surface.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
[Insert joke here about the captain’s own torpedo sinking his ship] U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

The sub reached the surface about 10 miles from the Scottish coast and was quickly spotted by British planes. One sailor was killed as the sub was attacked. The order was given to scuttle the ship and escape. Three more sailors drowned attempting to make it to shore. The other 37 sailors aboard the U-1206 were quickly captured and became prisoners of war.

Luckily for them, the war was nearly over. The sub sank April 14, 1945. Hitler killed himself April 30 and Germany surrendered May 8.

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This veteran is restoring the same helicopter he flew in Vietnam

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This is why dropping “Sunni Arab allies” into Syria is a terrible idea

Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.


The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Related: The 10 worst armies in the world

Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.

Big surprise there.

For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.

By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
The most ironic peace sign ever.

The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with  Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.

In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.

When the Asad regime looked like it would fall, the Gulf states smelled the blood in the water and acted quickly to take advantage of the situation. Kuwait is now the leading source of funds for al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations in Syria. Qatar is a major funder of the al-Qaeda-allied Sunni al-Nusra Front there, and Qatari officials tell The Atlantic that ISIS is “a Saudi project.”

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.

Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the  perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.

The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

Related: General briefs Congress fight against ISIS is a total mess

At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Map of Syrian Civil War as of February 2016

Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.

The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZRLvbgaIHs

That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Would you to tell this man he was wrong?

Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.

American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.

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Today in military history: Pickett’s Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg

On July 3, 1863, Confederate General George Pickett led his infamous charge against Union lines at Gettysburg.

For two days, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s confederate army had tried to break through the northern lines of Union General George Meade. On the third day, Lee ordered an assault against Meade’s position along Cemetery Ridge, the center of the Union army and a network of roads to be commanded by whomever held it.

An artillery bombardment precluded the assault, though it failed to soften the Union defense. 

Fifteen thousand confederate soldiers charged against the American force.

They failed. 

The assault marked the end of the battle of Gettysburg and Lee’s last attack in Northern territory, and would ultimately become the turning point against the South in the Civil War.

The battle had raged for three days with over 50,000 American casualties — the bloodiest single battle of the war and one of the largest battles in North American history. 

Featured Image: General Pickett’s famous charge at Gettysburg. (Engraving by Alfred Swinton after Alfred Waud.)

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That time Taylor Swift dropped in on a World War II vet

World War II vets often have tales of meeting Hollywood stars doing USO tours. Well, Clyde Porter has one that is a lot more recent.


According to a report by the BBC, Porter got something many vets wished they got from Ingrid Bergman (among others), 71 years after the end of World War II.

This visit was from none other than music superstar and sometime actress Taylor Swift!

Porter’s been a fan of Ms. Swift – one of her oldest – as a way to get closer with his grandchildren. He told a local TV station that he’d taken two of his granddaughters to some of her concerts.

Well, word got back to the superstar, and she decided to surprise Mr. Porter, who saw action in the European Theater of Operations.

And what a surprise it was! She dropped by the 96-year-old vet’s home, spending hours with the family, and giving them a private performance of her hit “Shake it Off.” Porter, who is fighting cancer, has expressed his goal is to catch a concert on Ms. Swift’s next tour.

Bravo Zulu, Taylor Swift! Here’s the video for the song she sang:

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The Internet is breaking over the ‘world’s most beautiful soldier’

Elena Deligioz is a woman who became Internet famous after being dubbed the “world’s most beautiful soldier.”


The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Screenshot: YouTube/Siêu thị máy văn phòng Sellmax.vn

Her photos have gone viral on a number of social media sites.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Screenshot: YouTube/Siêu thị máy văn phòng Sellmax.vn

But Deligioz is actually young businesswoman who sells military paraphenilia through an online store, not a soldier. A Russian photographer saw pictures of her modeling her products and invited her to do a photo shoot with him.

Some of the photos from that shoot are available on flickr and many are at Vadim Anikin’s Russian social media account.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Since she’s actually a civilian, you should probably search her and hand her over to the intel guys as a potential insurgent. Meme via Team Non-Rec

Luckily, that means troops won’t be running into her on the battlefield anytime soon.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Screenshot: YouTube/Siêu thị máy văn phòng Sellmax.vn

Of course, soldiers who are more worried about letting their hair hang freely than they are about buckling their helmets aren’t likely a huge tactical threat.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Pretty sure Chris Hansen is waiting just outside the frame of this shot. Screenshot: YouTube/Siêu thị máy văn phòng Sellmax.vn

So, as long as she’s just a civilian who can pose with a rifle, we’ll continue to be much more impressed by women like this:

The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’
Photo: US Air Force Racheal E. Watson

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