This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago - We Are The Mighty
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This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

We Are The Mighty is excited to partner with Paramount Pictures on #AlliedStories, a digital program inspired by the new Robert Zemeckis film Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – in theaters November 23rd.  Within #AlliedStories users can upload photos of their family from the 1940s, including your military photos, war letters, personal stories…anything 1940s. Below is an amazing story about how one Army veteran got back his wallet and personal photos 70 years after he lost it in France. Submit your own stories and photos at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories! 


Eligio Ramos was an Army private making his way across Europe with the 250th Field Artillery Unit in 1945. During a night in an Austrian farmhouse, he lost his wallet filled with receipts, photos, and his identification.

Seventy years later, his daughter was surprised to read a letter from an Austrian doctor looking to re-unite the wallet with its owner. Dr. Josef Ruckhofer told the Department of Veterans Affairs how he found the wallet while cleaning out his farmhouse.

“It was in June this year, we removed some of the old wooden planks from the backside wall,” said Ruckhofer. “When I looked to the bottom, I found this old leather wallet, a little bit dirty, but still okay. I opened the wallet and found a lot of old photographs, stamps, papers and an American Soldier’s ID card from 1945 with his name, birth year and hometown in Harlingen, Texas.”

Ruckhofer had to do some internet sleuthing to find the original owner, but Ramos finally got his wallet back in June. On August 4, he shared the stories behind the photos with his family and others at a ceremony at the Fresno VA Hospital.

The wallet contained a lot of photos and memories, from pictures of his unit and newborn babies to receipts from his time in Europe.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Eligio Ramos WWII veteran lost wallet receipts and ID. Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

 

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

Ramos was in the Army from 1942 to 1945.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

He fought with the 250th Artillery helping to liberate starving prisoners,” said his son, Rosando Ramos.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Eligio Ramos and his platoon. Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos family.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

One of the photos was of the farmhouse the platoon stayed in where Ramos left the wallet.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Joseph Ruckhofer

Standard documents from Army life in World War II, like ID cards and a rations receipt, were also in the wallet.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital Carmichael Yepez

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

For more information, see the full story of the Ramos wallet at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And don’t forget to share your photos and stories at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories.

“Allied” is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war. 

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More than a dozen US troops trapped amid Afghanistan firefight

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor


More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.

A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.

“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.

A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.

The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.

The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.

An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.

Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team.  One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.

The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.

The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.

There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.

“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.

“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.

The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.

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Inspector General claims US Army can’t account for trillions of dollars

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago


In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.

According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.

Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”

“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.

The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.

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This super-secret Cold War military unit just came in from the cold

Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.


Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.

Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.

With a literal line drawn between the forces — American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin — the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Street art depicting the Brandenburg Gate during the Cold War. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

It was there that, for nearly 30 years, an elite Special Forces unit operated. Today, those veterans are decades removed from their secretive mission, but are only now receiving recognition for their efforts.

The little-known unit, called Detachment A, held various missions during its short-lived history, but the longest-standing was the “stay behind” mission.

In the event of World War III — with Soviet forces expected to come pouring across the Berlin Wall — members of the detachment, who never numbered more than 100 men, were expected to blend into the city and make life difficult for the much larger Communist force.

Teams were assigned sabotage missions, ready to destroy key transportation lines, military equipment, and other targets. They also would be expected to train and lead guerrilla forces that would then be tasked with harassing the Soviet troops from behind enemy lines, buying important time to allow NATO forces to mount a counterattack.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Central Intelligence Agency

Charest, twice a member of Detachment A, recalled one of his team’s forays across the Berlin Wall recently during a visit to Fort Bragg.

Despite the soldiers’ efforts to go unnoticed, it was not unusual for the men to realize they were being followed, Charest said.

When that happened, the soldiers were trained to evade the extra attention and disappear into the city. Failure was not an option.

“You’re a spy,” Charest said, decades after having served in the city. “You didn’t have any dog tags. You weren’t there, officially.”

“If they caught you, they would either kill you or put you in jail,” he said.

Despite the high stakes, Charest said, the men were highly trained and able to stay calm under pressure.

Part of that training involved how to surveil targets amid the busy city and, if needed, lose the enemy when under unwanted scrutiny.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
East German soldiers line up. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“We knew we were being watched,” Charest said.

Luckily, the men also knew their way around the city. Unlike other American troops in Berlin, these soldiers were trained to blend into Berlin. They had to immerse themselves in the city, becoming as knowledgeable on its nooks and crannies as the locals.

As the team led their tail through the city, Charest said, the soldiers made their way to a train station, part of the city’s subway, or U-Bahn, network.

Instead of stepping onto a train, the men let the first one pull out of the station. A second train arrived and the men were seemingly set to let that one pass, too.

But at the last moment, just before the doors closed, Charest said, the soldiers stepped onto the train.

He turned just in time to lock eyes with the man who had been following them. Charest is unsure who he worked for. It could have been the East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, or the Soviet KGB.

As the train pulled out of the station, Charest looked at the man. Then he smiled, and as he pulled out of sight, Charest waved goodbye.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Inside a Berlin U-Bahn car, 1977. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For most of its history, Detachment A — sometimes known simply as “the detachment” or “Det ‘A'” — was as elusive as the men who served in the unit.

When it was formed in 1956 with the cover story of a “security platoon” assigned to another US Army unit in Berlin, only about 10 officers knew the true makeup of the unit, according to James Stejskal, a Special Forces veteran who spent two tours of duty in Berlin and later served with the CIA.

Stejskal, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has written what might be the only definitive history of Detachment A.

His book, “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990,” was published this year by Casemate Publishers, following a two-and-a-half-year effort to research and write the book and another year-long review by the Department of Defense.

Stejskal was one of dozens of Detachment A veterans who gathered on Fort Bragg earlier this month.

Once covered in shadows — to the point that even the US Army has little official documentation on the unit — the veterans of Detachment A are becoming increasingly vocal, with the hopes of bringing the unit the recognition it deserves before all of its former members are gone.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Photo: Scapler CC BY-SA 3.0

Charest, who now lives in Campobello, South Carolina, has been a key part of those efforts.

Since Detachment A was first publicly acknowledged in early 2014, he has worked to tell the unit’s untold story.

Previously recognized by veterans of the unit as “The Man Who Brought Detachment A In From the Cold,” Charest is the group’s webmaster, maintaining a website — detachment-a.org — along with his wife, Linda. He’s also become their organizer, facilitating annual reunions.

The most recent gathering was at Fort Bragg, the same place where veterans of the unit unveiled a monument stone honoring Detachment A outside of U.S. Army Special Operations Command in early 2014.

Detachment A has long been a small, elite group. Over its nearly 30-year history, an estimated 800 men served among its ranks or with the Physical Security Support Element-Berlin, a similar unit that replaced the detachment from 1984 to 1990.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Berlin Wall, 1988. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Charest said the annual gatherings, which once attracted more than 100 veterans, are starting to dwindle. Detachment veterans are growing older. They’re dying, he said. Or they don’t travel as well as they used to.

“We’re starting to slow down,” Charest said. “I can see the handwriting on the wall.”

That makes his mission to spread the word about the unit even more important.

“We’re getting the recognition we didn’t have,” he said.

In the years after the Cold War, the Army declassified many of Detachment A’s secrets. But its veterans were largely unaware that they were now free to speak about their experiences.

The breaking point came in 2014, Charest said. The ceremony outside the USASOC headquarters was a first for Detachment A.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Bob Charest addresses the crowd during a 2014 ceremony. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Carter

In addition to unveiling the monument stone, the veterans also took the symbolic step of casing the unit’s colors, a flag used to identify the detachment, for the first time.

“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said during the ceremony.

Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, then-commander of USASOC, said the men operated amid untold risk, fraught with uncertainty.

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” he said.

The next day, a story about the ceremony was on the front page of The Fayetteville Observer.

Charest said it was the first public exposure for the unit, whose existence and missions had been highly classified secrets. It began a flurry of queries from veterans of the detachment, some of whom had never even told their families about the unit.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Retiring and casing of the Det. A colors. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Carter

“We were out of the cold,” Charest said. “This unit — nobody knows about it. Nobody knew we ever existed.”

Stejskal, who interviewed 65 veterans of Detachment A for his book and dug through what little information was available from official sources, said it was long past due for the unit to receive its recognition.

“No one became famous because of his exploits in Berlin; they were classified,” he said. “The Army has no history on us. They know of it, but they don’t know anything about it.”

Stejskal said that when he visited the Army’s Center for Military History to research his book, the organization had six pages of documents and little information. Most of the unit’s actual documents have been lost or destroyed.

“After 25 years, I figured it was about time,” Stejskal said of his decision to put together a history of the unit. “We’re on the verge of dying out and losing it all, all that historical knowledge.”

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

Detachment A, also known by its classified name — the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment — was formed in August 1956 from carefully screened and selected members of the 10th Special Forces Group based in Bad Toelz, Germany. The unit was first housed at McNair Barracks and later, at Andrews Barracks in West Berlin.

Over the years, the men assigned to Detachment A remained a select group. They were highly trained, often with experience in World War II or, later, in Vietnam.

Members of the unit had to be Special Forces qualified. They needed to have a top-secret clearance. And they needed to be able to speak fluent German or another Eastern European language.

In the early days, nearly half of the unit came from soldiers who joined the Army under the Lodge Act — often refugees from Europe whose families remained under Soviet rule. Those immigrants provided important knowledge to the detachment members, who needed to appear to be German.

Charest, who served with the clandestine unit from 1969 to 1972 and again from 1973 to 1978, said the slightest mistake could blow a soldier’s cover.

“The Germans handle a knife and fork different than we do,” he said. “They count with their fingers different.”

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Breitscheidplatz–the center of West Berlin, 1960. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Detachment members had to study the habits of locals, Charest said. They needed to dress like a local, wear their hair like a local, and talk like a local.

They carried paperwork provided by German authorities or passports from Eastern European nations that supported their cover stories. Even their ranks were classified, Charest said. Instead, members usually referred to each other by their first names.

Even within the Special Forces community, Charest said, the detachment was largely an unknown.

Some soldiers were assigned to the unit assuming it was a conventional support unit. They wouldn’t learn the truth until they were in Berlin being debriefed by leaders.

“They knew it existed, but nobody knew what they did,” Charest said.

At first, Detachment A had about 40 soldiers, but it would grow to about 90 troops for most of its history. Most soldiers stayed in Berlin for three years.

Amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the detachment would have been little more than a speed bump against Soviet forces in a conventional fight.

But Charest said the detachment never intended to “fight fair.”

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

With Berlin more than 100 miles behind enemy lines, encircled by what could have become the front lines of a war, those allied forces stood little chance at stopping the Soviet forces.

Stejskal wrote that the city would likely have become the world’s largest prisoner-of-war camp. He compared the hypothetical plight of the detachment to the 300 Spartans who faced a superior Persian force at the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.

“If the Russians decided to roll across the wall, that would have been World War III,” Charest said. “It was a suicide mission.”

“The odds were against us,” he added. “But that’s part of the game.”

The most the detachment could hope for, Charest said, was slowing the Soviet juggernaut.

Stejskal described the detachment mission as a “Hail Mary plan.”

He said the soldiers were there to buy time and disrupt the enemy, much like World War II’s famed Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the modern CIA.

Charest said the soldiers were constantly “poking and prodding” German and Soviet defenses. Sometimes, that would mean sneaking into East Germany via canals and tunnels.

“We were constantly trying,” he said. “If you heard the stories, you wouldn’t believe them.”

As the Cold War stayed cold, the detachment would see its missions expand.

It was tasked with probing and testing allied security vulnerabilities across Europe.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989 – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

At the same time, it would become more of a counterterrorism force, training to respond to hijacked airplanes and participating in the famed Operation Eagle Claw — the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Detachment soldiers were tasked with rescuing three diplomats being held by Iran, and two detachment members were stationed in Tehran, providing information on the target buildings and preparing to receiving the rescue force.

When the mission was scrapped and disaster struck a staging site — resulting in the deaths of several troops — the detachment members in Iran were left to escape the country on their own.

Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974 and later commanded all American forces in Berlin, said the city was full of spies and the Soviet KGB had known about the detachment since the late 1960s.

But, Shachnow said, the Soviets greatly overestimated the size of the unit, assuming it was about 500 men instead of less than 100.

“They knew our capabilities but did not know what our targets were,” he said.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Berlin Wall, 1989 – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Shachnow is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Lithuania and spent three years imprisoned in a Germany concentration camp as a young boy. He moved to the United States in 1950 and became a legend in the Special Forces community.

He said he had the privilege of deactivating the Special Forces presence in Berlin.

“It was a sad ceremony in an empty room with only about 12 guest spectators seated in folding chairs,” he said. “I awarded some medals, made some short remarks, and the ceremony was over in a matter of minutes.”

“Det A was a small, covert unit staffed with incredibly talented people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Shachnow said on Fort Bragg earlier this month. “They served on the front lines of the Cold War and never fired a shot in anger. No force of its size in history has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom.”

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5 Chinese Military Uniform Fails

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago


Despite having the world’s second largest military budget, the Chinese military is far behind the U.S. in taking care of their troops. An article on Yahoo claims that the total value of a Chinese service member’s gear is roughly equivalent to the cost of two iPods whereas the U.S. spends approximately the price of a mid-level car on each service member. This means that not only do U.S. troops generally enjoy greater comfort and security, but that the Chinese are putting their military dollars into other projects.

The lack of spending on troop gear has not gone unnoticed by Chinese troops. According to a PLA political officer, “If we provide him with advanced protective equipment he will feel very assured, and as a result he will have more confidence to win the war.”

1. They used rope to hold up their underwear until recently.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

2. Most of them are still wearing steel helmets.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

3. None of their headgear features communication equipment.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

4. Helmets weren’t standard issue during the Vietnam war.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

5. Few soldiers wear bulletproof jackets.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

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Putin says Russia is pulling its forces from Syria

Russia announced today that they are pulling most of their forces out of Syria because Russian air and missile strikes there over the last six months have allowed the Syrian government to push back rebels in many key areas.


“I hope that today’s decision will be a good signal for all parties to the conflict,” Putin said on state television. “I hope that this will considerably increase the level of trust between all parties of the Syrian settlement and will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue.”

Russia will keep forces at its new air force base in Latakia, Syria. The base was carved out of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in 2015 and has been the central hub for Russian air operations in Syria. Russian forces will also remain at the Cold War-era naval base in Tartus, Syria.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Russian Hind helicopters launch rockets. Photo: Alex Beltyukov CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian mission in Syria flew over 9,000 sorties and helped the Syrian government retake 400 settlements and 3,860 sq. miles of territory.

The Syrian government was teetering on the edge of collapse before the Russians intervened, but now it has forces surrounding the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. In February, government forces took sections of the city before their supply lines were cut by ISIS attacks.

Putin’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing came the same day that peace talks resumed in Geneva, Switzerland. Earlier talks had resulted in a shaky ceasefire but the Syrian government was accused multiple times of breaking the terms of the deal. The timing has led to speculation that Putin’s announcement was timed to place pressure on President Bashir Al-Assad to seek a peace deal.

Any deal would not directly affect operations against ISIS as the terror group is not party to the negotiations. But, a truce between government forces and moderate rebels would allow both groups to focus more resources and manpower against ISIS.

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US Navy fleet commander vows to solve collisions, says bodies found

The commander of the US Pacific Fleet said August 22 that divers found bodies inside a damaged destroyer and another was recovered by Malaysia’s navy, while he vowed the Navy will figure out the cause of four accidents involving American naval vessels in Asia so far this year.


Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the Hawaii-based fleet, told a press conference in Singapore that Navy and Marine Corps divers located remains in sealed compartments in damaged parts of the John S. McCain, which collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore early August 21.

Swift said Malaysia’s navy reported finding a body, possibly of one of the 10 missing U.S. sailors, but it remains to be transferred and identified. The Malaysian side, in a statement, said that the body will be transferred August 23.

“We will conduct a thorough and full investigation into this collision — what occurred, what happened, and how it happened,” he vowed.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Adm. Scott H. Swift, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford

Noting that the collision occurred within two months of one involving another Navy destroyer, the Fitzgerald, off Japan that left seven US sailors dead, and there were two other accidents in the region this year involving warships, the admiral said, “One tragedy like this is one too many.”

The Lake Champlain, a Navy cruiser, hit a South Korean fishing boat in May and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, ran aground in Tokyo Bay in January.

Swift said naval authorities will “find out whether there is a common cause at the root of these events and, if so, how we solve that.”

He said the Navy has so far seen no indications of sabotage, such as cyber interference, but he did not rule out that possibility, saying, “We are not taking any consideration off the table and every scenario will be reviewed and investigated in detail.”

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain. Photo by US 7th Fleet Public Affairs.

Earlier, the Navy’s top officer, Adm. John Richardson, ordered the entire fleet to take an “operational pause” for a day or two.

The Navy said the collision caused significant damage to the hull of the destroyer, resulting in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms, but the crew managed to halt further flooding and the ship was able to sail under its own power to Singapore’s Changi Naval Base.

The John S. McCain was traveling to Singapore for a routine port visit when it collided with the Alnic MC, a Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker, in waters east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca.

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Top sniper squads from around the world just competed in Germany

Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.


Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
A Spanish soldier fires at a target from a Zodiac boat during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016.(Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.

Also read: Meet the 62-year-old sniper who has over 170 ISIS kills

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
Spanish soldiers master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.

One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
A Latvian soldier checks the camouflage of his weapon before taking part in the stalking challenge of the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
U.S. Marines conduct the high-angle shot lane during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.

No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.

This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago
The Norwegian squad finished in first place during the 2016 European Best Squad Competition, hosted by U.S. Army Europe at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Oct. 27, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”

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The 9 most devastating nuclear weapons in the world

Nuclear bombs are the most powerful weapons ever devised. Here are 9 of the most destructive in history.


1. Tsar Bomba (50-100 Megatons)

“Big Ivan,” or the “Tsar Bomba,” created the largest explosion ever made by man, and it was tampered to only half of its full strength. Secretary Nikita Khrushchev demanded a record-setting bomb to prove the Soviet Union’s might ahead of an important meeting of the Communist party. To fulfill his wishes, scientists designed and created the bomb in only 15 weeks. Originally designed for a 100-megaton blast, the bomb was tampered down to only 50 megatons to prevent damage to Soviet cities in the original fallout radius. Only one was ever created.

2. B-41 nuclear bomb (10-25 MT)

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A B-41 prototype is detonated July 12, 1958 at the Bikini Atoll range. Photo: Wikipedia

Capable of a 25-MT blast, the B41 was the most powerful nuclear bomb ever developed by the U.S. Like the Tsar Bomba, it was a three-stage device. About 500 were created. Due to their weight, they could not ride on missiles and bombers could only carry one device at a time.

3. TX-21 “Shrimp” (15 Megatons)

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Photo: Wikipedia

The TX-21 was an experimental weapon that was supposed to create a 5-MT blast. An experimental fusion fuel caused the blast to increase to 15 megatons. While the U.S. ended up with a much stronger weapon than it expected, the experiment resulted in multiple deaths, untold numbers of birth defects, and the accidental contamination of 7,000 square miles of Pacific islands and ocean.

4. B-17 (10-15 Megatons)

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Photos: Wikipedia and US Department of Energy

The B-17 was America’s first thermonuclear bomb to be deployed. In a way, it was a tuned-down version of the TX-21. The TX-17 prototype created a 11-MT blast much larger than the expected 4-MT explosion because of an unexpected reaction in the fusion fuel.

5. B-24 (10-15 Megatons)

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Photo: Wikipedia

The B-24 was very similar to the B-17 but it used an enriched lithium fusion fuel instead of the natural lithium of the B-17. The experimental TX-24 produced a slightly larger explosion in testing than the B-17 (13.5 MT vs 11 MT), but the estimated yields in their weaponized forms were roughly the same.

6. B-36 (10 Megatons)

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Photo: Wikipedia

After the TX-21 “Shrimp” test, America fielded the B-21 with a yield of 4 MT. The military decided to convert the B-21 to B-36s, making each bomb about 2.5 times as strong.

7. B53 (9 Megatons)

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Photo: Wikipedia/byteboy

The B-53 contained 300 pounds of high-explosive material that triggered a uranium pit. The pit would then create a nine-megaton explosion.

8. EC-16 (6-8 Megatons)

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The EC-16 was an “emergency capability” nuclear device and the only thermonuclear device deployed that required a cooling system. Five devices were delivered to the U.S. arsenal in Jan. 1954, but they were quickly replaced when the more stable and easier to deploy B-14s and B-17s became operational later that year.

9. EC-14 (7 Megatons)

The EC-14 was the first solid-fuel thermonuclear weapon deployed by the U.S. It was only deployed as an emergency capability in Feb. 1954. The EC-14 was retired in Oct. 1954 and many of them were converted to B-17s.

NOW: The 7 weirdest nuclear weapons ever developed

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This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

For nearly two decades, the Picatinny/NATO Accessory Rail Interface System handguards have adorned U.S. military rifles. These rails allow troops to attach accessories like lights, lasers, and grips to the fore-end of their weapon. However, although the omnipresent rails allow the end user to easily configure their accessories to suit their needs, the fully railed handguard is a large block of metal at the front of a weapon. Any unused rail estate is simply dead weight. The solution is new modular rail systems like the KeyMod and M-Lok weapon accessory attachment systems. These systems allow the end user to attach rail segments to their handguard as needed or attach accessories directly to the slick handguard. Since their introduction, the KeyMod vs. M-Lok war has been waged in gun stores, armories, and internet forums. However, like the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray war, there can only be one winner.

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NSWC Crane tested three examples of six different handguards (U.S. Navy)

In 2016, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division conducted testing for USSOCOM to determine the best modular rail system. NSWC Crane evaluated handguards from manufacturers Aero Precision, Midwest Industries, and Seekins. Three KeyMod and three M-Lok handguards were tested from each manufacturer for a total of 18 handguards. They were tested for repeatability, endurance, rough handling, drop testing, and static failure load.

Although a resilient handguard is not entirely necessary for the mounting of grips and lights, it is vital for mounting lasers aiming devices. Under night vision, it can be difficult for a rifleman to aim through their optic. An infrared laser mounted to the handguard allows the end user to shoot accurately without needing a proper sight picture, especially in close quarters. However, this method of aiming only works if the laser is properly zeroed. Because bullets are affected by gravity, unlike lasers, shooters must know where there rounds will fall relative to their laser based on the distance they are shooting. If the handguard bends or the laser is knocked and shifts even a few millimeters, a 200 meter shot could be completely off. Clip-on thermal scopes mounted to the top of the handguard also need to be mounted without risk of shifting. A good rail attachment system has to not only be secure, but strong.

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SOCOM’s Suppressed Upper Receiver Group is based on SIG Sauer’s MCX and uses M-LOK (SIG Sauer)

During NSWC Crane’s testing, all handguards passed the full-auto fire endurance and rough handling testing. However, the repeatability, drop test, and failure load tests yielded distinct performance differences. Repeatability testing showed that “M-LOKTM allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA (minute of angle), as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems.” Drop testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems.” Finally, failure load testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested.” The study went on to note that the test equipment mounted to the M-Lok rails “repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOKTM attachment system.” Overall, the failure load of M-Lok was over three times that of KeyMod.

Released in 2017, the results of the study were a clear win for M-Lok. As a result, NSWC Crane recommended the M-Lok rail system over any other to USSOCOM. In turn, USSOCOM incorporated M-Lok handguards into new acquisitions like the Upper Receiver Group – Improved, Suppressed Upper Receiver Group, and the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The study has also influenced the civilian market which has seen a marked increase in the popularity of M-Lok handguards and accessories over KeyMod. As with most Special Forces acquisitions, the M-Lok system is likely to trickle down to regular troops too.

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The Army’s new M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System uses M-Lok (U.S. Army)

Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jenkins

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Drone strike kills suspected al-Qaeda militant in Yemen

A drone strike killed a suspected al-Qaeda militant in southern Yemen on April 6 as the U.S. steps up its air war against the extremists.


The missile hit al-Qaeda provincial official Ahmed Ali Saana as he was riding a motorbike late on April 5 in the town of Khabar al-Muraqasha in Abyan province, a major target of recent drone strikes, an official said on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon has confirmed more than 70 airstrikes on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen since Feb. 28.

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Yemeni security officials have reported dozens of suspected fighters killed in the strikes on Abyan and the neighboring provinces of Shabwa and Baida.

A commando raid against al-Qaeda in Baida province was the first operation U.S. President Donald Trump ordered after taking office in January.

It went badly wrong, resulting in the deaths of a U.S. Navy SEAL and multiple civilians — including women and children — the Pentagon acknowledged.

In March, Trump reportedly gave the CIA new powers to authorize drone strikes against extremist targets in the Middle East independently of the Pentagon.

More than two years of civil war have created a power vacuum that al-Qaeda has exploited to consolidate its presence.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in March 2015 after Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a and overthrew President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, according to the United Nations.

The U.S. has supported the Saudi-led coalition through weapons sales, air-to-air refueling of jets, and intelligence sharing.

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This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow was a loadmaster on an AC-47 — an aerial gunship and the predecessor to the AC-130 — that was pounding Viet Cong forces on the night of Feb. 24, 1969.


But then disaster struck.

The plane was dropping flares and firing in support of a U.S. base under attack, and one of the Viet Cong mortars firing on the base sent a round up that struck the AC-47 instead.

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Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow’s Douglas AC-47D was struck by a mortar round on Feb. 24, 1969. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.

But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.

The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.

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Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow saved the life of his crew and the plane they were flying in in 1969 by throwing an ignited flare out of the craft despite his serious injuries. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But with the flare counting down to an ignition inside the aircraft, it would instead set off nearby ammo, burn a hole through the floor, and cook everything in the cabin, including the seven crewmembers aboard.

Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.

“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.

Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.

For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.

Less than a year later, he reported to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon. He is the lowest-ranking member of the Air Force to ever receive the award.

An Air Force C-17 was named for him in 1998, “The Spirit of John L. Levitow.” He passed away in 2000.

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France sent thousands of thank you gifts to the US after WWII

In 1949, the French freighter Magellan steamed into New York Harbor with “Merci, America” painted on its bow. The ship was carrying 49 railway cars filled with thousands of gifts donated by the people of France — a thank you for the food donated by American citizens to help rebuild Europe after WWII.


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The Magellan steaming into New York Harbor in 1949.

Just two years before the Magellan arrived, the Marshall Plan inspired Americans to collect food and put their donations aboard what they called the “Friendship Train.” The train’s journey began in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 1947, and arrived in New York City to a ticker-tape parade before shipping off to Europe.

Along the way, it stopped in many major cities on its 11-day route from sea to shining sea. When the cars arrived in the French city of Le Havre, it was 700 cars long and valued at some $40 million ($435 million adjusted for inflation).

Theme Trains, a site dedicated to the appreciation of historical railway events, notes that the idea of the American Friendship train was the brainchild of journalist Drew Pearson. Through his work and colleagues in Europe, he believed the Russians (and thus, Communists) were getting the credit for aid sent there through disinformation campaigns.

Pearson’s idea for the American train would make certain the Russians couldn’t take credit for western aid. He organized a grassroots effort through American newspapers, that effort resulted in the Friendship Train.

The people of France were so grateful that they responded with a train of their own — the Merci Train. French war veteran Andre Picard organized 49 WWI-era boxcars, one for each state (Hawaii and Washington, D.C. shared a car). The cars were filled with personal gifts from individual French citizens.

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The Merci Train arrives in New York, 1949.

When the Magellan arrived with the boxcars in 1949, delegations from each state received it, then sent its train on a tour of their state.  The boxcars bore a ribbon reading “gratitude train,” along with every crest from the provinces of France. They came to rest in public locations that vary from state to state — parks, museums, schools — for the public to view.

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Arizona’s boxcar, located near Scottsdale.

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