Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot - Part 2 - We Are The Mighty
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Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2

Bob Hoover learned to fly as a teenager in Tennessee, flew over 50 combat missions in World War Two and went on to become a legendary test pilot.  Hoover was Chuck Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program and flew the chase plane when Yeager first broke the sound barrier. In 1950 he joined North American Aviation as an experimental test pilot, an association that would last 36 years.  This Episode is Part 2 of the remarkable story of Bob Hoover, one of the history’s greatest pilots.

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German U-Boat Lieutenant

In this special episode of Warriors, in Their Own Words, we feature an interview with a German U-boat veteran from World War II.  Rudi Toepfer was born in East Prussia, Germany on June 27, 1917. After graduating from the German Naval Academy, he served as the chief engineering office on submarines as they hunted for Allied convoys in the Atlantic Ocean.  After the war, he moved to the United States. He worked for Hughes Aircraft for 30 years and became a leader in the Elks Lodge and Masons.  This is Rudi’s compelling first hand account of his years in combat on board a U-Boat.

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9 key facts about World War II’s ‘most dangerous man’

(Photo: Bundesarchiv) (Photo: Bundesarchiv)


SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Otto Skorzeny was one of the most celebrated and feared commandos of World War II. Daring operations such as the rescue of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and missions behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge made him known as “the most dangerous man in Europe.”

1. He saved the Austrian President’s life

After growing up in an middle-class family in Austria, Skorzeny grew disillusioned with the depressed state of the country’s economy following its defeat in World War I. He joined the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party in 1931 as part of its paramilitary wing. When Germany annexed Austria during the 1938 Anschluss, Skorzeny led a small paramilitary group to protect the Austrian president Wilhelm Miklas from assassination by the Austrian Nazi’s, arguing that killing Miklas would only encourage violent resistance to the coup. This initiative brought the attention of the Party leadership, and he was given a small SS command in charge of the presidential palace.

2. He studied special operations while recovering in the hospital

After World War 2 broke out, Skorzeny fought in the Netherlands, France and the Balkans with the Waffen-SS as a junior officer. He joined the 2nd SS Panzer Division in the invasion of the Soviet Union, taking part in several battles including the failed attempt to conquer Moscow. In 1942 he was wounded in the head by rocket fire and spent a long convalescence in a Vienna hospital. There he read everything he could on special operations and commando warfare, essentially becoming a self-taught expert. He was later appointed commander of the SS’s special operations schools specializing in infiltration and sabotage.

3. He rescued Benito Mussolini

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

Skorzeny was personally selected to by Adolf Hitler to lead the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini after he was deposed and imprisoned in 1943. Mussolini was closely guarded and was moved constantly to avoid detection. An initial raid by Skorzeny and his men failed when their transport plane was shot down, and Skorzeny was later shot down again and rescued at sea while personally leading an aerial reconnaissance mission off the coast of Sardinia. When Mussolini was finally located at a mountain hotel at Gran Sasso, Skorzeny and his men crash landed gliders in front of it and rescued the former dictator without a shot being fired. The raid gained Skorzeny fame as well as a promotion and the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, one of Germany’s highest awards.

4. He was accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
‘The Big Three’: Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin sit for photographs during the Yalta Conference in February 1945. (Photo: War Office Second World War Official Collection)

It was believed by Soviet intelligence that Skorzeny had been tapped to lead a mission to assassinate Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt at the Tehran conference in 1943. The other Allies thought the plot fanciful, and Skorzeny maintained after the war that the operation never existed and he had been named in order to provide credibility to it. Skorzeny did lead other operations throughout the war targeting foreign leaders, including a failed attempt to capture the Yugoslavian partisan leader Josep Tito that ended in a fiasco. Later, when it came to Hitler’s attention that his puppet Hungarian regent Admiral Miklos Horthy was secretly negotiating with the Red Army, Skorzeny led a successful raid to capture the Admiral’s son, forcing him to resign.

5. His face was on ‘wanted’ posters all across Europe

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2

When Germany engaged in its last ditch attempt to defeat the Allied armies in Western Europe in the Battle of the Bulge, English-speaking soldiers under Skorzeny’s command wore American uniforms and spread chaos and paranoia behind American lines. Some of Skorzeny’s men who were captured claimed that Skorzeny himself was leading a raid to kill or capture U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower in Paris, though this was never actually part of the plan. This led to Eisenhower order wanted posters of Skorzeny posted all over Western Europe and contributed greatly to his reputation as a shadowy commando who could be anywhere.

6. He was acquitted of war crimes

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Skorzeny awaiting trial.

After the Battle of the Bulge, Skorzeny was sent to command regular troops fighting the Soviets on the collapsing Eastern Front as an acting major general. He also oversaw a failed attempt to blow up the Rhine bridge at Remagan to deny it to American troops. After Germany surrendered, he was held as a POW for two years before the Dachau trials, where he was charged with illegally fighting in enemy uniform during the Battle of the Bulge. Skorzeny’s defense was that his troops discarded the uniforms before engaging in combat, and British commando’s testified on his behalf that they had used the same tactics. Facing the prospect of prosecuting Allied troops, the court acquitted Skorzeny.

7. He escaped from a military prison

While interned awaiting the results of a denazification court, Skorzeny escaped military prison in 1948 with the aide of former SS members dressed as U.S. military police, and later claimed the U.S. had assisted in the escape. After nearly two years in hiding, during which he was recruited by the CIA-backed Gehlen Organization in Germany as an intelligence operative, he set up a small engineering business in Madrid, Spain. It was suspected by some to be a front for the supposed ODESSA network, which was rumoured to be smuggling ex-Nazi’s out of Europe to Latin America and the Middle East. It is unclear if a centralized organization by that title ever actually existed, and that the name was actually a catch-all for scattered old-boy networks and smugglers who did help some Nazi’s escape. When Skorzeny’s memoirs were published in 1950 by the French newspaper Le Figaro, French Communists rioted outside the paper’s offices due to Skorzeny’s Nazi connections.

8. He was Eva Peron’s bodyguard

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2

He was later sent by the Gehlen Organization in 1952 to be an military advisor to Egyptian dictator Mohammed Naguib, where he served with many other ex-SS and Wehrmacht personnel. Skorzeny oversaw training for Egyptian and Palestinian commando forces, including a young Yasser Arafat, and helped planned raids into Israel. Ironically, Skorzeny attempted to trade intelligence on the Egyptians to Israel’s Mossad if the famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal took him off a list of Nazi war criminals. Wiesenthal refused, but Skorzeny handed over the information anyway. He later divided his time between Spain and Argentina, where he served as an advisor to Argentinian president Juan Peron and bodyguard for his wife Eva. He also founded the Paladin Group after 1960, a freelance intelligence and mercenary organization that worked for governments from Libya to Greece.

9. He died of lung cancer

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
(Photo: Agencias)

Skorzeny developed a spinal tumour in 1970 that left him paralyzed, but through intensive rehabilitation he was able to walk again. The cancer recurred, and he died of lung cancer in Madrid in 1975 and was eventually buried in his family’s plot in Austria. Skorzeny was a devoted Nazi for much of his life, and had served with and even protected some of the most vile war criminals of World War II. Though many specific details have never emerged, he helped at least some Nazi’s flee justice in Europe, and after the war he straddled the line between freelance mercenary and terrorist. But his personal bravery, skill and an astonishing career which spanned decades, which even his enemies acknowledge, make him on of the most colorful military figures of the 20th Century.

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The mystery behind potential sonic weapons in Cuba is getting weirder

There must be an answer.


Whatever is harming US diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists, and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon, or flawed spying device.

Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.

The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.

Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen US officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds, and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.

Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches, and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.

“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.

To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.

There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where, and how of the Havana whodunit.

While Cuba has been surprisingly cooperative, even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the US government in full control.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo courtesy of the FBI.

“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”

Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.

Sonic Device

The first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?

Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.

But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.

Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.

And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.

Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous, or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.

The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
The anatomy of the inner ear. The vestibular system helps regulate balance. Diagram from Wikimedia Commons.

But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.

And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.

“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.

If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?

At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.

But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.

None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2

“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.

Electromagnetic Weapon

It may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.

The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave, and light bulbs.

And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.

There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the US Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.

What about the sounds people heard?

Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old US Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.

But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.

Something Else

The stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.

After all, once symptoms emerged, the US Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
John Kerry delivers remarks at the flag-raising ceremony at the newly re-opened US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on August 14, 2015. Photo from US State Department.

At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .

Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.

The Cuba Theory

It was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.

The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.

Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
US Marines stand ready to raise the flag during ceremony at the Ambassador’s residence in Havana, Cuba. Photo from US State Department.

But what’s the motive?

When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the US to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.

Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.

Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But US officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.

Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?

The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.

The Rogues

If not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several US officials said.

It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.

“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the US mission in Havana until 2008.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo from Public Domain.

But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.

Cuba’s surveillance of US diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks US diplomats’ movements and conversations.

So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.

The Outsiders

Who else would dare?

US investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.

Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.

None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.

Spying Gone Awry?

Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.

Several US officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the US diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.

You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

During the Cold War, the US Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.

The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.

Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.

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D-Day Diary

1994 was the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Throughout that year, The Honor Project sat down with dozens of veterans off the Normandy Invasion to hear their stories and to put these Heroes of Our Nation On Record. O.B. Hill was a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, one of four regiments of the 82nd Airborne Division. In this Episode, he recounts dramatic stories of his training and combat experiences and he eloquently expresses his thoughts on the nature of war and and how it impacted him and his fellow paratroopers.

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Here’s what it looks like when paratroopers seize an airfield

Every once in a while, America finds they desperately need an airfield in someone else’s territory. When there are no forces nearby to seize said airfield, U.S. paratroopers climb into cargo aircraft by the hundreds and get ready to beat down some defending forces. Here’s how that happens:


1. The units grab their gear and rush to waiting planes.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

Units on different missions will have different minimum timelines, but airborne response forces pride themselves on attacking anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less.

2. Most missions are “heavy drops” where vehicles, artillery, and other large equipment are dropped with the soldiers.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

3. The heavy equipment will generally be deployed first.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

4. Once the equipment is out, the paratroopers will begin raining from the sky.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

5. The soldiers maneuver their chutes to avoid hazards on the drop zone and then execute “parachute landing falls” when they reach the ground.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army

6. Once they reach the drop zone, troops mass as quickly as possible so they can begin maneuvering on the enemy. Chem lights, reflective panels, and other markers are used by leaders to show troops where to congregate.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

7. These points have to be defended from the enemy forces near the drop zone.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

8. Artillery units will try to mass on their howitzers so crews can prepare them to fire.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

9. Soldiers with radios must immediately get them up and running so leaders can coordinate the assault before an enemy counterattack materializes.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

10. Units check in with the ground commander on the radio or by signaling. The commanders will map out where their forces are in relation to the objectives, sometimes changing the attack plan if forces landed in the wrong spots.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

11. As the infantry begins their attack, artillery soldiers hurriedly prepare their ammunition to fire.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

12. The artillery will fire in support of the infantry, striking enemies on the airfield and any enemy reinforcements approaching the objective. Typically, they will try to avoid striking the airstrip itself to prevent damage to it.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

13. If the howitzers find they landed too close to an enemy position or an enemy counterattack is drawing close, they’ll begin firing “high-angle” shots. These will land nearby, killing enemies in close proximity to the guns.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

14. When helicopters are in range to support, they and other aircraft will destroy troop concentrations and heavy vehicles that are a threat to the infantry.

15. Of course, the infantry units also rain steel on the enemy. Mortarmen are part of the maneuver force, moving up to the enemy forces and striking them with high explosives.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army

16. Some of the infantrymen on the ground will also have grenade launchers. M230 and M320 grenade launchers can be attached to the infantryman’s rifle. The M320 can also be carried as a separate weapon.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army

17. The infantry will clear the buildings and the area surrounding the airfield to ensure no defenders are left.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

18. Once the airstrip is secure, the ground forces will call for reinforcements to begin landing. This could consist of anything from additional airborne infantry to heavy armored units with M1 Abrams.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: flickr/Josh Beasley

19. If the main airstrip is damaged or cannot accommodate all the aircraft needed for the mission, engineers will cut out dirt “forward landing strips” for the C-130s so reinforcements can continue pouring in.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen

NOW: Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

OR: These 7 photos show how Marines take a beach

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Assault on Germany in World War Two

In 1944, the Allies fought their way from the beaches of Normandy towards German soil. Their sites were firmly set on pushing all the way to Hitler’s capital Berlin and putting an end to WWII. Success in Europe required soldiers with a wide variety of skills. Robert Weiss was a US Army forward observer. His mission was to move ahead of the troops and find targets for the artillery, but being out in front placed him closer to the enemy and a greater risk of being cut off from his comrades. These are his experiences In His Own Words.

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The US is now claiming some of its spies were attacked in Cuba

Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.


It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.

While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
US Embassy in Havana, Cuba. AP photo via NewsEdge.

To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.

Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.

The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.

The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Photo from Public Domain.

But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.

Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.

Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.

In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Cuba’s colorful styling is a driving force behind its tourism. Photo under public domain.

Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.

Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.

Related: The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.

There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.

Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.

For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.

But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.

So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Havana aerial view from Jose Marti monument, 2008. Photo by Anton Zelenov.

Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.

The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.

Read Also: More US diplomats are allegedly being attacked by these weird weapons in Cuba

Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.

In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2

“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.

For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.

Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.

When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.

But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.

Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.

The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.

Asperiores odit

Pacific War Diary

During World War II, the United States Marines played a central role in the battle for the islands of the Pacific. Marine Corps veteran Bill Swanson was often in the first wave to hit the beach in many of these brutal campaigns. In this episode, he paints a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in the “living hell” of these steaming jungles and swamps.  He shares his experiences on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, battling a hidden and determined enemy.

Asperiores odit

5 of the worst things about standing in a ceremonial formation

In the military, there isn’t much that matches the pride of standing in a ceremonial formation. There you are, in front of a respectable crowd. Your dress uniform is perfectly pressed, your medals are shining bright, and the weather is outstanding — what the hell could go wrong?

Well, since there are many elements to a military ceremony, from the posting and retiring of the Colors to several long-form speeches, things usually run a lot longer than you’d expect — that’s when these happen .


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Needing to pee

As you can imagine, it takes a minute to prepare everyone to march out in formation. Everyone needs to be accounted for before stepping off. You’ll be out there in the sun, so it’s essential that you drink plenty of clear fluids. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between being hydrated and being a bit too hydrated.

Suddenly, halfway through the proceedings, your full bladder tells your brain that you need to hit the head. Guess what? The ceremony won’t pause so one troop can take a leak. So, good luck holding it in until the end.

Passing the f*ck out

Service members are trained to properly move into the position of attention, hold the pose, and move out of it in a smooth, choreographed motion. We’re taught how to stand at that position for prolonged periods of time by keeping our knees slightly bent and wiggling our toes — even still, many end up passing out.

Most of us have passed out for one reason or another in our lifetimes, but doing it in front of a big crowd is super embarrassing.

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Overthinking

Most people aren’t born to entertain a crowd. When you suddenly become the subject of a crowd’s direct attention, you may start to overanalyze the little things, leading to dumb mistakes. How fast are you supposed to snap up a salute? Wait — do I start out on my right foot or my left?

It happens.

Getting the shakes

When standing in the same position for too long, people get tired and, to compensate, end up shifting their weight to find some type of relief. Although this might be subtle individually, when you’re up against a backdrop of stone-still troops, the movement sticks out.

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Losing track of time

Since ceremonies can last a long time and they can be pretty dull, our minds will wander. Because we’re thinking of something else, we tend to lose track of time, which can lead to making a stupid mistake, like snapping into parade rest at the wrong moment.

Asperiores odit

Armored Warfare in World War Two

D-Day was only the beginning.  The Allied assault on June 6th, 1944 launched a bloody offensive that wouldn’t end until Hitler’s Reich lay in ruins.  

The battlefields are forever etched in the memories of the men who were there… the hedgerows of Normandy, to the breakthrough at St. Lo, The Battle of the Bulge, and the capture of Berlin.  In this episode, veterans of the 3rd Armored Division, Belton Cooper and Bertrand Close, transport us to the Race Across Europe in World War Two.

Asperiores odit

The Royal Navy just commissioned its biggest ship ever

The Royal Navy has a carrier again. HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of a two-ship class (the second will be HMS Prince of Wales), was commissioned today in a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and a number of other members of the Royal Family.


Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)

According to a release from the British government, the vessel will conduct helicopter trials early in 2018 before heading off to the United States to carry out trials with the F-35 Lightning. The carrier will be able to perform a number of missions, ranging from high-end warfighting to humanitarian relief.

“The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will sit at the heart of a modernized and emboldened Royal Navy, capable of projecting power and influence at sea, in the air, over the land and in cyberspace, and offering our nation military and political choice in an uncertain world,” Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said during the ceremony.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland in July 2014. (Photo from U.K. MOD)

At 64,600 tons, this carrier is the largest ship to ever serve in the Royal Navy. Previously, that title belonged to the battleship HMS Vanguard, which served from 1946 to 1960. In a June 2017 report, The Sun noted that this ship left the builders’ yard in Fife with just 14 inches to spare on either side.

Related: These are the 5 most powerful Navies in the world

“Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future. For the next half a century, both carriers will advance our interests around the globe, providing the most visible symbol of our intent and commitment to protect the UK from intensifying threats, wherever they may come from,” Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said during the ceremony.

Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2
A F-35B Lightning II hovers before landing aboard the USS America (LHA 6) during the Ligthning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration, November 19, 2016. Marine Corps F-35s could be deployed on HMS Queen Elizabeth. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson)

It should be noted the ship is still years from being fully operational. The British are reportedly considering using United States Marine Corps F-35s on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first deployment, which might require some adjustments.

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