7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia - We Are The Mighty
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7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

In light of current events in places like the Ukraine and Syria, the risk of America and Russia fighting a proxy war or even a real war is growing. Here are seven other times when U.S. troops lined up opposite Russian troops:


1. Russian and Americans shot each other in Korea

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: National Museum of the US Air Force

In the Korean War, U.S. pilots were officially flying against Chinese and Korean pilots, but they knew Soviets were in the mix. In 1952, the number of Soviet personnel in Korea had climbed to 26,000 counting both pilots and air defense soldiers.

Both sides hid the fact that the Soviets were involved so that neither country was forced into a larger war. American forces didn’t report hearing Russian voices on signal intercepts between Soviet fighters while the Russians put Chinese markings and uniforms on all of their forces.

2. Russian anti-aircraft experts shot down U.S. planes in Vietnam

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

Like in North Korea, Russia wanted to affect the outcome of a war America was in but they didn’t want to accidentally create a new world war. So, they originally claimed that no Soviet troops were present, then said some military experts were sent, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 they finally admitted they had deployed 3,000 troops to stop American air raids. 13 Russian soldiers were killed by American bombers.

3. The Cuban missile crisis almost went hot multiple times

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: US Navy

During the Cuban missile crisis, both sides had generals looking for an excuse to wage a conventional or nuclear war. The 12th day of the crisis was probably the worst, with four separate incidents nearly providing the spark. On Oct. 27, 1962, a low-level reconnaissance flight was fired upon by Cuban forces. Later that same day, a U-2 pilot taking high-altitude radiation samples near the Arctic accidentally wandered into Russian airspace and was nearly shot down. A Russian sub was struck with depth charges by the Navy destroyer USS Beale. Then, U-2 pilot Maj. Rudolf Anderson Jr. was shot down and killed over Cuba.

Rudolf’s death may have been what ended the conflict. With the situation clearly deteriorating, both Kennedy and Khrushchev voiced concern that war was becoming unavoidable. Robert Kennedy was sent to the Soviet embassy to speak with the ambassador and they brokered the deal that ended the conflict.

4. Tanks faced off in Berlin

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: US Army

After East German officials tried to block Western diplomats’ access to East Berlin multiple times, Gen. Lucius Clay dispatched 10 tanks and three armored vehicles to the main crossing point for U.S. diplomats, Checkpoint Charlie. The Soviets responded by sending their armored forces to the checkpoint and the tanks stared each other down for 16 hours. Neither side was willing to fight a full-scale war for Berlin, so Moscow and Washington opened backdoor channels to end the standoff.

5. Nuclear false alarms nearly caused real war four times

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Niegel

In four separate incidents in the Cold War, nuclear war almost began due to technical glitches and false alarms. First in 1979 and then in 1980, U.S. computers showed a Soviet missile attack due to technical glitches. The third incident was in Sep. 1983 when a Soviet satellite read sunlight reflected off clouds as American missile launches. The fourth incident took place in 1995 when a Norwegian scientific rocket launch appeared similar to a nuclear missile on Russian radar.

6. A NATO war game nearly turned into the real thing

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: US Army

Able Archer 83 was a NATO exercise in Nov. 1983 to train for a conventional war and nuclear with the Soviet Union. With 19,000 U.S. troops participating, the exercise was so large that the Soviet Union was worried that it was a cover for a real attack. They were especially sensitive since it came on the heels of the Sep. 1983 false alarm from above. The Soviet Union put its own troops on high alert, kept jets ready to take off, and readied their nuclear arsenal. Luckily, there were no incidents during the exercise and it ended peacefully Nov. 11.

7. The Soviet Navy rammed U.S. ships in the Black Sea

In 1988, two U.S. Navy ships tested the Soviet Union’s territorial waters by sailing into contested territory. The Soviet Union claimed 12 miles from their coast while the U.S. only recognized 3 miles. Two Soviet Navy vessels responded by ramming the U.S. ships. To prevent American helicopters from lifting off, two Soviet helicopters hovered over them during the incident. All four ships were damaged and the U.S. ships departed the area after an hour.

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This retired Navy pilot rocks the nation with speed metal karaoke at 82 years old

John Hetlinger left the Navy pilot ranks for aerospace engineering. He succeeded in that field, working for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA before retiring in his late 60s.


That’s when he got into karaoke, singing at karaoke bars in pleated shorts and pants and nice polo shirts. He’s apparently got a thing for polos with toucans, which is kind of sweet.

Oh, but the songs he sings are heavy metal, and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” appears to be one of his favorites to perform:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfR5O2PXzfc
That’s Hetlinger on his recently aired episode of “America’s Got Talent” where he wowed the judges with his performance. You can see Hetlinger perform a longer version of the song, where he includes some profanity, in this 2014 show from when he was a spry 80 years old.
(H/T NPR)
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This was the most devastating submarine attack in World War II

Submarines have killed a lot of ships over the course of history. Granted, in the 72 years since World War II ended, the total has been very small. Prior to that, tens of thousands of ships were hit by submarine attack.


Ironically, while an American sub has claim to the largest ship ever sunk by submarine, a Japanese sub, the I-19, can arguably claim it deserves credit for the most devastation in a single attack.

The date was Sept. 15, 1942. The United States was running a large convoy to support elements of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. The carrier USS Wasp (CV 7) was among the escorting force, which included the battleship USS North Carolina (BB 55), the cruisers USS Helena (CL 50) and USS Salt Lake City (CA 25), and a number of destroyers, including USS Laffey (DD 459) and USS O’Brien (DD 415).

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Japanese submarine I-19. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Wasp’s design had been dictated by limits imposed by the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty. In essence, she was a scaled-down Yorktown-class design, displacing about 14,900 tons compared to the 20,100 tons of Yorktown (CV 5), Enterprise (CV 6), and Hornet (CV 8). At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, Wasp carried 25 F4F Wildcats, 26 SBD Dauntless, and 9 TBF Avengers. A potent force, it had missed the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the I-19 made her attack around 2:44 PM, firing six torpedoes. Three hit the Wasp forward, where aircraft fuel and munitions were stored. The torpedoes fatally wounded the carrier. In 36 minutes, it was obvious the Wasp had to be abandoned. But the spread did more.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
USS O’Brien (DD 415) hit by a torpedo fired by I-19 as USS Wasp (CV 7) burns fro three other torpedo hits from the same spread. (US Navy photo)

One torpedo hit the battleship North Carolina, tearing a good-sized hole in the fast battleship, but only did minor damage. A 5.5-degree list got corrected in less than six minutes, per DANFS. A fifth torpedo hit the destroyer USS O’Brien in the bow, in what appeared to be minor impact at first. O’Brien would sail under her own power to a series of forward bases. But on Oct. 19, 1942, effects of the hit caused the destroyer to break in half and sink after a 3,000 mile journey.

The I-19 would escape after this brilliant attack, but eventually karma exacted its price. During the Gilbert Islands campaign, the submarine was located by the USS Radford (DD 446) and sunk with all hands. The video below shows some of USS Wasp’s moments of agony after the torpedo attack.

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Here’s what US troops should do if they’re worried about Zika

The threat of the Zika virus has prompted many to suspend trips to hot zones like South America and the Caribbean because of fears of the mosquito-born pathogen.


But U.S. servicemembers don’t have that luxury, posted to bases and stations — and on exercises — in Zika-heavy regions where their orders force them to deal with the risk.

While the number of cases worldwide is less than 200,000 — with the vast majority in Brazil — of the roughly 7,000 cases reported in the U.S. and its territories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 are from U.S. servicemembers.

“We take any ailment that may impact the health and wellbeing of our military men and women or their families very seriously,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Robert Cabiness told WATM. “The DoD is proactive in protecting DoD military and civilian personnel and their dependents, especially pregnant women, from the threats of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.”

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Directorate of Public Works is asking that the joint base community be cognizant of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization. There are no vaccines to treat or current medicines to prevent Zika virus infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People infected with the disease should get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. (Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO graphic by Lorraine Walker)

While not deadly alone, the Zika virus can cause severe birth defects in newborn children of infected mothers. The virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, but there have been cases where the virus was passed through sexual contact as well.

The Pentagon is taking special precautions to keep its troops and dependents safe, including eradicating mosquitos in high-risk areas, prepping medical facilities with Zika testing equipment and educating its troops on risk factors, prevention, and symptoms.

“Currently, testing of any individual is contingent on meeting the clinical symptomology and epidemiological criteria for exposure as outlined in the CDC guidance,” Cabiness said. “The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread.”

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Airman Kristina Dugan, 96th Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician, counts and logs mosquitoes July 20 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The information gathered from catching mosquitoes establishes baseline catch counts for several base locations. This helps the 96th Civil Engineer Group’s Pest Management Division determine the effectiveness of their mosquito control methods. The information is also shared with local and state health authorities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

Bottom line, if you’re in an area that’s a Zika hot zone, you’re pretty much stuck there unless your commander says it’s too risky for you to stay. Pregnant servicemembers are probably the most at risk, and unit leaders are taking special precautions to keep them virus free.

“OSD Health Affairs has distributed Zika Guidance to DoD Medical Personnel, as well as reporting guidance on the disease, emphasizing the need to for pregnant individuals living in or planning to travel to the affected area to confer with their health professional on the potential risks associated with Zika,” Cabiness said.

More than prevention, however, the Pentagon is playing a key role in developing a Zika vaccine, teaming with the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and private research institutions to find a cure.

“The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread,” Cabiness said. “Our scientists are supporting a whole-of-government effort, led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.”

“DoD is actively involved with other federal and private partners in the development of a candidate Zika vaccine,” he added.

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The M79 isn’t perfect, but we love it anyway

Every soldier wants maximum firepower.


Firepower is something that can make the difference between life and death in a battle. It’s even better if the firepower is readily portable, so a single soldier can deliver death and destruction anywhere needed.

That’s why soldiers love the M79 grenade launcher. First used in Vietnam, the weapon has a well-deserved reputation for putting the power of a mortar in the hands of the individual Joe.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
An M79 grenade launcher with the leaf-type site unfolded. (Photo courtesy of Airman Magazine)

It isn’t a perfect weapon. The 40-mm round the M79 fires sometimes has less-devastating results than a hand-lobbed grenade.

But it is a simple weapon to use.

First deployed in 1961, the M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, break-open, shoulder-fired weapon. It is breech-loading and fires a 40 x 46-mm grenade that is easy to load and easy to fire.

“The M79 broke in the middle like a shotgun and loaded in the same way,” wrote Dean Muehlberg, a Special Forces operator who fought in Vietnam during 1979, in his book War Stories. “They were an awesome and deadly weapon.”

No wonder the M79 earned the nickname “The Thumper.”

The M79 uses a “high-low” propulsion launching system that reduces recoil and increases its effective range to up to 400 yards.

It also extends the “reach” of an infantryman. Designed to bridge the effectiveness between the maximum range of a hand grenade and the minimum range of a mortar, the M79 quickly proved its effectiveness during the Vietnam War.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
An M79 grenade launcher rests atop a Marine bunker beside an M249 squad automated weapon. (Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Laird)

U.S. soldiers and Marines could usually shoot grenades best at targets from 150 yards to 300 yards away. Small infantry units benefited the most from the M79 because it increased the destruction they could inflict on enemy targets such as Viet Cong bunkers and redoubts.

The M79 was not only used throughout the Vietnam War but remains in the arsenal to this day.

During the early years of the Iraq War, there were Marine convoy units that carried the M79 to destroy IEDs at a comfortable distance. An explosive round from the grenade launcher often did the job of keeping a road clear more quickly and safely than calling in bomb disposal units.

U.S. special operators also reportedly keep the M79 on hand because it remains a simple and accurate means of destroying an entrenched adversary — even though the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher was first introduced into the arsenal in 1969.

The M79 also fired flechette rounds, known as Beehive Rounds because of the sound they made when traveling down range, that dispensed 45 small darts in a plastic casing that could shred flesh and bone when they hit the target point first. Unfortunately, many times the flechettes simply bounced off the target.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
A coast guardsman loads a non-lethal round into an M79. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Brannen Parrish)

It can also fire buckshot, smoke, and tear gas rounds. In Vietnam, the M576 buckshot round replaced flechettes, producing far more lethal results.

The grenade launcher also has the capability of firing less-than-lethal rounds for crowd control and riot suppression. Used by police forces around the world, the M79 is often used to fire sponge rounds or rubber-coated crowd dispersal rounds to break up mobs and restore order.

Time tested, the M79 is proof that newer isn’t always better.

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Sebastian Junger’s ‘Hell on Earth’ chronicles the rise of ISIS in Syria

War correspondent Sebastian Junger, most famous for his documentaries “Restrepo” and “Korengal” that followed paratroopers in the Korengal Valley, has teamed up with Nick Quested to create a new documentary with National Geographic detailing the hell that is life in ISIS-controlled territory.


“Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” is cut together from over 1,000 hours of footage, most of it filmed inside the so-called caliphate.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
ISIS members conduct a checkpoint in their territory. The footage comes from an upcoming National Geographic documentary. (Image: YouTube/Deadline Hollywood)

This 13-minute teaser tells the story of families trying to escape, at first with smugglers and then on their own when their smuggler is caught by ISIS.

(Be warned that some of the images in the documentary are disturbing)

Previous reporting has shown how ISIS maintains control in its territory, how it makes its money, and how it recruits and deploys fighters.

None of it is good.

Torture and public executions are used to keep populations cowed, and money is raised through debilitating taxes, sex slavery, robbery, and other pursuits. And its fighters are recruited through international networks and then deployed at half pay or less, often as undertrained frontline fighters that amount to little more than human shields.

The full documentary is scheduled to air June 11.

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These are the tanks Russia is setting up in Syria

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Vitaly V. Kuzmin


Russia is doubling down in its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an effort to prop up the Syrian government, and secure its own interests in the region, Russia is establishing its “most significant” military foothold in the region since the days of the Cold War.

As part of this push, Russia has taken over the main international airport in Damascus and is airlifting tons of supplies, soldiers, and armaments including tanks into the country.

At the same time, Russians are building another base in Latakia, the ancestreal heartland of Assad.

So far, Moscow has deployed around a half dozen T-90 battle tanks in Syria, The New York Times reports citing American military specialists. The tanks are currently being stationed at airfields throughout the country.

Reuters reports that Russia has placed seven T-90s by an airfield in Latakia. The tanks are currently defensively deployed, but that could change as Russia continues to fly more equipment and personnel into the country.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Vitaly V. Kuzmin

The T-90 tank is Russia’s second-most recent tank. It first entered service in the Russia military in 1992, and Russia began exporting the vehicle in 2004. As of 2007, Russia only had around 200 T-90 tanks within its armed forces. As such, the deployment of over a half dozen of the tanks to Syria is a fairly large move.

According to Army Technology, the T-90 is heavily armed with a wide variety of rounds. The tank comes with one main turret that can fire armor piercing rounds, high-explosive anti-tank rounds, and shrapnel projectiles. In addition, the vehicle has an anti-tank guided missile system and a mounted machine gun.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Defensively, the tank has both conventional and reactive armor shielding as well as various jamming tools that make it difficult to enemy’s to lock onto the tanks position.

Altogether, the T-90 is an extremely capable vehicle. Aside from Russia’sbrand new T-14 Armata tank, which has yet to enter mass procurement, it is Russia’s latest and most capable battle vehicle.

In addition to the T-90s, the Times reports that Russia has also moved in howitzers, armored personnel carriers, and artillery into Latakia.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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8 things vets learn while transitioning out of the military

 


Transitioning service members experience many changes as they navigate their way through the private sector. There are important things to understand as you make this jump into unknown territory.

Here are eight things I learned as a transitioning veteran.

1. Start expanding your network a year prior to separation from the military.

LinkedIn is a huge resource for finding a career that fits your needs (Read: 7 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search). Having a large number of connections increases your visibility to the industry’s hiring managers, talent acquisition specialists and recruiters. Do yourself a favor and join LinkedIn if you have not already.

2. Research and learn how your occupation is different in the private sector.

Be open to a steep learning curve. You may have a lot to offer, but it may not be the exact direction or goal of the company you are interviewing with.

3. When you interview, play up your strengths.

Hiring managers and recruiters look through hundreds of resumes every day. Make your resume stand out by placing your summary of qualifications at the top. Remember, they need quick information. You may be retired from the military or you may have only served one enlistment. Regardless, try to fit all of your experience on one page. Boil it down to the fine points and list your experience in translatable terms.

4. You may have to take a pay cut from your last pay grade in the military.

It’s important to include health insurance when negotiating your salary. Remember that the private sector has a financial ladder to climb as well. Be reasonable, but make sure you are covered when negotiating your salary. The insurance that the military provides is worth $10-12k annually – not including deductibles. If you have a family, you can expect to pay $500 and up per month for health insurance premiums, depending on the company’s benefits program. If you have a family, the selected reserve may be a good option to retain your health benefits at a much lower cost.

5. Your career path in the private sector may not have existing processes put in place.

This can affect accountability up and down the chain of command. It’s important to give and receive constant feedback to eliminate silos in communication where processes may lack.

6. Don’t seek the approval of others, especially if you are in a senior management position.

While asking questions in the military shows that you want to learn and improve the process, to the private sector it can give the impression that you are incompetent. Research as many things as you can on your own before asking questions. Image and trust go hand in hand.

7. Remember that you are no longer in a contract.

People may have the tendency to feel protective of their positions. “One team, One fight” is just a formality in the workplace, but it does not always hold true every place you may work. If you choose to step in and be a “team player,” make sure you ask permission first. Perception is everything in corporate America and, unfortunately, that can determine a corporation’s measure of trust with you.

8. Research your state’s requirements for terminations and layoffs.

Employers can terminate due to restructuring, loss of profit or lack of performance. It’s important for you to understand what your rights are for the state you work in if you ever experience this. Unlike the military, a business is for profit – every decision affects the bottom line.

More from GI Jobs:

This article originally appeared at GI Jobs. Copyright 2015. Follow GI Jobs on Twitter.

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This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

On the day that 19 terrorists from the radical Islamic group al-Qaeda attacked the United States using airliners as cruise missiles, the U.S. military jumped to respond.


And it was a response that began even before the Pentagon was hit.

Some stories of 9/11 are well-known, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld racing to the scene of devastation at the Pentagon to aid victims of the attack, or the pilots plan to ram Flight 93 foiled hadn’t by passengers on the plane.

But there were other heroic deeds during the attack.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
When Flight 93 hit the Pentagon, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ran to the scene to assist victims rather than remain in relative safety. (PentagonMemorial.org)

According to the 9/11 Commission report, when word reached North American Aerospace Command, also known as NORAD, of the first hijacking, two F-15 Eagles from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were scrambled to try to intercept the planes. They took off just as Flight 11 hit the North Tower – WTC 1 – at 8:53 AM on that Tuesday morning.

NORAD had last dealt with a hijacking in 1993. One thing that worked against NORAD during that terrible day was the fact that that there were very few sites from which interceptors could launch.

During the Cold War, the 9/11 Commission Report noted, there had been 26 sites.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
NORAD Command Center. (Wikimedia Commons)

Other military jets — F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia, and F-16s from the District of Colombia Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base — had also scrambled. Pilots from the latter unit were armed only with dummy rounds for their M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon.

The F-15 pilots, according to the commission report, didn’t even know they were looking for hijacked airliners. The lead pilot would later be quoted in the report as saying, “I reverted to the Russian threat. …I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Maj. Gen. Marc Sasseville, who was the lead F-16 pilot, and prepared to ram a hijacked airliner. (USAF photo)

It as a credit to NORAD, that even though they were unable to keep the airliners from hitting targets, military personnel were able to face an unprecedented threat and challenge with an improvised air-defense system cobbled together in a matter of hours, despite having never trained to face that threat.

On the first day of what one unidentified officer called “a new type of war,” they reacted with skill and professionalism.

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Watch an elderly Vietnam Vet fight off a woman who tried to take his wallet

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia


An attack by a woman on an elderly veteran was caught on tape outside a Fresno, California, auto parts store.

Police are asking for the public’s help in trying to find 73-year-old Victor Bejarano’s attacker.

The Vietnam vet said the woman got out of an SUV and asked him for his wallet in the parking lot. When he refused, she tried to take it from him, leading to a prolonged struggle.

When he made his way inside the store in order to get help, she followed him and the struggle continued right at the counter.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

 

None of the customers in the store stepped in to help, police said. The woman got back in her SUV and drove off before police arrived.

After all that, Bejarano said if the woman had just asked him politely for money and explained her situation, he would have helped her out.

“If she would’ve told me from the beginning: ‘Sir, please help, I have a child. He’s crying because he’s hungry.’ I would have given her the money. But she didn’t ask for the money, she asked for my wallet. I said, I can’t give you my wallet,” said Bejarano, who was at the Auto Zone to fix a friend’s van.

Watch the “Fox and Friends” report here.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
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Meet the sailor who served with the Axis and the Allies and survived three sinking ships

Nicknamed “Unsinkable Sam,” this German sailor served with the Nazi Kriegsmarine and the British Royal Navy during world War II. Three of the ships on which he served were sunk and he miraculously survived all three.


7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Seen here, with another sailor.

His first cruise was on the legendary German dreadnaught battleship Bismarck. He boarded with his best friend in 1941 as it departed Germany to wreak havoc on British shipping in the Northern Atlantic. Bismarck was sunk after a fight against an aircraft carrier, three battleships, three cruisers, and six destroyers. Only 118 of the ship’s 2,200 survived. Oscar (the real name of “Unsinkable Sam”) was found floating on a board by the HMS Cossack, and was put to work immediately by the British crew.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
The Bismarck

After serving on the Cossack for months, Oscar was accepted by the ship’s crew. One day on escort duty near Gibraltar, Cossack was torpedoed by a German U-boat and was heavily damaged. Oscar survived. Although attempts were made to tow the ship back to port, the weather made it impossible and the ship was abandoned and sank near Gibraltar.

Now having earned his “Unsinkable” moniker, he was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which was itself torpedoed off of the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, and sank thirty miles offshore. Only one member of the crew was lost because the ship sank at such a slow pace.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
The Ark Royal, slowly sinking.

Sam survived, but his days at sea were over. He spent the rest of the war serving the governor of Gibraltar and would live for another decade after the war’s end. He died in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1955.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Thanks for your service, Sam

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New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

The last time Forrest Cornelius, 51, shopped in a base exchange was 1989 when he completed his six-year stint in the Marine Corps. He recalls saving 10 to 15 percent on department store goods and that shoppers paid no sales tax.


Last month, Cornelius began to enjoy those advantages again as one of 12,000 or so “beta test” participants for veterans’ online exchange shopping, which will be open for millions of honorably discharged veterans on Veterans Day Nov. 11.

All veterans are being encouraged to take the same first step that Cornelius did by confirming veteran eligibility status at: https://www.vetverify.org. It might be a multi-step process if the Defense Manpower Data Center lacks information to verify that a veteran served and received an honorable discharge.

But for Cornelius it went smoothly. He also got an email inviting him to be a test participant and begin to shop immediately through four exchange service portals: Army Air Force Exchange ServiceNavy ExchangesMarine Corps stores, and Coast Guard exchanges.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Shawn Monk

Cornelius said his email invitation was timely. He had lost his sunglasses and the replacement pair of Ray-Bans, priced at a local retail outlet near his Texas home, would cost $180. In using AAFES online to comparison shop, he found a special sale, $20 off any pair of sunglasses costing $100 or more.

“So I got that discount,” he said, “Plus it was 10 to 15 percent cheaper than retail, plus tax free, plus free shipping. I wound paying about $120 total, saving me quite a bit.”

His wife then used his benefit, shopping for undergarments that a major retailer had on sale but were out of stock in sizes and colors she wanted. AAFES had them, and she saved money too, he said. Soon they were buying sportswear for their son. Every item was shipped in a timely manner, he said, and arrived three days later.

“It was great. It was super easy. And the vetverify.org process took five minutes. I entered my full name, the last four of my Social (Security number) and it said ‘You’ve been verified.'”

By early July, 90,000 veterans had attempted to register to exchange shop online starting Nov. 11. Twelve percent of them got invitations to shop immediately. AAFES was monitoring shopping patterns to ensure its online portal and distribution system are ready for waves of new shoppers this fall, said Ana Middleton, president and chief merchandising officer for AAFES.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong

“My worst fear,” said Middleton, “is a tsunami on November 11th if everybody decides, ‘Hey, I’m going to check this out’ and they sign on that day” and also at the same moment.

AAFES is building website capacity to allow for 30,000 simultaneous shoppers at any given time. A lot of shoppers “would have to be signing on at that exact same millisecond to stress it out. So yes, I feel that we are sized appropriately.”

Of “beta” veterans shopping, surveys showed their top reason was the tax break. But a surprisingly close second reason, Middleton said, was an appreciation that exchanges support military quality-of-life and base support programs.

Exchange use profits to pay staff salaries, fund store operations, and ensure adequate website capacity, but even more profits are distributed to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreational activities, including child development centers, fitness centers, outdoor recreation, and overseas, on-base school lunches.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

“Everything is just turned back to our customers,” Middleton said, and “not paying anything to any shareholders,” as retail stores must.

Besides discounts and tax breaks, AAFES online promises a price match.

“If we are not the lowest price — say you found a vacuum cleaner below our price at Wal-Mart — you can challenge our price and we will match it,” she said.

Shoppers will find prices particularly attractive on certain items like premium running shoes and children’s clothing. Profit margins on electronics are narrow everywhere, so exchange prices “are close to comparable,” Middleton said.

Exchange services aren’t sure how many veterans ultimately will shop online. AAFES will be pleased if 1 to 2 million do so, Middleton said, though “we probably don’t need that many” to declare the effort a success.

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sheila deVera

In its business plan, as leading advocate for opening exchanges online to veterans, AAFES estimated that its annual sales would climb by $185 million to $525 million and earnings would increase by $18 million to $72 million, easing budget pressure on the Army and Air Force, which have had to divert more and more appropriated dollars to family support programs as on-base store sales have been hit by force drawdowns and store closures overseas.

Veterans with only Reserve or National Guard experience have asked if they too will be viewed as “veterans” for online shopping. That remains unclear. Last December, Congress did bestow honorary “veteran” status on Reserve and National Guard retirees who completed careers of drill time but had not completed an active-duty period under Title 10 to meet the legal definition of “veteran” and receive a DD-214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.”

Reserve retirees 60 and older do have exchange shopping privileges. But what about Reserve and Guard veterans who didn’t retire or didn’t receive a DD-214? Here’s what AAFES could tell The Lawton Constitution:

“The litmus test for access to the veterans online shopping benefit resides with each veteran’s electronic records. All honorably discharged veterans, according to official government sources such as the Defense Manpower Data Center, are considered authorized to shop military exchanges online via the veterans online shopping benefit. Veterans can confirm their eligibility by visiting VetVerify.org.”

Veterans who do shop online, Middleton said, will find products “competitively priced. Are we across the board lower than everybody? No.”

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Beta shoppers so far have focused, as expected, on “male-dominated” categories such as electronics, running shoes, and sports apparel. Baby care, children’s clothing, and cosmetics, however, also are selling briskly.

“The reality is (married couples) share in the purchase-making decisions,” Middleton said. “It’s like if I had a Costco card, and my husband didn’t — would he still want to make buying decisions with me if I came home and said, ‘Hey there’s a great price on a TV?’ Probably. But this benefit is afforded to the (veteran) military member … If your spouse is using your password we have no way of knowing.”

Merchandise selection is wider online than in base stores. The only goods veterans are barred from purchasing are military uniform items.

Exchanges are delighted to be offering the new benefit, Middleton said, particularly to so many veterans who didn’t get to enjoy it more while serving.

“The sad reality is so many of these kids went to basic (training) and then to war, so their recollection of who we are is a Coke and bag of chips in a war zone. Do they have an understanding of the breadth of products we sell?”

Soon, many more of them will.

Articles

9 reasons candidates are disqualified from military service

With sequestration and troop drawdowns forcing the military to record low levels of readiness, the requirements for joining the U.S. armed forces have become more stringent, and the pool of eligible recruits has become smaller. Out of the 34 million 17-24 year olds in the U.S. only 1 percent are both eligible and inclined to pursue military service, according to the Defense Department.


Here are the nine most common reasons civilians are disqualified from service:

1. Weight

Being overweight is the number one reason civilians are disqualified from joining the military, and it’s the only getting worse.

2. Education

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Having a diploma or GED is essential but with the military being more strict in their selection, having a GED doesn’t guarantee anything.

3. Can’t pass the ASVAB

The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) exam determines what job you are eligible to perform in the military.

4. Failing Urinalysis / Drug use

5. Financial/Credit history

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

Recruiters will be concerned about your ability to stay focused on the mission if you have too much debt or financial stress on low junior grade pay.

6. Medical history

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia
Doctors will evaluate your physical readiness to ensure you can meet the physical demands of serving.

7. Gauges: Holes in ears

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

More of  the members of today’s generation are expressing their individuality in various and extreme ways, and that could be grounds for disqualification.

8. Tattoos

Even though the Army has recently relaxed their tattoo policy, tattoos on your neck, hands, and face are still not authorized.

9. Criminal record

7 times the US almost stumbled into war with Russia

If you have a history with the law it’s important you be up front about it rather than lie and have it come up in your background check later.

To see if you meet the requirements, click here for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

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