This is what it's like to feel zero G aboard NASA's 'Vomit Comet' - We Are The Mighty
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This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’


Way back in the early ’90s, when I was a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as the editor of Approach magazine (Naval Aviation’s Safety review), I was invited by NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd to come down to Houston for a hands-on tour. Along with suiting up in full astronaut gear and flying the shuttle simulator in all regimes of flight, I had the opportunity to ride in NASA’s “reduced gravity aircraft,” better known as the “vomit comet” (because of its tendency to cause passengers to throw up during the zero-G missions).

In those days NASA used a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers as the Vomit Comets, which were big ol’ beasts relative to the contract Airbus 300s and 727s they used later. We launched out of Ellington Field at headed over the Gulf of Mexico. There were about a dozen passengers in the compartment with me, mostly engineers who were testing exercise equipment for future use on the space station.

There was a crew chief who was charged with making sure nobody got hurt, and he explained during his safety brief that the main way to avoid injury was to make sure you had a hand on the padded floor during the transition from zero-G back to 1-G.  He said that passengers had sprained ankles and wrists or twisted neck muscles by getting disoriented while weightless and hitting the deck in an awkward fashion once G came back on the airplane.

The pilot announced “starting the pull,” which meant he was commencing a 1.8 G pull until the aircraft’s nose was pointed 45 degrees up. At that point he pushed the nose forward until the aircraft was right at zero G and held it there until the aircraft was pointed 45 degrees nose down, which resulted in about 30 seconds of weightlessness. At that point he’s start another 1.8 G pull back to 45 degrees nose up into another zero G pushover . . . over and over again.  Each cycle was known as a “parabola,” and a mission consisted of 40 of them – 20 headed eastbound and 20 headed back to the base, westbound.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

My host Navy Captain Bill Shepherd, a SEAL by warfare specialty who later broke the record for days on the International Space Station, had done the Vomit Comet missions many times. He’d admitted before the mission that he’d become airsick every time and predicted he’d do so on that day’s mission as well.

I was a Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer with more than 1,000 tactical jet hours under my belt at the time, so high-G flight was nothing new to me.  In fact, the parabola profile seemed pretty mild compared to the way a fighter maneuvered during a dogfight. But the engineers weren’t as experienced, and Capt. Shepherd instructed me to watch them as the flight went along.

“Everybody will do the first 10 parabolas very giddy,” he said.  “They’ll flip around and laugh and high five each other.”

The next ten parabolas would have fewer spins and less laughter, he predicted.  The 10 after that would consist of people fighting the urge to throw up. And the last 10 would be a bunch of miserable people wishing the flight would end as they floated for 30 seconds at a time after getting sick.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

And that’s pretty much what happened. At some point in the flight everybody’s joy wore off as their inner ears said “WTF?” with all the gyrating and weird sensations. Along with Capt. Shepherd the majority of those in the compartment got airsick, and about three-quarters of the way through the mission all of the engineers were so incapacitated that they were unable to test the fitness equipment.  According to former Reduced Gravity Research Program director John Yaniec, anxiety contributes most to passengers’ airsickness. The stress on their bodies creates a sense of panic and therefor causes the passenger to vomit.

The crew chief noticed that I seemed to be doing okay, so he asked if I would jump in and try out the reclined bicycle and the stepper. I did, and we were able to flag that the stepper had a tendency to stick on the down-stroke during zero G.

I’d experience zero G many times before that, but never for 30 seconds at a time. The sensation of being weightless for that long was very cool, relaxing even. Although those suffering airsickness among us certainly didn’t feel the same way, before I knew it we’d done 40 parabolas and we were back on deck at Ellington Field.

My flight on the Vomit Comet was among the most memorable experiences of my 20-year Navy career, and I’m glad I got to do it before the “reduced gravity” program was cancelled in 2014, another casualty of NASA’s dwindling budget.

Now: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator

And: 10 Things That Will Remind You About NASA’s Amazing Legacy

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This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

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This Somali war criminal has been guarding Dulles Airport for the last 20 years

As if you needed another reason to avoid what is widely considered the DC-area’s worst option in terms of airports, a CNN investigation revealed that one of Dulles International Airport’s security guards is a Somali man wanted for war crimes.


Yusuf Abdi Ali has lived in the area of Alexandria, Virginia for the past 20 years. He has been employed by the airport, one of an estimated 1,000 war criminals living and working in the United States.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
CNN video still of Ali on duty at Dulles

Everyone employed by Master Security, Dulles’ security contractor, undergoes “the full, federally mandated vetting process in order to be approved for an airport badge,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told ABC News. The process includes a background check by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. Master Security employees working at Dulles must also be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state in which Dulles is located.

“We have verified that all of these processes were followed and approved in this instance,” MWAA said in a statement.

Ali is the subject of a lawsuit from The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of his alleged victims. He is accused of torturing people, burning villages, and conducting mass executions during The Somali Civil War from 1986 – 1991. Ali denies all accusations listed in the CJA lawsuit.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Yusuf Abdi Ali in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about his a

Ali was a military commander under the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. He fled Somalia after the fall of the regime, eventually ending up in the United States in 1996.

The suit was dismissed by a circuit court which found the case lacked jurisdictional authority. A higher ruling allowed the suit to proceed and it is now waiting for review by the Supreme Court to determine if foreigners living in the U.S. can be held accountable for crimes committed abroad.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Ali in uniform under the Barre regime.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials estimate at least 360 arrests of human rights violators in the U.S. in the past 12 years. ICE has also deported more than 780 such cases. According to CNN, they currently have 125 active investigations. Ali’s airport credentials have been revoked and he is on administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.

 

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This is how the 1/9 Marines became ‘The Walking Dead’

In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.


But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.

Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Lance Cpl. Spencer Cohen, rifleman with 1st platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, traverses a path for his team through rocky terrain during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa, March 29. (Photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.

More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.

When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.

The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.

In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.

Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.

A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.

January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.

The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.

In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.

The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.

The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.

The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.

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How the ‘Ghost Army’ tricked the enemy with theater tricks during WWII

During World War II, the Army had a unit of special forces known as the “Ghost Army.” Officially called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, the unit used theatrical and deceptive techniques to fool the enemy. It was soldiers putting on a show with special effects like speakers, inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions and more.

Made up of 1,100 soldiers, the team used these illusion methods to deceive Axis intelligence–specifically, creating false targets, and faking a much larger force than was actually present. 

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Ghost Army insignia, circa 1944 (U.S. Army)

Their ghost-like tactics

The Ghost Army’s mission was clear: to impersonate Allied Army units. They remained near the front lines of the war, hiding in plain sight, creating fake battle scenes and camps. They did this by remaining unseen until they wanted to be, and only letting Germans see what they wanted them to see. 

Their “traveling road show” was taken to France shortly after D-Day. 

Inflatable tanks, planes, Jeeps and trucks were all used, courtesy of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. Inflating the items with an air compressor, the soldiers would hide the fake vehicles — poorly — with branches and trees, so they could still be seen from far away. They also created false airfields and bivouacs — the latter had laundry drying in plain sight. Motor pools and tank formations were also formed, all of which could be done within a few hours of work. Their “show” was a well-choreographed routine. 

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
A dummy inflatable “Sherman Tank” used by the Ghost Army (U.S. Army)

It’s worth noting that soldiers in the 603rd were mostly artists and recruited from schools in the Northeast. After the war, many of its former members went on to become known for their artwork. 

In addition to visual deceptions, the Ghost Army used sound and light effects. With the help of sound engineers, they played recordings from real Army units. They would adjust the recording based on the current scene they were created, played with high-tech equipment and amplifiers. The sounds were so projected that they could be heard as far as 15 miles away. 

False radio transmissions were also played, known as “spoof radio.” By pretending to be soldiers from real units, they employed different communication styles to even further mislead the enemy. 

Finally, when the unit did receive real vehicles, they used tactics that they called atmosphere. For instance, driving a few tanks in a circle to create the appearance of a convoy. They would also place dummy Military Police, and painting various insignia on false headquarters to make the scene even more realistic. 

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
…But did the Army miss a golden opportunity to make the Germans think we had created super soldiers? (National Archives)

The unit’s inception

The Ghost Army came to be after a similar tactic was used by the British military just a few years prior. Soldiers were recruited for their talents in creativity, artistry, and theatrics. In addition to recruiting from art schools, the Army found members at ad agencies, engineering and architecture firms, and they heavily recruited actors. 

Together, the efforts of 1,100 were able to create the false presence of two units with more than 30,000 soldiers. Their efforts are credited for moving German forces away from actual Allied units in more than 20 locations.

Their mission was classified until 1996, when the records were finally unsealed. There was also a PBS documentary, The Ghost Army, released in 2013. 

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The number of counter-terrorism missions this White House has authorized will surprise you

Counter-terrorism operations outside of active war zones under President Donald Trump are outpacing the Obama administration by nearly five times, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Micah Zenko said July 31.


The US has launched at least 100 counter-terrorism operations since Trump took office. Zenko compared this number to the mere 21 operations launched under former President Barack Obama in his last six months in office. These operations include raids by US special operators, drone strikes, and other lethal actions.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
An MQ-9 Reaper, loaded with four GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs is ready for a training mission March 31, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. USAF photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen.

The majority of the operations listed in Zenko’s analysis occurred in Yemen where the US is actively battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. Trump declared Yemen an “area of active hostilities” after taking office, which allows the military to carry out counter-terrorism strikes without going through a White House-led approval process.

Zenko’s previous April analysis revealed that the US averaged approximately one counter-terrorism strike per day in the first 74 days of Trump’s presidency. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a senior US defense official said of the Trump administration in April.

Trump has also considered changing the way the US targets terrorists in drone strikes. The new rules would instead target terrorists under military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties, as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.

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This Medal of Honor citation reads like an action movie plot

Joe Hooper had two U.S. military careers. He first enlisted in the Navy in 1956 but after just shy of three years, he found himself a civilian once again. It’s not that he was bad at his job or was a bad sailor — the Navy just wasn’t the career path for him. 

Six months later, he was back in the military. This time, he chose the United States Army. It was a choice that would completely change the rest of his life. He found himself training to become a paratrooper, serving first with the 82nd Airborne and later the 101st Airborne. Within three years, Hooper was an NCO.

But all was not perfect. He faced a number of Article 15 hearings related to disciplinary issues. By 1967 he had been demoted to Corporal and promoted to Sergeant once more. His promotion came just in time to deploy to Vietnam, where he would spend the first months of 1968 – meaning he was in country for the Tet Offensive. 

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
I wonder if this is also his “about to open a can of ‘whoop-ass’ face, too? (

The Tet Offensive and the subsequent effort to recapture the ground the communists captured would take the first few months of 1968 in some places. One of those areas was the old imperial capital of Hue. It was during the Battle of Hue that Joe Hooper earned his Medal of Honor – and the insane citation reads like the plot summary of the greatest Hollywood action movie of all time:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sergeant (then Sgt.) Hooper, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as squad leader with Company D. 

“Company D was assaulting a heavily defended enemy position along a river bank when it encountered a withering hail of fire from rockets, machine guns and automatic weapons. S/Sgt. Hooper rallied several men and stormed across the river, overrunning several bunkers on the opposite shore. Thus inspired, the rest of the company moved to the attack. 

“With utter disregard for his own safety, he moved out under the intense fire again and pulled back the wounded, moving them to safety. During this act, S/Sgt. Hooper was seriously wounded, but he refused medical aid and returned to his men. With the relentless enemy fire disrupting the attack, he single-handedly stormed 3 enemy bunkers, destroying them with hand grenade and rifle fire, and shot 2 enemy soldiers who had attacked and wounded the Chaplain. 

“Leading his men forward in a sweep of the area, S/Sgt. Hooper destroyed 3 buildings housing enemy riflemen. At this point he was attacked by a North Vietnamese officer whom he fatally wounded with his bayonet. Finding his men under heavy fire from a house to the front, he proceeded alone to the building, killing its occupants with rifle fire and grenades. 

“By now his initial body wound had been compounded by grenade fragments, yet despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, he continued to lead his men against the intense enemy fire. 

“As his squad reached the final line of enemy resistance, it received devastating fire from 4 bunkers in line on its left flank. S/Sgt. Hooper gathered several hand grenades and raced down a small trench which ran the length of the bunker line, tossing grenades into each bunker as he passed by, killing all but 2 of the occupants. 

“With these positions destroyed, he concentrated on the last bunkers facing his men, destroying the first with an incendiary grenade and neutralizing 2 more by rifle fire. He then raced across an open field, still under enemy fire, to rescue a wounded man who was trapped in a trench. Upon reaching the man, he was faced by an armed enemy soldier whom he killed with a pistol. Moving his comrade to safety and returning to his men, he neutralized the final pocket of enemy resistance by fatally wounding 3 North Vietnamese officers with rifle fire. 

“S/Sgt. Hooper then established a final line and reorganized his men, not accepting treatment until this was accomplished and not consenting to evacuation until the following morning. His supreme valor, inspiring leadership and heroic self-sacrifice were directly responsible for the company’s success and provided a lasting example in personal courage for every man on the field. S/Sgt. Hooper’s actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.”

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Reenactment (not really, though) (Giphy.com)

Eat your heart out, Schwarzenegger.


Feature image: Medal of Honor Society

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The Coast Guard could have the solution for a bigger US Navy

With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.


The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf

However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
A closer look at the biggest visible difference (aside from the paint job) of the FF4923 as opposed to the Bertholf-class national security cutter: The 76mm gun and 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System. (Photo by Huntington Ingalls)

The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.

The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) at Pearl Harbor. The FF4923 patrol frigate displayed at SeaAirSpace 2017 could be a true replacement for these vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.

Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.

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These two Iraqi brothers built their own ISIS-killing robot

Although the US Marine Corps may have unveiled their futuristic Multi-Utility Tactical Transport recently, another unlikely source may have beaten them in the race to develop an automated combat-centric vehicle.


According to the Baghdad Post and Defense One, two Iraqi brothers have developed a four-wheeled vehicle with a wide assortment of features for combat.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
YouTube screenshot

Called “Alrobot,” Arabic for robot, this laptop-controlled unmanned vehicle comes equipped with four cameras and is capable of remotely firing its mounted machine gun and Katyusha rockets. Having a range of around one kilometer, reports have also stated that this robot is slated to assist the Iraqi Security Forces with their fight against ISIS militants very soon.

With the ISF and coalition forces planning on beginning their assault on Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city and one of the few remaining ISIS bastions — it might play an instrumental role in its liberation.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

 Watch the entire video of Alrobot in action below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn0ylHNCr0c
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The 8 best mobile device military games

Mobile gaming is awesome, and all the rage. Here are 8 great military ones:


1. Modern Combat 5: Blackout

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/GoCaliberGaming

Good graphics and an awesome storyline for mobile combine with player vs. player modes to make MC5: Blackout a gem. Be warned though, the game gives an even larger than normal advantage to those players who use in-app purchases to get better equipment.

Available on iOS and Android.

2. Call of Duty: Strike Team

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/Wickedshrapnel

Call of Duty: Strike Team allows the player to control a fire team of special operators as they seek out those responsible for a surprise attack on the U.S. in 2020. In both first and third-person mode, it features great graphics and gameplay, but the settings all start to look the same after a few missions.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. Battle Supremacy

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/AppSpy

Battle Supremacy focuses on tank warfare from World War II. It’s graphics are great for a mobile game and features player vs. player combat. Players can use cover and concealment and the maps are large enough to allow for some real strategy.

The player can also use planes or rocket-ships in a couple of instances.

Available on: iOS

4. Arma Tactics

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/stratjacked

A turn-based strategy game that centers around a four-man Special Forces team, Arma Tactics drops the player into modern combat. The game features a campaign mode as well as randomized levels so there’s always something new to play.

Available on iOS and Android.

5. Sky Gamblers: Cold War

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/Infinite Flight

Pitting MiGs against Harriers is always fun. Sky Gamblers: Cold War allows players to control one of 17 different planes in high-speed combat against other players or computer opponents.

Available on: iOS

A World War II version is available on iOS and Android.

6. SAS: Zombie Assault 4

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/pistol star

It’s all in the title. Drop in as a single SAS operative or join a squad of four elite soldiers battling the undead. SAS: Zombie Assault 4 is a topdown shooter that keeps it simple, gratuitously violent, and fun.

Available on iOS and Android.

7. Star Wars: Commander

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/TheGameHuntah

Build a base and marshall forces in this strategy game set in the Star Wars universe. You can choose which side to fight for and raise armies of storm troopers or Rebel soldiers along with a selection of vehicles and spaceships.

Available on iOS and Android.

8. Frontline Commando

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
screenshot via Youtube/Pure Gameplay Videos

Frontline Commando is an older game that pits the player as a sole survivor of an attack against the entire army of the dictator who killed his team. This third-person shooter has lots of weapons and power-ups to try and the storyline can keep you entertained for hours. Unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer.

Available on iOS and Android.

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7 times when heroic veterans saved the day

Between random shootings and the ever growing threat of terrorism, people are getting scared. Fortunately, an unexpected trend is showing up to counter the endless stream of bad news. Over the last year, numerous acts of violence, robberies, general mayhem, and even a few acts of terrorism have been completely shut down by an unexpected source: The presence of a U.S. military veteran or active duty servicemember.


Here are 7 times heroic vets and servicemembers saved the day in a big way:

1. Chris Mintz

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Image courtesy of Gofundme.com Chris Mintz – UCC Shooting Survivor.

Chris Mintz is the current military man of the hour. Mintz is a 10-year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.

According to a student witness Chris “ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”

While attempting to stop the shooter, Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a Gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses… because, you know, this wasn’t exactly something covered by the VA. That didn’t stop an army of supporters. That fund is currently just over $800,000 (and still active… right here… just sayin’.)

2. Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Image courtesy of mmc-news.com.

The three-man team which included two U.S. military members who stopped a European terrorist attack in the middle of their vacation deserve a head-nod. National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler, earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full-on terrorist gunman.

“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.

Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan-born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and… a box cutter. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire and pulled, of all things, the box cutter.

“He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever,” said Skarlatos.

In spite of his ineptitude, no one is faulting these military men for their assailant’s incompetence. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the two for their heroism in a statement, “Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” The men received a phone call of appreciation from President Obama, which was one-upped by French President Francois Hollande, who presented them with the country’s highest award for gallantry, the Legion d’Honneur medal.

3. Kendrick Taylor

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Image courtesy of wordondastreet.com.

In October 2014, 23-year-old John Zachary DesJardin was apparently expecting an easy payday. In the parking lot of a Winn Dixie, DesJardin attempted to rob a 76-year-old woman, according to police. I say attempted because of the beat down he suffered from Navy veteran Kendrick Taylor. Taylor was on his way to gym when he saw DesJardin assaulting the elderly woman. In spite of numerous bystanders doing nothing, Taylor charged across the lot to fight the man off.

“What if that was my grandmother? She was screaming for help. That’s when I ran over to help her,” Taylor said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando. “When I looked down I didn’t know if he had a knife or a gun. When I saw the lady was so old when he threw her down, she was so fragile…I knew she needed help.”

DesJardin took off, but Taylor ran after him, tackling him to the ground and holding him down until police arrived. Once Taylor handed off the hoodlum to police he went to the gym, since, you know, Superhero antics are the sort of thing that just happens to some people every day, but not unless you get your flex on. Later, he was able to meet with the elderly woman to see that she was shaken, but said she was blessed to have Taylor’s intervention. Taylor’s act got him so much recognition he even made the big show, with an appearance on Ellen.

4. Andrew Myers

Andrew Myers Screenshot via Youtube: Mr. Wrong House – “Burglar meets Paratrooper”

It was just an unassuming night in November 2014 when Andrew Myers noticed a man trying to enter a basement in his neighborhood. Sensing mischievousness was afoot, Myers asked the man, “Hey, what’s up?”

“I live here,” said the hooded man.

“You definitely do not live here,” Myers replied. Then the robber asked who Myers was, to which he responded,

“I do live here, buddy.”

A better question the attempted burglar might have asked was, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be a former US Army Paratrooper would you?” That would have been smart, since Myers was prepared for this encounter.

It was actually the second time the burglar had made such an attempt, evidenced by a break-in Myers and his girlfriend experienced earlier in the week when no one was home. This unwanted entrance prompted the couple to install an outside security camera and other defensive measures to the house. When the robber returned, Myers made sure that the incident was filmed. And film it he did. Myers captured not only the attempted entry, but also the culprit’s beat down and even his arrest, all of which Myers then uploaded to Youtube to the backdrop of delightful reggae tunes.  

In all honesty, the incompetent criminal got off easy. Myers and his girlfriend had joked about setting up “Home Alone” style traps all over the basement. Since most infantry types I know consider the claymore mine to be an essential element to any boobie trap setup, I’d say that just getting your face punched in by an Army paratrooper and humiliated on the internet a much more preferable alternative.

5. Eddy Peoples

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Screenshot via ABC news.

Florida Army Staff Sgt. Eddy Peoples wasn’t expecting much when he and his two sons entered a local bank while on leave in June of 2011. He certainly wasn’t expecting 34-year-old Matthew Rogers to walk into the bank with a gun and a plan to rob the place.

During the robbery, video footage shows Peoples shielding his two boys. He tells the two to get under chairs before he moved in front of the children. He wanted to provide a covering shield through both himself and the furniture in case Rogers decided to open fire. Seeing the two boys, Rogers allegedly threatened everyone in the bank that, “If anyone tries anything, the kiddy gets it.”

I’m guessing that was the wrong thing to do to the child of an 11 year soldier and veteran of the Iraq War.

“To me, it was just I need to get this guy and he needs to go to jail. That’s all it was for me. You know, you don’t point weapons at children.”

Once Peoples saw Rodgers leave the bank, and knowing that his kids were safe, the staff sergeant followed the robber. Peoples got into his car and chased him down, disarmed the assailant before putting him to the ground.

When he returned the bank, his son asked him this, “Daddy, did you get that bad man?” to which Peoples replied “Yeah, I got that bad man.”

6. Devin McClean

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Screenshot from Youtube via CBS News.

Not every story ends the way you’d like it to. In York County, Va. an Autozone was robbed for the second time in 30 days… by the same guy. Known as the “Fake Beard Bandit,” this one person was believed to be responsible for sticking up more than 30 different establishments in the city. The second time he made his way into the Autozone, he pulled his gun and demanded cash from the store’s employees.

One of those employees was Air Force veteran Devin McClean. When the bandit started to rob the store, McClean went to his vehicle, where he stored his own weapon. He went back into the store and sent the robber running. A grateful store manager thanked McClean for saving his life. In a perfect world, the story should end there… but it didn’t.

The day is saved. The bad guy chased away. The store is safe. How does Autozone say thank you to McClean? The next day, he was fired. According to McClean, upon his arrival the following morning, he was sent packing. Apparently he violated the chain’s, “Zero Gun Policy” when he brought the weapon into the establishment… you know… to save everyone… from the other guy with the gun… which he did.

Local Sheriff J.D. Diggs made the comment,

“I mean, two people with guns, no shots fired and a robbery averted is a good ending… I thought what a shame this guy has really gone above and beyond. I mean what else could you ask an employee to do for you?”

Sheriff Diggs was joined by hundreds of citizens in voicing their support for McClean, insisting that Autozone review their policy, or at the very least, make an exception for the Air Force vet. They didn’t. He’s still fired. I’m just going to be honest, my Spidey sense tells me there is more to this story, but in the meantime, to all my friends at Autozone Corporate Headquarters, this Oo-rah’s goin’ to O’Reilly’s.

7. Earl Jones

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
Earl Jones recounts shooting a would be robber. Screenshot from Military.com.

Earl Jones is not your average 92-year-old. He is a veteran of the Second World War and doesn’t like being woken up. He especially doesn’t like being woken by the sound of intruders entering his basement at 0200. Hearing the sound of footsteps, Jones grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and, by my understanding, set up an ambush on the door to the basement.

When 24-year-old Lloyd Maxwell and two other burglars allegedly kicked in the door from the basement into the house, one was greeted with a well-aimed shot to the chest by a guy who has been hard-core since most of our Dads were in diapers. Maxwell was later found dead by police with the other two assailants, who had grabbed his body and fled the scene.

“Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no,” Jones told CBS News.

When asked why he didn’t dial 911, Jones replied:

“What? I’m a military man now. I ain’t gonna dial somebody and have to wait for an hour or somethin’. The damn guys would a shoot me in the face and gone. If I hadn’t a shot him, he’d a been in here attacking more or whatever, you know. That’s seconds. That ain’t no damned hours.”

Old man, you’ve made me personally reevaluate every one of my manly achievements. I’m just going to say this… WWII veterans make all the rest of us look like pansies.

Besides being an awesome and terrifying old man, Earl Jones sums up what heroism is about. It’s seconds. It isn’t hours or even minutes. I personally support our police and am thankful for everything they do to keep us safe on a daily basis. At their best, though, it may take several minutes to respond to the scene of crime. A generation of veterans are showing that security can’t always be waited on, but sometimes revolves around individual initiative, courage, and capabilities of those who are willing to exercise extreme prejudice towards the kind of noncompliance to the public welfare that bad guys often exude.

When news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and the old-fashioned muggings, burglary, and vandalism is the new norm, it becomes more and more apparent that people who are willing and able to act in the moment are what is needed to ensure a level of safety.

Heroism isn’t about people who go out looking for trouble, or those who plan out vigilante assaults. Heroes are those who, in the time of challenging, accept a certain degree of risk to protect others and serve the general public. Sometimes, when these acts are caused by other people, heroism comes in the form of those people at the wrong place and time, but willing to put forth just enough violence to make life livable for the rest of us.

There is a moral to this post. Men like these show how all veterans and active duty military personnel remain valuable to society even when not on duty, as well as long after they hang their discharge papers on the wall. The core values of military service, along with the skills many pick up along the way, are assets we take with us far beyond the battlefield, or at the times when our service is least expected.

Despite these truths, veterans still struggle to find a place for themselves in the nation they gave up so much for. They’ve been unconsciously branded as likely psyche cases and negatively stereotyped as a risk to perhaps, oddly enough, bringing violence into the workplace. These seven stories of the unexpected heroism by military men, along with dozens of others just like them, demonstrate how we still have incredible significance to our nation as more than just old warriors, but as valued citizens and lifelong servants, as well.

Jon Davis is a Marine veteran writer and blogger focusing on military, international defense, and veterans’ welfare and empowerment. If you would like to support his writing, please visit his patreon support page to find out more.

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The Lightning will take concealed carry to a whole new level of lethal

Stealth is becoming more and more common — but just because you designed an invisible (to radar) plane doesn’t mean the job is done. Far from it, to be very blunt. In fact, the job’s only half done.


You see, the plane isn’t the only thing that the radar waves bounce off of. They also will reflect very well off of the missiles your F-35 carries. All the stealth tech does no good if the stuff you intend to drop on the bad guys is seen on radar while you’re still minutes — or even an hour — away.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. Note that the F-35 is carrying missiles externally, rendering it more visible to radar. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

At SeaAirSpace 2017, mock-ups of a number of new missiles in development were displayed, so more can be carried internally on the F-35 and other stealthy jets (like the B-21 and B-2, for instance). In essence, this is taking concealed carry to a whole new level.

For instance, one such weapon being displayed was the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range. The AARGM-ER is a development of the AGM-88E AARGM, in essence: a vastly upgraded HARM. AARGM is already in service with the Navy, with more being produced, and it is used on the F/A-18C/D/E/F Hornet and Super Hornet airframes on their pylons, easily the most capable anti-radar missile they have ever carried.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
The AGM-88E AARGM on display at a 2007 air show. Note the huge fins, which limit it to external carriage on the F-35. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But with the F-35, there is a problem — those big-ass fins on the AARGM. That means AARGM has to be carried externally, which means the F-35 will be seen. If the F-35 is seen, an enemy will shoot at it. And when the enemy shoots at a F-35, they could hit it — and if the plane is hit, it could be shot down. That’ll ruin everyone’s day.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
A mock-up of the AARGM-ER at SeaAirSpace 2017. Note the absence of the huge fins at the middle of the missile, and the clipped fins at the rear. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

Where AARGM-ER, though, seeing the F-35 becomes much, much harder. Why? The answer is what you don’t see. The big fins in the middle of the AARGM aren’t there. The tail fins have also been pared back. This means the missile can now fit in the internal weapons bay.

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’
In this photo from a handout at ATK’s booth at SeaAirSpace2017, the AARGM-ER mock-up fits into the F-35’s weapons bay. (Scanned from ATK handout)

In other words, the F-35 now can get closer — and the AARGM-ER will not only fit in the weapons bay, it can also be fired from twice as far as the current AARGM. It’s as if this missile has been designed to put down the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-21 Gargoyle.

AARGM-ER isn’t the only missile at SeaAirSpace 2017 designed for internal carriage. Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile is also being designed for internal carry on the F-35. In short, the F-35 will be practicing a very potent form of concealed carry.

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Gandhi wrote this amazing letter to Hitler trying to prevent World War II

Mohandas Gandhi, frequently known by the honorific Mahatma — meaning “great soul” — was famous for advocating civil disobedience and nonviolence to achieve his goals.


Starting in 1921, Gandhi led the Indian independence movement through such methods, finally achieving freedom from the British empire in 1947, just six months before his death.

Less known is Gandhi’s efforts through a series of letters in 1939 and 1940 to keep German dictator Adolf Hitler from starting a war in Europe.

Gandhi took it upon himself to prevent World War II by not only encouraging Hitler to seek peace, but also by telling the British people to oppose Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini by nonviolent means, even as Nazi Germany and Italy sought to destroy their country.

“In nonviolent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting,” Gandhi wrote to Hitler. “It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection.

“It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud.”

Here is the full version, which is the longer of Gandhi’s two letters to Hitler:

Dear friend,

That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past 33 years to enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed.

I hope you will have the time and desire to know how a good portion of humanity who have view living under the influence of that doctrine of universal friendship view your action. We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms.

But ours is a unique position. We resist British Imperialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We seek to convert them, not to defeat them on the battle-field. Ours is an unarmed revolt against the British rule. But whether we convert them or not, we are determined to make their rule impossible by non-violent non-co-operation. It is a method in its nature indefensible. It is based on the knowledge that no spoliator can compass his end without a certain degree of co-operation, willing or compulsory, of the victim. Our rulers may have our land and bodies but not our souls. They can have the former only by complete destruction of every Indian—man, woman and child. That all may not rise to that degree of heroism and that a fair amount of frightfulness can bend the back of revolt is true but the argument would be beside the point. For, if a fair number of men and women be found in India who would be prepared without any ill will against the spoliators to lay down their lives rather than bend the knee to them, they would have shown the way to freedom from the tyranny of violence. I ask you to believe me when I say that you will find an unexpected number of such men and women in India. They have been having that training for the past 20 years.

We have been trying for the past half a century to throw off the British rule. The movement of independence has been never so strong as now. The most powerful political organization, I mean the Indian National Congress, is trying to achieve this end. We have attained a very fair measure of success through non-violent effort. We were groping for the right means to combat the most organized violence in the world which the British power represents. You have challenged it. It remains to be seen which is the better organized, the German or the British. We know what the British heel means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end the British rule with German aid. We have found in non-violence a force which, if organized, can without doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘do or die’ without killing or hurting. It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of destruction which you have brought to such perfection. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deed, however skilfully planned. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war. You will lose nothing by referring all the matters of dispute between you and Great Britain to an international tribunal of your joint choice. If you attain success in the war, it will not prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. Whereas an award by an impartial tribunal will show as far as it is humanly possible which party was in the right.

You know that not long ago I made an appeal to every Briton to accept my method of non-violent resistance. I did it because the British know me as a friend though a rebel. I am a stranger to you and your people. I have not the courage to make you the appeal I made to every Briton. Not that it would not apply to you with the same force as to the British. But my present proposal is much simple because much more practical and familiar.

During this season when the hearts of the peoples of Europe yearn for peace, we have suspended even our own peaceful struggle. Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace during a time which may mean nothing to you personally but which must mean much to the millions of Europeans whose dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attended to hearing the dumb millions? I had intended to address a joint appeal to you and Signor Mussolini, whom I had the privilege of meeting when I was in Rome during my visit to England as a delegate to the Round Table Conference. I hope that he will take this as addressed to him also with the necessary changes.

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