Articles

This is what the pilot who scored the stunning first kill with the F-15 saw

On June 27, 1979, aviation history was made when the F-15 Eagle scored its first kill in a dogfight between Israeli and Syrian aircraft.


Since then, the F-15 has scored over a hundred kills — with no air-to-air losses. The F-15 is a powerful plane, capable of carrying eight air-to-air missiles, and the M61 Gatling gun.

That is one hot bird. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower)

On that day, four Israeli F-15s were flying top cover for strikes against PLO targets in Lebanon when two flights, each with four Syrian Air Force MiG-21 Fishbed interceptors, flew in to intercept the strike.

The Israeli pilots were given clearance to fire, and they started off with a Sparrow engagement. The first Sparrow shots missed, then the F-15s closed.

(Youtube Screenshot)

Moshe Melnik, in the second of the four F-15s, took on the enemy fighters. He selected his infra-red guided missiles for the attack. It wasn’t an American-made Sidewinder, though. The Israelis had their own dogfight missile, the Python 3. Melnik selected one, and fired.

This is the view from the HUD when Moshe Melnik scored the F-15 Eagle’s first kill. (Youtube Screenshot)

The missile tracked in, taking out one of the Fishbeds. It was thirty seconds into the engagement.

Melnik had secured a place in history as the first pilot to shoot down an enemy plane with the F-15 Eagle. Since then, between small-scale engagements and major conflicts like the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot and Operation Desert Storm, the F-15 has dominated the skies, only yielding as the premiere air-to-air platform when the F-22 Raptor entered service.

Okay, the Raptor is pretty cool, too. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena)

Ironically, while Melnik would make history, he would not be considered the hero of the engagement where the F-15 scored its first kill. That honor would go to another Israeli pilot, Eitan Ben-Eliyahu.

Melnik’s kill had been with an air-to-air missile. Ben-Eliyahu, though, used his F-15’s M61 to score his kill. In an interview that aired on History Channel’s “Dogfights,” even Melnik conceded Ben-Eliyahu was the hero.

Israeli F-15Is, the most modern version of the Eagle in the IDF. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

You can see Melnik’s view of his history-making kill in the video from Smithsonian Channel below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. releases more details about MiG-29s, Su-24s it says were flown to Libya

The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.

The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.

The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.


The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.

Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.

As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.

In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”

After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”

AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.

The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.

Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.

Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”

“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.

Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.

The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.

But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.

But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battalion was just college kids

During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.


Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West

www.youtube.com

The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.

Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 9, cadets were manning artillery emplacements in Charleston Harbor when a merchant ship, Star of the West, loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, entered the harbor. The Citadel’s superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, ordered gunners to fire on the ship in an attempt to turn it around.

A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.

A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.

An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.

(Alfred Rudolf Waud)

The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.

Around the same time, Union forces landed on James and John’s islands, and Confederate counterattacks failed to re-take the beachheads, and on James Island, they were even forced back along a bridge. These were islands key to Charleston’s defense, and the cadets were sent again to hold the line. They brought eight light artillery pieces to James Island and manned them against Union attack.

At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.

This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.

Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.

At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.

Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.

(David Humphreys Miller)

During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.

But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.

The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.

Even as the Confederacy’s prospects in the war suffered under the Union Anaconda Plan, the cadets held their lines when ordered. They never surrendered and were one of the last forces to disband, not doing so until May 9, 1865, one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

In 2003, the town of Erie, Pennsylvania made national news when an unassuming pizza delivery man walked into a local bank and demanded a quarter of a million dollars from the vault. What happened next would baffle authorities for years and see the crime become one of the most intriguing ever committed in the United States. So what happened?


At roughly 2:30 PM on August 28, 2003, a 46 year old man by the name of Brian Wells walked into the Erie branch of PNC Bank and handed the teller a note that read, “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000. You have only 15 minutes.”

As the teller read the note, Wells informed them that he had a live explosive around his neck that would detonate if the demand wasn’t met. He then pulled down his shirt to reveal a crude, but threatening-looking metal collar with two pipe bombs attached. Wells was also holding a custom made cane that doubled as a shotgun.

Showing a remarkable amount of professionalism, the bank workers informed Wells that it wouldn’t be possible to retrieve that sum of money in such a short amount of time due to the various safeguards to limit access to the vault.

Wells then simply asked for whatever they had available, taking time to grab a lollipop from the counter, which he began to idly suck on whilst waiting for his money.

All-in-all Wells would leave the bank about 12 minutes later with ,702 in cash. He then went to McDonald’s next door for a bit, as you do, after which he headed back to his car.

As you might imagine, hanging around in the parking lot next door to the bank you just robbed isn’t a great way to not get caught. And so it was that Wells found himself tackled by police as he was walking to his vehicle.

Whilst being cuffed, Wells helpfully informed the troopers of the bomb around his neck and that three black men had put it there. He further stated that, as far as he was aware, it would go off any minute.

Naturally, the officers all very abruptly backed away from Wells, no doubt mumbling to themselves that they were “too old for this shit”, if movies from that era have taught me anything. After getting a safe distance away, they called the bomb squad.

As for Wells, for 20 agonizing minutes he sat alone on the concrete, occasionally shouting to officers to check if they’d called his boss to inform him why Wells hadn’t come back to work after the delivery, and inquiring when the bomb squad was going to show up.

Unfortunately for Wells, just a few minutes before said explosives experts arrived, the collar around his neck began beeping- never a good sign. Wells’ calm demeanor disappeared completely at this point and he frantically wiggled backwards in a futile attempt to get away from the bomb. Approximately ten seconds after the beeping started, the collar exploded, killing him.

After the bomb squad checked the collar to ensure all explosives had detonated, the gathered law enforcement began slowly sifting through Wells’ belongings, beginning what would soon become one of the most unusual cases in the annals of law enforcement history.

Most pertinent to the topic at hand, while searching through Wells’ beat up old Geo Metro, they stumbled across several pages of handwritten instructions ominously addressed simply to the “Bomb Hostage”. These instructions, evidently meant for Wells, included several explicit warnings against deviating from them in anyway and were littered with threats of harsh and instantaneous reprisal should they be ignored, including remote detonation of the bomb. Further, on one page it stated, “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”

Later analysis would conclude that these threats were baseless as there was no way to detonate the collar remotely, despite a cell phone seeming to be connected to the bomb; in fact, it was just a realistic looking toy phone.

As for what the instructions were telling Wells to do, beyond of course instructing him to rob the bank, what followed was a twisted scavenger hunt to find several keys which the instructions claimed would delay the timer on the bomb and, eventually, disarm it completely. At that point, they stated he would be able to safely remove it without setting it off. However, it turns out, along with the cell phone being fake, the various key holes weren’t wired or linked to anything.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, experts analysing the collar would later conclude that although the device “looked” dangerous and sophisticated, including a lot of wires that seemed to be connected in significant ways, the guts of the bomb actually had the complexity of, to quote one of the investigators, a “child’s toy“- more or less just two pretty run of the mill pipe bombs connected to two electronic kitchen timers with nothing complicated about any of it. Cut the wires to the timers, no boom.

Further, it turns out even that wasn’t necessary to save Wells’ life, as had he simply reached up and tugged the mechanism to allow it to open and taken it off, this too wouldn’t have triggered the bomb. He could have even simply added time to the timers manually or turned them off if he wanted to leave the collar on without risk.

So what devil made this dastard device of destruction?

Investigators tried to follow the trail laid out in the instructions, traveling several miles to a nearby wood to find another note which in turn directed them to a seemingly random road sign miles in the other direction. The trail went cold at the road sign when a jar that was supposed to contain yet another clue turned up empty. Investigators would later surmise that the killer or killers had learned of Wells’ death and abandoned their plans to continue placing clues for him. Either that, or they’d simply assumed he’d not have had time to get to that point before the bomb would detonate so didn’t bother leaving another message.

With nothing else to go on, investigators turned to looking more into Wells. To begin with, upon initially being arrested, Wells, as noted, had alleged that the collar had been forcibly placed upon him by a group of large black men during a routine pizza delivery. Looking into it, indeed Wells had been working at the still existing and exceptionally well reviewed Mama Mia’s Pizzeria when a call came in from what turned out to be from a payphone at around 1:30p on that day of August 28, 2003. The original person who answered the pizzeria phone couldn’t understand the speaker, so passed it over to Wells, who then took the order and ultimately went out to deliver the pizzas.

Following the trail, investigators went to the site of that last delivery- a TV transmission tower at the end of a dirt road- and found nothing of significance other than a neighbor had stated he’d heard a gunshot at approximately the time Wells would have been there delivering the pizzas.

Local law enforcement and later the FBI further found nothing that would give Wells motive to commit such a bizarre crime had he been the one to instigate it. Wells had no apparent significant outstanding debts or commitments, and was noted as being a model employee and a man of good moral standing. People who knew him described him as a simple man, but also a very nice, and seemingly happy person.

In short, the authorities were at a complete loss. In fact, it’s possible this bizarre crime would have remained a mystery forever had the police not received a phone call a few weeks later from a man called Bill Rothstein.

You see, Rothstein lived near the TV transmission tower Wells had made his final delivery to and had even been interviewed by the FBI who combed his property for clues, finding nothing. This changed, however, when Rothstein inexplicably confessed to having a human body in his freezer.

After being arrested, Rothstein identified the body as being that of Jim Roden, the lover of one of his ex girlfriends, then 54 year old Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein insisted that he had nothing to do with Roden’s death and that his ex had shot and killed Roden during an argument. Not wanting to incur his ex’s vengeful wrath, Rothstein had hidden the body at her insistence and even helped dispose of the murder weapon. However, when Diehl-Armstrong told him to grind up the body and bury it, Rothstein decided enough was enough and confessed.

Now, initially the FBI wrote the whole location of the two crimes off as a bizarre coincidence. That is, until Rothstein told local police that he was so wracked with guilt about the whole ordeal that he’d contemplated killing himself.

Why is this important, you ask?

Well, to prove this, Rothstein directed police to a suicide note he’d stashed away in a drawer. Along with containing a confession about the murder of Roden and his remorse over his involvement, it also for some reason contained the sentence -“This has nothing to do with the Wells case.”

Naturally, this led to some follow up questions about why he’d written that. While Rothstein and Diehl-Armstrong initially flatly denied having anything to do with the collar bomb plot, once again leaving authorities with nothing solid, over the course of many years of investigation that followed, this trail did lead somewhere and things slowly became reasonably clear.

To begin with, it’s important to note that while in her younger years Diehl-Armstrong had been a straight-A student type and ultimately even earned a Master’s degree in college, she also had mental health problems that only got worse with age. On that note, previous to murdering Roden, it came to light that she had shot and killed one Robert Thomas in 1984. As to why she wasn’t in prison for it, she was acquitted as it was deemed self-defense, despite that he’d been apparently just sitting on their couch at the time and she shot him not once, not twice, not thrice, not what we’re going to call frice and, I don’t know, fwivce- but six times.

Further, eight years later in 1992, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. While we can only hope that was naturally induced, it is noteworthy that she managed to finagle a rather sizable legal settlement with the hospital involved over it. She also allegedly had a couple other men in her life who likewise met rather untimely deaths at ages where men not acquainted with Diehl-Armstrong didn’t normally find themselves failing to continue breathing.

Whatever the case with any of that, she was ultimately convicted of the murder of Roden. At the same time, police were still trying to figure out if they could connect her and Rothstein more concretely to the Wells case, but coming up empty…

That is, until Diehl-Armstrong herself became tired of the high security prison life at Muncy Correctional Institution about a year and a half after Wells’ death. She thus requested to be transferred to a minimum-security prison. In exchange for granting her request, she would tell the authorities anything and everything they wanted to know about the Wells’ case, which she subsequently did.

A further break was had getting another side of the story not long after when one Kenneth Barnes’ brother-in-law decided to call the police to let them know Mr. Barnes, a retired individual who’d taken up drug dealing for some extra money, had bragged to him about his own involvement in the pizza collar bomber case. As for Barnes, he was easy for police to find as he was sitting in a prison cell at the time after being arrested for his little side job as a crack dealer. Once confronted, Barnes too had a story of his own to tell the police.

Naturally, the confessions of those involved should be met with some degree of skepticism on the finer points, particularly as they all pointed the finger at someone else being the mastermind behind the whole thing. That caveat out of the way, combining all the evidence and the stories, the generally accepted tale the investigators cobbled together is as follows.

It would seem leading up to the bank robbery, Diehl-Armstrong approached Barnes to see if he wouldn’t mind killing her father. As to why, she believed, whether accurately or not isn’t clear, that his net worth was approximately million (about .7 million today). Notably, in his waning years, he’d begun donating this small fortune to various charities. To ensure she got the bulk sum, she apparently figured it would be best not to wait for him to die naturally, but just kill him immediately.

The problem was when she asked Barnes to take him out, Barnes asked for a sum of 0,000- not exactly something she had lying around, and he was unwilling to do the job with only the promise of money after the inheritance was acquired.

So how to come up with the 0,000 to get M? Well, robbing a bank apparently seemed like the easy solution if one could think of a way to ensure there was no chance of getting caught.

At some point in here, it’s not clear when, Rothstein became involved, with Diehl-Armstrong herself claiming he was the mastermind behind the whole thing in the first place, though most authorities think it likely that it was, in fact, her. And for whatever it’s worth, Barnes claims Diehl-Armstrong herself first asked him if he knew how to make a bomb for the plot, but he did not, and thus Rothstein, who was a bit of a closet genius and worked as a handy-man and shop teacher, did.

Whatever the case, plan developed, they now needed someone to actually go rob the bank and function as the fall-guy should things go wrong.

Enter prostitute Jessica Hoopsick, who was an acquaintance of Barnes through his drug dealing business, including using his house as a bit of a home base to entertain clients, as apparently several prostitutes in the area did.

While elements of Hoopsick’s story, as with all the others involved, are considered somewhat suspect, she claims she was asked by Barnes for someone who might be easily pressured into committing a crime, though she stated she had no knowledge at the time of what the crime would be. In exchange for drugs and money, she thus gave them the name of one of her frequent clients, Wells, as an ideal candidate given he was, to quote her, a “pushover”. Hoopsick also claims that, at least as far as she was aware, Wells had no prior knowledge of the plot before his fateful pizza delivery on the day of his death.

This brings us to Wells’ role in the plan. While there is still some debate on this point, it would actually seem that Wells had known the plan going into the delivery, though had been pressured into agreeing to it in the first place. Whether that is actually true or not, it would appear on the day of the event, he decided to back out.

You might now be thinking, “If he decided to back out, why did he go deliver the pizzas?” Well, it would appear his reticence to remain involved was squarely centered around the fact that in the planning stage, he had been told the bomb would be fake. But upon arriving on the day in question, he discovered they’d lied to him and Rothstein had, in fact, made a real bomb. Thus, when they tried to put the collar on him, he attempted to flee, resulting in a gun being fired as a warning shot, as heard by the neighbor. Further, according to Barnes, he had to punch Wells in the face to get him to allow the collar to be put on.

From there, it is speculated that Wells probably was under the impression he needed to follow the steps as laid out to get the collar off, which would go a long way in explaining why he chose to go get the paper with the next step at the McDonald’s next door, rather than, you know, fleeing the scene of the crime immediately after committing it. Unless of course he simply wanted to get caught, which would have been a massive risk, but perhaps one he felt was better than returning to his compatriots.

Of course, as the bomb put a hole in his chest, we’ll never know what he was thinking at the time. But given that there was no way for Wells to complete the steps the notes required of him in the time allotted, it’s thought by the authorities the conspirators had always planned for him to die. The steps were simply to lead him out of town where the bomb would detonate and they could go collect the cash. Making sure he felt he needed to follow them just ensured he wouldn’t lead police right back to them.

Had they left him alive, even if he wasn’t initially caught, there was little chance Wells wouldn’t be identified and arrested. And on the flip-side, should he be caught before the bomb went off, well, the limited time on the device gave good odds Wells wouldn’t have time to spill the beans. Thus, aside from the mistake of having Wells go to the McDonald’s next to the bank, this was a pretty ingenious plan overall. Had Wells made it out of town, it is likely they would have gotten the cash, with no further leads for the police other than Wells’ body.

This all brings us back to Roden’s death which foiled the whole plan. According to a fellow inmate of Diehl-Armstrong’s, she allegedly told said unnamed inmate that the argument the couple had was over the scheme. Allegedly, Roden told her if she didn’t call off the plot, he was going to tell the police. Rather than nix the plan, she simply decided to kill him and then handed the body over to Rothstein. From there, she allegedly threatened him to keep his mouth shut or he’d get the same.

Whatever the truth of that, in the end, Rothstein died of lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 60, years before any of this would become known, and thus the only one of the primary conspirators to avoid jail time; Diehl-Armstrong met her maker thanks to breast cancer, dying in prison on April 4, 2017. As for Barnes, he joined the pair in the afterlife in June of 2019 at the age of 65 from complications due to diabetes.

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

Articles

This is how Army snipers train to be one-shot killers

During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.


To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.

Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian and co-trainer Tarrol Peterson look for snipers during the 10-day sniper training course at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.

The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.

Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.

XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.

Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, move to a new location for a training scenario during the XCTC Exercise on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”

Staff Sgt. John Brady, a sniper instructor at the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighter School at Fort Drum, New York, explains why a sniper from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was spotted.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.

US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”

Brady instructs snipers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on hasty scope maintenance.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.

US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.

US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

Articles

Paratroopaloosa: These are all the times America did large-scale combat jumps

A combat jump and the gold star on your wings is the desire of all airborne personnel. During World War II, the U.S. Army fielded five airborne divisions, four of which saw combat, as well as numerous independent regimental combat teams and parachute infantry battalions. Today, the U.S. military fields one airborne division, two airborne brigade combat teams, and a number of special operations forces, all airborne qualified. Throughout the history of these forces, they conducted all manner of combat operations and tactical insertions. Here are the eighteen times, in chronological order, that the U.S. military conducted large-scale combat operations with airborne forces.


1. Operation Torch

The first large-scale deployment of American paratroopers took place on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The men of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion (at the time designated 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment) were tasked with securing airfields ahead of the seaborne force landings. To accomplish this, they conducted the longest flight of airborne forces, originating from airfields in England. However, the jump was unsuccessful with troops widely scattered and ten planes having to land in a dry lake bed to disembark their troops due to a lack of fuel. A week later, three hundred men of the battalion conducted a successful combat jump on Youks-les-Bains Airfield in Algeria.

2. Operation Husky

Paratroopers board a Douglas C-47 Skytrain for Operation Husky (U.S. Army photo)

America’s second attempt at a combat jump was during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. On the night of 9 July, the 505th PIR reinforced by 3/504 PIR and with attached artillery and engineers spearheaded Operation Husky. Two nights later on 11 July, the remainder of the 504th parachuted into Sicily to block routes toward the beachhead. However, due to numerous Axis air attacks and confusion within the invasion fleet, the troop carrier aircraft were mistaken for German bombers and fired on. This resulted in twenty three planes being shot down and the loss of eighty one paratroopers with many more wounded.

3. Landing at Nadzab (Operation Alamo)

Paratroopers landing at Nadzab

The first airborne operation in the Pacific Theatre was carried out by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment in the Markham Valley of New Guinea as part of Operation Alamo on 5 September 1943. The 503rd seized an airfield that allowed follow-on Australian infantry forces to conduct an airlanding as part of the greater New Guinea campaign and were successful in driving out Japanese forces from the area.

4. Operation Avalanche

With the success of the invasion of the Italian mainland hanging in the balance, on 13 September 1943 the paratroopers of the 504th donned parachutes and quickly boarded planes before jumping into American lines to shore up the perimeter around the Salerno beachhead. The drop zone was lit by flaming barrels of gas-soaked sand arranged in a T-shape. The next night, the 505th followed the 504th and continued to continue to reinforce the American lines.  A few nights later, the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion was dropped in the vicinity of Avellino in an attempt to disrupt activity behind German lines but was widely dispersed and failed.

5. Operation Overlord

This is the airborne operation that all other airborne operations are measured against. In two separate missions, code named operations Albany and Boston, the paratroopers of both the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions jumped behind enemy lines as part of the invasion of Normandy and the cracking of Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Though the paratroopers were widely scattered over the French countryside due to misdrops, the havoc and confusion they created behind German lines was crucial to the success of the landings on the beaches.

6. Operation Table Tennis

Paratroopers of the US Airborne establish a stronghold on the Japanese-built Kamiri Airfield on Noemfoor Island. (U.S. Army photo)

As part of the greater battle of Noemfoor in Dutch New Guinea on the 3rd and 4th of July 1944, the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 503rd PIR conducted a combat jump to reinforce American positions and to secure the Kamiri airfield. Due to poor jump conditions that led to excessive casualties, the drop of the 2nd battalion was scratched and they were landed by sea instead.

7. Operation Dragoon

Paratroopers dropping into Operation Dragoon (U.S. Army photo)

As part of the 1st Airborne Task Force the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, the 509th and 551st Parachute Infantry Battalions, 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and numerous glider and parachute units in support, performed a combat jump into Southern France as the spearhead of Operation Dragoon on 15 August 1944. Due to poor visibility, most of the pathfinders and therefore most of the follow-on forces missed their drop zones and were widely scattered. Despite this, as had happened in Normandy two months prior, many of the men were able to regroup and secure their objectives.

8. Operation Market-Garden

During the infamous “a bridge too far” operation, American airborne units, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, jumped into Nazi occupied Holland during the daylight hours of 17 September 1944. Operation Market, the airborne component of Market-Garden, was the largest airborne operation ever undertaken, though due to a number of circumstances, it would ultimately be a failure and ended the Allies’ hopes of finishing the war by Christmas.

9. Battle of Luzon

11th Airborne Division Landing Near Aparri Luzon Philippine Islands (U.S. Army photo)

As part of the battle for the island of Luzon in the Philippines and the drive by the U.S. Sixth Army to take Manila, the 511th PIR and 457th PFAB, part of the 11th Airborne Division, dropped onto Tagatay Ridge south of Manila on 3 February 1945. The jumped linked up the 511th and 457th with the 187th and 188th Glider Infantry Regiments and the rest of the 11th Airborne Division for the drive to Manila.

10. Operation Topside

On 16 February 1945, the 503rd PRCT performed the combat jump that would give it the enduring nickname “The Rock” onto the fortress island of Corregidor. The 503rd dropped right on top of Japanese positions and, in conjunction with the 34th Infantry Regiment, fought viciously to recapture Corregidor, which had been the last bastion of American resistance in the Philippines some three years earlier.

11. Operation Varsity

American Paratroopers in Operation Varsity

The largest single-day airborne operation in history was carried out by the American 17th Airborne Division alongside the British 6th Airborne in an airborne assault crossing of the Rhine River on 24 March 1945. The entire operation was carried and dropped by a single lift and was conducted in broad daylight. The daylight drop and the fact that it was on German soil led to intense fighting with the 17th Airborne Division, gaining two Medals of Honor during their initial assaults. The operation was intended to be even larger but due to a lack of aircraft, the American 13th Airborne Division was unable to participate.

12. Task Force Gypsy

Gliders on Aparri Field, Luzon (U.S. Army photo)

On 23 June 1945 Task Force Gypsy, consisting of 1st Battalion 511th PIR, Companies G I of the 2nd Battalion, a battery from the 457th PFAB, engineers, and glider troops from the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment conducted the final airborne operation of World War II, by jumping onto an airfield in northern Luzon to cutoff the retreating Japanese and linkup with the 37th Infantry Division as it drove north. Strong winds and treacherous terrain on the drop zone led to two fatalities and at least seventy injuries during the drop. This was the only time gliders were used in combat in the Pacific.

13. Battle of Yongju

Spearheading the UN Forces drive north the 187th Airborne RCT conducted a combat jump north of Pyongyang in an attempt to cutoff North Korean forces retreating from the capital. The paratroopers captured their objectives with only light North Korean resistance. In the following days, they would work with British and Australian forces to destroy the North Korean 239th Regiment.

14. Operation Tomahawk

As the airborne component of Operation Courageous on 23 March 1951, the 187th ARCT, this time complimented by the 2nd and 4th Ranger Companies, once again conducted a combat jump against Communist forces in the Korean War. Though there was confusion and misdrops, the Regimental Combat Team captured its objectives quickly and allowed UN Forces to regain the 38th parallel in that sector.

15. Operation Junction City

Air drop of supplies in Operation Junction City (U.S. Army photo)

As part of the larger Operation Junction City, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, centered on the 503rd PIR, made the only large-scale combat jump of the Vietnam War on 22 February 1967. The plan was to create a hammer and anvil scenario with the 173rd along with other units forming the anvil while other forces, the hammer, would flush out and drive Viet Cong forces into the waiting trap. Though there were numerous clashes with Viet Cong forces, a decisive victory was not obtained by the American operation.

16. Operation Urgent Fury

82nd Airborne in Grenada, wearing the PASGT protective vest. (U.S. Army photo)

On 25 October 1983, Rangers from the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions along with Delta Force operators, Navy SEALs and Air Force Combat Controllers descended on the southern portion of the island of Grenada and captured the unfinished airfield at Point Salines. This opened the way for follow-on forces from the 82nd Airborne Division. By 3 November, hostilities were declared to be at an end with all American objectives met.

17. Operation Just Cause

S Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, parachute from a C-130E Hercules aircraft into a drop zone outside the city to conduct operations in support of Operation Just Cause. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond)

In the early morning hours of 20 December 1989, the entire 75th Ranger Regiment, followed by the reinforced Division Ready Brigade of the 82nd (consisting of 1st and 2nd Battalions 504th PIR, 4/325th AIR, 3/319th AFAR, and Company C 3/73rd Armor), conducted combat jumps to secure the Rio Hato and Torrijos-Tecumen airports in Panama. In the following days the Rangers and paratroopers continued combat operations in conjunction with other forces of Task Force Pacific. This marked the first and only combat parachute deployment of armored vehicles, the M551 Sheridan.

18. Operation Northern Delay

After Turkey denied access for American forces to attack Iraq from the north through Turkish territory, the 173rd ABCT was alerted for a combat jump into northern Iraq. On 26 March 2003, the unit, along with members of the U.S. Air Force 786th Security Forces Squadron conducted an airborne insertion onto Bashur Airfield to establish an airhead and allow for a buildup of armored forces in the north. This effort held numerous Iraqi divisions in the north rather than allowing them to be diverted south to oppose the main effort. The jump by the 786th marked the first and only combat jump by conventional USAF personnel and was the only large-scale airborne operation conducted as part of the War on Terror.

Articles

The Army is preparing its medics for a war without medevac helos

The Army’s top surgeon said Aug. 18 the service is working with its combat medics to deal with casualties that can’t be airlifted immediately out of the battle zone and back to surgical facilities for hours or days, arming the first responders with new gear and techniques designed to keep a soldier alive well past the so-called “Golden Hour” that’s contributed to a record-level survival rate for wounded troops.


Lieutenant Gen. Nadja West said the Army’s 68W Healthcare Specialist cadre will have to be armed with sophisticated sensors to measure a patient’s vital signs, be trained to use new lifesaving equipment like tourniquets that can wrap around a patient’s waist or chest and be given technology that will allow them to “reach back” from the battlefield to surgeons in the rear who can deliver expert advice far from the operating room.

“We’ve had the luxury of air superiority so we could evacuate our casualties at will,” West told WATM at a recent meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. “We’re trying to make sure that in an environment where it’s not as permissive — where we’re going to have to retain casualties longer — we have the ability to do this prolonged care.”

Specialist Thomas Appelhanz, C Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade flight medic checks to ensure IV fluid is flowing properly to a wounded Afghan National Army soldier during a patient transfer mission at Forward Operating Base Tagab, Kapisa province, Afghanistan Nov. 5, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Duncan Brennan

West added that in Afghanistan, for example, there were cases where patients were flown out of the combat zone and back to Bethesda Naval Medical Center and on the operating table within 24 hours. But in future wars, that capability might not exist.

In the wars since 9/11, the Army has benefitted from American air dominance which allowed slow-moving, poorly-armed medical evacuation helicopters to speed to the battle and pick up wounded in a matter of minutes. That’s led to a 93 percent survival rate for wounded soldiers, a 75 percent increase since the Vietnam war.

But the Army is worried that wars in the near future won’t allow a speedy MEDEVAC, so its medics will have to deal with situations like potential limb loss from tourniquets staying on longer than usual to fluid pooling in the brain or organs, West said. That doesn’t mean that all of the sudden 68Ws have to be trained as vascular surgeons, but they do have to be able to get detailed information that’ll help keep their patients alive.

Army Spc. Trent McIlwraith, of Edmond, Oklahoma., a combat medic for Bravo Company, 1-179th Infantry, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, administers an I.V. to Tech Sgt. Gevoyd Litlle, of Columbus, Ohio, an explosive ordinance disposal technician supporting Task Force force Maverick in Operation Lionheart on Sept. 12. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Zackary Root.

“Telehealth is going to be very important and we’re working on that,” West said of capabilities being developed for detailed medical communication on the battlefield.

“So you’re actually talking to a vascular surgeon when you’re down range and say ‘Hey I’m looking at this vessel, what do I need to do?’ ” West explained. “You’re not going to make them trauma surgeons, but at least you have someone that can give them the expertise that can do things right there.”

West also said the Army was experimenting with ways to attach sensors to soldiers so that intensive care specialists in the rear can get detailed information about a patient’s condition and be able to render advice to a medic on managing the casualty over a longer period.

“So I see not having to train them on every single thing, but having the reach-back capability to say okay, I’m looking at this, what do I need to do?” she said. “That’s what I see in the future. Rather than trying to overload them with everything, give them the reach back to help them answer those questions.”

Articles

This is the Russian infantry weapon that has the US military so worried

Soviet military weapons have an odd tendency to stay both dangerous and relevant decades after they’re issued. They might lack the creature comforts and modularity of modern firearm designs, but whether a bullet finds its mark from a World War I Mosin Nagant rifle, or a next generation Russian bullpup SVD sniper rifle, the result is the same.


The largest example of this, is the infamous AKM/AK-47. Every tin-pot dictatorship or ex-Soviet satellite nation has churned out terrifying numbers of these reliable automatic rifles. While the AKM is a deadly adversary at close and medium range, it is handily outclassed (both in accuracy, and effective range) by modern Western-made military rifles like the M4A3 and M16A4.

That said, there is one Soviet firearm that continues to confound and frustrate American military forces in the Middle East: the PKM.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The PKM or Modernizirovanniy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK Machinegun Modernized) is a belt-fed, open-bolt, long-stroke light machine gun chambered in the hard-hitting 7.62x54R cartridge — the same round used by Russian infantry in World War I, Vietcong snipers in Indochina, and modern Russian Federation snipers wielding the infamous Dragunov.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment.  This robust construction combined with its powerful cartridge, make for an extraordinarily dangerous weapon against Western militaries — especially since the PKM has an effective range of 1,000-1,500 meters, putting it on par or surpassing most DMR rifles, and light machine guns in service.

Personally, after firing less than 100 rounds through a stateside PKM at an ordnance-testing facility in Nevada, I was able to successfully engage human-sized steel targets with iron sights at 600 yards with frightening regularity. This was with 60-year-old ammunition out of a PKM built in the 1970s with more than a half-million rounds fired through it.

The threat posed by this LMG to American and NATO forces is not lost on military thinkers or modern weapon-makers. In fact, the PKM is the impetus behind the latest evolution of the medium machine gun – the lightweight, medium machine gun, or LWMMG.

Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado/released)

Historically, machine guns are grouped into three categories: light, medium and heavy (and occasionally general purpose). The last two, medium and heavy, are crew-served weapons, normally fired from either a tripod or vehicle mount. These are generally not considered man-portable, but are designed to provide constant fire on an area.

The light machine gun, or LMG generally fires a smaller caliber round than the medium or heavy machine gun, and is designed to be used and transported by a single soldier. These weapons are fired from a bipod, but are light enough to be quickly repositioned in the field.

The 5.56mm caliber M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a prime example of a light machine gun, while the .50 BMG M2 is a perfect example of a heavy machine gun. The M2 is tremendously more effective at all ranges than the M249, but its tremendous weight and size make it a poor choice for urban environments.  The M240B almost splits the difference, but its 7.62 cartridge is still out-ranged by the Soviet PKM.

The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum has the reach and lethality of a .50 cal M2. (Photo from General Dynamics video screen grab)

Thus the idea behind the LWMMG, is to combine the lightweight, portable nature of the the LMG with the extended range, and increased ballistic effectiveness of the MMG.

The engineers at General Dynamics are attempting this by incorporating a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” method of operation coupled with a new modified .338 cartridge. At first glance, this seems like the scribblings of someone with no practical experience behind any of these weapon systems. On paper, a man-portable machine gun with the effective range of a .50 BMG, that weighed at little as the M240B with no more recoil than the 240, seems impossible.

If the footage of the new LWMMG released by General Dynamics is any indication, the new machine gun is more than just a concept. What remains to be seen, is whether or not the Pentagon puts enough importance on infantry combat and their equipment, to justify spending millions on upgrading it.

If nothing else, the likelihood of the General Dynamics LWMMG finding its way into the hands of US Special Forces is all but guaranteed. And while the increased effective range of the new cartridge is very impressive, the .338 round lacks the ballistic effectiveness of the .50 BMG. After all, it isn’t intended to double as an anti-material round, nor does it have the anti-vehicle lineage of the .50 BMG cartridge.

That said, the .338 is designed with an ideal ballistic coefficient in mind — meaning the projectile itself sails through the air with minimal resistance. In effect, this means the rounds travel closer to where the soldier aims them.

In the traditional role of an MMG or HMG, this is sometimes seen as detrimental, as the weapon is supposed to be used to provide a field of fire to an area. If the rounds are too precise, the area might be under less wide-spread fire, and potentially leave some enemy combatants unsuppressed.

However, in this case, precision is key. Since the impetus behind the design is to counter insurgent PKM/PKP light machine guns. Conceptually, this should allow our soldiers to out-range insurgent elements, as well as provide more accurate counter-fire.

As for results, we’ll have to wait and see if the idea gains more traction – and if it does, wait a few months or years for an official reports of its combat effectiveness to surface.

Articles

Galileo was one of the world’s first defense contractors

Galileo Galilei, one of the world’s most famous scientists, mathematicians, and inventors, kept his favor with the Venetian court by inventing and peddling items for the Venetian military, especially his famous telescope.


See, there are two bits of information about Galileo’s invention of the telescope in 1609 that some history books leave out. To start, he wasn’t the first inventor of the telescope. A Dutch spectacle maker invented it before him, and Galileo may have even seen that telescope before he invented his.

Second, one of the first things that Galileo did with his telescope was to send it to the Doge of Venice, one of the republic’s senior leaders, with the recommendation that it be used by the country’s army and navy as an instrument of war.

Galileo Galilei created an 8-9x magnification telescope that he showed off the Venetian leaders. (Photo: Fresco by Giuseppe Bertini, Public Domain)

While Galileo might or might not have invented the first telescope, he almost certainly invented the most powerful one of his day. It was capable of an approximately 8-9x magnification at a time when everyone else reached only 4x.

That meant that Venetian admirals using a Galileo spyglass could have reconnoitered enemy fleets and positions from 8 miles away, where they would be pinpricks to someone using a 4x telescope and invisible to anyone who didn’t have a spyglass.

Galileo outlined this potential advantage in his letter to the doge, but the doge didn’t immediately buy it for Venetian forces. Still, Galileo was rewarded for his work. His salary as a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua was doubled and he was granted the position of “professor for life.”

The inventor, of course, went on to find other uses for a good telescope. Galileo invented a 20x telescope that allowed him to identify the larger moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and other phenomena in the night sky.

The telescope wasn’t the only thing that Galileo ever created for the military. He also created an improved “gunner’s compass” that allowed artillerymen at the time to quickly calculate elevation, making them more lethal in siege warfare.

Mighty Moments

Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son

Being promoted within the US military’s noncommissioned officer rank is a special occasion in a service member’s career, after which they are entrusted by their commanders to lead junior enlisted service members and are assigned more responsibilities.


One Marine marked the special occasion with what appeared to be his 3-year-old son.

Also read: 80 famous military brats

In a video posted online last year, a newly minted Marine sergeant marches to the front of a formation for his promotion ceremony, standing at attention as a senior Marine reads out a commander’s order outlining his new responsibilities.

“As a sergeant of Marines, you must set the example for others to emulate,” the senior Marine says. “You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission, and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of the Marines of your charge.”

After the order was read out, a child approaches the formation and says, quietly, “good afternoon, gentlemen,” before the promoted Marine kneels so the child can remove his chevrons and pin on the emblems of his new rank.

The two share an embrace before the son scurries away.

Watch the clip:

 

Articles

Watch Russian marines playfight on the beach

We’ll admit it. Russian marines are pretty badass. Like, that’s not sarcastic. Recent reports show them fighting in Aleppo, Syria, and they have a pretty decent combat record dating back to 1705.


But that’s part of what makes it so great that they made a combatives video where they telegraph their punches like they’re the Russian bad guys in a Steven Seagal movie.

(GIF: YouTube/Max Kalinin)

But you can kind of forgive a military unit for rehearsing the combat moves and telling their dudes to lean in when it includes a legit drop kick:

Yeah, there’s no way to stage a drop kick to the chest where it doesn’t hurt. (GIF: YouTube/Max Kalinin)

Plus, you pretty much have to stage the combat once you start letting guys swing entrenching tools at one another:

He flipped that dude hard enough that the E-tool gets airtime. (GIF: YouTube/ Max Kalinin)

For more Russian Kung Foo action, check out the full video below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Operation Remorse: How British spies conducted economic espionage in China during World War II

Walter Fletcher was deemed unfit to serve in the British Armed Forces during World War II and was such a nuisance to Baker Street that any jobs he had requested that involved physical effort were denied. Colin Mackenzie, the head of Force 136, the Far East branch of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), once referred to Fletcher as “gloriously fat.” All 280 pounds of him requested special aircraft accommodations to be prepared in advance since he took up two seats on a flight’s manifest. His physicality differed from what was typically seen throughout the ranks of Britain’s elite paramilitary unit — but his wit as a snarky businessman was unmatched.

Fletcher was not well liked, but he was resourceful. Hugh Dalton, the Secretary of State for War, called Fletcher a “thug with good commercial contacts.” When he pitched the idea to run a covert economic espionage mission to manipulate exchange rates on the Chinese Black Market, his expertise was worth the risk. Codenamed Operation Mickleham then later Operation Remorse, Fletcher’s program in the initial stages went from sheer failure to among the most successful economic missions of the war, establishing influence in Hong Kong and funding other covert schemes.


A mock “Cigarette Card,” front and back, for Lionel Davis, commander of “Remorse” in the field. Photo courtesy of National Archives UK.

The Bank of England provided Fletcher, who built a reputation as a wealthy rubber trader, with 100,000 pounds on Sept. 15, 1942. His bold moves for the next two years involved smuggling rubber from Japanese-controlled Indo-China, and his calculations were met with considerable losses. Internal reports authored by SOE officers were convinced their early predictions of Fletcher — the “Tragicomedy” — were correct.

As his reputation faltered, the Ministry of Supply demanded results. A lesser man would have given up, but Fletcher, both stubborn and determined, took economic intelligence learned during Operation Mickleham and adapted to the currency exchange rates to make profit.

“Then he went up to China and started negotiating in strategic materials, funny ones like tung oil and things like that,” Mackenzie told the Imperial War Museum. “Then he went on dealing in diamonds, watches, whatever the warlords wanted.”

Fletcher employed a seasoned team, including Frank Ming Shin Shu, also known as “Mouse,” one of his most trusted contacts. Shu bought £500,000-worth of Indian rupees at a lower official rate only to resell them at an inflated price on the Chinese Black Market.

Mission 204, an unconventional warfare unit comprised of primarily British and Australian soldiers, were tasked with deep penetration operations into China to undermine the Japanese. Screengrab from YouTube.

“We had a very good accountant in London, John Venner, and he helped: even in the early days I had £20,000 of diamonds across my desk in one go,” Mackenzie told the Imperial War Museum. “One estimate is that the net profit was worth £77 million [£2 billion].”

Not all of the money was invested in back-end deals that filled their pockets. In April 1945, a force of 5,500 French soldiers across eight different locations were low on food and medical supplies and lacked blankets and clothing. Over the next six weeks, some of the funds from Remorse were diverted to purchase 93 tons of aid.

“A better job was done by Mr. Davis’s organisation than could have been achieved by the combined resources of the American and Chinese services of supply,” said a British ambassador in 1945.

B. S. van Deinise, a civilian and advisor of the mission, penned a memo that determined Operation Remorse was the “masterkey” for further intelligence actions in China: “I wanted to point out that the Masterkey should be made available to some of those who want to peep in and out of various compartments without attracting undue attention.”

The billion pound endeavor, hidden behind the auspices of bank statements and a covert paper trail, was only revealed to the general public after several intelligence activities from organizations like the SOE were declassified during the 1990s.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

RNC goes vet heavy for its ‘Make America Safe Again’ theme


CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Republican National Convention started here Monday tapping into the ill-ease of the American public in the wake of terrorist attacks across the globe and domestic unrest. The theme for the first of four days was “Make America Safe Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” tagline that he’s used from the beginning of his current run for president.

The prime time slate of speakers who took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena started with Willie Robertson, one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and television actor Scott Biao. They were followed by the first veteran in the lineup, former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.

Luttrell started his remarks by stating that he was born into a patriotic family that taught him “to die for any woman and to fight beside any man.” He said his father, who served in Vietnam, was “shamed out of his uniform” but instilled in his sons to “love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.”

Luttrell was followed by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said, which elicited a passionate response from the delegates on the convention floor, many of whom launched into a “lock her up” chant.

The topic of Clinton’s responsibility for the failure and tragedy of Benghazi continued with Mark Geist and John Teigen, two security contractors who fought off the attacks that night. The two men, who helped write 13 Hours, a book criticizing the State Department’s response to the attacks that was made into a Michael Bay movie last year, offered the crowd a lengthy, machismo-infused version of their experiences that night and left no doubt that they believe the lives of their comrades were lost because of the inaction of then-Sec. Clinton.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division, jabbed at President Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “fundamentalist Islamic terrorist” when referring to ISIS and the associated network of lone wolves, saying that if Donald Trump was made commander-in-chief he would “call the enemy by its name.”

The energy in the building shifted into the next gear as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took the stage and proclaimed that “the vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children; they fear for themselves; they fear for our police officers who are being targeted, with a target on their back.”

Giuliani also hit Obama for his apparent reticence around labeling the terrorist threat in religious terms, saying, “Failing to identify them properly maligns all those good Muslims around the world who are being killed by them. They are killing more Muslims than anyone else.”

The lights faded to black as Giuliani left the stage, and the classic Queen hit “We are the Champions” boomed through the PA system. Donald Trump appeared as a backlit silhouette, and when the lights came back on he stepped to the podium and announced, “We are going to win so big,” and then introduced his wife Melania, who was the keynote speaker for the evening.

Mrs. Trump’s remarks, delivered with her heavy Eastern European accent, hit a number of general themes, including the fact that she was an immigrant who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen in 2006 and that her husband wasn’t one to give up on anything in life. (Media pundits were quick to point out that parts of her speech mirrored one given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC in Denver in 2008, an accusation that Trump allies dismissed. “There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech,” New Jersey Gov. and Trump proxy Chris Christie said.)

Donald Trump retook the stage at the end of his wife’s speech, and the two walked off to raucous applause from the delegates and other faithful in attendance. And, in what has to be viewed as a case of bad showmanship planning by either the RNC or the Trump team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a vocal critic of the Obama administration in spite of the fact that he’s a registered Democrat, walked to the podium to speak as a large majority of the audience streamed for the exits, assuming they’d seen the most important part of the program.

“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” Flynn said. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”

Flynn was followed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, another Army veteran, who told the dwindling crowd, “Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'”

And by the time Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought the first day’s proceedings to a close, Quicken Loans Arena was nearly empty.