The United States was drawn into World War II by the sudden and deliberate attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan. How well do you know the day that FDR said ‘will forever live in infamy’?
The United States was drawn into World War II by the sudden and deliberate attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan. How well do you know the day that FDR said ‘will forever live in infamy’?
Rear Admiral Alene Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, died July 21 at 98 years old
Are you a strongman like Russian President Vladimir Putin or are you a diplomat like United States President Barack Obama? Find out which president you have more in common with. Take the quiz:
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Instead of a reindeer-powered sleigh, Santa delivers Christmas from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to more than 20,000 Pacific islanders by C-130 Hercules drops from the air.
For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Christmas Drop, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has two partners in support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force in delivering donated goods to more than 56 of the Pacific’s most remote and populated islands. Each nation provided one C-130 for the trilateral operation.
Not only is Operation Christmas Drop the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission, but it also gives the 374th AW an opportunity to practice humanitarian aid and disaster relief. C-130 aircrews deliver almost 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. The airdrop missions allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region while helping the U.S. strengthen cooperation with two allies.
“Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters, and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th Wing commander. “That’s the beauty of this operation – its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam.”
The exact origin of Operation Christmas Drop isn’t known, but according to 36th Wing history, the first supplies were dropped during Christmas in 1952. An aircrew, assigned to the 54th Weather Squadron at Andersen AFB, flew a WB-29 Superfortress over Kapingamarangi in the Federated States of Micronesia, south of Guam, and saw villagers waving at them from the ground. The crew packed items on the plane in a box and dropped it on a parachute used for weather buoys. The drops continued each year until the name Operation Christmas Drop was officially named six years later.
The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen AFB, with a celebratory “push ceremony.” Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing, 734th Air Mobility Squadron, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, all from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from Australia and Japan gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.
Addressing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said, “Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.
“Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower.”
Throughout the week after the ceremony, the joint teams trained together on low-cost, low-altitude airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with humanitarian aid donations and critical supplies, such as books, canned goods, construction materials, clothing, coolers, fishing nets, powdered milk, shoes, school supplies, and toys.
“This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid (humanitarian aid and disaster response) and resupply missions at a moment’s notice throughout the region and around the world,” DeLaMater said.
During almost seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.
“An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam.”
From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.
“We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year’s Operation Christmas Drop possible,” said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. “We began this process for the event in March, and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome.”
Last year, the Pacific Air Forces delivered 50,000 pounds of supplies to 56 Micronesian Islands.
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.
Since June, Coast Guard vessels patrolling the US’s southern approaches have stopped seven low-profile smuggling vessels — stealthy ships that ride low in the water to spirit illicit cargos from South America to Mexico and the US.
Akin to self-propelled semi-submersibles used by smugglers for the same purpose, low-profile vessels are boats designed to run near or at surface level to present the smallest possible radar signature.
Low-profile vessels usually have a sharp bow to cut through the water and an elongated body to transport cargo — typically high-value drugs like cocaine. Some only have masts or conning towers that stick out above water, and they are often outfitted with multiple outboard engines and painted to blend in with the water.
The Coast Guard said the last time a low-profile vessel was stopped prior to the current fiscal year was in late May 2016. Six narco subs were caught during that fiscal year (and one was intercepted in September, the first month of fiscal year 2017).
The seven interdictions since June occurred in drug-transit areas in the eastern Pacific, off the coasts of South and Central America.
In mid-August, Coast Guard cutter Steadfast intercepted a suspected low-profile vessel several hundred miles off the coast of Central America, seizing more than 6,000 pounds of cocaine and arresting four suspected traffickers.
Another low-profile vessel — six feet wide and 54 feet long — was stopped by Coast Guard cutter Waesche off the Central American coast in early June, after the cutter tracked the vessel for almost 100 miles. The Waesche’s crew arrested four suspected smugglers and seized 2.79 tons of cocaine.
The US and partner forces have stepped up their activity in the eastern Pacific, and cocaine production has risen considerably in Colombia, the world’s biggest producer of the drug.
The result has been “a significant increase in narcotics removal” in drug-transit areas off South and Central America, the Coast Guard said.
During fiscal year 2016, the Coast Guard set a record by seizing more than 443,000 pounds of cocaine bound for the US. The service says it is on pace for another record-setting amount of seizures this fiscal year, though officials have warned that it doesn’t have the resources to fully address the trafficking activity it detects.
The ocean area from Colombia to the Galapagos and up to the Mexican and US coasts is about the size of the continental US, Vice Adm. Charles Ray, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, said at a hearing earlier this month.
“On any given day, we’ll have between six to 10 Coast Guard cutters down here,” Ray added. “If you imagine placing that on [an area the size of] the United States … it’s a capacity challenge.”
US officials believe about 90% of the cocaine shipped to the US traverses the sea at some point, typically arriving somewhere in Central America or Mexico and being smuggled over the US-Mexico land border.
The Drug Enforcement Administration says about 93% of the cocaine sent to the US comes through the Mexico/Central America corridor.
US anti-narcotics officials also think they intercept about one of every four tons of cocaine headed for the US, with about 69% of it stopped in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Narco subs — a category that includes fully submersible vessels, semi-submersible vessels, or towed containers — appeared in the 1990s, as Colombian smugglers sought to stay ahead of law-enforcement’s detection abilities.
Fully submersible and semi-submersible vessels are hard to detect and expensive to build (though their cargos are valuable enough that a single trip can cover the price), so interceptions of them are not that common.
Low-profile vessels, which are not technically semi-submersible, are the majority of seized drug-smuggling vessels, according to a 2014 report.
Low-profile vessels can come in various forms, often balancing speed and stealth in different ways. A more recent variation appears to be what naval expert HI Sutton called “very slender vessels” — elongated vessels that go through waves rather than over them. In April, Guatemalan forces found an abandoned vessel that appeared to be a VSV, as did the crew of the Waesche in June.
VSVs sacrifice cargo size for stealthiness and speed, and their appearance suggests a maturation in the designs of Colombian traffickers — in particular Los Urabeños, the country’s most powerful criminal group — Sutton notes.
Narco subs are typically constructed near Colombia’s Pacific coast, assembled under cover of jungle canopy.
They’re moved through rivers and mangroves to the coast once completed, and their smuggling routes typically take them out into the Pacific — sometimes around the Galapagos Islands — before turning north.
“In recent years, ‘narco-sub’ vessels (mostly LPVs) have been built with upper lead shielding which helps to minimize their heat signature and hence they can evade infrared sensors,” according to a 2014 paper in Small Wars Journal. “Some of the newer models have piping along the bottom to allow the water to cool the exhaust as the ship moves, making it even less susceptible to infrared detection.”
In addition to the Coast Guard air and sea assets deployed to stop traffickers, US Customs and Border Patrol have eight P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft converted into Long Range Trackers. The former Navy aircraft have been upgraded with radars originally designed for the F-16 fighter jet, as well as optical sensors.
On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, two EB-66 aircraft, call signs Bat 21 and Bat 22 were flying pathfinder escort for three B-52s, which were assigned to bomb the two primary access routes to the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos. Gene Hambleton, a navigator aboard Bat 21, was shot down behind North Vietnamese lines. His rescue became known as the largest, longest, and most complex search-and-rescue operation during the entire Vietnam War. In this episode, Gene Hambleton recounts his dramatic story, in his own words.
If you were lucky enough to make it out to Agency Arms’ full auto shindig during SHOT Show 2017, you might’ve seen assorted burly dudes and barrel chested former freedom fighters hurling axes at a target. Why? Because lots of barrel chested freedom fighters still use tomahawks.
“But wait, Swingin’ Dick!” we hear you say. “Tomahawks haven’t been used since the days of Rogers’ Rangers and that American Revolution movie with an Australian in it! Isn’t this counterintuitive?”
To which we reply, “False. They’re using tomahawks right now in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Soldier Enhancement Program has been studying it, the combat development team at the US Army Infantry School has discussed its use — hell a platoon of the 101st were issued ‘hawks at Ft. Campbell just to see if the Joes would use it. And don’t forget all the SOF guys who use Winkler or RMJ ‘hawks — oh, and nice use of the word counterintuitive too.”
But, we digress. The specific axe we’re talking about was a custom MCUT, Modular Combat Utility Tool, from Jake Hoback Knives (@jakehobackknives). There were just a few of this particular version made. We’re gonna tell you all about it.
You’re welcome, nasties.
The Modular Combat Utility Tool looks very similar to the Hoback Knives logo. That’s hardly an accident.
Jake drew that logo a little over a decade ago (’03?) and has been asked may times over the years to build the axe that logo represents. Well, he finally got around to it…sorta.
We’d show you video and pictures of our own but were never able to get close enough to Jake at SHOT to club him unconscious (or roofie him). You’ll have to settle for these.
Hoback says the MCUT had its genesis in a desire to bring his logo to life in steel, but to do something different from what is an already crowded combat/tactical/taticool tomahawk market. He wanted it to be more than an axe, more than a breaching tool, but not one of those it’s-a-great-concept-but-poor-execution tools that’re often less than truly functional.
He wanted it to be a “Jack of All Trades” type implement, but not a jackin’ off exercise in tactarded futility.
With that in mind he designed the Modular Combat Utility Tool, which is a bit of a mouthful but does look to live up to its name. Here’s a quick rundown.
The base is Type III hard-anodized, 6061T6 aluminum handle, assembled from a total of 7 pieces.
The top of the haft is built with a machine-tooled pocket that holds the dowels, screws, and cover plate. This is the feature that allows you to switch the MCUT between different configurations dependent on mission and needs.
The first run of custom MCUTs will bear the signature Hoback axes head. Later they will offer heads designed for different tasks (breaching, digging, throwing, an evening of relaxing Úlfheðinn berserkergang, etc.).
Hoback promises new videos on his YouTube channel each time he completes one of the new heads.
HOBACK KNIVES MCUT SPECIFICATIONS
You can find the MCUT online right here.
The Okinawa government is building shelters to protect schoolchildren from falling aircraft parts near an American military base
The Islamic extremists that ambushed and killed US Army commandos in Niger last week hadn’t operated in that area before, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11, referring to what officials believe was a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group there.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Tampa, Mattis said he rejected suggestions that rescue forces were slow to respond to the assault, noting that French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes. But he said the US military is reviewing whether changes should be made to these types of training missions in Africa.
“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” said Mattis. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr
US Africa Command has launched an investigation into the attack that will review what went wrong and whether additional security or overhead armed support may be needed for some of these missions.
American officials have said they believe the militants belonged to a tribal group that previously may have been tied to al-Qaeda or other extremists, but more recently re-branded themselves as IS. The officials said they do not believe the militants were fighters who came to Niger from outside the region. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Three Army commandoes and a soldier were killed a week ago when dozens of militants ambushed them during a joint patrol with Niger troops. The US and Niger troops were in unarmored trucks.
Mattis and other officials haven’t said how long it took to evacuate the troops, including several US and Niger forces who were wounded. One US Army soldier was missing for nearly two days before he was finally found by Niger troops around the area where the attack happened.
According to US officials, details about the exact timeline for the rescue effort are still unfolding. The troops were evacuated by French aircraft.
Army special forces have been working with Niger troops for some time, and that training effort has been increasing in recent years.
They are often working in remote locations well beyond what the US military likes to call the “golden hour.” That one-hour standard for medical evacuation was set during the peak war years in Iraq and Afghanistan and was aimed at getting wounded troops out within an hour of their injury, making it more likely they will get the treatment needed to survive.
Mattis praised the quick response of the French and Niger support forces.
“The French pilots were overhead with fast movers with bombs on them ready to help, and helicopters were coming in behind,” he said adding that Niger forces with French advisers also responded to the attack, which took place attack about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.
The US and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed. There were about a dozen US troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission.
US officials have described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows. The soldiers got out of their trucks, returning fire and calling in support from the French aircraft.
Fighter pilots have to pass a lot of tests before they get control of a jet. One of their first tests is the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. We’ve pulled 15 questions from Air Force Personnel Test 997, an information pamphlet on the AFOQT. All questions included here are questions that would, on the AFOQT, count towards the pilot composite score. (We’ve also included awesome jet photos whenever a visual isn’t needed to answer a question. You’re welcome . . .)