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These Combat Tracker teams were America’s secret weapon in Vietnam

As American forces became embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam it was quickly apparent to commanders that they were fighting a war for which they were not prepared.


The guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult to counter, especially for conventional forces. Luckily, our allies, the British, had already developed a tactic that they had used to great effect in Malaya.

Facing a communist insurgency of their own, but with limited resources, the British had developed specialized teams to track the enemy through the jungle and destroy them. This tactic was so effective the British would employ it against insurgencies all across the empire.

Knowing the French tactics had been insufficient, and not wanting to meet the same fate, Gen. Westmoreland sent observers to the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaya to see if the tactics could be adopted by American forces.

Impressed by what they saw the Americans made a deal for the British to train fourteen teams, to be known as Combat Tracker Teams, at the British Jungle Warfare School. Due to British neutrality, the soldiers to be trained traveled on official government passports and used only British gear while in training so as to maintain secrecy and low-visibility.

The basic organization of the Combat Tracker Teams consisted of two to four sections of five-men. The section was composed of a team leader, a visual tracker, a cover man, a radio operator, and a dog handler with a well-trained Labrador retriever. Not typical for combat operations the Labs were highly-effective in Vietnam. They were effective trackers, quiet in the field, and, most importantly, due to their even-temperament could more easily change handlers – a prized-quality for an army rotating men out of country, but often heart-breaking for their handlers.

Australian soldiers helped Americans train for combat tracking tactics in Vietnam. (Photo Bryan Campbell via Flickr)

The teams were in for intense training once they arrived in Malaya. For the dog handlers training was three months long, for everyone else it was two months. The cadre consisted of British and New Zealand SAS as well as Gurkhas, who usually played the enemy to add to the realism. Wash out rates were high.

The initial address to the trainees was often quite shocking to them. They were told the problem with the American army was that it was more focused on rank than knowledge. And that by the time they were done, they would feel more at home in the jungle than the North Vietnamese themselves.

After surviving the grueling training, the first teams returned to Vietnam in 1967 to be assigned to combat units. The team assigned to the 101st Airborne Division was told they must go through the division’s finishing school before they would be allowed in the field. Part-way through the first day it became obvious to the cadre that the trackers knew more than they could possibly teach them and they were passed through the course on the spot.

According to their group’s website, once in country, the Combat Tracker Teams were to “reestablish contact with the ‘elusive enemy’; reconnaissance of an area for possible enemy activities; and locate lost or missing friendly personnel.”

Americans in Vietnam adopted a tactic used by the British for decades during their insurgent wars throughout the empire. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Once the troops hit the ground, they knew why their trainers had pushed them so hard – keeping up with a dog in the jungle while staying absolutely silent, as well as being alert and constantly ready for action is very hard work.

But that work paid off for the Americans. It was common to hear from the grunts about how the enemy could just “melt back into the jungle.” And that was where the trackers came in. Pushing out well ahead of the line infantry units no detail was too small for either the visual tracker or the working dog to pick up.

John Dupla, a combat tracker with the 1st Cavalry Division, said “we were taught to develop a sixth sense, utilizing methods Native American scouts used, such as looking for broken twigs and turned over leaves and rocks.”

Depending on the conditions and situation either the visual tracker or the dog handler and his lab would lead the team. Always right behind him was the cover man. Since the point person’s attention was focused on searching for trails and clues the cover man became his lookout, providing protection.

Although the unit’s mission was often not to directly engage the enemy, sometimes it was unavoidable. As one combat tracker related “if you got into something, you shot your way out.” Ideally, the trackers would locate the enemy and call the infantry behind them into the fight.

However, as the Viet Cong became aware of the effectiveness of the trackers they sought ways to counter them. Retreating groups would often send a contingent off in a different direction to draw the trackers away from the main force and into an ambush. One Combat Tracker Team lost their visual tracker and cover man to enemy snipers in this manner.

In a further effort to disrupt the trackers, and a sure sign of their effectiveness, the North Vietnamese put out bounties on their heads. The fear they struck in the enemy gave the trackers great pride.

Despite their effectiveness many American commanders simply did not understand how to properly employ the trackers. Their small size and the secrecy of their training meant few in the infantry understood how they operated. They were sometimes thought of as scouts and to simply walk point for a larger formation.

The program was disbanded in 1971 as American drew down forces in Vietnam. The trackers were broken up and folded into their parent infantry units. Veiled in secrecy and lacking the notoriety of Special Forces the legacy of the Combat Tracker Teams quietly faded away.

There is no doubt though that the Combat Tracker Teams were effective, saved lives, and made life much harder for the enemy.

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This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

A mass murderer allegedly learned to kill from an Army vet-turned hitman

The story of Robert Prongay gets more confusing the more anyone retells it, but it all begins with prolific serial killer and alleged mafia hitman, Richard Kuklinski. Known as “The Iceman” for masking his victims’ times of death by freezing their corpses, Kuklinski claimed to have killed more than 100 people for the five families of the New York City mafia — and he claimed to have learned his skills from a Special Forces veteran.


Kuklinski was only ever convicted of five murders, but it was enough to put him away for the rest of his days. These victims were small-time drug and porn dealers in the mid-1980s. In one of those murders, he used a hamburger laced with cyanide, a murder technique he picked up from a man he described as a Special Force veteran-turned-ice cream man, Robert Prongay.

He taught me a lot,” Kuklinski once said. “But he was extremely crazy… he’d go into these neighborhoods and sell ice cream to the kids, then maybe kill one of their fathers.

Prongay was played by Chris Evans in the 2013 movie about Kuklinski, ‘The Iceman.’

Kuklinski was known as “The Iceman” to law enforcement and Prongay was called “Mister Softee.” According to Kuklinski, the two men met at a New Jersey motel while stalking the same mark. They summed each other up and realized they were both contract killers. Prongay told Kuklinski he was an Army Special Forces veteran, trained in using explosives and poisons.

In Kuklinski’s words, Prongay used his ice cream truck as a surveillance van to follow around his potential victims, whom he would kill using aerosol cyanide and remotely-detonated grenades. It was from Prongay that Kuklinski said he learned to freeze bodies to mask time of death.

A man who is allegedly Robert Prongay serving ice cream from his Mister Softee truck.

(HBO)

Not much is really known about the real Prongay. Kuklinski claimed to have a very firm moral code when it came to killing. He could kill anyone without feeling anything at all, but he wouldn’t kill innocent women and children. The Iceman claimed that Mister Softee asked Kuklinski to kill his wife and young son for him, which Kuklinski declined. When Prongay began to talk about poisoning an entire reservoir just to kill one family, Kuklinski shot him.

The only verification that Prongay existed and may have known Kuklinski is that an ice-cream man by the name of Robert Prongay was killed in his ice cream truck, shot twice in the chest. On Aug. 9, 1984, his body was found hanging out the side of his ice cream truck. The real Prongay, it turns out, was facing trial in New Jersey for bombing the front house ex-wife and making terrorist threats against his ex-wife and son.

Before murdering Prongay, the Iceman and Mister Softee teamed up on a few occasions. An HBO Documentary in 2001 found old film reels of Prongay and called him an “Army demolitions expert,” a claim verified by Paul Smith of the New Jersey Organize Crime Bureau.

It is our opinion,” Smith told HBO, “that friendship led to Richard Kuklinski learning a lot about killing with different types of chemicals, including cyanide.”

In reality, Kuklinski made a lot of claims about himself and his famous hits. He was convicted of killing the members of a small-time burglary gang he led in New Jersey, along with one of his cyanide suppliers. The claims of the people he worked for and murdered makes his resume sound like one of the most prolific hitmen in the history of the American mafia. If you believe Kuklinski, he was recruited by Gambino capo Roy DeMeo, who gave Kuklinski his death orders.

Kuklinski claimed the murder of NYPD detective Peter Calabro, a murder in which Gambino underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was also charged. The Iceman also claimed the death of Roy DeMeo and claimed to be involved in John Gotti’s famous hit on Gambino boss Paul Castellano. The only mafia hit law enforcement really related to Kuklinski was that of Calabro.

Kuklinski claimed to have killed some 100-250 people between 1948 and 1986 but his claims varied wildly in later years, as some of them were unverifiable and others were found to be complete fabrications (he claimed to have killed famous disappearing act Jimmy Hoffa, for example). Renowned mafia writers and historians claim to never have heard of Kuklinski.

If Kuklinski’s claims are true, he would be the most prolific serial killer in American history.

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Massive Marine wargame helps prepare troops for high-tech enemy

A force of 55,000 Marines and sailors, fighting with a Canadian army brigade, went ashore to bolster a U.S. ally threatened by an invading neighbor and criminal unrest.


And when the dust settled, the Marine Corps-led forces won, succeeding in helping unseat the well-equipped invaders and restoring a semblance of peace and security for its ally.

But it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park — and that was by design.

During Large-Scale Exercise 2016 that wrapped up Aug. 22, more than 3,000 troops across three southern California bases and a larger “virtual” force faced off against a conventional enemy whose military, cyber and communications capabilities matched or were better than those of the U.S. and its allies.

A Marine with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment relays commands during Integrated Training Exercise at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps)

The exercise, the largest MEF-level command battle drill since 2001, involved Marines and sailors with Camp Pendleton, California-based I Marine Expeditionary Force and a contingent of Canadian soldiers at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. It marks a shift from the heavy metal conventional threat of the Cold War era to the 21st century hybrid warfare, where military troops face formidable cyber and electronic warfare threats from highly-capable enemies and state actors across the warfare spectrum.

“For years, we have been able to physically outmatch our opponents on the battlefield. As we look forward, we see potential adversaries out there that we will not be able to physically outmatch,” Col. Doug Glasgow, director of I MEF’s information operations cell, said in an Aug. 21 interview at a tent complex at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station that served as the MEF’s command post.

“We have to think harder about how we are going to conduct the maneuver warfare that our doctrinal publication told us we would have to do against these potential adversaries that match the strength and the technology and that have been watching us for years,” he said.

That doctrinal pub, Warfighting, dubbed “MCDP 1,” includes a section addressing the mental and moral effects of warfare.

“The true thing I think we’re after is to potentially reduce the amount of resources — whether that’s time, blood or money — involved in defeating the enemy and in getting after the enemy commander’s will and want to fight,” Glasgow said. “Rather than brute force applications where you hit the enemy head on, we want to present the enemy with dilemmas.”

Such large scale exercises train MEF commanders and staff to plan and deploy units to operate and fight as a Marine air-ground task force, likely with coalition forces. Each MEF does the senior-level command exercise about every two years. I MEF, the Corps’ largest operational command, hadn’t trained to fight a conventional war against a peer-type opponent since 2001, even though it’s directed to prepare for the full range of military operations, with the focus on the highest end of major combat operations.

The exercise also evaluates how I MEF commands and operates with its subordinate command headquarters, including the 23,000-member 1st Marine Division.

The exercise, coordinated and overseen by the MAGTF Staff Training Program at Quantico, Virginia, put I MEF through the ringer and incorporated forces and threats including a sizable cyber component, both offensive and defensive.

Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force and sailors with 553 Cyber Protection Team, monitor network activity during I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug 22, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps)

“It was a struggle for dominance in the network, which our guys were successfully able to prosecute against a pretty effective, well-trained ‘red team,’ ” said Col. Matthew L. Jones, I MEF chief of staff.

Near the end, the MEF purposefully shifted into a scenario of lost comms and data, forcing Marines to use voice and single-channel radios entirely, “which is actually the first time we’ve done this in a MEFEX in the last three years,” Jones said. “They’ll just have to find different ways to pass their information.”

Surprise, confusion and disruption are key warfighting tools. In a high-tech battlefield, that could involve killing or interfering with communication, computer networks and satellites so the enemy can’t talk with superiors or coordinate subordinates.

Deception remains a tactic, too, using modern technologies that could even include social media. Officials don’t want to talk specifics; a good portion of what they’re doing remains under wraps.

“We want to leave him in a state where to continue the war is not to his best [interest],” Glasgow said. “We are trying to get to his will quicker than just trying to destroy all of his formations where he’s got nothing left in formations to fight.”

But that won’t mean heavy tanks, mortars and missiles will be shelved.

“We will continue to be very kinetic, and the Marine Corps will continue to be very lethal,” he added.

Glasgow heads the G-39, a newly-formed experimental cell under the MEF’s operations office that one officer described as “sort of like IO on steroids.” Information ops used to be an arm of the MEF’s fires-and-effects coordination center working lethal and non-lethal fires, but it wasn’t always fully staffed, Glasgow said. The prior MEF commander, Lt. Gen. David Berger, who’s slated to lead Marine Corps Forces Pacific in Hawaii, established the new cell — the first in the Marine Corps and in line with “J/G-39” offices at The Joint Staff and at combatant commanders.

The staff of 14 Marines are expert in areas including electronic warfare, military information support operations (formerly psychological operations) and offensive cyber ops.

“Most of those authorities are held at the national level, so we try to coordinate to have effects that will help the MAGTF,” said Glasgow. “We are not actually the executors, but we bring the expertise of what’s available and how to get that hopefully pushed down to the MEF.”

The cell also coordinates related capabilities including civil affairs, public affairs, military deception and physical security and seeks to measure the impact of the human dimension. With no longer a clear physical force advantage, in some cases, “how do we go after the will of a near-peer enemy?” Glasgow said. “So we’ve been thinking about it. We don’t have the answers. … But we’re exercising it. We are learning a lot of lessons.”

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The Most Famous Photograph Of World War II Was Taken 70 Years Ago


The most famous photograph of World War II was taken 70 years ago at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Just five days into a battle that would last a total of 35 days, Marines scaled Mount Suribachi and planted the American flag. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on Feb. 23, 1945.

Also Read: The Battle Of Iwo Jima Began 70 Years Ago — Here’s How It Looked When Marines Hit The Beach 

Via CNN:

It might be hard today to comprehend how a single image can become iconic, exposed as we are to streams of photographs and videos every day from our news and social media feeds. But Rosenthal’s image resonated with all who saw it and was swiftly reproduced on U.S. government stamps and posters, in sandstone (on Iwo Jima, by the Seabee Waldron T. Rich) and most famously in bronze, as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and is considered one of the most famous images of all time.

Rosenthal’s image was the second raising of the flag on Suribachi that day. A few hours before the famous image was captured, a Marine photographer captured the first flag raising, which saw much less fanfare. The first, and smaller flag, was taken down and replaced since a U.S. commander thought it was not large enough to be seen at a distance, reports CNN.

There were five Marines and one Navy corpsman who raised the second flag. Although the image was thought to represent triumph and American might, it was also a reminder just how deadly the battle for Iwo really was. Three of the six photographed would later lose their lives on that island.

According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.

NOW: 21 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photos That Capture The Essence Of War 

OR: This Guy Kept Fighting The War For 30 Years After Japan Surrendered 

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The Navy just established four new ratings

The Navy announced Wednesday the establishment of four new ratings for active duty Sailors, yeoman submarine (YNS), logistics specialist submarine (LSS), culinary specialist submarine (CSS) and fire controlman Aegis (FCA) in NAVADMIN 021/17.


(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan T. Erickson)

This realignment was made to improve management of ship manning and personnel inventory for both the Surface and Submarine ratings.

The new ratings will be effective:

– Sept. 2, 2017, for E-6

– Oct. 17, 2017, for E-7 through E-9

– Nov. 28, 2017, for E-1 through E-5

Sailors serving as Aegis fire controlman and yeoman, logistics specialist, culinary specialist submarine Sailors will be converted to their applicable service ratings by enlisted community managers with no action needed from the member.

The new ratings are for active duty Sailors and billets and will not be applied to the reserve component. Additionally, there will be no changes to Sea/Shore flow resulting from the new ratings.

An advancement exam will be created for each new service rating. The first E-7 exam for these ratings will be given in January 2018. For E-4, E-5 and E-6 exams for these new ratings will be given in March 2018.

More information and complete details can be found in NAVADMIN 021/17 found at www.npc.navy.mil.

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Here’s how to get in shape to be an Air Force special operator

The Air Force’s special operations candidates are encouraged to complete a tailored fitness program before they report for selection.


This 26-week guide is designed to get them physically ready for the challenges of the grueling training pipeline that features 1-3 workouts per day split into cardio, physical training, and swim workouts.

Old military favorites like pushups and planks are included along with creative stuff such as dragon flags, sliding leg curls, and handstand pushups.

Dragon flags are basically leg raises, except you keep raising your legs until all your weight is on your shoulder blades:

For the uninitiated, these are Dragon Flags. GIF: Youtube/BaristiWorkout

Sliding leg curls hit the glutes, hamstrings, and core:

GIF: Youtube/Dan Blewett

Handstand pushups are exactly what they sound like, and they work the shoulders and triceps:

GIF: Youtube/practicetroy’s channel

The challenge of the Air Force’s fitness guide is there for a reason. The training pipeline for combat controllers is over a year long and is physically tough.

GIF: Youtube/United States Air Force

Those interested in trying out the Air Force’s 26-week fitness program can download the guide as a PDF here. But be advised: It starts tough and gets tougher as it goes on.

Unlike the Marine Corps’ fitness app, the Air Force guide does not include instructions for individual exercises. Take some time to research proper form before attempting any unfamiliar exercises. (And WATM’s Max Your Body series can help.)

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That real time three ex-Navy pilots fought a Hollywood-style brawl at 19,000 feet

FedEx flight 705 was scheduled for a routine flight from Memphis, Tenn. to San Jose, Calif. on a clear April day in 1994. Its captain, David Sanders, was an experienced ex-Naxy pilot. First Officer James Tucker was an ex-Navy flight combat instructor.


FedEx Flight Engineer Auburn Calloway – also an ex-Navy pilot –  didn’t know that when he tried to hijack the plane in midair.

Calloway was flying for free with the shipment, a perk for FedEx employees, so it wasn’t strange when Calloway informed the officers he would be hitching a ride. What was strange was that the official Flight Engineer for 705, Andy Petersen, kept finding the circuit breaker for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder turned off. He kept an eye on it, pre-flight checks were cleared and the plane headed for San Jose.

A FedEx DC-10 like the one Sanders commanded that day.

At 19,000 feet, with a total of four passengers, Calloway pulled a hammer from his guitar case – it was well before the increased security introduced after 9/11 – and attacked Petersen with repeated blows to the head. Next, Calloway assaulted Tucker and readied to attack Captain Sanders.

Calloway and Sanders wrestled before Sanders took a blow to the head himself, but this gave time for the other crewmen to wake up. Calloway retreated to the back to grab a speargun and, with the new weapon in hand, ordered them to sit down.

That’s as far as the hijacking got.

Tucker pulled on the controls and pulled the DC-10 into a steep climb. The other three men were tossed out of the cockpit. Captain Sanders and Petersen were wrestling over the speargun with the uninjured Calloway. Petersen had a fractured skull, severed temporal artery, and profuse bleeding. Sanders was a little better off, but not by much. They wouldn’t last long.

The First Officer and ex-Naxy flight combat instructor took control of the fight by taking control of the helm. He took the plane on its side, then upside down. As Calloway hit Captain Sanders in the head again, Tucker took the plane into a steep dive. But Tucker’s own fractured skull was starting to cause motor problems in his body. He began to lose movement and sensation as the plane plummeted to Earth.

Back in the galley, Calloway hit the Captain in the head one last time, but the Captain had enough. He caught the hammer, forced it from the attacker’s hands and beat him with his own hammer until Calloway stopped moving. They informed the Memphis air traffic control of the situation, requested an ambulance and a SWAT team and headed back to Tennessee.

Auburn Calloway’s FedEx ID Badge.

As the crew flew with the autopilot on, Tucker kept the speargun on Calloway. But the moment Tucker’s injuries caused the speargun to dip from his hands, Calloway attacked again.

They tried to pin him down, but their injuries restricted their movements. Once Sanders was able to help his fellow crew mates, Tucker beat Calloway with the hammer again.

By the time the captain got back to the cockpit, alarms were blaring. The fully-loaded and fully-fueled plane would not have enough room to stop on the runway provided. Even worse, Calloway was waking up again, so there was no time to do another pass. At the last second, Sanders hit another runway that had more room.

Just 300 feet off the ground, Calloway was struggling for the hammer one more time. The plane landed hard, barely stopping with just 900 feet of runway left. Petersen and Tucker were in critical condition. Luckily all three men survived. Though they received medals for their heroism, they were medically unfit to fly from then on.

Captain Sanders walking off an ambulance after landing FedEx flight 705.

It turns out Calloway was a martial arts expert and originally planned to be the official flight engineer. He would have only had to kill two people.

The assailant’s life had taken a turn in the past four years. He lost his wife and children and was on the verge of losing his job for forging flight documents. So after transferring large amounts of cash and securities to his wife, he planned to disable the cockpit recorder then crash a plane so his kids would get his life insurance settlement, ensuring they could go to school.

Instead, he got two life sentences without parole.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 1980 Olympics are the ‘cleanest’ in history. Athletes recall how Moscow cheated the system.

When Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, games were being played not only in Soviet arenas but at the headquarters of the KGB.

The Kremlin was determined to host an untarnished event after the United States and 65 other countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the secret police were heavily involved in the effort.

On the surface, they succeeded.


The Soviets performed like champions in Moscow, winning 195 medals, including 80 golds, enough to top the medal count. And the 1980 games stand alone today as the cleanest on record — the first and only since the testing of Olympic athletes began in 1968 to not disqualify a single athlete for using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

But Soviet athletes and former members of the KGB allege that the Soviet authorities were using dirty tricks to boost performances while maintaining the appearance of a clean competition.

In a scheme that bears some resemblance to the state-sponsored doping program that Russia employed to boost its performance when it hosted the scandal-plagued Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, the Soviet authorities allegedly oversaw a broad effort to tamper with athletes’ drug tests.

In 1977, the KGB’s Fifth Directorate, which handled domestic security issues, created the Eleventh Department. Officially, the new entity’s task was “to disrupt subversive actions by the enemy and hostile elements during the preparation and holding of the Olympics.”

In reality, the employees of the Eleventh Department also worked in the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, which was accredited for the Olympics just two weeks before the games kicked off on July 19, 1980.

‘We Don’t Need Accidents’

Konstantin Volkov, who won a silver medal in the pole vault for the Soviet Union at the 1980 games, told Current Time that when it came time to hand in his urine sample for testing, an employee at the Moscow lab informed him that “we throw all this out” and handed him a different container already filled with urine.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything [in my urine]. I’m not scared,'” according to the 60-year-old Volkov. But the former pole vaulter said the lab employee insisted that “we don’t need accidents, so go turn this one in.”

When asked if other athletes, including from the 70 other countries competing in the games, were doing the same, the lab employee confirmed that they were.

“Yes, everyone is the same; no exceptions,” Volkov recalled the lab employee saying. “No one will have anything [in their samples].”

Retired KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Popov told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that two of his former colleagues were accredited to work in the Anti-Doping Laboratory during the 1980 Olympics.

“They filled the containers [of urine] that were purportedly to be from the athletes,” said Popov, who handled sports journalists at the time. “Naturally, they didn’t have any positive doping tests, and that’s how the samples were clean.”

In the event that an athlete like Volkov actually provided samples, they were “simply replaced with obviously clean ones,” Popov added.

Efforts to uncover doping among Olympians first began at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. By 1975, the International Olympic Committee had banned anabolic steroids, which were often used by Soviet athletes. The next year, at the Montreal games, 12 athletes were disqualified for using steroids.

Yet despite the expanded effort to catch drug cheats, not a single athlete was caught doping in Moscow four years later — a result that contrasts sharply with a 1989 report by the Australian parliament that alleged “there is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winner…who is not on one sort of drug or another: usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might well have been called the Chemists’ Games.”

The Kremlin was under extraordinary pressure to ensure that no scandals tainted the Moscow games, the first Olympics hosted by a communist country, and on which the Soviet Union had spent an estimated id=”listicle-2646453422″.3 billion.

With the “whole world” watching, state-run Moskva 24 TV recollected recently, the Soviet government was looking to “eliminate all elements of chance.”

Soviet citizens, meanwhile, were essentially told to consider the games a view into their own future. And in the sphere of sports doping, they were.

First Moscow, Then Sochi

Thirty-four years later, the Kremlin was once again playing host to the Olympics, this time in winter, in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The 2014 Winter Olympics, won by Team Russia, was held up at the time as a symbol of Russia’s return as a sporting powerhouse and arrival as a tourism destination.

But those victories were soon tainted by allegations that Russia’s security services had been swapping out Russian athletes’ urine samples to avoid the detection of performance-enhancing substances.

“The Winter Olympics in Sochi debuted the ultimate fail-safe mechanism in the Russian’s sample-swapping progression,” concluded a 2016 independent investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). “A protected Winter Olympics competitor likely to medal did not have to worry about his or her doping activities. They could dope up to, and possibly throughout, the games as they could count on their dirty sample being swapped at the Sochi Laboratory.”

Russian officials have never accepted the conclusions of what is commonly called the McLaren Report, and have engaged in a drawn out battle with WADA that continues to this day.

While Russia escaped a ban from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the fallout from the scandal resulted in the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee in 2017, preventing Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Tens of Russian athletes were banned from international competition, and 13 medals won in Sochi were stripped from Team Russia.

Most recently, the failure by Russian authorities to cooperate fully with WADA’s investigation into the Moscow lab and the country’s state-sponsored doping program led the international anti-doping watchdog in 2019 to impose a four-year ban on Russia participating in or hosting any major international sports competitions, including the Olympics.

Popov told Current Time that the tampering in Sochi was “a remake, let’s say, of what there was in the ’80s…. The experience gained in those years was employed at the Sochi Olympics.”

He added that in 1980 the U.S.S.R.’s State Sports Committee had a “special program” that provided steroids to athletes who, in their coaches’ opinions, had the best chances of winning.

In 1980, then-20-year-old Volkov was seen as a potential gold medalist in Moscow, having won the European Championships just months before.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics, he told Current Time, representatives of the doping program suggested that he use anabolic steroids.

“They had me come in with my coach, my father,” Volkov recalled. He said he was told that he needed to go through “a special drugs program to win a gold medal.”

“But we refused because, first of all, we didn’t know how this works with pole vaulting” or how it would impact a pole vaulter’s technique, Volkov continued. “They said, ‘OK, it’s on you. If there’ll be a failure, then you’ll answer for your actions.'”

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

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This is America’s new $13 billion warship

The US Navy is less than a year away from adding the most expensive warship in history to its fleet, the $13 billion USS Gerald Ford.


The USS Ford, the lead ship of the new Ford-class aircraft carrier series, is expected to join the US Navy by February 2016, according to CNN. Once deployed, the ship will be the largest carrier ever to ply the seas and will feature a number of changes and advancements over the United States’ current Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Here’s a look at this multi billion-dollar beast:

The USS Gerald Ford is expected to cost upwards of $13 billion by the time it is deployed.

Photo: Youtube.com

The USS Gerald R. Ford.

The Ford, and the accompanying Ford-class carrier fleet, are intended to relieve stress and over-deployment within the US Navy. Currently, the Navy operates 10 carriers but wants an additional vessel to take pressure off of the rest of the fleet.

Photo: US Navy Chris Oxley

The ship will feature a host of changes over the current Nimitz-class carrier. Ford-class carriers will be capable of generating three times more electrical power than the older carrier classes, for example.

Photo: US Navy 3D model

A 3D model of the USS John F. Kennedy, the second ship the Ford-class carrier series.

This increased electrical power supply allows the Ford to use the newly designed Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will allow the vessel to launch 25% more aircraft a day than the previous steam-powered launch systems.

A successful test of the EMALS launch system.

The amount of electricity onboard also makes the Ford-class carriers ideal candidates to field laser and directed-energy weapons in the future, like rail guns and missile interceptors.

Photo: US Navy

A demonstration of a rail gun.

Once launched, the Ford will be the largest warship in the world. It will be 1,092 feet long and displace upwards of 100,000 tons.

Photo: US Navy John Whalen

Shipbuilding floods Dry Dock 12 to float the first in class aircraft carrier, Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford

This size will allow the carrier to house about 4,400 staff and personnel while also carrying more than 75 aircraft.

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aidan P. Campbell

The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) gets underway beginning the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier 3 for the final stages of construction and testing.

The Ford is expected to carry F-35s and, once available, carrier-based drone aircraft.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelly M. Agee

A U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II conducts it’s first arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Pacific Ocean November 3, 2014. The F-35C was conducting initial at-sea developmental testing.

But for all the advances within the Ford-class carrier group, some have questioned the wisdom of continuing an astronomically expensive carrier-heavy naval strategy in a time when inter-state warfare is rare and nations like China continue to develop potentially carrier-killing long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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


AIR FORCE

Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade join Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron to execute a parachute jump as a part of exercise Emerald Warrior at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M.

Photo: Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi

A U.S. Air Force combat controller jumps out of an MC-130J Combat Shadow II during Emerald Warrior 2015 at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/USAF

NAVY

USS Freedom (LCS 1) pulls alongside USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment at sea training exercise.

Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio D. Perez/USN

Air department Sailors stretch out the emergency crash barricade on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a general quarters drill.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class E. T. Miller/USN

ARMY

Security Forces Squadron members of the 106th Rescue Wing conduct night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015. During this training, the airmen learned small-group tactics, how to use their night-vision gear, and trained with visible and infrared designators.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy/US Army

Army combat divers, assigned to The National Guard‘s 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), maneuver their Zodiac inflatable boat through the surf at Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Adam Fischman/US Army

MARINE CORPS

KIN BLUE, Okinawa, Japan – Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force scout swimmers emerge out of the ocean and run to the beach during the Japanese Observer Exchange Program.

Photo: Cpl. Ryan C. Mains/USMC

A Marine surveys land from a UH-1Y Huey as part of a reconnaissance mission in Nepal, May 4, 2015. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, Marine Air Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific provided the UH-1Y Huey to support the Nepalese government in relief efforts.

Photo: Lance Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/USMC

Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division brace themselves against rotor wash from a CH-53E Super Stallion during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 2-15 at Del Valle Park, The Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.

Photo: Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves/USMC

COAST GUARD

A beautiful start to another weekend of Service to Nation for Coast Guard crews!

Photo: USCG

U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes crews partner withRoyal Canadian Mounted Police to ensure safety and security on the Great Lakes through the ‘Shiprider’ program.

Photo: USCG

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US Navy leaders applaud ‘peaceful’ encounters with China at sea

The Navy’s top officer strongly advocated robust “engagement” with China to reduce the growing tensions generated by Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, while minimizing the effectiveness of the Asian giant’s highly touted anti-access, area-denial defense capabilities against U.S. naval forces.


During a Sept. 12 appearance at the Center for a New American Security n Washington, D.C., the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson also favorably compared the conduct of People’s Liberation Army – Navy ships during at-sea encounters to the threatening actions by fast-attack craft operated by Iran’s militant Revolutionary Guard in the congested Persian Gulf. And he said US commanders have the freedom to respond to those acts.

A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

In a classic understatement, Richardson described U.S. relations with China as “complicated,” and said “we have to structure our relations with our counterparts, the Peoples Liberation Army – Navy along those lines. First and foremost, we’ve got to continue to engage. I’m an advocate for engagement, thoughtful engagement.”

Noting that “there are areas where we have common interests,” he suggested aligning US efforts to support those common interests.

He suggested that one of those “common interest” was freedom of navigation that would allow all nations to use the maritime domain for commercial reasons, despite the fact that China’s aggressive claims to virtually all of the South China Sea and parts of the East China Sea far from its territorial limits would deny others access to those vital waterways.

Richardson acknowledged that during his recent visit with the head of the Chinese navy, he was “very honest and very frank in terms of those things that would be helpful in moving the relationship forward in mutually beneficial ways and those behaviors that would be completely not helpful in terms of moving that relationship down the road.” That was an effort, he said, toward “minimizing the uncertainty, the miscalculations, by asserting in advance these things that would be very good, those that would be troublesome.”

But the Navy chief insisted that any regional arrangement for security in the Asia-Pacific region had to include China.

Asked about the A2AD capabilities China is developing to keep U.S. forces out of its claim zone of control, Richardson said that was “sort of an aspiration rather than any kind of strategy.”

While acknowledging the technological advances that allow detection and precision targeting at greater distances, “there is a whole sequence of events that have to happen in perfect symphony to execute that mission. There are many ways to deconstruct that chain of events,” he said.

In response to a question about what authority US commanders had to respond to the rash of threatening actions by the Iranian small craft, Richardson said, “there’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond.”

He noted that in those “super dynamic situations,” the commanders must make decisions “in very short periods of time. We try to make sure our commanders have the situational awareness and the capabilities and the rules of engagement that they remain in command of the situation.”

He called that a “a great demonstration of something I advocate for, the need to continue to develop a sort of decentralized approach toward operations. These sort of things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond.”

“They have to know what their commanders expect, have to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of opportunities, but also so they can respond to these very quick acting opportunities.”

“Is our Navy prepared to respond? The answer is yes in every respect,” he said.

Richardson said the actions by the Iranian Guard vessels were unlike the meetings with Chinese warships, which under an agreement on encounters at sea, “the vast majority of encounters with the Chinese have been peaceful.”

And, he added, it would be useful to have a similar agreement with Russia to prevent the recent close encounters with Russian ships and aircraft in the Black Sea.

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This secret World War II raid kept the Germans from getting nukes

Just before midnight on Feb. 27, 1943, a team of 10 Norwegian commandos crouched in the snow on a mountain plateau and stared at a seemingly unassailable target. It was a power plant and factory being used by the Nazis to create heavy water, a key component for Germany’s plans of developing nuclear reactors and a nuclear bomb.


Photo: Wikipedia

The Norsk Hydro plant was surrounded by a ravine 656 feet deep with only one heavily-guarded bridge crossing it. Just past the ravine were two fences and the whole area was expected to be mined. On the factory grounds, German soldiers lived in barracks and walked patrols at all hours.

As a bonus, the whole area was covered by a thick layer of snow and the men were facing two causes of exhaustion. Six of the men were worn out from five days of marching through snow storms after they were dropped 18 miles from their planned drop zone. The other four men were survivors of an earlier, failed mission against the plant. They had survived for months in the mountains on only lichen and a single reindeer.

Still, to keep the Germans from developing the atom bomb, they attacked the plant on Feb. 28. The radio operator stayed on the plateau while the other nine climbed down the ravine, crossed an icy river, and climbed the far side soaking wet.

Once at the fence, a covering party of four men kept watch as the five members of the demolition party breached the first and then second fence lines with bolt cutters. The men — wearing British Army uniforms and carrying Tommy guns and chloroform-soaked rags — arrived at the target building.

Unfortunately, a door that was supposed to be left open by an inside man was closed. The team would later learn that the man had been too sick to go to work that day. Plan B was finding a narrow cable shaft and shimmying through it with bags of explosives. The covering party provided security while the demolition team split into two pairs, each searching for the entrance.

Lt. Joachim Ronneberg and Sgt. Frederik Kayser were the first to find the shaft. When they couldn’t immediately find the other pair in the darkness, they proceeded down the shaft alone and pushed their explosives ahead of them.

A historical display showing the Norwegian saboteurs planting explosives on the water cylinders. The mannequin in the back represents the night watchman. (Photo: Wikipedia/Hallvard Straume)

They dropped into the basement of the factory and rushed the night watchman. Kayser covered the man with his gun and Ronneberg placed the explosives on the cylinders that held the heavy water produced in the plant.

Suddenly, a window shattered inward. Kayser swung his weapon to cover the opening but was pleased to find it was only the other demolition pair, Lt. Kasper Idland and Sgt. Birger Stromsheim. They had been unable to find the shaft and were unaware that the others were inside. To ensure the mission succeeded, they had risked the noise of the breaking window to get at the cylinders.

Idland pulled watch outside while Ronneberg and Stromsheim rushed to finish placing the explosives. Worried that German guards may have heard the noise, they cut the two-minute fuses down to thirty seconds.

Just before they lit the fuses, the saboteurs were interrupted by the night watchman. He asked for his glasses, saying that they would be very challenging to replace due to wartime rationing. The commandos searched the desk, found the spectacles, and handed them to the man. As Ronneberg again went to light the fuses, footsteps approached from the hall.

Luckily, it wasn’t a guard. Another Norwegian civilian walked in but then nearly fell out of the room when he saw the commandos in their British Army fatigues.

Kayser covered the two civilians with his weapon and Ronneberg finally lit the 30-second fuses. Kayser released the men after 10 seconds and the commandos rushed out behind them. Soon after they cleared the cellar door, the explosives detonated.

Jens Poulsson, a saboteur on the mission, later said, “It sounded like two or three cars crashing in Piccadilly Circus,” according to a PBS article.

Cylinders similar to the ones destroyed at Norsk Hydro. Photo: flickr/martin_vmorris

The cylinders were successfully destroyed, emptying months worth of heavy water production onto the floors and down drains where it would be irrecoverable.

The teams tried to escape the factory but a German guard approached them while investigating the noise. He was moving slowly in the direction of a Norwegian’s hiding spot, his flashlight missing one of the escaping men by only a few inches. Luckily, a heavy wind covered the noise of the Norwegian’s breathing and dispersed the clouds of his breath. The guard turned back to his hut without catching sight of anyone.

The team left the plant and began a treacherous, 250-mile escape on skis into Sweden, slipping through Nazi search parties the entire way.

Germany did repair the facility within a few months and resumed heavy water production. After increased attacks from Allied bombers, the Germans attempted to move this new heavy water back to Germany but a team of Norwegian saboteurs successfully sunk the ferry it was transported in. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both the factory and the ferry sabotage missions.

Hydro-Norsk-norwegian-heavy-water-production-facility-raid The SF Hydro, a ferry that was destroyed by saboteurs when the Nazis attempted to move heavy water with it. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Germany’s shortage of good nuclear material during the war slowed its research efforts to a crawl. This shortage and the German’s prioritization of nuclear reactors over nuclear bombs resulted in Nazi Germany never developing atomic weapons.

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