Articles

The US Navy built 12 concrete ships for World War I

During World War I, steel for building ships was in short supply.


While American President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep the U.S. out of the war, he didn’t want America’s Merchant Marine to be left unbuilt. So he approved the construction of 24 ships made from concrete to the tune of $50 million ($11.4 billion adjusted for inflation) to help build American shipping capacity.

Concrete, while cheap and readily available, is expensive to build and operate when it comes to ships. They need thick hulls, which means less room for cargo. Only 12 were ever built and by the time they were ready, the Great War was over.

A website dedicated to this “experiment in ship building,” ConcreteShips.org, keeps track of what happened to these 12 innovations.

SS Atlantus

The Atlantus was a steamer that was sold as a ferry landing ship. Before she could ever be used for that, she broke free during a storm and grounded near Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

The Atlantus in 1926.

She’s been falling apart ever since but what’s left can still be seen from shore.

SS Cape Fear

A good example of the drawbacks of using concrete for shipbuilding, the Cape Fear ran into a cargo ship in Rhode Island, shattered, and then sank with 19 crewmen lost.

SS Cuyamaca

The Cuyamaca was stripped down in New Orleans after she was built. She was then converted into an oil barge. Like other concrete ships hauling oil in the Gulf of Mexico, not much is known about her final resting place.

SS Dinsmore

Artificial structures sunk in coastal areas protect the coasts from negative effects due to weather and the spread of sediment. The Dinsmore is living on in this regard. She was sunk to be a breakwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

SS Latham

The Latham also became an oil barge, storing oil pumped in the Gulf of Mexico. While transporting oil pipes, she hit a jetty and nearly sank. She’s now floating around the Gulf somewhere, storing oil.

SS Moffitt

SS Moffitt being launched.

Moffitt is another oil barge off the coast of New Orleans.

SS Palo Alto

This ship was turned into a dance club and restaurant in California. It featured an arcade and a swimming pool before the company that ran the place collapsed in the Great Depression.

The Palo Alto (used by permission)

When a storm cracked her across the middle, the Palo Alto became a fishing pier.

SS Peralta

Now in British Columbia, Canada, the Peralta spent time as a floating fish cannery and is now a floating breakwater. She’s the only one of the 12 still afloat.

The SS Peralta (photo by Scott J. Lowe)

The Peralta is also the largest concrete ship still afloat anywhere in the world. She protects the log storage pond of a Canadian paper company.

SS Polias

After hitting an underwater ledge, Polias shattered and sank off the coast of Maine. Fourteen crewmen died trying to abandon ship.

A 1924 hurricane further shattered her wreck. What remains is off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine.

SS San Pasqual

When the San Pasqual ran aground off Cuba, no one was inclined to dig her out. She stayed there and became a depot ship and then a prison. Now, she’s a 10 room hotel.

SS Sapona

Originally sold for scrap, Sapona was converted into an offshore liquor warehouse during Prohibition. She was grounded off the coast of Bimini, an island of the Bahamas, during a hurricane. The stern broke off, destroying the rum running owner’s stock and leaving him penniless.

The Sapona in 2009

The Army Air Forces and Navy used Sapona for target practice during WWII.

SS Selma

Called the “Flagship of Texas,” the Selma was an oil tanker that hit a jetty off the coast of Tampico, Florida. The government sent Selma to Galveston for repairs, but the shipwrights had no experience with concrete. She was taken to Pelican Island, Texa in 1922, where she sits today.

The SS Selma in Galveston (photo by John Wiley)

The Texas Army named her its flagship 70 years later.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

Articles

Fort Carson troops train to fight microscopic enemies

Fort Carson soldiers trained Sept. 6 to tackle an unseen enemy — disease.


As part of a month-long, annual disaster drill at the post, soldiers practiced to fight a bacterial pandemic. It’s a new twist for the post, where soldiers have trained against fictional terrorist threats and even militant hackers in recent years.

But of all the exercises, fighting a microscopic enemy may be the toughest, Lt. Col. Renee Howell explained.

“I’m going to have to stay on my toes,” said Howell, who is the head of preventive medicine at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.

The training has roots in recent Army history. In 2014, 200 Fort Carson soldiers were sent to western Africa to help nations there combat an Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,000 lives.

Photo courtesy of Fort Carson Police.

The post exercise began as a mystery, with leaders working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to determine what caused the imaginary sickness spreading through Fort Carson’s 24,500 soldiers and their family members.

“We have a huge population,” she said.

Troops used their detective skills and practiced ways to control the disease including quarantine measures. They also practiced working with local authorities who would also have to deal with a quick-spreading disease that could easily leave the 135,000-acre post.

On Sept. 6, they turned a gymnasium on post into the county’s biggest pharmacy.

CDC Logo from Wikimedia Commons.

Soldiers from Evans worked alongside medics and military police to quickly process patients and dispense mock antibiotics.

They were able to handle about 200 patients an hour, each leaving the gym with an empty pill bottle.

“People will get the right medication at the right time,” Howell said.

While the drill centered on an imaginary infection, the procedures used could come in handy against all kinds of disasters, including the hurricanes menacing the East Coast and the wildfires raging in the West.

Hurricane Harvey left streets and houses flooded after making landfall. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf.

Howell said the common key to dealing with disasters is keeping track of people and efficiently meeting their needs.

“This operation is to make sure we screen people properly,” she said.

Away from the gym, the exercise drilled other troops in disaster skills. The hospital’s nurses and medics trained with a mass casualty exercise, overwhelming the emergency room with dozens of mock patients in need.

The post’s firefighters and ambulance crews also practiced their tactics for dealing with simultaneous emergencies.

Firefighters and other emergency personnel assisted one another in getting into and out of protective gear. Photo by Laurie Pearson.

Most Army training drills focus on combat troops, who learn how to use their weaponry and work as a team.

This one had the doctors and nurses in the spotlight.

“We are usually in the background,” Howell said.

But putting medical crews on the front lines for training has given Fort Carson piles of new plans that can be quickly implemented.

“It’s kind of plug and play,” Howell said.

Articles

This Navy veteran found confidence and community in the world of Cosplay

Bring your A-game if you want to play World of Warcraft with Karen Sakai, but check your negativity at the door.


“I’m a gamer,” she says. “A gamer likes to play their favorite games with people. So I give out my real information so I can do that. That’s who I am.” Being true to herself is how Sakai stays successful. She was born in Norfolk, Va. but her mother took her to Japan when she was young. She later ended up in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, where she experienced a lot of bullying as a kid, growing up biracial in an Asian community.

LEFT: Sakai at five years old, photo by her father. RIGHT: Sakai at 24, photo ©2014 Renegade Photo

“There were many Japanese around,” she says. “I’m half-white and half-Japanese and the Japanese, they picked on me because I was half-white: I brought a disgrace to Japan, I’m ugly, blah blah blah. The older folks, they also saw me as kinda weird. They didn’t understand that people could be biracial. I didn’t know many mixed kids either. The friends that I did have didn’t care though, and that was the best.”

The racism she struggled with when she was younger was only compounded by her hobbies and love for all things considered nerdy and geeky. She experienced so much flak for the nerdy things she loved, she took a very long hiatus.

Sakai as Ms. Marvel (©2014 Renegade Photo)

“It was in 2003. I stopped doing it because I got bullied,” Sakai recalls. “But after a while, I thought to myself, ‘I’m an adult now. I can do whatever I want.'”

When Sakai joined the Navy as a Master-at-Arms in 2009, many of the issues surrounding her childhood faded away, despite being stationed in her Washington hometown (which, incidentally is what Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote about in his 1988 song, Bremelo).

“I loved being in the Navy,” Sakai says. “I met a lot of gamer, nerdy folks in the Navy and they thought it was really cool that I am a female who loves this stuff. Everyone was so accepting of me. They didn’t care where you came from as long as you came in and did your job and had a good personality.”

Sakai’s family has a long Navy tradition. Her father was a long time Surface Warfare Officer who practically spent his entire life on an aircraft carrier.

“He was a career officer, always an XO or CO,” she says. “He was in for 22 years and he talked about it his whole life. I think everyone should have an experience in the military, if its something they’re thinking about. I chose the Navy because it runs in my family.”

Sakai was in the Navy for four years and left to finish her dual degrees in Anthropology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in school, she began modeling and cosplaying. She found the cosplay community to be the most accepting of which she’s ever been a part.

Sakai as Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 (©2014 Studio Henshin Photography)

“I’m a cosplayer who will openly admit I’ve been bullied and it hurt my feelings. I’m open about it because it’s all part of being human,” she says. “This community is a very happy place. It feels like family. People who enjoy the same things as you, they’re not going to criticize you. Comic-Con and events like that feel like a long distance family gathering. It’s a safe place where you can really be yourself.” She compares it to football fandom.

“I’m from Washington,” she says. “So I like the Seahawks. If you like anime and you’re among friends, it’s like a group of Seahawks fans meeting up at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. But people respect each other’s preferences. No one is going to make fun of you for liking Black Butler over Dragonball Z. You can be who you are.”

For Sakai, modeling is a bit different.

“I’ve done car shows, lingerie, cosplay modeling, all that stuff. It’s an industry. Sex sells,” she says. “So they want that generic, skinny, ‘whatever’ because it sells. I’ve done tests on my Facebook page and whatnot, posting different kinds of pictures, seeing the interactions, likes, and views it gets. The ones that get the most attention are the ones where I’m slutty and generic. I’m completely fake in those pictures but they’re the ones that get the most attention.”

So which photos are the real Karen Sakai?

“The ones where I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in a sweats, not showing cleavage,” she says with a laugh. “I’m me. I do my own thing, if they want to see cleavage 24/7 then I’m probably not the person to follow.

Karen, now 25, lives with her boyfriend who is himself an Air Force veteran, in Washington state. They got together because he outdid her own nerdiness.

“If you one-up me and start a conversation about how wrong I am about something, then I know you are a true nerd,” she says. “He knows much more lore, more information, about games, anime, and comics in general.”

Sakai’s game is World of Warcraft. To her, it’s like cosplay.

“I made a character to live in a second world. I’m the hero in the game, not a little kid getting picked on. I create and customize a character who is strong, powerful, and pretty. When I dress up, I like to try and role play as a character I always looked up to or enjoyed. It’s fun to be someone else for a change.”

 

To hire Karen, email her: karensakaicosplay@gmail.com

To help Karen purchase material to build her own costumes (she loves to make armor) see her Patreon page.

NOW: These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

OR: Photos of amputee vets defy ‘wounded warrior’ stereotype

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jul. 1

It’s America Weekend! If you’re not already on a four-day, we are so sorry and we want to know what’s wrong with your command just as much as you do.


Whether you’re stuck on duty, working some post-DD-214 civilian job, or just waking up from the first barracks party of the weekend, here are 13 of the week’s funniest military memes:

1. Word is that if he actually donated his own blood, every recipient would go super saiyan (via Military Memes).

2. “Guys, I’m already just faking half of my duties.”

(via Pop Smoke)

SEE ALSO: After 50 years, a heroic Huey pilot will receive the Medal of Honor

3. “Oh crap.”

(via Marine Corps Memes)

4. “Hello, tank. Some guys on the ridge took pop shots at us.”

(via Military Memes)

“Could you –” BOOM! “Yeah, that probably did it.”

5. The famed Pillsbury Dough Chief (via Military Memes).

6. So many certificates, so little learning (via Air Force Memes Humor).

There’s supposed to be another joke right here.

7. First step to any military plan: Get everything clean (via Team Non-Rec).

Second step: Inspections.

8. “Do not mouth off to the NCOs, do not mouth off –”

(via The Salty Soldier)

Remember: That first sergeant is likely to be on the promotion board.

9. That toll booth operator told this story at every party for the net ten years (via Military Memes).

Seriously tank, you could’ve driven on the grass, across the parking lot, through the booth, anywhere.

10. Better submit that ticket before the keyboard starts burning too (via Coast Guard Memes).

Forget the fire extinguisher. The computer guys will bring one with them.

11. “So, you’ll start by taking the ASVAB …”

(via Do You Even Marine, Bro?)

12. The F-35 is always in trouble (via Air Force Nation).

13. The E-4 mafia gets saltier and saltier every year (via The Senior Specialist).

Maybe it’s because the specialists have given up on getting promoted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions high as NATO and Russia drill their militaries

British, French, Italian, and German jets have simulated flight interceptions over Western Europe as part of NATO maneuvers to deter Russian planes from entering alliance airspace.

The NATO drills on Sept. 12, 2018, came at the same time that Russia was showing off its most sophisticated air-defense system as it practiced fighting off a mock attack during military maneuvers of its own, the largest it has ever conducted.

The activity comes amid persistently high tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.


In the NATO drills, fighter pilots from alliance members simulated the interception of a Belgian military transport plane en route to Spain. Visual inspections were made by flying off the wings at speeds of 900 kilometers an hour.

NATO has some 60 jets regularly on alert to defend its airspace. A record 870 interceptions were recorded of Russian aircraft in the Baltic region in 2016.

“NATO is relevant. This is not theoretical,” Spanish Air Force Lieutenant General Ruben Garcia Servert said aboard the Belgian plane.

As he spoke, Italian Eurofighters flew close to the cockpit to simulate interceptions, later joined by British Typhoons and French Mirages.

The European members of NATO are looking to display their commitments to their defense in the face of criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump that alliance members are not contributing enough financially to the alliance.

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Western alliance is currently negotiating an agreement that would have each member’s air force defend any other’s airspace under a “single sky” concept.

Currently, each country defends its own airspace, although other members help defend the airspace of the Baltic states, which do not have enough fighter jets of their own.

NATO is planning to hold its biggest maneuvers in 16 years when it conducts the Trident Juncture drills in Norway in October and November 2018.

The drills will feature more than 40,000 troops, including some from non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.

Meanwhile, Russia is conducting massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, weeklong war games the Defense Ministry said would involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.


Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the drills in eastern Siberia on Sept. 13, 2018, and insisted that they were not targeted at any country.

“Russia is a peaceful nation,” Putin said at a firing range in the Chita region. “We do not and cannot have any aggressive plans,” he added.

On Sept. 12, 2018, the war games involved Russia’s newest S-400 surface-to-air defense system, which NATO considers a threat to its aircraft.

In 2017 Moscow signed a contract to sell the S-400 system to Turkey, angering NATO and particularly the United States, which threatened to suspend delivery of its F-35 stealth aircraft to Ankara.

The drills simulated a “massive missile attack” by an “unnamed enemy,” military official Sergei Tikhonov said.

The exercises, which also involve Chinese and Mongolian soldiers, will run through Sept. 17, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Apollo 13 astronauts couldn’t just put their suits on to stay warm

Contrary to popular belief, space isn’t actually “cold” per se, at least not in the way often depicted in movies. Space is just mostly empty and all that nothing doesn’t have a temperature. For example, if you were in space without a space suit, the two ways you’d lose heat are just via evaporation of moisture on your skin, in your mouth, etc, and then much slower via radiating heat away, which would take a really long time. In fact, if you were in direct sunlight at around the Earth’s orbit distance from the Sun (1 AU), you’d find yourself overheating pretty quickly, likely with severe sunburns within a few minutes.

This all brings us to the topic of today — if space isn’t cold, why did the astronauts on Apollo 13 get so cold in their ship? And when things did get chilly, why didn’t they just put on their space suits to warm up?


To begin with, somewhat counterintuitively, the reason their ship got so cold so fast is precisely because it’s troublesome to get rid of heat on a space craft. With all the equipment on aboard the ship generating heat, as well as extra heat absorbed when the ship is in direct sunlight, this would normally see the astronauts baking inside the craft. To get around the problem, the ships were specifically designed to radiate heat away very quickly to compensate. Just in case this cooling happened too quickly, for instance when not in direct sunlight helping to heat things up, the ship was also equipped with heaters to keep the astronauts comfortable.

Apollo 13 launches from Kennedy Space Center.

Thus, during the Apollo 13 mission when all the equipment was off and they couldn’t spare power to run the heaters, they were left with a ship designed to radiate heat away relatively quickly, even when in sunlight, but nothing but their own bodies and sunlight generating heat. The net effect was that it got really cold inside the command module and LM.

This brings up the logical follow up question — when it got cold, why didn’t they just use their space suits to keep warm?

In search of a definitive answer, we discovered a variety of speculative explanations online, many of which get surprisingly technical and ultra specific, despite that nobody was using a definitive source and were simply speculating. Further, nowhere in any Apollo 13 transcripts we read does the idea of the astronauts in question donning their space suits to keep warm ever have appeared to have been suggested or brought up, despite the cold.

Unsatisfied with going with speculative explanations, we eventually resorted to mailing a letter to Fred Haise to get a more definitive answer, with, unfortunately no response.

Unwilling to give up, we continued to dig and finally managed to track down a May of 1970 LIFE magazine article in which all three astronauts gave their account of what happened during the Apollo 13 mission. A fascinating read, most notable to the topic at hand in that article is the following from Jim Lovell concerning the cold, which finally gave us the definitive answer we were looking for:

Eventually it dawned on me that somehow we all had to get some sleep, and we tried to work out a watch system. We weren’t very successful. Besides the inside of the Odyssey kept getting colder and colder. It eventually got down pretty close to freezing point, and it was just impossible to sleep in there. Fred and I even put on our heavy lunar boots. Jack didn’t have any, so he put on extra long johns. When you were moving around the cold wasn’t so bad, but when you were sitting still it was unbearable. So the three of us spent more and more of our time together in Aquarius, which was designed to be flown by two men — standing up, at that. There wasn’t really sleeping space for two men there, let alone three, so we just huddled in there, trying to keep warm and doze off by turns. We didn’t get any sleep in the true sense of the word. We considered putting on our heavy space suits, but the suits were so builky that they would compromise our maneuverability in an emergency situation, and when you put on the suit you were bound to perspire a lot. Soon you would be all wet and cold too, an invitation to pneumonia.

It’s also noteworthy here that in a separate interview, NASA engineer and man in charge of the spacecraft warning system during Apollo 13, Jerry Woodfill, stated that nobody on the ground was terribly concerned about the astronauts being cold or getting hypothermia. With what they were wearing and the temperature inside the spacecraft, they were cold, but not critically so, and everyone had much bigger problems to deal with.

Astronaut Fred W. Haise Jr., Apollo 13 lunar module pilot, participates in lunar surface simulation training at the Manned Spacecraft Center.

(NASA)

You see, as you might have already gleaned from the previous passage by Lovell, it turns out the otherwise phenomenal Apollo 13 film took some liberties and it was not, in fact, ever cold enough to do something like tap frozen hot dogs against the wall. In fact, according to that same LIFE magazine article, Jack Swigert stated, “Aquarius was a nice, warm 50 degrees.” He further went on to state that “It was 38 degrees in [the Odyssey] before reentry.” To translate for the rest of the world, that means it was about 10 degrees Celsius in Aquarius and about 3.8 degrees Celsius in the Odyssey. Cold, particularly in the Odyssey, but with what they were wearing, not unbearably so for two of the three crew members, especially when spending as much time as possible in the Aquarius.

As for the third, Fred Haise did have a lot of trouble with the cold, likely due to a fever owing to his urinary tract infection. He stated in his own account in that LIFE magazine interview:

I’ve been a lot colder before but I’ve never been so cold for so long… The last 12 hours before renentry were particularly bone chilling. During this period, I had to go up into the command module. It took me four hours back in the LM before I stopped shivering… Because of the cold, during the last two nights I slept in the tunnel between the two vehicles with my head in the LM and with the string of my sleeping bag wound around the latch handle of the LM hatch so that I wouldn’t float around.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of space suits and Hollywood myths, in movies you’ll often see humans exposed to the near vacuum of space doing things like suddenly exploding, instantly freezing in the supposedly extreme “cold” of space, etc. But, in fact, so long as you don’t try to hold your breath, which would result in your lungs rupturing and thus pretty well guaranteed that the incident will be fatal, what will actually happen is you’ll remain conscious for about 10-15 seconds. After that, you’ll be fine as long as you’re placed back in a pressurized environment within about 90 seconds. It’s even possible that some might be able to survive as much as 3 minutes, as chimpanzees are capable of this in such an environment without lasting detrimental effect. For significantly more detail on all this and how we know these numbers, check out our video How Long Can You Survive in Space Without a Space Suit?

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

Articles

Jim Mattis wouldn’t be the first former general to serve as Secretary of Defense

With reports swirling that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a leading contender to be selected as Secretary of Defense for President-elect Donald Trump, some people think it would be unprecedented for a former general to serve as Pentagon chief.


(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

But General of the Army George C. Marshall might have something to say about that.

Marshall is perhaps best known for the “Marshall Plan” he put together as Secretary of State under President Harry S Truman to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Marshall had served two years in that post before leaving to become president of the American Red Cross.

But when the Korean War started in June 1950 and became a near-disaster, Truman fired then-Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson over the military’s lack of readiness. He then nominated Marshall to take over.

Marshall was technically prohibited from serving as Secretary of Defense. As a General of the Army, he was by law on active duty, and per 10 USC 113, nobody who was a commissioned officer can serve as Secretary of Defense without having been retired for seven years.

Congress, though, waived that provision to allow Marshall to serve.

Marshall spent a year in the Pentagon, not only working to get the military into fighting shape for the Korean War, but also rebuilding bridges that his predecessor had burned with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (particularly the Navy), and also with the State Department.

Within two months of Marshall becoming SecDef, the United States and allied forces had nearly reached the Yalu River in Korea. When the Chinese Communists intervened and pushed the allied forces back, Marshall would play a crucial role in President Truman’s decision to relieve General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as overall commander in Korea, despite his initial reluctance to see that happen.

Within a year, Marshall resigned as Secretary of Defense and was succeeded by his deputy, Roger A. Lovett. He would die eight years after leaving the Pentagon.

Famous for has program to save a war ravaged Europe, Marshall’s service as Secretary of Defense is a nearly-forgotten footnote in his long career.

Articles

The 19 greatest empires in history

History has seen empires that stretch across a fifth of the world; others that ruled hundreds of millions of people; and some that lasted more than a millennium.


Also Read: The 4 US Presidents With The Craziest War Stories

Each empire seemed unstoppable for an age, but they all crumbled in the end.

Indeed, the age of empires may have ended with World War II, as world powers have moved on from colonization and conquest in favor of geopolitical and commercial influence.

We’ve ranked the 19 greatest empires of all time by the number of square miles each had conquered at their peak.

The Turkic Khaganate spanned 2.32 million square miles at its height in 557 until a civil war contributed to its collapse in 581.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Han imperial dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its peak in 100 B.C. It collapsed by A.D. 220 after a series of coups and revolutions.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Ming Dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its height in 1450, but economic breakdown and natural disasters contributed to its collapse in the early 17th century.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Sasanian Empire spanned 2.55 million square miles at its peak in 621 and was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam. It fell around 651 following economic decline and conquest by the Islamic caliphate.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Empire of Japan was one of the largest maritime empires in history, spanning 2.86 million square miles at its peak in 1942 before surrendering to the Allies on September 2, 1945.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire, spanned 3.08 million square miles at its peak in 480 B.C. before falling to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.

Photo: Wikimedia

The First French Colonial Empire spanned 3.12 million square miles at its height in 1754, before a series of wars with Great Britain resulted in both countries losing most of their New World colonies.

Photo: Wikimedia

After declaring independence from Portugal, the empire of Brazil spanned 3.28 million square miles at its height in 1822, but it would soon lose the territories that make up modern Uruguay, and the empire would fall in an 1889 coup.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Rashidun Caliphate spanned 3.6 million square miles at its peak in 654, before being followed by another Islamic Caliphate. It was the largest empire by land area ever at that point in history.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Portuguese Empire reached 4 million square miles at its height in 1815, before losing Brazil and most of the rest in the next 150 years.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Abbasid Caliphate covered 4.29 million square miles at its height in 850 before losing ground to the Ottomans, who captured the capital city, Cairo, in 1517.

Photo: Wikimedia

The French bounced back with second colonial empire that covered 5 million square miles at its peak in 1938, before shedding territories in the post-World War II decolonization movement.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Yuan Dynasty, the first dynasty to rule all of China, extended 5.4 million square miles at its peak in 1310, before being overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, controlled 5.68 million square miles in 1790 at its greatest point. It fell in 1912 following defeat by foreign powers in the Boxer Rebellion and many local uprisings.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Umayyad Caliphate spanned 5.79 million square miles at its height in the 7th century, before it was defeated by the Abbasids in 750.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Spanish Empire governed 13% of the world’s land — 7.5 million square miles — at its height in the 18th century before losing much territory in the 19th century Spanish-American wars of independence.

Photo: Wikispace

The Russian Empire spanned 8.8 million square miles at its peak in 1866. It was overthrown by the February Revolution in 1917 and was replaced by the Soviet Union.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Mongol Empire spanned 12.7 million square miles at its peak in 1279, spanning from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe, but it disintegrated into competing entities at about 1368.

Photo: Wikimedia

The British Empire stretched over 13 million square miles across several continents — 23% of the world’s land — at its height in 1922, until decolonization began after World War II.

Photo: Wikimedia

More from Business Insider:

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Those frequent appearances have taken on a new significance in recent days, as rumors swirl that the dictator is gravely ill after a surgery. Kim Jong Un’s line of succession is hazy — he is believed to have three children, but they are too young to take control over the country, and his brother has reportedly been deemed unfit to lead.


That has prompted speculation that Kim Yo Jong is next in line, though the country has never had a female leader.

During the two summits between the US and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

She also traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far.

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be in her early 30s, likely born in 1989.

Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland.pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt

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She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=327&h=f892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1&size=980x&c=3282151137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D327%26h%3Df892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3282151137%22%7D” expand=1]

The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland.

Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.

Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU

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Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.

Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr

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In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.

Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.

She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.

During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.

Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.

In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.

Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.

She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.

Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.

Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF

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She made headlines in February 2019 when she was seen holding her brother’s ashtray while he smoked during their train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong Un takes smoking break on way to Summit

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Kim Yo Jong was featured prominently in the preparations for her brother’s talks with Trump, often rushing ahead to make sure everything was ready.

She even went viral at one point when she seemed to be hiding in the plants as Kim Jong Un met with the US president at the Metropole Hotel.

An incredible addition to annals of “Where’s Kim Yo Jong?” from @nknewsorg’s @chadocl.pic.twitter.com/9zZSUAnsL2

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It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.

But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.

Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.

She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.

One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.

But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.

In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.

Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.

Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.

“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.

Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Humor

6 reasons why living in the crappy barracks is a good thing

When you first enter the military and you’re not yet receiving a Basic Allowance for Housing, you’re going to be live in the barracks. Depending on what branch of service you joined, you could be living in a private, single-man suite or sharing a broken-down shack with two other people.

Although the toilets don’t flush, the showers are never hot, and the front door never locks, living in a crappy barracks room does have its advantages.

Related: 7 ways barracks parties prepare you for college life

1. It better prepares you for a combat deployment

Living in a crappy barracks is almost like sleeping outside – which is something you’re going to do a lot of while deployed in Afghanistan.

This soldier was prepared for these nasty deployment conditions because of living in the barracks (probably).

2. It creates camaraderie

Bad situations create special relationships, especially when you live in a place where nothing works. These rough times also make for some solid memories.

3. You appreciate the little things

When your water heater is always broken and your electricity continuously goes in and out, you begin to miss the life you once had back home that, once upon a time, you swore you didn’t want anymore.

This simple house looks pretty awesome now that you’re living in the barracks.

4. There are tons of places to hide sh*t

When tiles are loose and there are holes in the wall, you can go “prison style” and find ways to conceal your vodka if you’re underage. It’s freaking simple.

5. Room inspections are easier

You can only vacuum a stained carpet so many times — it’s still dirty and always will be. Tell room inspectors that the closet door was broken when you moved in.

In the barracks, room inspectors have seen it all before, so it’s not the end of the world if they see a dust-ball floating around on the deck.

That chip was there when I get here, sergeant. (Photo by Spc. Robert Cook)

Also Read: 6 times Gunny Hartman was guilty of hazing

6. It makes moving out feels that much more special

When you finally get married or leave the military, you can pat yourself on the back knowing you’ve lived in the worst place ever… and survived.

Articles

Air Force approves incentive pay for airmen in Turkey

The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.


According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.

Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”

Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.

All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.

The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.

The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.

Articles

Trump’s Marine general picks all served together during the Iraq War

Just before the 1st Marine Division advanced on the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003, Maj. Gen. James Mattis pinned a star onto each collar of his assistant division commander, Col. John F. Kelly. He was now a brigadier general, and the first to be promoted on the battlefield since the Korean War.


Not far from there, another colonel in the unit named Joe Dunford was leading his regimental combat team.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

By the end of the campaign, they had fought together in places like Nasiriyah, Al Kut, and eventually Baghdad. The division they were in — along with the US Army and UK armored elements — carried out one of the most aggressive, high-speed attacks in history, and 1st Marine Division’s ground march was the longest in the history of the Marine Corps, for which it earned the Presidential Unit Citation.

Those three officers went on to become four-star generals. Mattis retired in 2013 as the commander of Central Command, while Kelly retired as commander of US Southern Command in 2016. Dunford became commandant of the Marine Corps, and eventually chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he remains.

All three remain good friends. And if President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for his Cabinet are all confirmed, they’ll once again be serving together — only this time, it’ll be in the White House.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis

DoD photo

Mattis has often been praised by senior leaders at the Pentagon as both a strategic thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of history and an incredible leader. His legendary status among Marines mainly originated from his command of 1st Marine Division, where he popularized its motto, “No better friend, no worse enemy.”

The 66-year-old retired general is the only pick that has a legal roadblock in front of him. A 1947 law, updated in 2008, requires military officers to be out of uniform for at least seven years before leading the Pentagon. Mattis would need a waiver, which Republicans have already signaled support for.

When asked recently if he was concerned by Mattis as Trump’s pick, Gen. Joe Dunford just said, “No.”

If confirmed, Mattis would replace Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who supports Mattis and called him “extremely capable.”

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly

DoD photo

John Kelly just accepted Trump’s request for him to serve as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to CBS News.

Like Mattis, he is a blunt speaker who opposes the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

“What tends to bother them is the fact that we’re holding them there indefinitely without trial. … It’s not the point that it’s Gitmo,” he told Defense One earlier this year. “If we send them, say, to a facility in the US, we’re still holding them without trial.”

Kelly is also the most senior-ranking military official to lose a child in combat since 9/11. His son, Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.

If confirmed, Kelly would replace Jeh Johnson.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford

US Marine Corps photo

Joe Dunford is the last of the three generals who is still in uniform. He served briefly as commandant of the Marine Corps before President Barack Obama nominated him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in May 2015. He earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” during his time with 1st Marine Division.

Dunford has been in the Marine Corps for 39 years, less than Mattis’ 44 years and Kelly’s 45. His chairmanship term is scheduled to run through 2017. Though the Joint Chiefs are not part of the president’s Cabinet, they are appointed by — and serve as the top military advisers to — the president.

Trump is likely to replace many of Obama’s appointees, but Dunford may not be one of them.

Typically, Joint Chiefs chairmen serve two terms, and having comrades like Mattis and Kelly in Dunford’s corner would make it much harder for Trump to replace him.

Trump has floated other generals and admirals for his Cabinet, including Gen. David Petraeus for secretary of state and Adm. Michael Rogers for director of national intelligence. Michael Flynn, his controversial choice for national security adviser, is a retired lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency.

These choices don’t come without pushback. Some, like Phillip Carter, a former Army officer with the Center for a New American Security, have argued that Trump’s reliance on retired military brass for traditionally civilian-led organizations could jeopardize civil-military relations.