The Raiders of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are some of the world’s greatest warrior-athletes, specializing in taking the fight to America’s enemies across the globe. But not all fighting members of MARSOC are the human Raiders. Some are specially trained canines who deploy across the world and support Marines wherever they’re called upon.
Here they are, in 14 photos:
1. MARSOC dogs are highly-trained animals who work with their multipurpose canine handlers to execute missions around the world.
2. The dogs train to accompany their handlers on a variety of missions and can enter the battlefield via Zodiac boat.
3. When necessary, they can also swim stealthily to shore.
4. The canines and handlers will then make their way through the surf and toward their objective.
5. When the target is far from shore, the dogs and their handlers can even insert by parachute.
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)
6. Once they reach the objective, the dogs are capable of completing many missions. Some engage in direct action, helping MARSOC Raiders clear buildings and hunt down bad guys.
7. The dogs have to move tactically with the other operators and perform their tasks as a member of the team.
8. One of their specialties is seeking out enemies who’ve tried to hide or escape.
9. To work well together, the dogs and handlers have to train together in all their essential tasks, including range qualifications.
10. They also swim together.
11. They dive together.
12. They even complete obstacle courses together. Here, a U.S. Army soldier navigates the course with a Marine Corps canine.
13. The obstacle courses at Camp Pendleton, California, give the dogs and handlers plenty of realistic barriers to navigate.
14. We’re not sure whether the dogs take the training quite as seriously as their handlers, but they’re pretty darn impressive nonetheless.
The US Air Force’s push to develop operational flying saucers 60 years ago laid the conceptual groundwork for one of the variants of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, MIT Technology Review reports.
The F-35 comes in three variants, with key mechanical differences for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy – the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C respectively.
Of the three models, the F-35B is the most technologically different.
Unlike the F-35A and F-35C, the Marines needed their variant to be capable of conducting short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.
This request necessitated that the F-35B be given a lifting fan. And, as Desire Francine G. Fedrigo, Ricardo Gobato, Alekssander Gobato note in a paper at the Cornell University Library, the F-35B’s lifting fan has its conceptual roots in flying saucers.
Between 1954 and 1961, the US Air Force spent $10 million attempting to develop a flying saucer that became known as an Avrocar. The Avrocar was a vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) saucer that was powered by one giant central fan.
Despite its seven years of development, the Air Force failed to make the Avrocar into a mission capable vehicle that could potentially replace helicopters.
MIT Technology Review notes that the aircraft was “hot and almost unbearably uncomfortable for the pilot. And it demonstrated various idiosyncrasies such as taking five seconds to turn 90 degrees to the left but 11 seconds to turn the same amount to the right, presumably because of its central rotating fan.”
However, despite the Avrocars’ failings, the technology did point researchers towards the feasibility of developing and embedding a central lift fan turbine within an aircraft for variations of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology.
“The concept of a lift fan, driven by a turbojet engine is not dead, and lives today as a key component of Lockheed X-35 Joint Strike Fighter contender,” Fedrigo notes, adding that the conceptual framework of the Avrocar helped General Electric’s own development of a booster fan propulsion system.
Whereas the Avrocar’s development ultimately failed, though, GE’s “Vertifan” went on to prove the concept of successful lifting fan technology. This in turn lead to a DARPA sponsored development challenge that gave birth to lifting fans being used in the F-35B.
The F-35B was declared ready for combat by the Marine Corps on July 31.
These are six reasons why we think Hollywood should make more war movies.
6. Veterans love well-made war movies
Every war movie has its flaws, but veterans deeply respect when films properly capture military life without going completely over the top. When we find one that we love, directors and actors earn new fans right away.
There’s an inexhaustible well of heroic stories created from the actions of brave men and women during their service. Hollywood hasn’t even scratched the surface. So, to all of you producers out there, get your interns to start reading those scripts from vets.
Troops watch a ton of films in their downtime while deployed. When someone pops a good war movie, filled to the brim with tons of explosions, into their laptop, we can’t help but celebrate and look forward to the next foot patrol.
We’re going on patrol! We’re going on patrol! (Image via GIPHY)
3. They keep fallen heroes’ memories alive
Everybody wants to be remembered for the good they’ve done in this world. Movies are one of the most compelling ways to immortalize a troop’s heroic deeds.
We know our words are beautiful but don’t cry, Toby. (Image via GIPHY)
2. They remind everyone what we go through
As time passes, the truth behind amazing stories tends to get buried under 50-feet of hypothetical crap. Solid war movies do a good job of showing you what life was actually like, they last for generations, and make veterans proud.
That was a good war movie. Holy sh*t! (Image via GIPHY)
Let’s face it, Hollywood has made some sh*tty war movies that do not represent what we do very well. We need to see a few more good ones before we can let go of our grudge. Hopefully, some producer will read this and be like, “these writers from WATM know what they’re talking about!”
Future colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Lewis Lee Millett joined the U.S. Army in the summer of 1938 but was really bummed when he learned the U.S. hadn’t gotten around to fighting the Germans yet.
So in 1941 he deserted and ran to Canada — a country with an army almost two years into its Nazi-killing campaign.
Millett went through basic training with the Canadians and learned their methods of bayonet fighting (That will be important later). He was shipped to London and manned an anti-aircraft gun during the London Blitz, but he switched back over to the U.S. Army when America entered the war.
After shipping to Africa, he saved a group of soldiers by jumping into a burning, ammunition-filled halftrack and driving it away from an Allied position. The Army awarded him the Silver Star. Millett followed this up by exposing himself to a German plane strafing Allied troops and shooting it down with machine guns mounted on another halftrack.
Unfortunately for then-Sgt. Millett, this was when the paperwork for his desertion found him. His unit was ordered three times to court-martial him before they actually did it. The commander hit Millett with a $52 fine, then made him a second lieutenant only a few weeks later with a battlefield commission.
He continued to serve after the war ended and was a captain in the Korean War where he earned both a Medal of Honor and a Distinguished Service Cross, each for a daring bayonet charge.
On Feb. 4, 1951, a platoon leader in Millett’s unit, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was injured during a bayonet charge up a hill. Millett led a rescue effort to get the man while under fire, saving the young lieutenant. Millett was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.
Three days later, Millett was leading a company attack when the 1st Platoon was pinned down by machine gun and anti-tank fire. Millett ordered 3rd Platoon forward and led it and 1st Platoon up the hill with fixed bayonets. His Medal of Honor citation describes what happens next.
In the fierce charge Captain Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Captain Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured.
Millett stayed in the Army but was sent home to receive his Medal of Honor. He had never attended an Army school as an officer, so the military sent him to the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and then Ranger School at Fort Benning.
He went on to serve in Vietnam where he once volunteered to be a hostage. Fighters who had been drafted by the Viet Cong wanted to leave the war but were afraid to attend negotiations because they could be ambushed and arrested. Millett volunteered himself as collateral and the Vietnamese fighters negotiated their surrender safely.
Col. Millett left the Army in 1973 because he believed the military had simply quit in Vietnam. He continued to work with veterans until his death in 2009 in a veteran’s hospital.
The Islamic State came dangerously close to obtaining a radioactive dirty bomb, in fact the ingredients were readily available to the group for more than three years, but an apparent lack of knowledge or know-how prevented a disaster.
ISIS gained a military treasure trove after its seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014. Everything from tanks to guns were spoils of war, many of them American-made. But the most valuable prize the group unwittingly obtained were two supplies of cobalt-60, a highly radioactive substance used in cancer treatment which is also perfect for a dirty bomb, according to a report by Joby Warrick of The Washington Post published on July 22.
ISIS apparently stumbled upon the radioactive substance possibly without even know what they had. It was locked away in a storage room on a college campus contained in heavy shielding when ISIS took over the area. When Iraq Security Forces retook the campus earlier this year, they found the cobalt-60 still in storage, providing a major relief to security officials and experts who had been tracking its location.
“We are very relieved that these two, older albeit still dangerous, cobalt-60 sources were not found and used by Daesh. They were recovered intact recently,” said the Institute for Science and International Security, a think tank which compiled a dossier on the substance’s whereabouts beginning in 2015, in a report published July 22.
The Institute provided its final report to the US and other “friendly governments,” and ultimately decided not to publish the report at the time out of concern that ISIS could use it.
A dirty bomb is essentially a terrorist’s ideal weapon. It uses a traditional explosive to spread radioactive material across a given area, in an attempt to incite panic and chaos. It is not necessarily difficult to obtain the ingredients for a dirty bomb; highly radioactive material is used in a multitude of civilian applications. A terrorist would need only to gain a suitable amount of material, combine it with a traditional explosive, and unleash it on a target area. While the death toll from the detonation of such a device would likely be low, it is the resulting fear among the targeted population that worries officials.
Thankfully, ISIS either was not able or aware of the cobalt-60 in Mosul.
“They are not that smart,” a health ministry official told WaPo.
It is possible that ISIS was aware of the caches of cobalt-60, but did not have the know-how to remove it from its casing without exposing its own forces to the deadly radiation. It is equally possible they simply had no idea what they had. The Institute also speculated that “courageous hospital and university staff” may have worked to keep the cobalt-60 a secret from the terror group.
The cobalt-60 is not the first time ISIS has had a chance at a weapon of mass destruction. US forces conducted air strikes against two chemical weapons factories in Mosul in March 2016. Officials had been concerned that the group was possibly stolen using chemistry equipment from Mosul University, though it is unclear if that equipment was being used in the weapons factories. Despite the strikes, ISIS is known to have used chlorine and mustard gas against its enemies in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS’s failure to use the cobalt-60 was fortunate, but there are lessons to be learned.
“This case should lead to reinvigorated efforts to inventory and adequately protect radioactive sources throughout the world. However, as this case highlights, improving physical protection may not be enough,” said the Institute’s report. “It is also important for the United States and its allies to accelerate programs to identify, consolidate, and remove dangerous radioactive sources, particularly in regions of tension or where terrorists are active.”
In the run up to Marine Gen. James Mattis‘ deployment to Iraq in 2004, a colleague wrote to him asking about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” many of whom found themselves “too busy to read.”
His response went viral over email.
Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.
Their title for the post:
With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).
Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.
For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.
We have been fighting on this planet for 5,000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?
Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.
This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel’s Papers (remember “Kampstaffel”?), Montgomery’s book (“Eyes Officers”…), “Grant Takes Command” (need for commanders to get along, “commanders’ relationships” being more important than “command relationships”), and some others.
As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.
Hope this answers your question…. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.
Russia is saying that their fighters chased off the U.S. Navy’s USS Ross Monday while it was operating aggressively in the Black Sea, but the U.S. is calling B.S. According to Navy officials, the encounter was no big deal and they haven’t changed any of their operational plans.
“From our perspective it’s much ado about nothing,” Navy spokesman Lt. Tim Hawkins told USNI News.
The Russian fighters had overflown the ship before with no incident. The Navy has released video of two of the SU-24 flybys, including the June 1 encounter. The USS Ross is leaving the Black Sea today, as scheduled.
The first video released is of one of the flyovers in late May.
John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).
In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.
It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.
Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.
1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.
The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.
His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.
2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.
Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.
3. He was also the first man to eat in space.
The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).
4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.
Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.
Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”
5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.
The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.
6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.
Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.
7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”
He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.
8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.
The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.
9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.
Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.
While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.
And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.
And that has some analysts worried.
Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”
What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.
Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.
When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”
“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”
As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.
“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”
But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.
“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”
Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.
“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.
The myth states that when hearing 153.0 Hz at a thunderous volume, your guts will shake to the point where you can’t control your bowels. Jaime Hyneman and Adam Savage of “MythBusters” busted this all the way back in 2005.
Savage, who conducted the test, felt the long waves vibrating through him and it felt awkward. Yet, the show concludes that a sound alone couldn’t make you crap your pants.
“Even with the help of some of the world’s best audio technicians, the MythBusters just couldn’t produce the brown note,” concludes the narrator, Robert Lee.
There is no way to literally shake the sh*t out of you with sound. That we know of.
However, this isn’t the only time anyone conceived of and developed sound as a weapon.
The use of sound weapons has been a concept that has been in development stage since 1944. Currently, the military and law enforcement both use the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). The LRAD is a non-lethal loud speaker that works more as a mass notification system than a weapon.
Sound has more of a psychological effect than physical. Instead of a specific frequency, it’s songs that have a long history in psychological warfare.
In the Vietnam War, troops played “Ghost Tape Number Ten.” They would blast it from helicopters and loudspeakers at the dead of night in deep in the jungle. The tape played funeral music and heavy-distorted voices that sound like ghosts.
In Vietnamese, the “ghost” would say eerie things such as “My friend, I come back to tell you I am dead,” and “Go home, my friend, before it’s too late.”
Nazi troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, despite the best efforts of Captain Witold Pilecki and his fellow Polish soldiers. On November 9th of that same year, Witold and Major Wlodarkiewicz founded the Tajna Armia Polska (TAP or Polish Secret Army), an underground organization that eventually became consolidated with other resistance forces into The Home Army.
Not long after the formation of organized widespread Polish Resistance, its members began hearing reports of the conditions within the newly constructed Auschwitz Concentration Camp put into operation in the Spring of 1940. Those first reports originated with prisoners released from the camp and from civilians such as railroad employees and local residents.
In order to cut through the very troubling rumors and figure out exactly what was going on there, Pilecki came up with a bold plan- become a prisoner at Auschwitz. With a little convincing, his superiors eventually agreed to allow him to go.
In order to help protect his wife and children after he was captured, he took on the alias Tomasz Serafinski, much to the chagrin of the real Tomasz Serafinski who was thought to be dead at the time (hence why his papers and identity were chosen), but was not. Later, the real Tomasz had some trouble because of Pilecki using his papers and name (more on this in the Bonus Facts below).
According to Eleonora Ostrowska, owner of an apartment Pilecki was at when he was taken, when a Nazi roundup began (lapanka, where a city block would suddenly be closed off and most of the civilians inside would be rounded up and sent to slave labor camps and sometimes even just mass-executed on the spot), a member of the resistance came to help Pilecki hide. Instead, Ostrowska said “Witold rejected those opportunities and didn’t even try to hide in my flat.” She reported that soon, a German soldier knocked at the door and Pilecki whispered to her “Report that I have fulfilled the order,” and then opened the door and was taken by the soldier along with about 2,000 other Poles in Warsaw on September 19, 1940.
It is important to note here that he didn’t really know if he’d be sent to Auschwitz at this point. As Dr. Daniel Paliwoda noted of Pilecki’s capture, “Since the AB Aktion and roundups were still going on, the Nazis could have tortured and executed him in
occupied Warsaw’s Pawiak, Mokotów, or any other Gestapo-run prison. They could have taken him to Palmiry to murder him in the forest. At the very least, they could have sent him to a forced labor colony somewhere in Germany.”
While he was willingly surrendering with the hope of being sent to Auschwitz, Pilecki lamented the behavior of his fellow countrymen during the roundup. “What really annoyed me the most was the passivity of this group of Poles. All those picked up were already showing signs of crowd psychology, the result being that our whole crowd behaved like a herd of passive sheep. A simple thought kept nagging me: stir up everyone and get this mass of people moving.”
As he had hoped (perhaps the only person to ever hope such a thing), he was sent to Auschwitz. He later described his experience upon arrival:
We gave everything away into bags, to which respective numbers were tied. Here our hair of head and body were cut off, and we were slightly sprinkled by cold water. I got a blow in my jaw with a heavy rod. I spat out my two teeth. Bleeding began. From that moment we became mere numbers – I wore the number 4859…
We were struck over the head not only by SS rifle butts, but by something far greater. Our concepts of law and order and of what was normal, all those ideas to which we had become accustomed on this Earth, were given a brutal kicking.
Pilecki also noted that one of the first indications that he observed that Auschwitz was not just a normal prison camp was the lack of food given to prisoners; in his estimate, the rations given to prisoners were “calculated in such a way that people would live for six weeks.” He also noted that a guard at the camp told him, “Whoever will live longer — it means he steals.”
Assessing the conditions inside Auschwitz was only part of Pilecki’s mission. He also took on responsibility for organizing a resistance force within the camp, the Zwiazek Organizacji Wojskowej (ZOW). The goals of ZOW included- improving inmate morale, distributing any extra food and clothing, setting up an intelligence network within the camp, training prisoners to eventually rise up against their guards and liberate Auschwitz, and getting news in and out of Auschwitz. Ensuring secrecy of the ZOW led Pilecki to create cells within the organization. He trusted the leaders of each cell to withstand interrogation by the guards, but even so each leader only knew the names of the handful of people under his command. This limited the risk to the entire organization should an informant tip off a guard or if a member was caught.
Pilecki’s first reports to the Polish government and Allied forces left the camp with released prisoners. But when releases became less common, passing reports on to the outside world depended largely on the success of prisoner escapes, such as one that occurred on June 20, 1942 where four Poles managed to dress up as members of the SS, weapons and all, and steal an SS car which they boldly drove out of the main gate of the camp.
A cobbled-together radio, built over the course of seven months as parts could be acquired, was used for a while in 1942 to transmit reports until “one of our fellow’s big mouth” resulted in the Nazis learning of the radio, forcing the group to dismantle it before they were caught red handed and executed.
Pilecki’s reports were the first to mention the use of Zyklon B gas, a poisonous hydrogen cyanide gas, and gas chambers used at the camp. He saw the first use of Zyklon B gas in early September 1941 when the Nazis used it to kill 850 Soviet POWs and Poles in Block 11 of Auschwitz I. He also learned of the gas chambers at Auschwitz II, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, from other resistance members after construction of the camp began in October 1941. ZOW also managed to keep a pretty good running log of roughly the number of inmates being brought in to the camp and the estimated number of deaths, noting at one point, “Over a thousand a day from the new transports were gassed. The corpses were burnt in the new crematoria.”
All of the reports were sent to the Polish Government in Exile in London, and they in turn forwarded the information to other Allied forces. However, on the whole, the Allies thought the reports of mass killings, starvation, brutal and systemic torture, gas chambers, medical experimentation, etc. were wildly exaggerated and questioned the reliability of Pilecki’s reports. (Note: During Pilecki’s nearly three years there, several hundred thousand people were killed at Auschwitz and, beyond the death and horrific tortures, countless others were experimented on in a variety of ways by such individuals as the “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele. All total, it is estimated that somewhere between 1 to 1.5 million people were killed at the camp.)
Significant doubt surrounding the accuracy of his reports meant Pilecki’s plan to bring about an uprising inside Auschwitz never came to fruition. Pilecki had managed to convince his network of resistance fighters inside the camp that they could successfully take control for a short while and escape if the Allies and Polish Underground provided support. He had envisioned airdrops of weapons and possibly even Allied soldiers invading the camp. However, the Allies never had any intention of such an operation and the local Polish resistance in Warsaw refused to attack due to the large number of German troops stationed nearby.
The Nazi guards began systematically eliminating members of the ZOW resistance in 1943 and so, with his reports being ignored, Pilecki decided he needed to plead his case in person for intervention in Auschwitz.
In April of 1943, he got his chance. After handing over leadership of ZOW to his top deputies, he and two others were assigned the night shift at a bakery which was located outside the camp’s perimeter fence. At an opportune moment on the night of the 26th, they managed to overpower a guard and cut the phone lines. The three men then made a run for it out of the back of the bakery. As they ran, Pilecki stated, “Shots were fired behind us. How fast we were running, it is hard to describe. We were tearing the air into rags by quick movements of our hands.”
It should be noted that anyone caught helping an Auschwitz escapee would be killed along with the escaped prisoner, something the local populace knew well. Further, the 40 square kilometers around Auschwitz were extremely heavily patrolled and the escapees’ shaved heads, tattered clothes, and gaunt appearance would give them away in a second to anyone who saw them. Despite this, all three not only survived the initial escape, but managed to get to safety without being recaptured.
Unfortunately, Pilecki’s plan to garner support for liberating Auschwitz never materialized. After arriving at the headquarters of the Home Army on August 25, 1943 and desperately pleading his case for the Home Army to put all efforts into liberating Auschwitz, he left feeling “bitter and disappointed” when the idea was discarded as being too risky. In his final report on Auschwitz, he further vented his frustration on his superiors “cowardliness.”
After this, Pilecki continued to fight for the Home Army, as well as trying to aid ZOW in any way he could from the outside. He also played a role in the Warsaw Uprising that began in August of 1944, during which he was captured by German troops in October of that year and spent the rest of World War II as a POW.
Pilecki wrote his final version of his report on Auschwitz (later published in a book titled:The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery) after the war while spending time in Italy under the 2nd Polish Corps before being ordered back to Poland by General Wladyslaw Anders to gather intelligence on communist activities in Poland. You see, the invading Germans had been replaced by another occupying power- the Soviet backed Polish Committee of National Liberation. This was a puppet provisional government setup on July 22, 1944 in opposition to the Polish Government in Exile, the latter of which was supported by the majority of Polish people and the West.
During his two years at this post, he managed to, among many other things, gather documented proof that the voting results of the People’s Referendum of 1946 were heavily falsified by the communists. Unfortunately, there was little the Polish Government in Exile could do. Even when his cover was blown in July of 1946, Pilecki soldiered on and refused to leave the country, continuing his work collecting documented evidence of the many atrocities against the Polish people being committed by the Soviets and their puppet government in Poland.
For this, he was ultimately arrested on May 7, 1947 by the Ministry of Public Security. He was extensively tortured for many months after, including having his fingernails ripped off and ribs and nose broken. He later told his wife of his life in this particular prison, “Oświęcim [Auschwitz] compared with them was just a trifle.”
Finally, he was given a show trial. When fellow survivors of Auschwitz pled with then Prime Minister of Poland, Józef Cyrankiewicz (himself a survivor of Auschwitz and member of a resistance in the prison), for the release of Pilecki, instead he went the other way and wrote to the judge, telling him to throw out record of Pilecki’s time as a prisoner in Auschwitz. This was a key piece of evidence in Pilecki’s favor given one of the things he was being accused of was being a German collaborator during the war.
And so it was that as part of a crackdown by the new Polish government against former members of the Home Army resistance, Pilecki was convicted of being a German collaborator and a spy for the West, among many other charges, ultimately sentenced to death via a gunshot to his head. The sentence was carried out on May 25, 1948 by Sergeant Piotr Smietanski, “The Butcher of Mokotow Prison.” From then on, mention of Pilecki’s name and numerous heroic acts were censored in Poland, something that wasn’t changed until 1989 when the communist Polish government was overthrown.
Witold Pilecki’s last known words were reportedly, “Long live free Poland.”
You might think it strange that Pilecki frequently, quite willingly, threw himself into incredibly dangerous situations despite the fact that he had a wife and kids back home. Polish actor Marek Probosz, who studied Pilecki extensively before portraying him in The Death of Captain Pilecki, stated of this, “Human beings were the most precious thing for Pilecki, and especially those who were oppressed. He would do anything to liberate them, to help them.” Mirroring this sentiment, Pilecki’s son, Andrzej later said his father “would write that we should live worthwhile lives, to respect others and nature. He wrote to my sister to watch out for every little ladybug, to not step on it but place it instead on a leaf because everything has been created for a reason. ‘Love nature.’ He instructed us like this in his letters.” It wasn’t just his children he taught to respect life at all levels. Two years after Pilecki was executed, and at a time when his family was struggling because of it, a man approached Pilecki’s teenage son and stated, “I was in prison [as a guard] with your father. I want to help you because your father was a saint.. Under his influence, I changed my life. I do not harm anyone anymore.”
As mentioned, the real Tomasz Serafinski was not dead, as Pilecki had thought when he took his papers and assumed Tomasz’ identity to be captured. After Pilecki’s escape from Auschwitz, the real Tomasz was arrested on December 25, 1943 for having escaped from Auschwitz. He was then investigated for a few weeks, including a fair amount of pretty brutal strong arming, but was finally released on January 14, 1944 when it was determined he was not, in fact, the same individual who had escaped from Auschwitz. Afterwards, Pilecki and Tomasz actually became friends, and though Pilecki was killed, according to Jacek Pawlowicz, “That friendship is alive to this day, because Andrzej Pilecki visits their family and is very welcome there.”
In the early 2000s, certain surviving officials who were involved in Pilecki’s trial, including the prosecutor, Czeslaw Lapinski, were put up on charges for being accomplices in the murder of Witold Pilecki.
Pilecki also fought in WWI in the then newly formed Polish army. After that, he fought in the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1921).
At one point while within Auschwitz, Pilecki and his fellow ZOW members managed to cultivate typhus and infect various SS-personnel.
Through a DARPA-funded program, scientists at the University of California invented a tiny rig that connects to an insect’s brain and flight muscles. Once implanted, the device takes over the insect’s body, turning it into a remote control cyborg capable of receiving flight commands wirelessly from a nearby laptop.
Engineers at CRASAR are developing small robots to aid in search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief, but nothing they’ve made has come close to the size and capabilities of an insect. Rather than creating such a robot, the University of California scientists decided to take a shortcut. “Insects are just amazing fliers compared to anything we can build at that scale,” said lead engineer Michel Maharbiz in and interview with WIRED.
This is not the first time scientists used technology to control insects, according WIRED:
Researches have created remote-controlled crawling insects before, forcing a bug’s legs to move by electrically stimulating its muscles. It’s simple enough that you can even buy your own kit to commandeer a cockroach at home. But flying bugs are harder to hijack.
This video shows the University of California scientists controlling a beetle cyborg: