This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down - We Are The Mighty
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This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., arguably America’s greatest fighter pilot of World War I, was finally downed after taking out 14 German observation balloons and four combat planes. But he took as many Germans with him as he could, strafing ground troops as he crashed and unloading his pistol into the infantry trying to capture him.


Luke enlisted in the Army on Sept. 25, 1917, for service in the aviation field. He took his first solo flight that December, received his commission the following January, and was in France by March.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke Jr. with his biplane in the fields near Rattentout Farm, France, on Sept. 19, 1918. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

After additional instruction there, Luke was ready to go on combat patrols. In an April 20, 1918, letter home, Luke described a severely injured pilot who later died and the constantly growing rows of graves for pilots. In between those two observations, he talked about what fun it is to fly.

Luke claimed his first kill in August, but the reported action took place after Luke became separated from the rest of the flight and few believed that the mouthy rookie had actually bagged a German.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke had a short career on the front lines of World War I, but was America’s greatest fighter pilot for a short period. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But the intrepid pilot would get his first confirmed victory less than a month later. He had heard other pilots talking about how challenging it was to bring down the enemy observation balloons that allowed for better artillery targeting and intelligence collection.

Flying on Sept. 12, 1918, Luke found one of the heavily defended balloons while chasing three German aircraft. He conducted attack passes on the balloon and it exploded into flames on Luke’s third pass, just as the balloon was about to reach the ground.

The flaming gas and bladder fell upon the ground crew and the winch mechanism that held the balloons, killing the men and destroying the site. Two more American officers at a nearby airfield confirmed Luke’s balloon bust.

Two days later, the Arizona native brought down a second balloon in a morning patrol, but he still wasn’t liked by other members of his unit. The same afternoon, he was designated to take the risky run against another balloon as the rest of the formation fought enemy fighters. One, a friend of Luke’s named 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, would cover Luke on his run.

Luke once again downed the enemy balloon and was headed for a second balloon when eight enemy planes chased him. His guns were malfunctioning so he ran back to friendly lines rather than risking further confrontation.

Wehner and Luke became a team and specialized in the dangerous mission of balloon busting. Over the following weeks, they pioneered techniques for bringing down the “sausages.” The pair grew so bold that they scheduled exhibitions for well-known pilots like then-Col. William Mitchell, inviting the VIPs to witness German balloons going down at exact times along the front.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Army pilot 1st Lt. Jospeh Wehner was a balloon buster partnered with 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Services)

But the men’s partnership was short-lived. Wehner had first covered Luke on Sept. 14, and over the next few days they each achieved “Ace” status and Wehner took part in two actions for which he would later receive two Distinguished Service Crosses.

On Sept. 18, the two men scored one of their most productive days including the balloon downing that made Wehner an ace, but Wehner was shot down during the attack on the second balloon. Luke responded by charging into the enemy formation, killing two, and then heading for home and killing an observation plane en route.

Luke was distraught at the loss of his partner and took greater risks in the air. His superior officers attempted to ground him, but Luke stole a plane and went back up anyway.

At that point, he was America’s highest-scoring ace with 11 confirmed victories, ahead of even Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker’s record at the time.

On his final flight on Sept. 29, he dropped a note from his plane that told the reader to “Watch three Hun balloons on the Meuse. Luke.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire. (Photo: State Library of New South Wales)

The pilot flew across the battlefield, downing all three but attracting a patrol of eight German fighters. Sources differ on exactly what happened next, but the most important details are not in dispute.

Luke’s plane was damaged and he himself was hit, likely from machine gun fire from the ground. As he lost altitude, he conducted a strike against German troops, most likely with his machine guns, though locals who witnessed the fight reported that he may have used bombs dropped by hand.

After landing his plane in German-controlled territory, Luke made his way to a stream and was cornered by a German infantry patrol that demanded his surrender. Instead, Luke pulled a pistol and fired, killing an unknown number of Germans before he was shot in the chest and killed.

All of Luke’s confirmed victories had taken place in September 1918. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Sept. 12-15, a second for his actions on Sept. 18, and the Medal of Honor for his final flight on Sept. 29.

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Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Everyone who has attended a military function or visited a base has heard the “Taps” melody fill the air.


Traditionally performed live on a bugle or trumpet, “Taps” is one of the more popular songs, and one that tends to quiet spectators as they solemnly bow their heads.

But few people know the history behind the song or the patriotic meaning behind the lyrics.

Related: This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Chief Musician Guy L. Gregg, plays taps during a Memorial Day service at Brookwood American Cemetery.
(Photo by MC2 Jennifer L. Jaqua/Released)



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According to the VA, present-day “Taps” is believed to be a rendition of the French bugle signal, “Tap Toe” which stems from a Dutch word that means to shut or “tap” a keg. The most noted revision we know today was created by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield during the American Civil War to alert soldiers to discontinue their drinking and remind them to return to garrison.

In July of 1862, Butterfield thought the original French version “L’Extinction des feux” was too formal and began to hum an adaption to his aide, who then transcribed the music to paper and assigned Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler, to play the notes written.

It wasn’t until 12 years later when Butterfield’s musical creation was made the Army’s officially bugle call. By 1891, the Army infantry regulated that “Taps” be played at all military funeral ceremonies moving forward.

Today, the historic song is played during flag ceremonies, military funerals, and at dusk as the sun lowers into the horizon during “lights out.”

Lyrics

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.
Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.
Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.
While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

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Whether it’s used in space or in Afghanistan, the Makarov pistol is out of this world

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
A Russian Makarov PM pistol with its 9×18 mm ammunition, a common sidearm anywhere in the world where the Soviet Union had influence. Public domain photo.


If you are a Russian cosmonaut, you’ve got more than a space suit to protect you.

The Russians have been packing heat in low Earth orbit for decades.

Along with fishing gear and a first aid kit, the Granat-6 survival kit in every Soyuz spacecraft has a Makarov PM semi-automatic pistol and plenty of ammunition.

Presumably available to hunt game or provide a self-defense option, the pistol is just one more tool for the space-faring Russian to use if things go wrong.

But the Makarov PM – for Пистолет Макарова, or pistolet Makarova in honor of its chief designer Nikolay Makarov – has plenty of down-to-Earth uses.

Concealable and compact, it fires the Russian 9 x 18mm Makarov round, which is slightly shorter and fatter than the 9-mm NATO pistol round used throughout the rest of the world. It has a double-action mechanism – if a round is already chambered the pistol can be fired by pulling the trigger without manually cocking the hammer.

Even though it is heavy for its size and has a stiff trigger pull, it’s a natural for police work and covert operations. The designer even copied features from the Walther PP (police pistol) designed in 1929, including its size and the shape of the pistol’s frame.

Not surprisingly, since its introduction in 1951 the Makarov was frequently the handgun brandished by state security agents in the U.S.S.R. or the old Eastern Bloc when they said, “Comrade, come with us.”

Even in the age of polymer-frame pistols, the Makarov has its adherents.

Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) team members often carried the Makarov as their sidearm, particularly team commanders, deputy commanders, and radiomen. They sometimes carried a suppressed version of the weapon for so-called “wet works” – kidnappings and assassinations where stealth, surprise, and silence were necessary for mission success as well as personal survival.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many Makarovs flooded the market and eventually ended up in the hands of shooters in the United States.

“The Makarov is more reliable than most of the more expensive small pistols, is well made of good material, and is surprisingly accurate,” writes Matthew Campbell, author of 21st-Century Stopping Power: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. “This makes the Makarov a superior choice to most of the double action first-shot .380 ACP pistols in this size and weight class.”

Despite the fact it was officially phased out in 2003 by the Russian Ministry of Defense, thousands of the pistols remain in service with police officers, soldiers, and intelligence personnel. It is frequently in the hands of combatants fighting the Russia-Ukraine War, serving as the sidearm for both sides.

And like many weapons, the Makarov has a “bad boy reputation.”

Noted terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez  (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal) carried a Makarov. During the Vietnam War, many senior ranking North Vietnamese Army officers and Communist Party officials carried the pistol – special operators from the U.S. military or the CIA often found the weapon when they searched live prisoners or dead bodies.

To this day, Makarovs frequently appear on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – a testament to the staying power of a rugged, Soviet-era pistol with few frills but incredible reliability.

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23 terms only Marines will understand

Marines speak a slightly-different language than the rest of the United States.


While everyone in the Corps speaks and uses English most of the time, there’s another layer of terminology added on top which is uniquely Marine. If you are around Marines long enough, you’ll hear someone being called a “boot” or dozens of them screaming out “yut.”

This is what it all means.

“Rah.” or “Rah!” or “Rah?”

Short for “Oohrah,” a Marine greeting or expression of enthusiasm similar to the Army’s “Hooah” or the Navy’s “Hooyah.” Rah, however, is a bit more versatile. You could be agreeing with someone, by saying “rah.” You could be excited about going on a mission by exclaiming, “Rah!” Or you could be asking the platoon if everyone understands, “rah?”

It’s like the Marine version of the mobster’s “fuggaddaboutit.”

“Errrr.”

This is an even more shortened-down version of “rah.” But it’s most often used as a lazy-man’s version of agreement. Your platoon sergeant may ask if everyone understands the plan of the day, to which everyone will respond with “Errrr.” Translation: Yeah Gunny, we got it.

“Yut.”

Arguably used more often than “Oohrah” by junior Marines to express enthusiasm. Instead of “oohrah,” Marines will often just say “yut” when in the presence of motivational speeches and/or talk of blowing things up.

Semper Gumby

A play on the Marine Corps motto of “Semper Fidelis (Latin for “Always Faithful”), Semper Gumby for Marines means “Always Flexible.” This phrase is often used when you are told to do one thing, then told a different thing, then told to just stand by, then told to go back to doing the original thing. “Semper Gumby, bro.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Boot

A pejorative term for a new Marine fresh out of boot camp. The term’s origin apparently comes from Vietnam, as an acronym meaning “beginning of one’s tour.” New Marines joining a unit are usually referred to as “boots” until they go on a deployment or have at least a year or two in the Corps. Especially among post-9/11 era infantry Marines however, you are pretty much a “boot” until you’ve been to combat.

Fire watch

This is what Marines call guard duty. While sentries may well have been looking for fires in the past, Marines pulling fire watch nowadays can be walking around a barracks aimlessly or standing their shift behind the machine-gun in Afghanistan.

Since this is one of the most important duties of recruits at boot camp, senior Marines will often say boots only have the “fire watch ribbon,” a pejorative for the National Defense Service Medal that everyone gets.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

“SITFU”

Acronym often used in response to someone complaining. “Hey dude, SITFU.” That means suck it the f— up. You can also just ask if they have a straw. Most Marines will understand the reference.

“Improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

An unofficial motto of Marines that means exactly what you think it means. As the smaller service — and with much less funding than the Army — Marines have an attitude of doing more with less. “Improvise, adapt, and overcome” sums it all up.

Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps

The nickname for the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps, Archibald Henderson, who served in the Marine Corps for 54 years. But most of the time when this phrase is used, it’s in referring to the oldest guy in the unit. Common usage: “Hey grand old man, what was it like serving with Jesus?”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

“Kill!”

Sure, it can literally mean kill. But in Marine-speak, kill can mean “yes, I understand,” “hell yeah,” or “let’s do this.” Marines will even say “kill” as a half-joking version of hello. Using this one outside of the Corps can get plenty of strange looks, so don’t try this one on your local college campus.

BAMCIS

Acronym for the Marine Corps’ six troop-leading steps. It stands for begin the planning, arrange reconnaissance, make reconnaissance, complete the planning, issue the order, and supervise. But most Marines just say “BAMCIS” when they successfully complete a task. It’s like when Chef Emeril says “Bam!” Just add a “cis.”

Skating

The term Marines use for slacking off. Soldiers call this behavior “shamming,” but Marines can “skate” out of boring tasks by avoiding them somehow, usually by getting a dental appointment. And of course, S-K-A-T-E is even an acronym: S: Stay out of trouble / K: Keep a low profile / A: Avoid higher-ups / T: Take your time / E: Enjoy yourself.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Direct reflection of leadership

This is often used sarcastically to rib a non-commissioned officer when one of his or her Marines gets in trouble. “So, two guys from your squad got caught drinking in Tijuana then got arrested at the border. Direct reflection of leadership, right corporal?”

Motarded

What some Marines will call an extremely gung-ho coworker. It’s not a compliment.

Ninja Punch

Non-judicial punishment — also known as the Article 15 — is what Marines can face if they break the rules, but a commander doesn’t feel it’s bad enough to warrant a court martial. While the military justice system is the same across branches, the Marines are the only ones who refer to it as an NJP. If you walk out of your commanding officer’s door going down a rank or losing some pay, you probably got “ninja punched.”

Pvt. or Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli

The John Doe of the Marine Corps. He’s the screw-up and the guy always getting in trouble. The Marine who is lost all the time. The anonymous service-member who stands as the example of what not to do. This term will usually be brought up by a senior leader, like: “Hey gents, you are all doing good things. Be safe out there this weekend, but don’t let me get a phone call about Pvt. Schmuckatelli getting all drunk out at the club and getting into trouble, good to go?”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Semper I

Another play on “Semper Fidelis,” which often gets shortened to “Semper Fi.” While the motto means “Always Faithful” and brings up teamwork and esprit de corps, “Semper I” is used when a Marine goes off and does their own thing without thinking of others. Sometimes used as “Semper I, f— the other guy.”

Terminal Lance

Lance Corporal, or E-3, is a Marine rank that comes with more responsibility than a private or private first class, but is not a non-commissioned officer. In order for Marines to pick up the next rank of corporal, they need to have a high-enough “cutting score” to be promoted. If they get out after their four-year enlistment at Lance Corporal, they are a “Terminal Lance,” which can be bad or a point of pride, depending on who you talk to. “Terminal Lance” is also a hugely-popular online comic strip started by Maximilian Uriarte.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Let’s break it down, Barney-style.

Some Marines need some help in understanding how to complete a task. When this happens, a leader may want to break it down into baby steps and explain it very slowly. You know, just like Barney.

BCG’s

These are what Marines call the glasses you get issued at boot camp, or “boot camp glasses.” Most know them by their nickname, which is “birth control glasses,” because well, you probably don’t want to hit the club wearing these things.

The Lance Corporal Underground

The source of most rumors that go around the Corps. Since lance corporals make up a large part of the Corps, the underground is often responsible for passing word of what’s going on, or completely made-up falsehoods.

“Good initiative, bad judgment.”

This phrase comes out when a Marine does something for a good reason, but things turn out awful. A great example would be when your platoon commander says he knows a shortcut through the woods, then he gets the platoon completely lost. “Good initiative, bad judgment, sir.” Next time, let’s stick to the planned route.

Field Day

Traditionally run on Thursday, the one night of the week Marines usually dread. No, it’s not the field day of play and sports like back in school. It’s the term used to describe the weekly ritual of cleaning rooms in the barracks. Field day cleaning involves moving furniture (often completely outside of the room), dusting top-to-bottom, vacuuming, scrubbing, and waxing floors.

“Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis,” reads the top definition in Urban Dictionary. If your first sergeant finds a speck of dust anywhere, you’re screwed.

What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

It was a cool California November afternoon in 1947 when the HK-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, finally flew. It was supposed to be a simple taxi test, nothing more than motoring through the water of Long Beach Harbor to show off its speed and test out the plane in open water. But having endured years of people mocking the project and himself for trying to build a plane so massive it had no hope of flying, Howard Hughes decided to take the opportunity to extend his middle finger at them all in the most poignant way he could.

No doubt with a twinkle in his eye as the Hercules cruised through the water, Hughes turned to the 30 year old hydraulic engineer, David Grant, who he had chosen as his co-pilot that day despite him not actually being a pilot, and unexpectedly told him to “lower the flaps to 15 degrees” — the take off position.


Not long after, the massive, few hundred thousand pound (250K lb / 113K kg empty, 400K lb / 181K kg gross), 218 ft (67 m) long aircraft with a still record holding wingspan of just shy of 321 feet (98 m) was out of the water. It was airborne for under a minute, went less than a mile, and only about 70 feet in the air, but it had done the impossible — the Spruce Goose flew.

Given the rather innovative use of a hydraulic system, landing was a bit abnormal for planes of the age in that the plane had to be landed under power, as Grant would instruct Hughes to “fly it into the water.”

When it finally settled back down in the water, Grant stated, “It was ecstasy all the way. It was like walking on air. It wasn’t underpowered at all, and it performed exactly like it was designed to.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Internal view of the Hughes H-4 Hercules fuselage.

As to why Hughes didn’t fly it further, besides elements of the aircraft still needing tweaked and the potential danger of taking media aboard a test flight in which even the pilot wasn’t quite sure how the plane would handle, they’d been taxiing around for some time at this point and the plane hadn’t been fueled much to begin with. As such, Hughes didn’t want to risk running out of fuel in open ocean before he’d have a chance to circle back around and land.

Now, the original plan for this aircraft was a lot more grandiose than a brief publicity flight. In 1942, the United States — along with much of the rest of the world — was in the midst of WWII. Being across an ocean from where the fighting was taking place was a problem when transporting supplies, weapons, and soldiers en masse.

At the time, efforts on this front weren’t going well. German U-boats were patrolling Atlantic waters and torpedoing anything that was perceived to be helping the Allied war effort. According to one estimate, between January 1942 and August 1942 alone, German U-boats had sunk 233 ships and killed more than 5,000 Americans. It was clear that a better way was needed for transporting things safely across the Big Blue.

It was Henry J. Kaiser who first proposed an idea of an airboat. Running one of the most important construction companies in modern American history, Kaiser was responsible for building quite a lot of the infrastructure of the American west at the time (including the Hoover Dam). He also created a system for fast, high-quality shipbuilding during World War II that became world renownd.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Henry J. Kaiser

Kaiser thought that a massive airboat packed to the gills with supplies and troops that could fly over German U-boats was the answer to the problem. However, he was a shipbuilder and not an expert on airplanes… But he knew someone who was.

By 1942, Hughes was already a famed figure in America. Exceedingly wealthy, he first gained widespread fame as a Hollywood producer who was most prominently known for producing and directing Hell’s Angels, a World War I epic about aerial combat that was (at the time) the most expensive movie ever made.

In 1934, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company. A year later, he helped design and build the H-1, or as he liked to call it, the “Racer.” In September 1935, he broke the world land speed record in it with an average of 352.322 mph. In sort of a precursor of the future, during the flight the plane ran out of gas — something Hughes didn’t anticipate — forcing him to crash in a beet field, narrowly avoiding serious injury.

He broke another land speed record when he flew to New York from Los Angeles in a mere 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds (averaging 332 mph). In 1938, he shattered the world record for quickest time flying around the globe, needing just 3 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds, almost 4 days quicker than the previous world record set in 1933 by Wiley Post.

His prowess as an aviation engineer and pilot quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most innovative aviators in the world- someone that Kaiser thought would help the Allies win the war.

Together, Kaiser and Hughes convinced the War Production Board to finance the construction of 500 flying boats, a project that was deemed in the press as the “most ambitious flying aviation program in the history of the world.”

For months, the old-school industrialist and the new-age aviator worked together to put together plans that would wow.

In late August, they submitted to the government blueprints for a seaplane with eight engines, a wingspan longer than a football field, and a hull taller than a five-story building.

Beyond being the largest plane ever built by far at the time, it would be able to transport 750 troops or two M2 Sherman tanks. It had a gross weight of about two hundred tons, which was nearly three times heavier than any other airplane ever built. And, due to wartime metal restrictions, it was to be built nearly entirely of wood. Hughes and Kaiser called it the HK-1, naturally named after themselves.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

While hesitant at first, the federal government gave the pair $18 million (about $250 million today) to develop and build a prototype.

It didn’t go well from the very beginning. The Hughes Aircraft Company was not a big company in 1942 and struggled with staffing, expenses, and deadlines. Hughes himself was unfocused, taking on too many projects while underestimating how much attention was needed to build a plane that would eclipse anything anyone had ever attempted to make fly. Four months in and the best thing that could be said was that they built a 750-foot long hanger, also made out of wood.

By mid-1943, construction had begun on the plane itself, but it was incredibly slow-moving. Working with wood proved to be an enormous issue, presenting a variety of challenges that had to be overcome to make a reliable sea-plane. Beyond the aforementioned then innovative hydraulic system for manipulating the control surfaces, each piece of wood (which was mostly birch, not spruce, owing to birch being quite resistant to dry rot) had to be weighed and analyzed for quality assurance before being used.

In addition, each sheet had to be laminated with a waterproof glue in order to prevent it from being damaged by water, heat, and fungus. Along the way, besides needing to purchase the rights to the Duramold laminating process, which in a nutshell involved stacking shapable ultra-thin strips of wood and applying a glue, Hughes and his teem also had to develop a variation of the process for their particular application.

As late 1943 approached, the first prototype was due to the government but it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. What’s more, they had spent nearly half of the budget on “engineering re-tooling” and rumors were swirling that the first plane wasn’t going to be done until 1945. It turned out to be much worse than that.

At this point, Kaiser had had enough and bailed out of the project. Several times, the feds threatened to shut the whole thing down, willing to cut their losses. The contract that had originally been given to Hughes and Kaiser went from 500 planes to 3 planes to, finally, just one for the original $18 million.

By 1944, $13 million of that money was spent and, yet, the plane was less than half done. Then the war ended and any hope that the now-called H-4 Hercules (renamed after Kaiser left the project) was ever going to help the war effort was gone.

The contract with the federal government was swiftly canceled, but Hughes was determined to finish the plane. As he stated before the Senate War Investigating Committee in 1947 during an inquiry on whether he’d mismanaged tax payer dollars during the project,

The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

And so it was that he paid for the project’s completion himself. The H-4 Hercules was finally finished in June of 1946 with $22 million of the government’s money and, while figures vary from otherwise reputable sources, according to Boeing, $18 million of Hughes own personal wealth chipped in, for a grand total of $40 million (about $450 million today). It should also be noted here that, subtracting initial research and development costs, had they decided to build a second plane, it probably would have only cost about $2.5 million (about $28 million today).

It took a little over a year more for Hughes to it fly. At this point given the massive scale of the plane, the incredible weight, the fact that it was made of wood, and the perpetual delays, the media had taken to mocking the plane, calling it the Spruce Goose — a nickname that Hughes and his team hated owing to it demeaning what was otherwise a marvel of engineering.

But on that fateful November day, the Hercules finally did what it was intended, proving many a critic wrong.

In the aftermath, there was some wrangling over who actually owned the plane given how much money Hughes himself had sunk into the project. But the U.S. government eventually gave up its rights to it in exchange for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum getting the Hughes’ H-1 Racer plane and a portion of the Spruce Goose’s wing, as well as in exchange for a relatively small payment of $700,000 (about $3 million today).

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Howard Hughes

For years afterward, Hughes, now moving on to other projects, kept the plane in the hanger he built specifically for it, seemingly originally with the intent of eventually flying it again. In fact, he kept a full-time crew of, at its peak, hundreds of people on hand to make sure the plane was ready to fly at any given moment, costing him millions of dollars over the years to do that.

Howard Hughes died in 1976 and the Spruce Goose immediately was under threat of being dismantled owing to the cost of maintaining it in its massive hanger. But the Aero Club of Southern California acquired the legendary plane in 1980 and put it in their own hanger next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, right near where the plane did its maiden and final voyage.

The Walt Disney Company bought the property in 1988 and, after a few tense years, given Disney wanted the plane gone, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon won the right to acquire the Spruce Goose.

For the last 26 years, that’s where it has remained, meticulously maintained. In fact, it’s generally thought that the maintenance over the years has been so good that, with some upgrades, particularly to the wiring and electronic components as well as going through the engines, it could possibly fly just fine today. Of course, because of its historical significance, nobody has seriously suggested anyone make those upgrades and try.

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

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President ponders review of terrorist suspect interrogation and black sites

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.


According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Photo provided by Crown Publishing

The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.

The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. The detainees will be given a basic physical exam by a doctor, to include a chest x-ray and blood samples drawn to assess their health. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”

When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Senator John McCain campaigns for re-election to the senate in 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”

Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay during prayer (DoD photo)

Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.

“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know.  Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”

Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”

Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.

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Shaggy has a plan to defeat ISIS and it involves weed and reggae music

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Photo: Adam Jakubiak/Flickr


Reggae music star Shaggy has a plan to defeat ISIS terrorists, and it involves a lot of weed and reggae music.

The man behind “Boombastic” was asked how to counter the terrible band of murderous militants in Iraq and Syria in a recent interview in the Miami New Times, and he certainly delivered.

“ISIS can go f–k themselves,” he told Dyllan Furness. “That’s some crazy shit what they’re doing. It’s horrible, man. I can’t see … I don’t get that much hate. I just don’t get that level of evil. I can’t understand it.”

Interestingly the 46-year-old singer — real name Orville Burrell — who goes by “Shaggy” does have some military experience, having served as a Marine artilleryman during the Gulf War. But his strategy to fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State is quite unconventional.

“If you’re able to cut a man’s head off, you’re sick,” he continued, “But right, music evokes emotion. So if they’re listening to Shaggy music or reggae music, they’re not going to want to cut somebody’s head off. There’re two thing you want to do when you listen to reggae: You get somebody pregnant, or you’re f–king high. High people don’t want to kill nothing; they want to love. They need to bag some Jamaican weed and distribute it amongst ISIS. I guarantee there won’t be any more wars out there.”

You hear that, DoD? Drop more weed, instead of high-explosive bombs.

Read the full interview here.

NOW: Watch a C-130 pilot’s terrifying view of a combat landing

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, there was a small group of special operations troops who took the fight to the enemy. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a highly secret outfit comprised of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Commandos who conducted covert cross-border operations deep into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam.

SOG recon teams consisted of a few Special Forces operators and their indigenous troops, or “little people,” as the Americans affectionally called them.

Khanh “Cowboy” Doan, a South Vietnamese commando, was one of them.

In the early 1960s, Cowboy’s father saw that America would have a bigger role in Vietnam’s affairs, and so prompted his son to learn English. And so Cowboy became an interpreter. As American involvement in the Southeast Asian country grew, Cowboy began working for the American forces and soon ended up in SOG.

During his career in SOG, Cowboy participated in scores of missions. He was part of the relief column that went into Lang Vei, a Special Forces A camp that had been overrun by NVA tanks and troops in the early stages of the Siege of Khe Sanh. He also took part in a mission where his nine-man team squared off against 10,000 NVA troops.

While in SOG, Cowboy narrowly escaped death numerous times. In one instance, he didn’t go out with his team for some reason, and the team (ST Alaska) ended up being wiped out save one man who escaped and evaded for two days before getting picked up.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Cowboy honoring a fallen comrade after the war.

In 1972, after operating in SOG for six years, Cowboy lost his leg during a mission across the fence.

At the end of his career, he had served in numerous recon teams, including ST Alaska, Virginia, Idaho, and Alabama.

After Saigon fell in 1975, Cowboy thought that the cleverest thing to do in order to avoid the wrath of the North Vietnamese was to go North, where they wouldn’t be expecting him. After 11 years and 14 failed escape attempts from the country, he managed to reach the Philippines in 1986 and from there the US.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Cowboy surrounded by former Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink (right) and SOG operator John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer (left) during a recent podcast (John Stryker Meyer).

Recently, Cowboy contracted COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized with serious symptoms. What’s worse, his entire family was also infected, including his wife, son, and grandson. As a consequence, they are hard put to make ends meet. Cowboy was released from the hospital and is back in his home, but he still has to go through dialysis twice a day, totaling nine to ten hours of treatment.  The good news, however, is that he is improving by the day.

Some of Cowboy’s SOG buddies, including Special Forces legend John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer, who has written extensively about America’s secret war in Vietnam, have set up a GoFundMe campaign to support their brother-in-arms and his family.

The GoFundMe campaign (you can visit the page by following this link) aims at helping Cowboy and his family during this difficult time. Donations will help pay rent, cover medical expenses not covered by his insurance, and buy food and medicine for Cowboy and his entire family.

So far, hundreds of people have donated.

“Please thank every person who donated to help me [and] my family. I can’t believe it. We [are] amazed. Please tell every person: ‘You have rescued my life,’” Cowboy told Meyer.

Men like Cowboy fought for their country against the Communist tide. But they also fought for their American brothers, with whom they share a bond that only war and adversity can forge.

“Cowboy is a clearly a legend but also very humble,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

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


AIR FORCE:

Airmen from the 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work together to remove the panel on the right horizontal stabilizer of an EC-130H Compass Call at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 30, 2016. The 755th AMXS plans and executes all equipment maintenance actions for 14 EC-130Hs.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier

The Shockwave Jet Truck fires up its 12,000 horsepower jet engine on the flightline during the Thunder Over Georgia Air Show on Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Oct. 1, 2016.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Stephen D. Schester

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., sits on the ramp at Rickenbacker International Airport, Ohio, Oct. 7, 2016. The aircraft sheltered at the airport during Hurricane Matthew.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, maneuver their M1A2 Abrams tank to avoid indirect fire during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 7, 2016.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dedrick Johnson

A 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse Soldier provides suppressing fire with a M249 machine gun against 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers attending training at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 4, 2016.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski

NAVY:

SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 8, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, perform an Echelon Parade at Fleet Week San Francisco Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 56 demonstrations at 29 locations across the U.S. in 2016, which is the team’s 70th anniversary year.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Dominick A. Cremeans

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 8, 2016) U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David Coburn stands by as Landing Craft, Utility 1634, assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, embarks the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) during Philippine Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX). PHIBLEX 33 is an annual U.S.-Philippine bilateral exercise that combines amphibious landing and live-fire training with humanitarian civic assistance efforts to strengthen interoperability and working relationships.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Dionne

MARINE CORPS:

Marines remove a tree from main road aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, Oct. 8. Marines and sailors with MCAS Beaufort worked to return the air station and Laurel Bay to normal operations. They removed debris and cleaned up main access roads to establish infrastructure after Hurricane Matthew.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez

A U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One engages targets during an urban close air support exercise at Yodaville, Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 30, 2016. The urban close air support exercise was part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 1-17, a seven-week training event, hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard crew members from Air Station Clearwater, Florida, prepare an HC-130 Hercules airplane Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, for an overflight. The crew flew to areas north of Daytona, Florida, for an assessment of Hurricane Matthew’s damage and Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commander Coast Guard Atlantic Area, held a press briefing when they landed.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse

Petty Officer 3rd Class Luis Martinez points to a training mannequin in the water Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, during a man overboard training exercise in Jacksonville, Florida. Martinez is one of several Coast Guard reservists from units throughout the 7th Coast Guard district attending a weeklong 45-foot Response Boat—Medium school at Coast Guard Station Mayport, Florida, to help sharpen their boat crewmember skills.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony L. Soto

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy initially denied Grace Hopper’s enlistment. Then she revolutionized computers.

Grace Hopper, WAVE mathematician, assigned to Harvard University to work on the computation project with a Mark I computer, was instrumental in ushering in the computer age. Hopper went on to become a Rear Admiral, held a Ph.D. from Yale, and tried to enlist during WWII but was rejected because of her age. As a computer scientist, Hopper made significant strides in coding languages. Here’s a profile of her life and how she directly impacted yours.

Who was she?


The fact that you’re able to read any of these words on your device is thanks, in part, to Grace Hopper, one of the most formidable American computer scientists. Serving as a Navy Rear Admiral, Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Her impact on our modern lives is significant and nothing to be trifled with; let’s take a look at how Hopper directly impacted everything we do today.

In 1934, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in math from Yale. Her dissertation was published the same year. By 1941, she was an associate professor at Vassar.

Hopper’s great grandfather was an admiral in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. At the onset of WWII, Hopper tried to enlist in the Navy but was turned away because of her age. At 34, she was too old, and her height to weight ratio was too low for Navy standards. Hopper’s enlistment was also denied based on the criteria that her job as a mathematician was valuable to the war effort.

Undeterred, Hopper took a leave of absence from Vassar in 1943 and then joined the United States Navy Reserve. She was one of several women who volunteered to serve in WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Service), as part of the US Naval Reserve.

What were her contributions?

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Hopper had to receive an exemption to enlist because she was fifteen points underweight. After training at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smooth College, Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard. There, she and Howard Aiken co-authored three papers on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also known as Mark I.

Mark I was used during the war effort during the latter part of WWII. It helped compute and print mathematical tables and directly contributed to the Manhattan Project. Specific sets of problems were run through the Mark I to help create simulation programs to study the atomic bomb’s implosion.

Despite her contributions, Hopper was denied a transfer to the Navy at the end of the war because of her “advanced” age of 38.

Hopper moved on to the private sector and set at work recommending the development of a new programming language that would entirely use English words. She was told that this was impossible since computers didn’t understand English and it took three years for the idea to be accepted. That was the beginning of COBOL – Common Business Oriented Language, a computer language for data processors. During this time, Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1973.

What was her impact?

Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve as a commander in 1966 at the age of 60. She was then recalled to active duty in August 1967 for what started as a six-month assignment but turned into an indefinite appointment. Then in 1971, she retired again … only to be called back once more to active duty. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt presided over her promotion in 1973.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

(Wikimedia Commons)

A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives led to her promotion in 1983 to commodore by special appointment from President Reagan. Hopper remained on active duty for several years after the mandatory retirement age. IN 1985, the rank of commodore was renamed rear admiral, and Hopper became one of the Navy’s few female admirals.

Admiral Hopper’s career spanned more than four decades, and she retired in 1986. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the DoD.

At the time of her retirement, Admiral Hopper was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the Navy. To commemorate her 42 years of service, Hopper’s retirement ceremony was held aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. Admiral Hopper is interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.


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How the military can help if California’s Oroville Dam bursts

The Defense Department stands ready to assist in operations surrounding a failing dam in northern California, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.


Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said DoD officials are watching closely as the dam erodes.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Soldiers assigned to the California National Guard’s 2632nd Transportation Company prepare to move out to Paradise, Chico and Nevada County in California to bring cots and blankets to temporary shelters set up for residents who evacuated their homes as the Oroville Dam spillway threatened to fail, Feb. 13, 2017. The California Department of Public Health supplied the blankets and cots. (California National Guard photo)

“The dam is failing, and evacuation orders have been given to close to 200,000 people in the area,” he said. “While the [water] depths are reported to be decreasing, we do note that rain is expected later this week.”

DoD is in touch with the California National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the commander of U.S. Northern Command, Davis said. Northcom provides command and control of Defense Department homeland defense efforts and coordinates defense support of civil authorities.

“We’ve dispatched liaison officers to the state emergency operations center, and are prepared to deploy any Title 10 capabilities – federal military – quickly if requested,” Davis noted, adding that the entire California National Guard, which comprises about 23,000 service members, is on alert status.

FEMA and DoD coordinating officials stand by to put state and federal asset requests into action as they arise, he said.

“If the dam should break, there are FEMA, California National Guard and DoD personnel who will all be prepared to respond,” the Pentagon spokesman told reporters. “We are leaning forward and are ready to assist if needed.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
A family gets settled into an emergency shelter following the Oroville spillway evacuation notice at Beale Air Force Base, California, Feb. 13, 2017. Beale is providing evacuees with shelter, food, and water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

Types of help DoD is prepared to provide include aviation, airborne imagery and water rescue — both swift water and still water — as well as mass care and shelter assistance, he added.

DoD officials are trying to anticipate such requests before they come, Davis said, and is keeping a dialogue open to quickly get its forces ready should they be needed.

“We recognize that one of our most solemn duties is to assist the American people in their greatest time of need,” the captain said. “While the state, first and foremost, has the responsibility for doing that, there’s a federal element, should they need it, which is ready to respond quickly.”

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Experts say missile defense alone won’t stop growing North Korea nuke threat

North Korea launched on Sunday a land-based version of the KN-11 nuclear-capable ballistic missile that may have traveled further and faster than any North Korean missile before it.


The missile flew about 300 miles before hitting the Sea of Japan, likely further than any test before it and used solid fuel that allowed it to be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday.

Older North Korean missiles have used liquid fuel, which requires them to travel with huge convoys and to gas up prior to a launch, which gives observers time to prepare and respond.

Related: Here’s why North Korea’s latest type of missile would be a nightmare to stop

While Davis said the launch made clear the “grave threat to our national security,” he added that the US is “capable of defending against a North Korean ballistic missile attack.”

Experts on North Korea and missile defense told Business Insider a different story about the US’s ability to defend against North Korean attacks.

The US is “certainly capable of addressing the North Korean threat both regionally and to the homeland,” Abel Romero
, the director of government relations
 at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance,
 told Business Insider. But he added that the systems in place have considerable flaws.

Though the US has guided missile destroyers and local missile defense batteries in the region, missile defense is not “solely the answer” to stopping threats from North Korea, Romero said.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
The Heritage Foundation: 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength

Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that missile defense isn’t a good enough response to North Korea’s missile tests — diplomatic engagement is needed.

The latest test “underscores the urgency for a new approach to North Korea,” Davenport said.

“The major issue with relying on the missile defense system is capacity,” Ian Williams, associate director at the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Business Insider.

The US has 25,000 troops deployed to South Korea, and more than 50,000 in Japan. While most military sites have ballistic missile defenses, North Korea could potentially trick missile defenses by using decoys, exhausting the US’s supply of interceptor missiles, which can knock out incoming missiles.

The US just doesn’t “have enough interceptors to sit and play catch with everything that North Korea can throw,” Williams said. “US and allied missile defenses could likely absorb a first wave, but there would need to be coordination with strike forces to start knocking out North Korea’s missiles out before they could be launched.”

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Heritage Foundation

The second major issue, according to Williams, is coverage. The US uses multiple layers of missile defense systems like Patriot missile defense batteries and guided-missile destroyer ships, but they provide uneven coverage in the region.

The US has been pushing to deploy a larger range missile defense system to South Korea, known as Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), as a kind of admission that the current systems have weaknesses and flaws.

But like other systems, THAAD isn’t perfect. It has an excellent track record within it’s range, but North Korea could simply send a submarine outside of range and fire away.

“Missile defense is not a surefire way to negate the threat posed by another country’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” said Davenport.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
The THAAD missile system. | Lockheed Martin photo

For example, while the US may have systems in place to counter North Korea, it has no defenses built specifically to counter Chinese or Russian nuclear missiles, which are far more advanced and capable, according to Romero.

“As of right now I’ve never heard anyone come out and say we need to build a missile defense system to defend us from Russia and China,” said Romero.

Instead, the US uses diplomacy and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction to coexist with Russia and China. As the nuclear missile threat grows from North Korea, the US must find a way to coexist with them as well.

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Vietnam may see an American aircraft carrier again – this time on a friendly visit

The United States Navy will be sending an aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in 2018, part of a series of steps to promote “regional and global security” in Asia. This will mark the first time an aircraft carrier has visited the Southeast Asian country in more than 50 years.


This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosts an honor cordon for Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2017. (DoD photo)

According to a Defense Department readout of a meeting between Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich, the carrier visit is part of a series of steps to “deepen defense cooperation,” which included the transfer of a decommissioned Hamilton-class Coast Guard high-endurance cutter to the Vietnamese Navy.

The South China Sea has been a longstanding maritime flashpoint between China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

The Bangkok Post reported that President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had discussed having a carrier visit Vietnam when the two met in May during a visit from Phuc to the U.S. The Thai media outlet also reported that Vietnam has been taking a hard line among the Association of South East Asian Nations regarding China’ construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

China has long claimed dominion over the entire South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “nine-dash line.” The claims have been disputed and were rejected by an international tribunal in 2016. China, though, boycotted the process.

The U.S. has conducted a number of freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. American and Chinese units have also had a number of close encounters in the maritime flash point, and in other regions where China has made territorial claims.