The best military photos for the week of April 13th - We Are The Mighty
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The best military photos for the week of April 13th

Across the military, great things happen every day. If you blink, you might miss something. Luckily for us, there are talented photographers in service who capture some of those amazing moments.

Here’s what happened this week:


(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno)

Air Force:

Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

Army:

Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)

Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.

(U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cory Asato)

Navy:

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)

Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel)

Marine Corps:

MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Zachary Orr)

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.

(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)

Coast Guard:

Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.

MIGHTY MOVIES

3 pieces of military tech from ‘The Mandalorian’ that we’re already working on

It’s now safe to say that Disney+ has a bonafide hit on its hands with their new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. The gritty worlds depicted in the series are ripe with believable characters, well shot and choreographed action sequences, and of course, an adorable (and highly meme-able) character just begging to become a hit toy this Christmas. I’ll admit, as the sort of guy that tends to prefer Kirk over Solo, I wasn’t all that excited ahead of time about “The Mandalorian,” but three episodes in, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert.

What won me over? Well, I’m a sucker for a space western (I am, after all, a card carrying Browncoat), but it’s not just the “shootout at the OK Corral” vibe of the show that gets me; it’s also the weapons tech. Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but the technology depicted in the franchise has always been more about the future than the past, and much like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Mandalorian” is choke full of technology that may seem at home in the 24th century, but is actually on the verge of becoming a reality right here and now.

While I’ll try my best to avoid them, here’s fair warning: spoilers ahead.


What sort of tech is that? Well there’s…

(Disney)

Weapons that can see through walls

In episode 3 of “The Mandalorian,” Mando is doing a bit of reconnaissance on a building he may want to blow his way into (trying my best to avoid spoilers here), so he shoulders his breach-loading doom-rifle and syncs it with his helmet, using the rifle to help him see the heat signatures of people through the walls of the building. This sort of gear would certainly come in handy for galactic bounty hunters, but is also finding its way into use with first responders and the U.S. military already.

Systems like Lumineye will soon allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier using wall penetrating radar.

Lumineye Through Wall Sensing Demo

www.youtube.com

This system won’t work from a few hundred yards away like Mando’s, but his setup seems to be FLIR based rather than using radar technology. As FLIR themselves point out, most walls are actually too thick or well insulated to allow the detection of heat signatures, putting Mando’s version a bit further into the realm of science fiction… unless those walls are made out of some really thin space dirt or something.

(Disney)

Jet Packs that actually work

Boba Fett, the character that’s arguably responsible for the existence of “The Mandalorian” (despite never actually doing anything cool in any of the movies) may have become a pop-culture icon thanks to nothing more than a kickass helmet and a jet pack, which made it sort of disappointing when the protagonist of this new series was shown hoofing it everywhere. By the end of episode 3, we do get to see some jet-pack-packing Mandalorians take to the sky in one hell of an action sequence, proving that there’s more to being able to fly than just falling in a Sarlacc pit.

While not quite the same in practice, British Royal Marine-turned-inventor Richard Browning has been raking in headlines for a few years now with his own jet pack suit that often draws comparisons to Iron Man (the first installment of which was helmed by John Favreau — the same guy that created “The Mandalorian”). Recently, Browning made a pretty damn cool looking flight off of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Take on Gravity Jet suit demo with HMS Queen Elizabeth

www.youtube.com

Granted, the “Gravity Jet Suit” isn’t just a pack you wear on your back like you see in “The Mandalorian,” so Browning doesn’t have two free hands to dual-wield pistols… but dual wielding is a pretty dumb thing to do in a fight anyway. Instead, Browning and co. developed an M16 mount for the jetpack that, honestly, comes with its own problems.

(Disney)

A grappling cable that works

Mando uses his grappling cable for a number of things, from climbing moving vehicles to killing bad guys, and while the U.S. military isn’t quite ready to start spearing dudes with grappling hooks in the field, they have already begun fielding machines that assist in climbing (or reverse-repelling) up walls. These systems aren’t quite small enough to be wrist-mounted like Mando’s, but are pretty damn effective when it comes to climbing. I had a chance to try out a version of this technology at Shot Show a few years ago, but I didn’t look quite as cool as the Mandalorian when I did it.

(Alex Hollings)

A system similar to this one has already found its way into SOCOM’s inventory, and the exact system I used has since been contracted to the Chinese government for their special operators.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This battle in North Africa was Germany’s Dunkirk miracle

When German and Italian forces began to collapse in Sicily in World War II, it became clear that they could either fight to the last man or could evacuate the 100,000 men and gear to Italy to man a series of defensive lines that would cost the Allies years to conquer. They launched a massive evacuation as armored generals George Patton and Bernard Montgomery raced for their blood.


The Liberty Ship Robert Rowan explodes after suffering multiple bomb hits during Operation Husky. The ship had been filled with vital ammunition that, when burning, was also volatile.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, was not without its flaws and screw-ups, but the Allied troops tore open a gap on the beaches and then pressed themselves against the Axis lines, driving back German and Italian troops.

U.S. Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and British Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery raced at the head of armored columns toward the port city of Messina on the island of Sicily’s east coast. Messina sat only two miles from the Italian mainland. If Germany had enough time there, it could ferry many of the 100,000 survivors to safety to fight again.

Germany had lost about 250,000 to capture in North Africa. It couldn’t afford six figures again, especially with the growing weakness of Italy as an ally. Mussolini was killed by crowds at home, and it was clear that Italian troops wouldn’t necessarily remain.

For weeks, German and Italian troops dug into the mountains, fighting delaying actions. On August 8, with the eventual collapse clear, Germany began secretly ferrying 60,000 Italian troops and about 40,000 Germans across to Italy.

German troops and their British prisoners of war wait for the return of a ferry that would take them from Sicily to mainland Italy in August 1943.

(Bild Bundesarchiv)

The Allies knew by the next day that some sort of evacuation was underway. But just like how the Nazis failed to capitalize on the Dunkirk evacuation, so too did the Allies fail at Messina. Allied leaders remained focused on the ground fight. No ships closed the Strait of Messina, no planes took out the ports in Messina or mainland Italy.

This failure would come under scrutiny at the time and in the decades since.

Germany not only got approximately 100,000 Axis troops across, they were able to recover 2,000 tons of ammunition, 47 tanks, 94 heavy artillery pieces, and almost 10,000 vehicles, a massive success of sealift capability.

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., speaks with Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard near the city of Brolo on Sicily. As the sign in the back indicates, Messina is nearby.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Of course, this made liberating Messina much easier than it otherwise would have been for Patton and Montgomery. But just like the evacuation at Dunkirk meant that Germany would have to face those troops later, the evacuation at Messina allowed Germany to reinforce itself in Italy.

This not only meant there were more German troops to kill in the defensive lines, but there were more German troops to hold Italy in the Tripartite Pact even as regular Italians wanted out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the first black graduate of the US Naval Academy

The military has traditionally been the most progressive institution in the United States. In 1948, long before the Civil Rights Movement swept America, the U.S. military had already begun to integrate. But that doesn’t mean the changes came quick or easy, especially for Wesley A. Brown, the first African-American to graduate from the Naval Academy in Annapolis.


Brown started classes at the academy in 1945, three years before President Truman ordered the military to stop separating black and white troops. Five men came before Brown as Midshipmen and were chased out of the academy altogether. Brown was the first to make it to graduation day – and he did it with a flourish.

Brown was a Washington, D.C. native who grew up as a voracious reader, and was particularly interested in the history and heritage of African-Americans in the United States. He would work after school as a mailman at the Navy Department before he was nominated to attend the Naval Academy by New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Life at Annapolis was hard at first. Many did not accept him, and he was loaded down with undeserved demerits that almost found him drummed out.

“I get asked that question often, ‘Did you ever think about quitting?'” Brown said in a 2005 Baltimore Sun interview. “And I say, ‘Every single day.’ When I came to the academy I learned that there were all kinds of prejudices against Jews, Catholics, even the Irish and I looked around and thought that these prejudices were instilled in them by their families, and they could not be blamed for feeling the way they did.”

But he persevered and actually found that many more of his fellow Mids supported him. One of his most ardent supporters was a fellow track teammate, the son of a Georgia peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter.

Brown (right) at the dedication of the USNA Field House that would bear his name.

Brown graduated from the Naval Academy in 1949 joining the Navy’s civil engineering corps. He created infrastructure in the Navy’s most important postings from the Philippines and Hawaii to Cuba, and even Antarctica. For 20 years, Brown was an important officer in the service, even seeing action in Korea and Vietnam. He retired in 1969 and became a faculty member at Howard University, in his hometown of Washington, D.C.

The Seabee retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

To honor his achievements and his history as a USNA athlete, the academy dedicated its newest athletic facility in 2008 as the Wesley A. Brown Field House. Brown was on hand at the ceremony to mark the construction of the facility that would bear his name, decades after racism and prejudice nearly cost him his illustrious career. Brown died in 2012.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 most sophisticated scams you should watch out for

As the internet continues to expand into every aspect of society, online scams are only growing in sophistication.

From phishing schemes to fake ticket vendors, online scams prey on different facets that drive us, like sympathy, fear, and greed.

What online scams all have in common is that they prey on their audiences’ naïveté and ignorance.

Some of the most elaborate scams are circulating the corners of the internet right now, from the front page of YouTube to right in your inbox.

Here are some of the most sophisticated online scams on the internet.


1. Phishing has major consequences for the victims.

One of the most widespread online scams is phishing. In 2016, depending who you ask, phishing at most derailed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, and at the least, revealed her campaign manager’s delightful recipe for creamy risotto.

Phishing, when successful, tricks the user into unwittingly handing over their passwords to the scammer, often through professional-looking emails purporting to be from trustworthy businesses. The endgame is generally acquisition of personal information, like credit card and social security numbers.

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, nearly 100,000 attempts of phishing are reported each month worldwide.

Recently, phishing has been weaponized to varying degrees of sophistication with a key technique: impersonation.

The trick was enough to convince one employee at Gimlet Media, which runs the everything-internet podcast “Reply All,” to open an email from his “coworker.” Except the sender was not his coworker, but a hacker attempting a work-sanctioned phishing test on the company’s employees.

Familiarity fraud is an online tactic people have to be especially wary of on social media, where friends’ pictures and handles are rife for imitation. Duplicate accounts fish for personal information under the guise of intimacy.

2. The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest on the internet.

The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest scams on the internet.

The scam rose to prominence in the 1990s, and is referred to by the FBI as “Nigerian Letter” or “419” fraud.

The premise is simple: You get an email, and within the message, a Nigerian prince (or investor, or government official) offers you an opportunity for lucrative financial gain.

The catch? Pay a small portion of the amount up front, or hand over bank account information and other identifying information so that the transfer can be made. Of course, you lose that “seed money,” never receiving a dime in return.

According to a 2018 Wired article, the conspiracy has risen in sophistication, netting millions in scam money and minor celebrity status for the Nigerian email schemers who commit the fraud.

“It’s malware and phishing combined with clever social engineering and account takeovers,” James Bettke, a counter threat unit researcher at the security firm Secureworks, told Wired reporter Lily Hay Newman in 2018.

“They’re not very technically sophisticated, they can’t code, they don’t do a lot of automation,” he added. “But their strengths are social engineering and creating agile scams. They spend months sifting through inboxes. They’re quiet and methodical.”

3. Ticket fraud leads to consumers buying fake sports and music tickets.

Another popular online scam is ticket fraud, in which consumers are tricked into buying fake tickets for sporting events, concerts, and other events.

Scammers usually target high-profile events that are likely to sell out so they can take advantage of increased demand. Often, the tickets they send customers have forged bar codes or are duplicate copies of legitimate tickets. Other times, consumers won’t receive any ticket at all after they pay up.

More than 10% of millennials have been victims of ticket fraud, and the Better Business Bureau recommends customers take several precautions before buying tickets online.

4. Some people have been messaged by celebrity impersonators.

A variation on the phishing game is when online scammers masquerade as celebrities and influencers.

In January 2019, YouTube star Philip DeFranco had to warn his 6 million-plus subscribers of one such scam.

“If you have gotten a message from me or any other creator on YouTube that looks something like this, that is very likely someone trying to scam you,” DeFranco said in a video posted to his channel.

The faux DeFranco slid into targets’ Youtube messages, promising “gifts” via the click of a hyperlink. The scammer’s real endgame: identity theft for financial gain through a classic online phishing scheme.

More than 150 YouTube users on the community page said they fell for the ploy.

“We’re aware and in the process of implementing additional measures to fight impersonation,” a YouTube employee wrote in response to complaints of scam. “In the meantime, we’ve removed accounts identified as spam.”

The company also said users could block any account spamming them and that the perpetrating channels can be reported through its reporting tool.

A promotional video for Fyre Festival.

(Scribd/NickBilton)

5. Other times, people feel scammed by the real influencers.

It’s one thing to be duped by an imaginary celebrity. But there’s also a trend of feeling swindled by the IRL influencers.

One viral Twitter thread accused Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway of using her online image to scam attendees out of 5 to attend her “creativity workshop.”

And angry mobs incensed by the fiasco that was Fyre Festival — an event so botched it warranted not one, but two documentaries — directed much of their ire at the event’s celebrity influencers.

The defrauded cited a lack of transparency as to what the influencers were paid to hawk the festival to their millions of followers online, although not everyone agreed they deserved the blame to begin with.

6. But sometimes the influencers themselves can get scammed.

One variety of online grift victimizes the influencers themselves with identity-fraud tactics common to phishing.

Earlier this year, a scammer posing as entrepreneur and investor Wendi Murdoch used email handles and other techniques so convincing, social media stars were tricked into buying their own flights to Indonesia and paying for fake photography permits as part of the scam.

The victims, influencers and travel photographers among them, got bilked out of thousands of dollars in the process.

The FBI and New York Police Department opened investigations into the scam in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also assisting is the corporate investigations firm K2 Intelligence, which tracked the scam’s pivot from celebrities to influencers.

“For a long time, they were going after people in Hollywood. [Now, they’re] routinely targeting influencers — Instagram stars, travel photographers, people who do stuff that involves them travelling all over the world,” Nicoletta Kotsianas, a director at K2 Intelligence, told INSIDER in January.

“It’s about convincing some people that there’s someone else, and manipulating them, being into that, and world-building around the whole thing,” she added. “They’re making some money off it, but it’s really about the ride along the way.”

A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm Symantec.

7. Ransomware held a whole city hostage in 2018.

Some of the most insidious online scams involve ransomware.

In a ransomware attack, hackers install malware onto a computer or system of computers that restricts a victim’s access to their files. Payment, often in the form of bitcoin, is demanded to undo it.

Atlanta’s government was hobbled by a ransomware attack in 2018, and wound up costing the city more than .6 million to recover from, according to a Wired report.

The hackers behind the scheme “deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay,” Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, said in November.

It’s no wonder the menacing form of attack has made it into a “Grey’s Anatomy” plotline.

8. Fake ransomware traps can be equally damaging.

At their worst, ransomware scams exploit the victim’s sense of security and privacy.

And in one terrifying variation, attackers claim via email to have hacked a webcam while the target watched porn.

The cam-hacking claim, which is bolstered by parroting the user’s password in the email, is means for blackmail: Send us bitcoin, or we send all your contacts the footage.

The reality? Pure manipulation. The scammers don’t have dossiers of footage. They never even hacked you. How? Because the password they flaunted wasn’t hacked, but harvested, gleaned from publicly available databases of leaked passwords and emails.

So there’s no need to cover your laptop’s camera. For now.

9. GoFundMe fake-outs take advantage of people’s generosity.

Another thriving online grift is the GoFundMe sob story fake-out.

One notable example came in a feel-good story from 2017 about a couple raising 0,000 for a homeless veteran who had lent them his last . As prosecutors discovered, the trio had concocted the entire story, and not only do they face a mix of federal and state charges, but GoFundMe refunded the donations of all 14,000 contributors.

Another example of strategic storytelling in the art of crowdsourced scamming: A black college student who raised money from Republicans on GoFundMe after claiming her parents disowned her for supporting Trump.

The narrative was suspiciously convenient — because it was a hoax. Although she quickly returned the money she raised, she also exposed how easily you can take advantage of people’s generosity.

10. Pump-and-dump schemes can artificially inflate the value of a currency.

Cryptocurrency is often the form of payment in online scams, but in one scheme, the crypto itself is the fraud.

Investment schemes were always destined to flourish online. By using the web to mass target would-be investors, a schemer can commit the Securities and Exchange Commission no-no of artificially “pumping” up the value of stock to the masses in order to then “dump” the stock on a falsely inflated return.

According to The Outline, thousands of people gather online on apps like Discord and scheme to pump and dump cryptocurrencies (known as “s—coins” and “scamcoins” to those duped by the ploy):

“[The] ethos is simple: Buy low, sell high. The implication is that investors outside the pump group will see the rapidly rising price and rush to buy in, anxious not to miss the next Bitcoin-style gold rush,” Paris Martineau of The Outline wrote.

Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin.

11. And fake news can fuel the problem.

The online manipulation gets even weirder. According to Buzzfeed, spreading fake news online is one of the “pump” tactics used by scammers to pilfer naive fawns in the highly unregulated forest that is cryptocurrency.

“There are frankly a lot of groups that have now centered around misinformation,” Laz Alberto, a cryptocurrency investor and editor of the newsletter Blockchain Report, told BuzzFeed reporters Ryan Mac and Jane Lytvynenko in 2018. “It’s obviously illegal, but there’s no regulation and they’ve gotten away with it.”

A cryptocurrency founder was even himself the target of a fake news hoax in 2017, when news spread that Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, had died in a car crash.

The fake reports of Buterin’s death caused Ethereum’s valuation to plummet in the market — and later rebound — when the very-much-alive Buterin debunked the rumor himself.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

In Ancient Rome, purple was worth more than gold

In the world of the ancient Mediterranean, there were plenty of ways for the upper class to flaunt their wealth. Just like today, the elites lived in massive houses, wore luxurious clothing, and dined on decadent delicacies. But for the 1 percent of the 1 percent, there was a status symbol shrouded in myth and worth more than gold: purple.

Dyes were difficult to produce in the ancient world. All dyes were made from a natural source like a plant, animal, or mineral, and some were rarer than others. One of the rarest, though, was Tyrian purple.


Tyrian purple was made from the secretions of a certain sea snail, called a Murex. It took thousands of these snails to produce even a small amount of usable dye, making Tyrian purple extremely expensive. It was worth the cost, however; Tyrian purple was famous because over time its color would not fade but actually become brighter and more beautiful.

Tyrian purple was named after the Phoenician city of Tyre, where the dye was first produced in the Bronze Age. The Phoenicians exported purple all around the Mediterranean, making their dye and themselves quite popular. Some historians even speculate that the word “Phoenician” is derived from the Greek word for “purple.”

The dye took the Mediterranean world by storm. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer reserves purple for the greatest warriors and kings. King Solomon supposedly decorated the Temple of Jerusalem with Tyrian purple. Alexander the Great and his successors wore purple as their symbol of royal authority. The Mediterranean was also awash with myths about how human beings first discovered purple.

Tyrian purple would earn its other name, imperial purple, from the Romans. In the Roman Republic, the high-ranking magistrates wore the toga praetexta, a white toga with a purple stripe. Generals celebrating a triumph, a festival that was the highest honor a general could receive, were allowed to wear the solid purple toga picta.

After the Republic became the Empire, purple was increasingly associated with the emperor and his subordinates. According to Roman historians, the emperor Caligula once sentenced a Roman client-king to death for the arrogance of wearing purple.

In the coming centuries, the Roman government would even nationalize the production of purple, and save the dye for the emperor. In the reign of Diocletian in the late third and early fourth centuries, one pound of purple wool was worth a pound of gold, and one pound of purple dye was worth three pounds of gold.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, purple was the property of the emperor. To become emperor was to be “raised to the purple” and to be the child of an emperor was to be “born in the purple.” Purple was used for the most important imperial documents, and a splash of purple on one’s clothes marked one as a bishop or imperial administrator.

Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, purple remained popular. The westerners could still purchase purple from the easterners, who produced it in Constantinople. Charlemagne was wearing purple when he was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 800, and was wearing purple when he was buried. The nobility and the clergy used purple to represent their secular and sacred power.

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the production of purple went into decline. Western Europe could no longer purchase purple, and the nobility and clergy were forced to start using scarlet instead.

However, purple’s association with might and majesty never quite disappeared. For centuries it remained the color of royalty, and many churches use purple vestments as symbols of authority. The ceremonial robes used in academia, modeled after clerical vestments, are often purple to represent intellectual excellence.

In America, the Purple Heart, along with its predecessor the Badge of Military Merit, uses purple to represent valor. Artificial dyes have made purple available to everyone nowadays, but it has never lost its association with greatness.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vodka made from Chernobyl grain is just what your party needs

The horrifying events of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster have once again caught the world’s attention thanks to the recent HBO miniseries and subsequent Russian propaganda campaign, but films aren’t the only thing creeping out of what locals call the “exclusion zone” these days.


Now, thanks to one unusual group of scientists and researchers with priorities a guy like me can respect, there’s also Atomik Vodka: an artisanal booze concocted using ingredients harvested from inside the radioactive fallout-ridden territory surrounding Chernobyl.

Hopefully that burning in your throat isn’t cancer.

(Chernobyl Spirit Company)

After studying the amount of radiation that transfers from soil to crops within the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the team from the Chernobyl Spirit Company set about planting their own rye crops in the vast abandoned fields near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine (close to where the Chernobyl plant was located). They then watered their crops with irradiated water sourced from an aquifer that is also within the radiation exclusion zone.

Once the crops were ready for harvest, the team used the rye to make their new vodka, and even doubled down on its radioactive reputation by using pure water sourced from “below the town of Chernobyl about 10 km south of the nuclear power station” to dilute the vodka down to 40% alcohol, according to their website.

Once finished, the vodka is reportedly no more radioactive than the plastic bottle of Military Special we all acted like we weren’t taking swigs out of in the barracks when the First Sergeant came strolling around.

The boar depicted on the label was actually spotted living in the exclusion zone.

(Chernobyl Spirit Company)

“The laboratories of The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute and the University of Southampton GAU-Radioanalytical could find no trace of Chernobyl radioactivity in ATOMIK grain spirit,” their website claims.

Just to be safe, they also went ahead and sent their new booze to the Southhampton University in the U.K. for further testing. They also confirmed that radiation levels were well below safety limits (as even the Chernobyl Spirit Company acknowledges that tiny levels of radioactivity can be found in many common products).

The novelty of this vodka also comes with some good intentions. Part of the idea behind Atomik Vodka is finding new ways to invigorate the economy in the communities that surround Chernobyl. Of the many concerns facing these communities, radiation isn’t really among them.

The Chernobyl Spirit Company includes this image of a “self settler” in her home in the Chernobyl area on their website explaining their process.

(Chernobyl Spirit Company)

“There are radiation hotspots [in the exclusion zone] but for the most part contamination is lower than you’d find in other parts of the world with relatively high natural background radiation,” Explains James Smith, a University of Portsmouth environmental scientist and founding member of the Chernobyl Spirit Company.

“The problem for most people who live there is they don’t have the proper diet, good health services, jobs or investment.”

Smith and his colleagues don’t imagine that the novelty of their vodka will make them rich. In fact, with plans to produce just 500 bottles per year, Smith says that he’s hoping the company pays well enough to make the business into a healthy “part-time job,” with an emphasis remaining on finding ways to bolster the standard of living for those residing in the region surrounding Chernobyl.

“Because now,” Prof Smith adds, “after 30 years, I think the most important thing in the area is actually economic development, not the radioactivity.”

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range. The 162nd Wing conducts international F-16 pilot training and manages a fleet of more than 70 F-16 C/D and Mid-Life Update Fighting Falcons

Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior near Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/USAF

C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, help U.S. Army and British paratroopers perform a static line jump at Holland Drop Zone in preparation for Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Sean Martin/USAF

NAVY

Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Marcus Jones, from Anderson, S.C., directs a helicopter during flight operations aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58).

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Desmond Parks/USN

A shooter launches an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josh Petrosino/USN

ARMY

A crew chief watches another CH-47F Chinook helicopter from 1st Battalion, 52d Aviation Regiment fly along the crevasses of Kahiltna Glacier April 27, 2015, on the way to the 7,000-foot high base camp on Mount McKinley.

Photo: John Pennell/US Army

Soldiers, rappel from a Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, during the air assault course at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 21, 2015. The training is one of the final tests for students enrolled in course.

Photo: Sgt. Alexander K. Neely/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Senior Airman Nicholas Oswald, a loadmaster, 374th Operations Support Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, sits with Philippine air force aircrew members during a night flight.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen/USMC

Marines and U.S. Navy Sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp man the rails of the Wasp as it travels up the Mississippi River for Navy Week 2015 April 23, 2015. Marines and Sailors of the MEU, from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., participated in Navy Week New Orleans April 23-29.

Photo: Sgt. Austin Hazard/USMC

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama.

Photo: USCG

As many Americans prepare for bed, Coast Guard men and women stand the watch.

Photo: USCG

NOW: 13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

AND: 5 brilliant military hacks that are useless everywhere else

OR: Watch ‘Pearl Harbor’ in under 3 minutes:

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has a plan to bust out 70,000 supporters from Kurdish jails

ISIS fighters will be closely watching the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish troops in northeastern Syria, waiting for a chance to break thousands of fighters, and tens of thousands of family members, out of Kurdish prisons, according to a former member of the group, Western intelligence officials, and Kurdish commanders.

Concerns of a mass-scale ISIS prison break have grown as Turkish troops enter northeastern Syria to confront the Syrian Defence Forces. The SDF is a predominately Kurdish group regarded as terrorists by Turkey but a key American ally in the ground war against ISIS. SDF officials, who have warned that their resources were already overstretched guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners before the invasion, now say the situation is critical.


Thousands of ISIS fighters are being held in a dozen SDF facilities. Nearly 70,000 women and children are being held at the al Hol camp in Syria. US special operations troops on Oct. 9, 2019, moved several dozen high profile prisoners, including those accused of murdering Western hostages, to an undisclosed location outside of Syria.

Turkey ramps up fight against Kurds in Syria

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But that won’t be enough to prevent ISIS from attempting to break out thousands of lesser known but vital fighters, according to a former member of the group.

“Prison is like their home,” a former ISIS fighter tells Insider

Abu Ahmed al Halabi fought alongside ISIS and its predecessor groups from 2012 until 2015 before quitting the group over its brutal treatment of other Syrian rebel groups in his hometown of Tal Riffat, outside of Aleppo. Although not in contact with the group any longer, he’s currently fighting in Idlib Province for a non-jihadist rebel group. He told Insider that the group is deeply experienced in prison breaks, and its men will have organized while they were detained.

“All of the big bosses in Daesh are Iraqis that were in jail together during the American occupation,” he said. “The group that Abu Musab [al Zarqawi] founded in Iraq in 2003 was all sent to Camp Bucca, it’s where they organized Daesh [ISIS]. Prison is like their home.”

“Daesh will be organized inside the prisons and ready to attack the guards and escape,” Abu Ahmed said. “Outside the prisons, Daesh will be watching the guards and defenses and planning an attack, at any of these prisons they know they can get an entire [battalion] of fighters if they succeed. They have people watching right now waiting for a chance.”

Western intelligence officials agree, one officer from a NATO member that served inside Syria with his government’s special forces told Insider.

“These guys are a jail gang, running their operations while detained might even be easier than [being outside] hiding from drones afraid to use a telephone,” the official, who lacks permission to speak to the media, said.”

We are sure that there is close cooperation between fighters in some prisons, the families in al Hol, and the units that are still free in the desert area between Iraq and Syria,” the official said.

As many as 12,000 ISIS fighters including about 2,000 foreigners are held in SDF prisons. Among the 70,000 women and children in al Hol are hundreds of women who are still loyal to ISIS’s ground leadership.

Flag of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

“[ISIS leader Abu Bakir] Baghdadi even said in his last statement that his people should be patient and await rescue, and that was before the Turks upended what had been a mostly stable situation.”

ISIS fighters in Kurdish jails have been in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram and Whatsapp 

The families of ISIS fighters currently held in deteriorating security conditions in al Hol — where the SDF was already stretched thin — were in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram, Whatsapp and other secure messaging systems, the official told us.

“Of course, we know they are plotting something but the resources to stop them just aren’t available,” the official said.

Abu Ahmed described the release of women and children in al Hol as a goal for the group but secondary to the immediate military need to free as many of its captured fighters as possible.

“The women might escape al Hol themselves but the Daesh bosses will be watching the prisons holding the fighters first,” he said. “They want those thousands of mujahideen so they can also fight the Kurds and Iraqis. If they take one prison, they will use those new guys to take another prison and then it will be just like Mosul” in 2014.

“They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free”

Abu Ahmed said that in a series of attacks on Mosul in 2014, the plan was merely to break out 2,500 fighters from a local prison. Fighting for the group in northern Syria at the time, Abu Ahmed’s commander had been assigned to help plan the mission.

“My Emir was Abu Omar [al Shishani], and he was commander for all Daesh ground forces in Syria and Iraq, I helped him plan the Mosul operation. We were just trying to get fighters out of prison when the Iraqi Army collapsed. Once Abu Omar saw this he ordered everyone to attack to take as much space as they could as the Iraqis retreated. But the Mosul operation was part of a campaign of jailbreaks called ‘Breaking the Walls.'”

“These are very careful people,” he added. “They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.

A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.


“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.

The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.

The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.

The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.

China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain revives its carrier warfare program with trip to U.S.

Britain’s newest and most powerful aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is on its way to America to train with F-35 jets for the first time.

The British Royal Navy’s £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) aircraft carrier left the UK for America on Aug. 18, 2018, to start September 2018 training with F-35B jets based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, the Royal Navy wrote on its official website.


Crowds turned out to wish the carrier well on its 3,400-mile trip from Portsmouth, a city on England’s south coast.

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The deployment is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years.

Shortly after leaving, the crew carried out their first relief effort: two baby pigeons were found on board, which had to be fed porridge through a syringe and returned to land in a helicopter, the Royal Navy said.

“While our focus for the deployment is getting the new jets onboard for the first time, we are also prepared to conduct humanitarian relief, should we be called upon to do so. We just didn’t think that would be quite so soon,” Lieutenant Commander Lindsey Waudby said.

The first landing on the HMS Queen Elizabeth will happen at the end of September 2018, according to the Portsmouth News. The jets are expected to perform 500 take-offs and landings over an 11-week period, the Royal Navy said.

The F-35B is designed to operate from short-field bases — like on the Queen Elizabethand has vertical landing ability.

It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways at major bases.

Watch one landing here:

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The jets will be flown by four F-35B pilots from the Integrated Test Force, a unit that includes British and American pilots.

On this mission, three British pilots — a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force, and one civilian test pilot — will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As the US’s biggest partner in the F-35 programme, we jointly own test jets which are on track to fly off the deck of our new aircraft carrier later this year.”

He said the training will “strengthen our special relationship with US forces.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the third largest aircraft carrier in the world at 280 meters long and a weight of 65,000 tonnes. In total, there will be about 1,500 people on board, the Portsmouth News reported.

It is expected to be on active duty in 2021.

Before leaving for America the carrier was in Portsmouth, running helicopter tests using Chinook Mk 5 helicopters and Merlin Mk 2s:

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

4 tactical blunders the British made in the Revolutionary War

The American War of Independence, as the British like to call it, was the the rebels’ war to lose.


With the superior military and economy of Britain, many expected the rebellion in the colonies to be over quickly. So, how did the world’s greatest superpower of the time fail to subdue an insurrection in the small colonies of America?

The truth is there are numerous reasons, but at least four of those happen to be costly mistakes on the part of the British.

1. The Battle of Bunker Hill

Maybe if the Brits had issued sunglasses, things could have been different. (Painting: The Battle of Bunker’s Hill by E. Percy Morgan)

The British had a knack for defeating the Americans at such a high cost that they themselves often had to retreat after the battle.

This began very early in the war with the Battle of Bunker Hill. The British charged the American redoubts on Breed’s Hill repeatedly and although they eventually drove the Americans back, they lost so many experienced officers and men that General Clinton remarked, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.”

Due to the British military system, those loses were difficult to replace.

The British attack was a blunder for several reasons.

The preferred British tactics of the time favored bayonet skills over shooting skills. The Americans had defensive works and were crack shots. They were famously told, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

As the British advanced across open ground they were mowed down by American sharpshooters. Their return volleys were ineffectual because of the American defenses. Once the British successfully stormed the redoubt on their third attempt, the Americans simply retreated, as they lacked bayonets with which to fight the redcoats.

Worst of all for the British, they could have simply cut off the neck of the peninsula and left the Americans with nowhere to run.

2. Howe’s capture of Philadelphia

A color mezzotint of General Sir William Howe. (From the Anne S.K. Brown Military History Collection at Brown University | PD-US)

Gen. Howe’s capture of Philadelphia was rife with tactical and strategic blunders that likely spelled the beginning of the end of Britain’s hopes of quelling the American Revolution.

Howe’s first major blunder was wanting to take Philadelphia in the first place. Typical Continental strategy of the day said to drive the enemy from the field and take his capital, at which point he will capitulate. However, after taking several American cities and defeating the Americans in multiple battles, this outcome had failed to materialize.

Yet, Howe, the commander-in-chief of British forces in America, failed to realize this and strove to capture Philadelphia.

This action might not have gone down as such an incredible blunder if it hadn’t been for another issue — it left Gen. Burgoyne’s troops without support in the Hudson River Valley.

As most American high school students know, American forces under Gen. Horatio Gates were able to surround and capture the British force at the Battle of Saratoga. This victory brought the much needed support of France and ended British hopes of conquering New England.

Howe would successfully capture Philadelphia but the Continental Congress escaped into the Pennsylvania countryside. In order to secure New York, Howe would have to abandon Philadelphia the next year.

3. The Battle of Cowpens

The Battle of Cowpens, painted by William Ranney in 1845. The scene depicts an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).

The Battle of Cowpens was a major turning point towards the end of the war, and another costly blunder for the British.

British forces, led by the young, brash, Col. Banastre Tarleton, were seeking to advance into North Carolina after successfully subduing much of Georgia and South Carolina.

Tarleton’s arrogance and overconfidence were playing right into a trap that the American commander, Daniel Morgan, had set for him. Morgan planned to use his militia as bait, to lure Tarleton into a false sense of victory and then hit him hard with his Continental Regulars.

Tarleton helped Morgan’s cause by driving his force relentlessly in pursuit of the Americans. His men had nearly run out of food and had been roused at two in the morning to continue their pursuit of Morgan. They arrived at the battlefield weak and exhausted.

Once engaged, Morgan’s ruse worked like a charm. The British force suffered over 100 men killed, 200 men wounded, and 500 men and two cannons captured. Combined with a defeat at King’s Mountain prior to the battle, the British position in the South was becoming more precarious.

4. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Painting of the Battle of Guilford Court House (March 15, 1781) from Soldiers of the American Revolution by H. Charles McBarron.

Exasperated by the losses at King’s Mountain and Cowpens, Lord Cornwallis sallied forth against Gen. Nathaniel Greene’s numerically superior force.

Determined to pin down Greene and decisively defeat his army in the south, Cornwallis sought battle at Guilford Courthouse where Greene’s army was camped. Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, Cornwallis’ troops engaged.

The battle was the largest of the southern theatre and despite his numerical advantage, Greene was unable to defeat Cornwallis’ veteran troops. After over two hours of intense combat, Greene withdrew his army from the field.

Though Cornwallis had defeated Greene, his victory was pyrrhic, and failed to decisively destroy the Patriot army. Cornwallis had lost nearly a quarter of his force killed or wounded in the battle. Losses that were increasingly difficult to absorb for the British army.

Cornwallis’ fateful decision forced him to withdraw to Yorktown to await reinforcements. At Yorktown, Cornwallis’ tactical blunders would cost the British the war. First, he failed to breakout when he had the chance, then he gave up his outer defenses, hastening his defeat.

With no reinforcements and under siege, Cornwallis surrendered his force to Gen. Washington, effectively ending hostilities in the American Revolution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how the angled deck made carriers deadlier

For almost 80 years, the aircraft carrier has been the most powerful warship on the high seas. Just over six decades ago, the carrier reached a new level of potency when the angled deck was introduced. Some carriers were re-fitted with it while others were designed with the advanced tech from the get-go — but how did a shift in the deck make carriers even deadlier?


First, let’s take a look at how carriers operated in World War II and, to a large extent, in the Korean War. The naval aviation workhorse of those conflicts, the Essex-class carrier, had a straight-deck design. To deliver some hurt to the enemy, carriers would launch “deckload” strikes, sending off most of their air group (in World War II, this consisted of 36 F6F fighters, 36 SBD Dauntless dive-bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers).

USS Intrepid (CV 11) in 1944. Her propeller-driven Hellcats were easy to stop when they landed.

(US Navy)

Carriers, at the time, could either launch planes or land them — they couldn’t do both at the same time. When launching deckload strikes of propeller-driven planes, it wasn’t an issue. All planes would leave at once and, later, all return. When it came time to bring aircraft home, the propeller planes were easy to stop — they were light and slow relatively to the jets that had just started to come online.

The use of jets off aircraft carriers changed things – the F9F Panthers were faster and heavier than the World War II-era piston-engine fighters. It is easy to see how a jet that misses the wires could make things very ugly.

(US Navy)

Jets were a game-changer for several reasons: They were faster and heavier and, thus, needed more space to stop. They also didn’t have the endurance to wait for other planes to launch. So, how could they find the runway space needed to operate these new tools of war? Building larger carriers wasn’t a complete solution — this wouldn’t eliminate the issue of stopping jets should they fail to catch the wires.

The British decided to create an angled deck, thereby allowing a jet that missed the arresting wires a chance to go around.

(Animation by Anynobody)

Then, the British came up with the idea of angling the landing deck of carriers. Angling the deck gave the jets enough room to land and, if they missed the wires, they could go back around and try again — stopping the jet with a barrier became an absolute last resort.

Before and after photos of USS Intrepid showing the angled flight deck.

(Compilation of US Navy photos by Solicitr)

Not only did the angled deck allow for the use of jets, it also made carriers deadlier in general. Now, they could launch and land aircraft at the same time. This meant that a carrier could send a major strike out and, at the same time, land its combat air patrol. All in all, the angled deck had a very unintended (but welcome) consequence on carrier performance.

Check out the video below to see how the Navy explained the angled flight deck to sailors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEOZi4IZja8

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