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US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

Senior U.S. military officials said April 7 that they were looking into whether Russia aided Syrian forces in this week’s deadly chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province.


“We think we have a good picture of who supported them as well,” one senior military official told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the Pentagon was “carefully assessing any information that would implicate the Russians knew or assisted with this Syrian capability.”

The officials said that at a minimum, the Russians failed to rein in the Syrian regime activity that has killed innocent Syrian civilians. They said Russia also failed to fulfill its 2013 guarantee that Syria’s chemical weapons would be eliminated.

The U.S. military officials noted that they had not seen evidence of Russian involvement in the chemical attack. However, the officials said the Russians had an aviation unit based at the airfield where the attack originated and have “chemical expertise in country.”

The U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidentally struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants. (YouTube screenshot: Kurdistan24.net)

U.S. military officials have shown reporters the Syrian aircraft flight path that was taken April 4 from al-Shayrat airfield to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, where more than 80 people were killed in the attack that local doctors said involved sarin nerve gas.

On April 7, U.S. military officials said that after the attack, they watched a small drone, also called a UAV, flying over the hospital in Khan Sheikoun where victims of the chemical attack were being treated.

“About five hours later, the UAV returned, and the hospital was struck by additional munitions,” one official said.

The senior military official said the U.S. did not know why the hospital was struck or who carried out the strike, but had determined that it was potentially done “to hide the evidence of a chemical attack.”

Meanwhile, senior military officials said the United States and Russia would maintain a line of communication aimed at preventing midair collisions of their warplanes in Syrian airspace. That contradicted Moscow’s earlier assertion that it had suspended those communications in protest against the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on al-Shayrat airfield.

In early 2017, a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer. (Dept. of Defense image)

The communication line is primarily used to ensure that Russian and U.S. planes conducting combat missions in Syria do not get into unintentional confrontations. The U.S. is using the airspace to conduct strikes against Islamic State terrorists.

The U.S. used the line to inform the Russians of the intent to strike in order to warn any Russians who were at the base, officials said.

The April 6 U.S. strike used 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit targets on the Syrian airfield, including about 20 aircraft, aircraft storage facilities, ammunition supply bunkers, and radars, officials said.

A U.S. military official told Voice of America there was an area on the airfield known to have been used as a chemical weapons depot. The source said that the U.S. military did not know whether chemical weapons were still in that area, but out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential casualties, the missiles did not strike that area.

Other U.S. military officials told Voice of America the strikes did not target the airfield runways so as to not threaten Russians, adding that the Tomahawk type used was for “precision strikes, not cratering.”

One military official deemed the strikes as “appropriate, proportionate, precise, and effective.”

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the strikes in a statement on April 7 as “reckless” and “irresponsible.” The statement added that the attacks were “shortsighted” and a continuation of a U.S. policy of “subjugating people.”

Russia, which is providing troops and air support to the Assad government, condemned the U.S. military action, calling it “aggression against a sovereign state,” and said it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. for flight safety over Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on April 7 that the United States “took a very measured step last night.” She added, “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.”

VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America might need to derail an Indian purchase of the T-14

Russia may have a major buyer interested in its next generation T-14 Armata battle tank.

Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is currently on an official visit to Russia, where he will tour several military facilities and discuss defense deals worth over $10 billion, according to Russian and Indian media.

One of the topics of conversation will be the T-14 Armata battle tank and other platforms part of the Armata universal chassis system, according to The Diplomat, which cited Indian defense sources.


Russia’s Armata Universal Combat Platform is based on a single chassis that can be used for other Armata vehicles, such as the T-14 tank, the T-15 (or Terminator 3) Infantry fighting vehicle and the Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzer.

In November 2017, India announced it was looking for 1,770 combat vehicles to replace its aging arsenal of Soviet armored vehicles, made up mostly of Soviet T-72s tanks.

New Delhi plans to build whichever vehicles it ends up choosing in India with help from the manufacturer.

A 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV.

But a US law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2018, could throw a wrench in any future deals.

CAATSA sanctions any country trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, but sanctions could be avoided by a new provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the president to exempt sanctions on any purchases.

Initially, Moscow said it would put 2,300 T-14s into service by 2020, but has massively scaled back procurements due to budget constraints.

Moscow signed a contract for 132 T-14 and T-15 platforms in late August 2018, with the first nine getting delivered in 2018, and the rest by 2021, Russian state-owned media outlet TASS reported.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Afghan soldier opens fire on US troops, wounds seven

An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.


Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.

General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.

Presentation of the Resolute Support colors. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.

“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.

“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”

A helicopter flies over Mazar-i-Sharif. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Another insider attack

Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”

On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.

The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.

Coalition countries, led by the US, are considering sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan to help advise and assist Afghan forces struggling against Taliban and the ISIS.

On June 19th, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he would present options on Afghanistan to President Donald Trump “very soon.”

Articles

This is what the pilots from ‘Top Gun’ are doing today

The 1980s brought us some fantastic action movies like “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard,” which made movie-goers consider joining the police force.


When Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” landed in cinemas across the nation, it was an instant blockbuster, earning over $350 million worldwide according to box office mojo.

With all the adrenaline-packed scenes the film offers, “Top Gun” audience members of all ages wanted to be the next Maverick.

While it made a massive impact at the time, did you ever wonder what happened to the cool pilots from “Top Gun?”

Well, we looked into it, and here’s what we found.

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Iceman

(Source: Paramount)

Soon after Iceman made amends with Maverick, his naval career took a downward turn, and he ended up leaving the military. Like most veterans, he didn’t have a plan about what he wanted to do post service — so he dyed his hair brown and became a Jim Morrison impersonator.

He played a few music gigs and smoked a lot of drugs. But after the market for music impersonators dried up, Iceman reset his hair blonde and turned to a life of crime.

You may have even seen him on the news after being involved in a major shootout with police in downtown Los Angeles back the mid-90s.

The “Heat” was totally on.

Since then, Iceman has gone off the grid, but he resurfaces every once in a while.

Jester

(Source: Paramount)

Jester loved being a Top Gun instructor, but because he lost a dogfight to a student — his peers started to look down at his piloting skills. Jester put in for retirement and left the Navy. After months of being a civilian, Jester missed the action so much, he moved to Mars becoming a bounty hunter.

While on assignment, Jester lost his arms during a fight on an elevator. The Mars government patched him up and gave him a bionic arm.

Then wouldn’t you know it, a war broke out against some big ass bugs, and he joined the mobile infantry. He flew to a planet named “Klendathu” to eliminate the threat. Unfortunately, Jester met his doom there, and his body was ripped apart.

Jester could have just walked this off.

Slider

(Source: Paramount)

After being Iceman’s sidekick for so many years, Slider’s BUD/s package was approved, and he went on to become a Navy SEAL. He didn’t talk too much, but he learned to play a mean round of go-kart golf.

Life after the teams, Slider finished getting his medical degree and went to work for a ghetto hospital in Chicago. He began dating a hot nurse until an upcoming pediatrician stole her away.

Then, he kind of just vanished. Oh, wait! We just received reports that he spotted as a bicycle officer patrolling the Santa Monica Pier.

No one saw that career change coming.

Maverick

(Source: Paramount)

As much crap as he raised as a fighter pilot, Maverick ended up getting recruited by a spy agency named “Mission Impossible Force.” The organization made him change his name from Pete Mitchell to Ethan Hunt — which is far better.

He went on several successful missions and took down some of the world’s most dangerous and well-connected terrorists.

In recent news, the all-star pilot will be returning for round 2, “Maverick” set to debut this fall.

Articles

7 lies sailors tell their parents while deployed

College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.


Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.

While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:

1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”

3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”

Photo: U.S. Navy

4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”

5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”

6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”

7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”

Articles

Pentagon to pursue bonuses mistakenly paid to Guardsmen

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook updates reporters about the California National Guard bonus repayments at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., Jan. 3, 2017.


The Pentagon announced yesterday that they had met Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s deadline of January 1 to set up a streamlined system to recover bonuses they had accidentally paid to thousands of California National Guardsmen several years ago.

Late last year, Carter ordered the suspension of efforts to recover the funds from soldiers until a system could be set up to fairly recover the bonuses.

Peter Levine, acting as the undersecretary for personnel and readiness, headed up the team to develop the recovery system. Levine spoke to reporters during the press conference, admitting that, though some of the Guardsmen might have made mistakes, “sometimes the service does” as well.

Levine said he had worked with the National Guard Bureau, the Army Audit Agency, the Army Review Boards Agency, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to develop the system, and that part of that system involved screening each case to determine if there was even enough information to pursue a resolution.

Cases that are determined to have enough information will go before the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, and Guardsmen will have an opportunity to make their cases then.

There are currently about 17,500 cases up for review which have been separated into two categories.

Also read: Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

The first category consists of roughly 1,400 cases where the Guard has determined that recoupment should happen, and they have been referred to DFAS for collection of those funds.

Levine said that he expected to see half of those debts forgiven.

For the remaining approximately 16,000 cases, Levin anticipated about 15,000 not meeting the criteria for pursuit.

The other thousand cases, according to Levine, will go through the same process as the 1,400 currently referred to DFAS.

In all, he said, he expects “fewer than 1,000” of the cases to go before the Board of Correction of Military Records.

Levine believes that the Board of Correction of Military Records will be able to hear all of the cases by July — the deadline set by Carter.

Articles

Retired SEAL Admiral turns down National Security top job

The retired admiral whom President Donald Trump wanted to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser turned down the job, he said Thursday. The Financial Times first reported the news.


Trump offered the position to retired Adm. Robert Harward on Monday, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy. At the time, the former Navy SEAL commander told the president he’d need some time to “think it over.”

Related: Here’s how Mattis reacted to Flynn’s resignation

“It’s purely a personal issue,” Harward told the Associated Press on Thursday evening. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on Twitter that a friend of Harward said Harward was reluctant to take the job since the Trump White House seemed so chaotic and called the offer a “s— sandwich.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Robert Harward during a visit to Zaranj, Afghanistan, in 2011. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Shawn Coolman

Two administration officials confirmed to The Washington Post that Harward was at the top of Trump’s three-person short list to replace Flynn, who abruptly resigned from the role after it became public that he had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn reportedly urged the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, not to overreact to the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, indicating that incoming administration might be more inclined to roll them back.

Harward, who rose to deputy commander of US Central Command before retiring in 2013, wanted to bring in his own staff for an overhaul of the National Security Council, according to Ricks.

One of FT’s sources said Harward was concerned about whether he could carry out such a “housecleaning” of NSC workers, many of whom were loyal to Flynn.

As national security adviser, Harward would have had a close ally in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whom he served under at Central Command. He also has NSC experience, having served on the council during the George W. Bush administration.

Retired Army Gen. Keith Kellogg is serving as acting national security adviser. Trump tweeted Friday morning that Kellogg was “very much in play for NSA — as are three others.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coasties get limited assistance from Legion during shutdown

The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.

In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.

Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)

Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”

“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.

The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.

“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.

However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.

“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Hundreds rescued from wildfires by military helicopters

The situation in California has worsened as 25 separate wildfires are currently burning across the state torching property and stranding fleeing citizens. Overwhelmed, California firefighters summoned National Guard and USN helicopters to aid in the extraction of hundreds of individuals trapped by the flames.

Over the holiday weekend, many people went to the Sierra National Forest, staying at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, a popular camping spot. The “Creek Fire,” which reportedly started Friday night, quickly began spreading and trapped over 200 people. The fire was aided by record-breaking temperatures and accompanying dry air and winds.


Massive “Creek Fire” Threatens Town of Auberry – RAW Footage

www.youtube.com

Raw footage from ON SCENE TV on September 8, 2020.

Ch-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawks began responding to the area to evacuate the trapped campers. The rescues began Saturday night and went into Sunday morning. In total, helicopter crews rescued 214 people, several of whom were severely injured. It was reported that the helos were within 50 feet of the flames while loading people on.

Outside of Fresno, wildfires trapped more people as they were trying to escape the burning forest, in the areas of Lake Edison and Chinese Peak.

On Monday night, National Guard and U.S. Navy helicopter crews were dispatched to the area to conduct rescue operations. Heavy smoke thwarted rescue attempts and helicopters were kept at bay until flight conditions improved.

Helicopters were able to access the area by Monday night and began extracting those trapped by the flames. Equipped with night vision, helicopter crews flew through the darkness, rescuing 35 more people, some of whom were reported to have had injuries. Rescue flights continued throughout the day on Tuesday, rescuing another 148 people as the inferno ripped through the California forests.

At the time of this report, some 385 people and 27 animals have been saved from the wildfires by the helicopter crews. It is unknown how many people are still trapped.

Cal Fire’s firefighters have been fighting these aggressive wildfires non-stop since Saturday. One firefighter has already been killed. Three others were injured when their remote fire station was overtaken by the fire. Fourteen firefighters were at the location and were forced to deploy their emergency shelters. The three firefighters injured suffered smoke inhalation and burns. They were airlifted to Fresno; two are stable and one is in critical condition.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this year so far 87 wildfires have burned, resulting in 4.7 million acres burned; 2.2 million of those acres have been in California. This is a new worrisome record for California, as experts say that peak wildfire season has not yet arrived.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


Articles

The Spectacular CIA Screwup That Probably Helped Iran Build A Nuke

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


For the past seven years, New York Times journalist James Risen has been embroiled in a legal battle with two presidential administrations over his refusal to reveal an inside government source.

It turns out he will not be called to testify at a leak trial scheduled to begin this week.

The story that almost sent the two-time Pulitzer winner to jail for not identifying confidential sources is one of the most spectacular CIA screwups in the history of the agency.

A full excerpt from his book “State of War” was published by The Guardian in 2006. Here’s a rundown:

In February 2000, the CIA went forward with a covert operation called Operation Merlin to stunt the nuclear development of Iran by gifting them a flawed blueprint of an actual nuclear weapon.

It all started when the CIA persuaded a defected Russian nuclear engineer (who was granted citizenship and a $5,000-per-month income) to hand over technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block or “firing set” for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon. The designs would allow the holder to build the mechanism that triggers a nuclear chain reaction, one of the most significant hurdles to successfully building a nuclear weapon.

The plan was for the Russian to pose as a greedy scientist trying to sell the designs to the highest bidder, which was to be Iran. The Russian was sent to Vienna to sell the designs to the Iranian representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (that is, the UN body created to regulate nuclear technology).

The key to the plan was that the designs supposedly carried a serious design flaw the Iranians would be unable to recognize until they had already tried building the design.

When the Iranians tested the design, the bomb would fizzle, and Iran would have been set back years in its nuclear quest. At the same time, the US would be able to watch what the Iranians did with the blueprints and learn more about what they knew of nuclear technology.

It all sounded like a fine plan, except that it was wildly reckless and included huge missteps. The first was that, within minutes of looking at the plans, the Russian identified the design flaw. Granted he was more versed in nuclear designs than the Iranians to whom he was giving the designs, but CIA officers were shocked — they didn’t expect him to be able to find it.

The CIA went forward with the plan anyway, handing the Russian a sealed envelope with the blueprints and instructing him to deliver them without opening the envelope. The Russian got cold feet and, of course, opened the envelope. Not wanting to be caught in the crossfire between the CIA and Iran, the Russian included a letter noting that the designs contained a flaw and that he could help them identify it.

The Russian dropped off the blueprints at the agreed location, without even meeting the officials from Iran, and fled back to the US. Within days, the Iranian official in Vienna headed home, most likely with the blueprint.

What makes the operation so reckless is that, according to former CIA officials to whom Risen spoke, the “Trojan horse” plan had been used before with America’s enemies but never with a nuclear weapon. Handing over any weapons designs is a delicate operation, and any additional information could result in the country’s accelerating its weapons program, not stunting it.

Between Iran’s stable of knowledgeable nuclear scientists, and the fact the country had already obtained nuclear blueprints from a Pakistani scientist, giving them even flawed designs was extremely reckless. According to Risen, nuclear experts say Iran could compare the two blueprints to identify the flaw and then glean dangerous information from the blueprints anyway.

Operation Merlin failed on all accounts. Add in the fact that four years later, the CIA screwed up again, revealing its entire Iran spy network to a double agent, and the US was flying blind on Iran during a period in which the country was most likely making serious inroads on its nuclear program.

Check out Risen’s more detailed account of this fascinating episode in the CIA’s history here.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

This commando unit was a real-world ‘Rogue One’ searching for Nazi superweapons

In the hours after Paris was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, three Allied vehicles — two French tanks and an American Jeep — slipped into the city on a dangerous, top secret mission carrying an intelligence agent and a handful of nuclear scientists.


The operatives were members of a special detachment of the Manhattan Project called the “Alsos Mission.” They were hand-picked to scour the recently-liberated countryside for intel on a German nuclear superweapon.

In 1938, German physicists Otto Han and Fritz Strassman were the first to split the atom, putting the Nazi Reich far ahead of the Allies in developing nuclear weapons. And with the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets, the threat of a long-range destructive superweapon was very real.

The U.S. needed to know just how far along the Nazis were and they needed specific skills – in this case, nuclear scientists – to understand and determine their progress.

In the upcoming Star Wars film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the Rebel Alliance recruits Jyn Erso to work with a team led by Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor to steal the schematics of the Imperial superweapon, the Death Star. Erso’s unique skills and connections as a criminal are what make her the right choice.

And her covert op looks a lot like the clandestine work of the Alsos Mission, says a noted intelligence historian.

“Essentially, these are spy movies at heart,” says International Spy Museum curator Dr. Vince Houghton, in an exclusive interview with WATM. A U.S. Army Armor veteran and historian, Houghton admits he’s also a huge Star Wars fan.

“The backbone of all the movies are spy issues, whether it’s stealing the plans for the original Death Star, or stealing the plans for the second Death Star which turns out to be a big Imperial deception operation,” he says.

Teaming up a unique skill set with a commando group is exactly what the Alsos Mission did in WWII. It was formed in 1943 to gain intel on Axis technological progress. American para-intelligence soldiers and scientists moved with the Allied lines — and sometimes even behind enemy lines — to capture enemy atomic weapons scientists and records, Houghton says.

The Alsos Mission dismantling a German experimental nuclear pile at Haigerloch, Germany April 1945 (U.S. Army photo)

“That’s actually probably the most direct lineage for Rogue One,” he added. “You’re looking at a superweapon – in the case of the Alsos mission, a German atomic bomb would be a superweapon.”

The Alsos Mission was a little-known part of the Manhattan Project that coordinated foreign intelligence. Their mission was to gather information about the development of atomic weapons abroad while preventing foreign powers from making progress. They did it on the bleeding edge of the Allied advance.

“They’re trying to find secret information and doing it right under everyone’s noses,” Houghton says.

Col. Boris Pash, commander of the Alsos Mission in Europe (U.S. Army photo)

The mission’s first action came in Italy after the Italians surrendered to the Allies. A unit of American, British, French, and Italian researchers were to enter Rome right behind the Allied lines. They captured prominent Italian scientists and secured university laboratories, Army history documents show.

A month after the Normandy landings in June 1944, the Alsos Mission was in France and had to fight its way across the country and into Belgium and the Netherlands in the search for French and German scientists and their labs.

Of special interest to the team was 150 tons of missing Uranium ore – which were never found.

The nuclear labs in France were finally discovered on the hospital grounds in Strasbourg, along with intelligence indicating other nuclear sites inside Germany. The Army’s extensive review of the Manhattan Project shows the team discovered that Nazi scientists were unable to enrich Uranium and thus did not have a nuclear weapon.

Replica of the German experimental nuclear reactor captured and dismantled at Haigerloch.

Once inside Germany, Alsos operatives captured prominent scientists and their research, and destroyed processing plants, removed experimental technology and nuclear material, and – most importantly – kept all of it out of the hands of the Soviet Union.

“It’s because no one was really paying attention to them,” says Houghton. “Everyone was paying attention to the conventional forces, so they were able to move around Europe and capture up all these scientists and all this nuclear information. They’re able to eventually determine that there was no German bomb, but they were very worried at first. The rumor persisted well into the later days of the war.”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

REDHORSE and Prime BEEF building up important air base

The 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group provides theater-wide engineering technical services, light and heavy troop labor construction and repairs within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in order to engineer combat power and establish and sustain combat platforms for USCENTCOM and other joint forces.

Within the 1st CEG are the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force, or PRIME BEEF, and the 557th Expeditionary Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, or REDHORSE, both sister tenants consisting of two separate construction teams with separate projects at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.


REDHORSE is a self-sustaining, mobile, heavy construction squadron, capable of rapid response and independent operations in remote, high-threat environments worldwide.

“We have teams all over the AOR building anything from taxiways on airfields to entire logistics support areas, to digging wells to provide water for bases in austere locations,” said Capt. Jared Erickson, 557th ERHS Al Dhafra AB site officer in charge.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Findlay, 557th Expeditionary Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron engineering assistant, explains the foundation configuration during construction of airfield damage repair quipment warehouse, Dec. 23, 2018, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

“My team here on (Al Dhafra AB) is almost like a miniature mission support group,” added Erickson. “We have highly-skilled vehicle maintainers that keep our heavy equipment fleet running strong and a supply team that can acquire construction materials from around the world. We are a self-sustaining construction team that can build almost anything, anywhere.”

Two of the current projects the 557th ERHS are working on are a warehouse for airfield damage repair equipment and a new Patriot Missile site.

“We are building a 13,000-square-foot warehouse to store and protect (.7 million) worth of airfield damage repair equipment,” said Erickson. “Additionally, we are in the process of finalizing the new Patriot Missile site, including 15 different projects valued at (.8 million) for roads, launcher pads, sunshades, tents and an electrical distribution system.”

Senior Airman Dekota Newson, 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force heavy equipment operator, remove excess cement from the foundation system to support a build during construction, Dec. 23, 2018, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

The 577th Expeditionary PRIME BEEF Squadron provides a full range of engineering support required to establish, operate, and maintain garrison and contingency air bases.

Prime-BEEF forces maintain the necessary equipment and personnel to support fire emergency services; expedient construction; explosive incident response; emergency management; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response and many other specialized mission duties.

“The 577th EPBS is composed of Civil Engineering Air Force Specialty Codes, but have a separate role from base CE as we perform major construction and repair projects for (U.S. Air Forces Central Command),” said Capt. Paige Blackburn, 577 EPBS OIC of troop construction.

Currently, they are constructing a site by building an 18-foot tall mound and foundation to support a tower.

“The foundation system is made entirely from concrete and the site will have several miles of reinforcing steel rebar,” said Blackburn. “The tower and equipment weighs more than 120,000 pounds and is attached by large anchor bolts cast into the concrete piers. The tolerance of anchor bolt placement is extremely critical to ensure the tower frame will fit perfectly.”

Members of the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force pour cement into the foundation system to support a build during construction, Dec. 23, 2018, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

Projects such as this can be challenging and require the use of different techniques and skillsets to complete the task.

“Setting the anchor bolts perfectly was incredibly challenging,” added Blackburn. “To set this accurately required age-old techniques of steel tape, construction squares, basic trigonometry, true ingenuity and nearly all the ladders on base. Thankfully, we have Master Sgt. James Morgan, a Heavy and Construction Equipment expert Guardsman with 30 years of construction experience. The project involves a 15-person construction team.”

Other completed projects include a 320-room renovation totaling 0,000, a id=”listicle-2625336716″.4 million renovation of the Oasis Dining Facility, and several waterline, sewer line, and communication duct bank construction projects.

“(1st) ECEG is the preferred choice for projects that require a rapid construction completion date, and is also the safer option for construction that intertwines with sensitive and valuable information,” said Blackburn.

With the REDHORSE and Prime BEEF Squadrons providing their expertise throughout Al Dhafra AB, the base continues to improve for the next rotation of deployers and continuation of the mission.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This Holocaust survivor joined the Army and earned a Medal of Honor

Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin was not the average soldier in the Korean War.


The Hungarian Jew was a survivor of the Third Reich’s concentration camps who pledged to join the Army if he ever made it to America.

He made it to the U.S., joined the infantry, fought to his last round against a massive Chinese attack, and then refused an early release from a Chinese prisoner of war camp so that he could use his lessons from the concentration camps to save his peers.

Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin received the Medal of Honor in 2005. Photo: Public Domain

Rubin began trying to join the U.S. Army in 1948, but he had to study English for two years before he could speak it well enough to enlist. That allowed him to enter the service in 1950, just in time for the Korean War.

Unfortunately, Rubin’s first sergeant in Korea was extremely anti-semitic. Multiple sworn statements from members of Rubin’s unit say that the first sergeant would make remarks about Rubin’s religion and then assign him to the most dangerous missions.

Soldiers man the perimeter at Pusan in Sept. 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Thomas Nebbia)

In 1950, Rubin was assigned to hold a hill near Pusan as the rest of the unit fell back to a more defendable position. Rubin filled the foxholes near his position with grenades, rifles, and carbines.

When the North Koreans attacked, Rubin fought viciously for 24 hours, throwing grenades, firing weapons, and single-handedly stopping the attack. Rubin was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the first sergeant trashed the orders.

Instead of receiving a Medal of Honor, Rubin was sent on more and more dangerous missions. In one, an American position was slowly whittled down by incoming fire until only one machine gun remained.

A soldier of the 120th Engineer Battalion, 45th Infantry Division sets up camouflage net near the front lines in Korea in 1952. (U.S. Army photo)

After three other soldiers were killed while manning the gun, Rubin stepped forward and began firing until his last round was expended. That was when he was severely wounded and captured by Chinese forces.

In the prisoner of war camp, the Chinese offered Rubin a deal. If he was willing to leave Korea, he could return to his home country of Hungary and sit out the rest of the war.

Rubin declined, opting instead to stay with his brothers and help them survive the prisons. In the camps, he ran a makeshift medical clinic, scavenged for food, and even broke out of the camp to steal supplies and broke back in to deliver them to other soldiers in need.

A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier in the Haktong-ni area, Korea, on August 28, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Al Chang) (Cutline: National Archives and Records Administration)

For decades after he returned to the U.S., Rubin lived in relative obscurity. It wasn’t until President George W. Bush ordered a review of the denied recommendations for high valor awards that Rubin’s story came back to light.

In 2005, Bush placed the Medal of Honor around the old soldier’s neck during a White House ceremony.

The citation for the medal includes his solo defense of the hill near Pusan, his manning of the machine gun, his role in helping to capture hundreds of enemy soldiers, and his actions in the prisoner of war camp.

To hear Cpl. Tibor Rubin tell his story in his own words, watch the video from Medal of Honor: Oral Histories below: