America is full of some amazing, patriotic people who have gone to great lengths to serve their country. That said, there’s a countless number of people who didn’t serve who enjoy dressing the part for their personal entertainment.
And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as they don’t claim to be a veteran.
1. They use military terminology because they think it’s cool
“Let’s go Oscar Mike back to the COP before 1300 to get some chow and hit the head.”
Translation: Let’s go home before 1 o’clock to get some food and use the restroom. Oscar Mike means, “leaving.” COP stands for “Combat Outpost.”
Why can’t these people just talk normally? We know, it’s a damn shame.
2. They wear military-print everything
It’s no secret that camo print is a go-to style for many civilians. Sure, we get that. But it’s another thing when people wear camo day-in and day-out. Even if they never served, they want to look like they have.
3. They wear overpriced Spec Ops gear
Airsoft and paintball are pretty fun. Sometimes, however, the players buy over-the-top, faux-spec ops gear to immerse themselves in the military mindset.
4. They wear their “serious faces” in group photos at the range
It’s hard to fully understand the struggle of grabbing a sushi lunch just an hour before charging the tree house guarded by the blue team. Make sure to take a photo to show how tough you are.
5. They bring up excuses as to why they didn’t serve — unprovoked
Not everyone was meant to join the military. Hell, even some people who join the military weren’t meant to be a part of the team. However, civilians frequently volunteer reasons as to why they didn’t join — often without prompt.
6. They think they’re an operator for conducting airsoft and paintball missions
Veterans across the globe reenact historic battles to preserve the memories of the men that served. However, if you civilians dressing up like a SEAL team and recreating the Osama bin Laden raid, that’s the ultimate red flag of the veteran wannabe.
The Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy will meet the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Oct. 27, 2018, for the next game in a 91-year-long rivalry. The Annapolis-South Bend rivalry is the second-longest uninterrupted rivalry in college football. But, unlike most college football rivalries, this is a game of mutual respect and admiration — and that’s why both schools love it so much.
When Navy plays Army, the mood in Annapolis is decidedly different. When Navy plays the Air Force Academy, it could mean the difference between a trip to the White House for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy and a trip to the locker room. Those rivalries are intense. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has a slew of other rivalries with Michigan, USC, and Stanford.
But Navy-Notre Dame is a serious one. It’s not a rivalry of burning hatred, it’s a nod to keeping good things going.
The 2012 matchup was played in Dublin, Ireland. The 2020 matchup will return to Dublin.
The game was played as planned throughout World War II and the needs of skilled men during the war is what kept Notre Dame going. When the United States was fully mobilized, the student body at Notre Dame’s South Bend, Ind. campus dwindled to just a few thousand, the number of students on campus during the Great Depression. When the U.S. Naval Academy started its Navy College Training Program on Notre Dame’s campus in 1943, that began to change. An influx of Navy students and military dollars poured into South Bend.
During the social upheaval that gripped American universities during the height of the Vietnam War, many colleges threw U.S. military ROTC offices off their campuses, but Notre Dame never forgot the debt they owed the U.S. Navy.
If the only yardstick of a great rivalry was snapping a team’s winning streak against the other, then Navy-Notre Dame wouldn’t have its place in the pantheon of college football rivalries. The Irish leads the series 75-13-1, including a 43-game winning streak after the Roger Staubach-led Midshipmen trounced the Irish 35-14 in 1963. Navy didn’t win another until 2007, winning 46-44 in triple overtime.
Notre Dame’s biggest losses came between 1956 and 1963, where Heisman winners Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach led the Midshipment to victory five times, by an average of more than 14 points per game. Since their 2007 upset win, Navy has won four of the last eleven games.
For two of the oldest football programs in the United States, the rivalry is a healthy, mutually beneficial competition that will no doubt endure for decades to come.
Each year, like clockwork, hurricane season strikes America’s southeastern states. Right now, another hurricane is knocking on the East Coast’s door and, coincidentally, many installations of the Armed Forces stand in the way of the storm’s projected path. While most people are busy either evacuating or hunkering down, the troops from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and everywhere between aren’t simply waiting out the storm — they’re rushing into it.
And the action isn’t reserved exclusively for each state’s National Guard. Natural disasters, like Hurricane Florence, make for some of the few times when active duty troops from every branch directly help their community. They’re springing into action now, helping locals prepare, and they’ll be around afterward, helping the affected recover.
A simple meal and a smile goes a long way for people afraid of what’s coming.
(National Guard photo by Spc. Hamiel Irizarry)
It all begins with making proper preparations. Troops begin by stockpiling whatever resources may be useful for civilians, including blankets, MREs, and gasoline, to name a few. Then, they get out there and provide the locals with the essentials.
It may seem like a simple gesture, but being wrapped in a warm, dry military blanket and receiving a hot meal helps repair morale and lets those affected by the disaster know that everything is going to be okay.
If there’s one thing soldiers know how to do, it’s fill sandbags…
(Georgia Army National Guard photo by Capt. William Carraway)
Next, manpower is put towards barricading specific locations that either serve as excellent shelters or hold significance to the community. This process often involves having troops fill countless sandbags to keep flood waters from reaching the people behind them.
But the Air Force and NOAA are responsible for one of the most important — and dangerous — tasks. They’re called “Hurricane Hunters.” Their mission is to fly directly into the hurricane to monitor weather patterns and determine the storm’s course from the inside.
Meanwhile, the Navy and Coast Guard use their vessels to have hospitals and emergency centers on standby for the moment the hurricane makes landfall.
It’s one of the most beautiful and selfless things most troops will do stateside. BZ, guys. You’re making this country proud.
(Louisiana National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Rebekah Malone)
As much as lower enlisted troops may bemoan the process, they’re typically evacuated at the last possible moment. This ensures everything is in proper order and it gives civilians a head-start, allowing them to get out of town without being blocked in by clutter created by large military vehicles.
The troops who haven’t evacuated will shelter in place until the storm passes. Then, the rebuilding process begins…
“I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article One of the Code of Conduct for members of the armed forces of the United States
Service members are prepared to die in the line of duty and unfortunately, especially during times of war, too many do make that ultimate sacrifice. It is a reality that the armed forces take very seriously — both on a personal level, as those left behind mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, and on a professional level, as the Department of Defense strives to provide comfort to the bereaved families.
One of the most important military duties is to provide a death notification to the deceased’s next of kin.
It is a duty that is carried out with the utmost respect, and, like anything else in the military, it is overseen with official guidance. Each branch has its own manual with specific procedures (the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program manual, for example, is 182 pages long — no stone is left unturned), but they are all serve the same purpose: to provide guidance about casualty reporting, notification, mortuary affairs, and military funeral honors, benefits, and entitlements assistance and all administrative requirements.
This video (a work of fiction, from Army Wives) does a decent job depicting a respectful death notification (though, unless the information was classified, the notification officer would have provided the next of kin — in this case, the deceased soldier’s mother— some details about the cause of death).
There are specific instructions for notifying the next of kin about injuries or even desertion, but this article will cover the procedure for death notifications. Each branch is different, but this is what they have in common:
Notification of death, duty status whereabouts unknown, or missing will be carried out in person to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin. They will wear a formal uniform as stipulated by their branch guidelines (for the Marine Corps, it is the Service Alpha uniform; for the Air Force, it is the Service Dress; etc.).
The notification team is composed of a field grade officer of equal or higher grade than the member about whom they are making notification (for this article, we’ll use the term ‘notification officer’ but the duty title varies among branches), and at least one other person; if possible, the additional people should be a chaplain and medical personnel capable of delivering assistance to the next of kin. Notification should not be delayed in order to find the latter two, however.
A person with a close relationship to the deceased may be invited, as well as a public affairs representative if there are indications of a high level of media interest and the presence of media is likely.
Death notification should be accomplished within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident, and between the hours of 0500-0000.
Respecting the next of kin’s dignity and privacy are very important. If they are not home or cannot be found, the notification team may discreetly attempt to locate them or await their return. If the team is still unable to locate the next of kin, the notification officer will contact their branch personnel department for instruction.
Upon arrival at the home of the next of kin, the notification officer will ask for permission to enter. It is recommended that the next of kin be seated prior to delivering the news.
Before the notification officer delivers the notification, they will verbally confirm the identity of the next of kin by asking for their full name. The notification officer will introduce himself and the team. The notification officer will then articulate — as naturally as possible — something close to the following:
“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has entrusted me to express his deep regret that your (relationship), John (died/was killed in action) in (place of incident (city/state or country) on (date). (State the circumstances.) The Commandant extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”
The notification team also verifies information about death gratuity, movement of the deceased, and other active duty service members in the family (who must be properly notified as well). The notification officer will arrange a second visit, usually 24 hours later, to discuss mortuary affairs and funeral honors.
The team watches for signs of medical distress, and usually stays with the next of kin until another adult can accompany them.
In military speak, the purpose of this program is to provide “prompt and accurate reporting, dignified and humane notification, and efficient, thorough, and compassionate assistance to the next of kin and/or those designated to receive benefits/entitlements.”
Adhering to guidelines can also help prevent confusion or, in a worst case scenario, legal issues. Formal procedures also help protect family from scams that take advantage of deployed service members (yes — that’s a thing, and it’s particularly atrocious).
Spartans have a weird reputation for being the undeniable kings of Classical warfare while in reality, they get a lot of really great press from the Battle of Thermopylae, but they weren’t really better or worse than any of the other Greek city-states. In fact, for 17 years, the Army of Messenia, led by King Aristomenes, handed the Spartans their asses for 17 years until he was captured and executed by Spartans.
And he soon appeared again at the head of the Messenians, ready to kick more Spartan ass.
Can’t stop, won’t stop.
A lot of U.S. military veterans are gonna have a hard time hearing this, but there was very little that was special about Sparta. Contrary to popular belief, the upbringing of Spartan boys had nothing to do with military training and everything to do with being a good citizen and obeying the law. Between 550 BC and 371 BC, Sparta’s win rate in pitched battles was 1-1, and the loss to Thebes in 371 really did them in. For good. Even at Thermopylae, yes 300 Spartans made a brave last stand, but Herodotus (and later, Frank Miller) forgot to mention the 700 Thespians who were also there, along with the 900 other lightly-armed infantry who couldn’t afford the gear to be a hoplite.
The Spartans, while perhaps brave, weren’t the bearded Hellenic crack team of ancient special operators they somehow get credit for being today. What they were was aggressive and present. The Messenians, sick of being slaves to stupid Spartans, rose up against their overlords and fought them at the Battle of Deres. Though no one really won that battle, one man stood out above the rest – Aristomenes. He fought so well the Messenians declared him their leader.
Aristomenes would be captured after a night of carnal delights with Spartan priestesses.
Aristomenes took the fight to Sparta and immediately took their temple to Athena. The Spartans returned and fought him again, only to lose once again. Aristomenes and the Messenians routed the Spartans over and over at Boar’s Grave and Great Trench. After these victories, it was said that Aristomenes was captured and taken to Sparta, where he was sentenced to die a warrior’s death. The Spartans led him to a cliff where he would be thrown off. But the sentence of a warrior’s death meant Aristomenes would be tossed over while still wearing his armor. He was tossed over, and the Spartans went home, certain that a Messenian army without Aristomenes was no match for them.
The Messenian King, however, was still very much alive. Using his shield, which the Spartans gave him to die with, he slowed his fall against the side of the cliff. The descent itself wasn’t even that far, considering he landed on the bodies of hundreds of his former fellow Messenian warriors who were sentenced to a similar fate. Using the bones of his comrades, Aristomenes climbed back up the cliff and walked back to his forces.
Some sources say a fox led Aristomenes away from the cliff. Either way, he survived.
As the two forces met up the next day, the legend goes, Aristomenes strode to the front of his forces. The Spartan Army was so surprised at seeing the reanimated corpse of the king they killed the day before that they broke ranks and fled. The Messenians would next move on the fortress at Mount Eira, one they would hold for some 11 years, from which they would conduct guerrilla raids.
Of course, time was not on the side of the Messenians holed up in the fortress. The siege ended Aristomenes when he led a column of women, children, and refugees out of the fortification and to safety on the island of Arkadia while 500 of the remaining defenders launched a diversionary attack on the Spartans. The refugees escaped and the defenders were killed to a man. Aristomenes left the Army for Rhodes, where he later died.
It’s not that I have anything against the good-natured jokes of April Fool’s Day, it’s just that I don’t believe anything for an entire day. Sure, you have your ridiculous ads from companies, like the McPickle burger from McDonald’s, but then there’s the ones that sound plausible until you stop and think about it for more than a second.
Tom Brady saying he’s going to retire? The dude still has four more fingers to go. Lockheed Martin saying they now have the technology to smell Space? That’s not how Space works. The Army announces that it’ll take the well-being of the troops into consideration and allow them to wear protective masks, under AR 670-1, in areas of with hazardous air quality? Good one.
At least there was a solid selection of memes to choose from this week! Enjoy!
(In all seriousness, the protective mask one is real — and it’s about freakin’ time.)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)
(Meme via I Am An American Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to get that the left side was port and right was starboard.
And the only way I still remember it is because ‘left’ has four letters, and so does ‘port.’ Don’t judge me.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via 1st Civ Division)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Screengrab via The Salty Soldier, Credit to Reddit user u/patientbearr)
A-list actors, pop stars, football players and tech giants have two things in common: fame and money. Celebrities have the resources to become powerful philanthropists, but not all of them do. Of those who do give back, some keep their donations quieter than others. A few have even formed secret charity foundations! Which of these generous celebs is your favorite?
Keanu Reeves, the star of the Matrix and numerous other box office hits, looks roughly the same as he did when the movie first came out in 1999. Over the past 20 years, however, he has shown more maturity and grace than most celebrities ever develop. While he keeps his donations and personal life on the down-low, he has his own secret charity organization. Which one it is, we may never know. He also donates thousands to children’s hospitals and cancer research- inspired by his sister Kim’s battle with leukemia. Perhaps generosity and humility are the secrets to his apparent immortality!
The Single Ladies superstar is no longer single, and she and husband Jay-Z have both donated millions each year. Beyonce co-founded The Survivor Foundation, a community outreach facility in her hometown of Houston, Texas, and donated 100K to help local residents impacted by Hurricane Ike. While some critics, including Harry Belafonte, have said the power couple doesn’t donate enough through their foundations, it turns out they keep some of their acts of charity private. Beyonce’s pastor let it spill that the singer donated $7 million to start a Houston housing project for the homeless in 2014.
George Michael was another big-name celebrity who preferred not to publicize his admirable actions. He was so secretive that we still don’t know exactly how much he gave, but he donated royalties from “Jesus to a Child” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to several children’s organizations and HIV charities. He also helped out a Deal or No Deal contestant who was on the show in hopes of funding IVF treatments, which usually cost upward of 20K.
While she’s currently known for her latest X-rated song, WAP, behind the scenes, Nicki Minaj is quite the philanthropist. In 2017, she shared her most significant charity project- helping to support a village in India- in hopes of inspiring her fans to give back. She began the initiative with her pastor years ago, working to build wells, a reading center, a computer center, and more.
George Clooney’s tale of giving sounds like something out of a movie. In a recent interview with GQ, George reflected on one of his most giving moments; inviting 14 of his closest friends for dinner, and gifting them each one million dollars. He figured his friends had each helped him in one way or another over the years, helping him through the early years of his acting career. Many of them could now use the financial support themselves, so he thought a cash gift would make a fitting thank you.
Steve Jobs wasn’t known for his generosity while he was alive, but it turns out he was a pretty good guy. Laurene told the New York Times that they preferred their donations to remain anonymous, but in secret, the two of them donated incredible sums. Over the course of a few years, they donated $50 million to California hospitals alone.
You’ve gotta love a rapper who gives back just to do good, not for good press. Eminem’s real name is Marshall Mathers, and he made his own self-titled charity foundation. The organization shells out money to charitable organizations all the time, but always under the condition that no one discloses who it’s really from. Still, secret donations get leaked now and then. It turns out that Eminem donated $200,000 to an organization for at-risk youth in his home state of Michigan. Nice!
John Legend may be the “sexiest man alive”, but he’s also one of the sweetest. Sharing two beautiful kids with model Chrissy Teigan, he has a soft spot for children in need. Many low-income students nationwide struggle to afford school lunches, including many in the Seattle area where Chrissy spent much of her youth. Their families owed $21,000 in school lunch debt, so John stepped in and paid off several thousand of it under his birth name, John Stephens.
Barbra Streisand was born in New York City, but after living in Los Angeles for most of her life, she considers it to be her hometown. Every year, she gives back to LA charities through her private charity foundation. Many of the donations are kept quiet, but one was too generous not to share. She gave $5 million to Cedars Sinai Non-Profit Hospital, which renamed the cardiac wing “the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center”.
One of the most-loved actresses in all of Hollywood, Meryl Streep has used her platform to encourage the support of women and girls around the world. Meryl also puts her money where her mouth is. She and her husband, Don Gummer, founded the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, and they’ve donated millions for American charities, including New York’s Meals on Wheels and the Coalition for the Homeless. None of the donations were publicized, but Forbes figured out who they came from after tracing the foundation’s tax filings.
Giving back doesn’t have to be monetary to make an impact. Russell Wilson, the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, was raised by an ER nurse and a dad suffering from diabetes. He saw firsthand how important healthcare really is, so when he grew up, volunteering in hospitals was a natural fit. He volunteered at a children’s hospital in Wisconsin throughout college.
NASA has taken another step toward re-introducing supersonic flight with the award of a contract for the design, building, and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, was selected for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million. Work under the contract began April 2, 2018, and runs through Dec. 31, 2021.
Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.
Once NASA accepts the aircraft from the contractor in late 2021, the agency will perform additional flight tests to prove the quiet supersonic technology works as designed, aircraft performance is robust, and it’s safe to operate in the National Airspace System.
Beginning in mid-2022, NASA will fly the X-plane over select U.S. cities and collect data about community responses to the flights. This data set will be provided to U.S. and international regulators for their use in considering new sound-based rules regarding supersonic flight over land, which could enable new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel.
Smoking cigarettes has been a popular pastime among troops since the very first line formed at the armory. Everybody, both civilian and service member alike, has their reason for smoking, but one thing is consistent between the two crowds — flipping one cigarette upside down and saving it for last.
This last cigarette is referred to as the “lucky cigarette” and it’s considered bad luck to smoke it before the others in the pack. People all over the internet have speculated at the origin of this superstition, but it’s very likely that it all started with troops in WWII — and the Lucky Strike brand cigarettes they used to get in their rations.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why your veteran friend saves a single, specific cig for last, here are the best explanations we’ve found:
(U.S. Marine Corps)
World War II
In WWII, troops would get Lucky Strike cigarettes in their rations and each cigarette was stamped with the brand’s logo. It’s believed that those fighting either in Europe or the Pacific would flip every cigarette in the pack except for one. That way, when a troop sparked one, they’d burn the stamp first (this was before the days of filtered cigarettes).
That way, if a troop had to drop the cigarette for any reason, the enemy couldn’t quickly determine the country of origin — any identifying mark was quickly turned to ash. The last cigarette was the only exception — and if you survived long enough to smoke it, you were considered lucky.
U.S. Marine Corps LVTP-5 amphibious tractors transport 3rd Marine Division troops in Vietnam, 1966.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Some swear that this tradition comes from the Vietnam War.
By this point, filtered cigarettes were becoming the norm, so you could only smoke ’em one way. Still, the tradition remained largely intact. Instead of flipping every cigarette on end, troops would invert a single one and, just as before, if you lived long enough to smoke it, you were a lucky joe.
Hopefully you can quit when you get out.
In either case, having a “lucky cigarette” in your pack has since become a universal superstition.
Whether you’re in the military or not, flipping that one cigarette is considered good luck, even when your life isn’t in immediate danger.
Most sailors who go out on deployment don’t get into trouble. Others may find themselves on the wrong side of the shore patrol, though. Much of that can be minor, and is usually addressed with a loss of pay, or placing a sailor on restriction. But in some cases, that sailor needs to be confined.
Now, when you’re deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean, or some other hot spot, it’s hard to ship the guy (or gal) back to the States to lock them up. So, on carriers and other large ships, the jail is brought with them – and it’s called the brig.
And in case you think that an upcoming battle earns some leeway for misbehavior, you’d best keep in mind that heading towards a fight won’t keep a sailor from getting tossed in the brig. In the book “Miracle at Midway,” historian Gordon Prange related how Marc Mitscher, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), threw a couple of sailors in the brig for minor infractions prior to the Battle of Midway.
In many cases where that is necessary, the sailors are sent to the brig after what is known as a “Captain’s Mast,” which is covered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Naval Orientation, the amount of time someone may be confined is limited. The exact limits depend on the rank of the commanding officer and the rank of the accused. The chart below from the linked manual explains those limits.
The video clip below is from the 2008 documentary mini-series “Carrier,” produced by Mel Gibson’s production company. It provides a tour of the brig on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it was in 2005.
On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.
The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.
Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.
Recruiting a spy:
Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.
The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.
TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.
Return to the motherland:
In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.
One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.
TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.
For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.
Dead rats for dead drops:
Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.
One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.
Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.
TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.
Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.
When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.
The Krasnoluzhskiy Most
TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.
As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.
The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”
Seventy-five years ago yesterday, troops crossed the English Channel and disembarked onto the shores of Normandy to send the Nazis scum back to where they came from. Countless American, British, and Canadian lives were lost within moments of landing and many more died to secure the beach. It was a feat few higher-up believed would work, but they did the impossible.
This week, many troops gathered on this hallowed ground to pay respects to those lost and ceremonies were held in their honor. They were beautiful and heart-warming, seeing the younger troops helping the older WWII vets.
Now, logically speaking, all of the troops and veterans should still be in the area before going back to their respective bases or homes. I’m just saying, the ceremonies were fantastic. But veterans never change, and the WWII vets could still probably out-drink most of us. If you’re a young soldier in the area, buy the older gents a beer. They deserve it!
The ceremonies may have one, more polite, version of how it went down. Get them a round, and you’ll learn that the fire in them is still burning seventy-five years later.
Military drop tanks are attached under fighters and bombers, giving them extra fuel to extend their range, but easily falling away if the plane gets in a fight and needs to prioritize agility and weight over range. The drop tanks are light, aerodynamic, empty shells when not filled with fuel, and that actually makes them a great starting point for hot rods.
And the hot rod community noticed these tanks during the Cold War, with some innovative spirits snapping them up to create tiny, fast cars. Now, these “lakesters” are quick racers that humans will cram themselves into to race across salt flats and other courses.
Getting ahold of a steel drop tank to convert was easy for a few decades after World War II, but enthusiasts now have to look harder for longer to find one of the few remaining, unconverted drop tanks.
A P-38 Lightning with its drop tanks during World War II.
And they aren’t likely to get much help from the military. Modern militaries have often opted for more exotic materials for new drop tanks, reducing their weight and, therefore, the fuel usage of the plane. A lighter drop tank costs less fuel, and so provides more range, but the composite materials aren’t always great for racers.
It will only get worse, too. Drop tanks have a massive drawback for modern planes: They increase the plane’s radar signature while reducing the number of weapons it can carry. So the military and the aviation industry are shifting away from drop tanks, opting instead for “conformal fuel tanks.”
These are auxiliary tanks made to fit like a new, larger skin on an existing plane. They’re a little harder to install, and they can’t be jettisoned in flight, but they extend range with less drag and a much lower radar penalty. And they can be packed tighter to the body of the jet, allowing the plane to keep more of its agility than it would have with heavy tanks hanging from its wings.
Sorry, racers. Keep looking for the World War II-classics.