The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

In a March 2019 executive order, President Trump made a clear avenue for U.S. military veterans to transition into the Merchant Marine after their military service ends. This is a great thing for the men and women of the U.S. military who want to continue a life of service, but many will wonder what exactly the Merchant Marine is and what serving in it really requires.


During peacetime, the Merchant Marine is not a part of the military, but they do support military operations aboard ships like Kaiser-class replenishment oilers and Hope-class vehicle cargo ships. Its regular mission is the import and export of cargo in and out of the United States. Components of the Merchant Marine are both civilian sailors and government-owned ships. During wartime, the Merchant Marine can be used as the sealift component of the U.S. Naval Reserve.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

A Merchant Marine Academy graduation ceremony.

Call them “Mariners”

While the Merchant Marine could go by many names, the preferred term is “mariner.” The terms sailor, seaman, and Marine are used elsewhere, and merchant mariners don’t need to try and be more than they are – they have an illustrious history of their own.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

“Look out! Americans!”

It has an illustrious history of its own

So much so, it’s worth mentioning twice. The merchant mariners of the United States have existed in some form or another since the founding of our country, and have distinguished themselves in “getting the stuff to the fight” whenever called upon. Their first action came when a bunch of merchants off the coast of what is now Maine boarded a lumber schooner and sailed out to the HMS Margaretta in the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Yes, this is during the American Revolution.

The lightly-armed rabble of merchant seamen not only captured the Royal Navy’s armed sloop of war, they harassed the British for the remainder of the war.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

It officially dates back to 1936

In the days leading up to World War II, Congress and President Roosevelt passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which states:

“It is necessary for the national defense… that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency…
The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

War is not kind to the mariners

When the declaration of war on Japan forced the nationalization of the merchant marine fleet, it was a merger of American government needs and interest combined with the private sector’s means of getting the men and cargo to their destinations – for which the companies received handsome contracts. Weapons and armed guards from the U.S. Navy were then posted on ships.

And while you may think merchant shipping seems like an easy place to ride out the war, you’d be wrong. The merchant marine suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch serving in the war. For every 26 people who served aboard merchant marine ships, one of those would die, at a rate of almost four percent.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

Retired Merchant Marine captain Paul Washburn sits on top of a Merchant Marine life boat.

They didn’t get veteran status for 30 years

After all was said and done and American GIs went home and bought houses and went to college, merchant mariners struggled for the same benefits for risking their necks just as much as the guys who fought in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. World War II merchant mariners weren’t afforded veteran status until 1988.

Merchant Mariners who worked in hostile waters during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Desert Storm are still waiting for veteran status.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

Oil tanker, gas tanker in the high sea.

The Merchant Marine never stops

When the treaties are signed, and the troops go home, the U.S. Merchant Marine still has a lot of work to do. Who do you think took all those men and vehicles back to the United States? Or moved occupation troops to Japan? Or hauled cargo for the Marshall Plan in Europe?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Scientists found evidence of a major undeclared nuclear accident in Russia

A group of scientists called the “Ring of Five” has been scouring Europe’s atmosphere for elevated levels of radiation since the mid ’80s.

In July 2019, the group released a study detailing evidence of an undisclosed nuclear accident that may have taken place less than two years prior. The likely culprit, the scientists said, was the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia, which was once the center of the Soviet nuclear-weapons program.

At the time of the alleged accident in 2017, Russian officials said the facility wasn’t the source of the release, even though the nation showed elevated levels of a radioactive isotope called ruthenium-106. Instead, officials in Russia attributed the radiation to an artificial satellite that burned up in the atmosphere.


But the latest Ring of Five study contradicts that account. Their research traced the source to an area of Russia known as the Southern Urals. The scientists also figured out that the release came from a nuclear reprocessing facility, which separates plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear fuel.

Georg Steinhauser, a professor at the University of Hanover in Germany and one of the study’s lead authors, said Mayak is the most likely place of origin because it’s the largest nuclear reprocessing facility in the area. The facility was the site of the 1957 Kyshtym explosion, the world’s third-worst nuclear accident behind Fukushima and Chernobyl.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

The city of Ozyorsk was built around the Mayak plant, where a nuclear disaster took place in 1957.

Scientists ‘were stunned’ to find evidence of a nuclear accident in Russia

After the Chernobyl disaster sent plumes of radioactive material spiraling across Europe in 1986 , the scientists in the Ring of Five — who hailed from Sweden, Germany, Finland, Norway, and Denmark — enlisted the help of other nations to expand their efforts. The group now includes researchers from 22 countries.

The team first detected what they called “an unprecedented release” of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere in Europe and Asia in 2017. The discovery marked the first time that ruthenium-106 had been found in the atmosphere since Chernobyl. Even the 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima didn’t release detectable levels of that isotope.

“We were stunned,” Steinhauser told Business Insider. “We are measuring the air 24/7, 365 days a year, and suddenly we came up with something unusual and unexpected.”

For almost two years, the scientists traced the pathway of the radioactive isotope back to its original source by modeling atmospheric conditions such as altitude, wind direction, and the shape of the plumes.

Ultimately, they determined that all evidence pointed to the Mayak facility. Russia hasn’t issued a response to the finding.

Nadezhda Kutepova | Life in Russia’s secret nuclear city | Talk to Al Jazeera

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The ‘single greatest release from nuclear-fuel reprocessing’ ever

The scientists don’t consider the levels of radiation they detected to be an immediate threat to people’s health, but the long-term consequences are unknown. Last year, France’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety determined that the levels of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere do not pose danger to human health or the environment.

The nuclear release was “nothing compared to Chernobyl,” Steinhauser said. But he noted that it was still the “single greatest release from nuclear-fuel reprocessing that has ever happened.”

One unanswered question, he said, is whether the population near the Mayak facility ingested any radiation in their lungs. Steinhauser also said there could be reason to monitor food safety if radiation leaked into the soil and water.

“I’m not blaming Russia, because certain types of accidents are difficult to spot,” he said. “For me, it is about the lessons to be learned.”

After Fukushima, he said, Japanese officials shared information about the accident that helped improve the world’s safety regulations for nuclear power. In the wake of that disaster, the European Union began to require “stress tests” to evaluate the stability of nuclear reactors.

Steinhauser said the Ring of Five was “hopeful that Russia would have come forward” in 2017 in the same way Japan did in 2011. By revealing the mistakes that lead to the accident, he said, Russia could help make nuclear power safer than it was before.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China likely has a new bomber, tipping South China Sea

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) appears to have a new bomber in its ranks, and it could boost China’s military strength in disputed waterways.

Satellite images of the PLANAF base at Guiping-Mengshu in Guangxi Province, China show what observers suspect are Xian H-6J bombers, new naval variants of the upgraded H-6Ks that have been in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) since 2011, IHS Janes first reported Oct. 11, 2018.

The H-6Js are expected to replace the H-6G maritime striker bombers first fielded in the 1990s, The Diplomat reported Oct. 12, 2018.


The new bombers are believed to carry three times as many anti-ship missiles as their predecessor, with experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project predicting that the new aircraft will be paired with the YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile, which can cover roughly 400 km in about six minutes.

The Chinese PLAN has at times found itself in tense showdowns with the US military. When the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near Chinese military outposts in the Spratly Islands in early October 2018, the Chinese navy dispatched the Type 052C Luyang II-class guided-missile destroyer Lanzhou to confront the American warship.

The PLANAF H-6Js would give China extra firepower in any potential conflict. The H-6Js are also thought to have a greater range of about 3,500 kilometers, allowing these aircraft to patrol almost all of the South China Sea with mid-air refueling.

The satellite photos, taken on Sept. 7, 2018, appeared on Twitter around the start of October 2018.

The PLANAF appears to have at least four H-6Js in its arsenal, but it will presumably want to establish a full regiment, The Diplomat explained.

Chinese bombers have been increasingly active above contested waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, in recent years, according to a 2018 Department of Defense report on China’s military power.

“The PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said. In 2017, the PLA flew a dozen operational flights through the Sea of Japan, into the Western Pacific, around Taiwan, and over the East and South China Seas — all potential regional flash points.

In recent months, the US military has been putting pressure on China with regular B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber flights through the East and South China Seas, with the most recent occurring in October 2018.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

“One US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber, deployed to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, conducted a routine training mission Oct. 10, 2018,” Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018. “The bomber integrated with four Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15Js in the vicinity of the East China Sea before returning to Guam.”

China has previously characterized these types of flights as “provocative,” criticizing the US for its repeated flybys in August and September 2018.

The recent flight, like the many others before it, was in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence operations, which are intended to send a deterrence message to any and all potential challengers.

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

popular

Watch this bomber’s rare low-level flyover of powerful Navy carriers

Admit it — you like seeing the low-level flyovers by Air Force or Navy planes. Especially when they are sleek and just exude the notion that they are flown by pilots who appreciate fast jets and faster… well, you get the idea. But while fighters often have that distinction, the B-1B Lancer has shown it, too can exude that — while still carrying a lot of firepower.


The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
From back to front, the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (Youtube screenshot)

During President Trump’s trip to East Asia, the sailors on three Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers got to see a pair of B-1B Lancers do just such a flyby. The carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) operated with a Japanese “helicopter destroyer” during that time.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter flies near the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Danielle A. Brandt)

Each of these carriers usually operates with four squadrons of strike fighters, either F/A-18C Hornets or F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. That’s a powerful force, but the F/A-18Cs are limited to two missiles like the AGM-84 Harpoon/SLAM or AGM-158C LRASM, while the F/A-18E/Fs can carry four.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
F/A-18E Super Hornets, assigned to the “Fist of the Fleet” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25, fly over the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Flynn/Released)

By comparison, a B-1B Lancer can carry twenty-four. So, the two Lancers in the video below can deliver the same number of missiles as an entire squadron of F/A-18Cs. In a naval battle with China, eight B-1s with LRASMs could conceivably take out two Chinese carrier groups. What those bombers could do with the AGM-158 JASSM and JASSM-ER to land targets would be equally devastating.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B can also carry a large number of standoff missiles, like the AGM-158C LRASM. (U.S. Air Force photo)

You can see a video of the Lancers doing a flyby of the three carriers and the Japanese “helicopter destroyer” below. The video was taken from a Navy helicopter orbiting the three-carrier formation.

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This flying tank destroyer had a much bigger gun than the Warthog

The A-10 is justifiably celebrated for its tank-killing prowess.


After all, it destroyed 987 tanks and a metric buttload of other Iraqi stuff during Desert Storm, and its GAU-8 got a lot of use, including some Iraqi helicopters who felt the BRRRRT! But the Air Force once planned for a tank-buster with a gun that made the A-10’s GAU-8 look puny.

The Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly was intended to be a close-air support plane to bust up tanks and bunkers in front of the infantry. Beechcraft, ironically, is best known for civilian planes like the King Air.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
Beechcraft XA-38 (S/N 43-14407) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

To accomplish that mission, it was given a powerful armament. In the nose was a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a powerful T15E1 75mm automatic cannon. It had a pair of twin .50-caliber turrets as well (one on the top, one on the bottom), and the ability to carry up to 2,000 pounds of bombs, according to MilitaryFactory.com.

Yeah, you read that right. The Army Air Force in World War II was developing a specialized tank-buster that was two and a half times bigger than the GAU-8. Of course, a 75mm gun had been used on variants of the B-25, but the XA-38’s gun was essentially a semi-auto.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
A parked XA-38, with the barrel of the T15E1 prominently visible. Makes the GAU-8 looks like a cute popgun doesn’t it? (U.S. Air Force photo)

The plane had a top speed of 376 miles per hour, a range of 1,625 miles, and a crew of two. With all that performance, it had a lot of promise when it first flew in May of 1944. But that promise was never seen by the grunts on the ground.

The XA-38 project never got past the two prototypes, because a different aviation project took up all the engines that the Grizzly was designed to use. The Wright GR-3350-43 engines were needed by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which in 1944 was needed to bomb Japan.

One prototype was scrapped, while the other’s fate remains unknown.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Nazi officer risked his life to save an American soldier

It may surprise amateur historians to discover that wars can take a humanitarian turn. There are many, many recorded instances of exceptional displays of humanity, even during the most brutal fighting. Considering the Nazis’ monstrous reputation, it would surprise many others to discover that kind of kindness among the German officers in World War II.

Even in the Wehrmacht’s most desperate days, there were some among them who retained their humanity in the middle of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. In the Hürtgen War Cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany, you’ll find a small monument to one of these brave souls.


The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

“No man hath greater love than he who layeth down his life for his enemy.”

As the Allies pressed their post-Normandy advantage against the Nazis in Europe, they began to outrun their supply lines. Unfortunately, the men and materiel required to bring down the Nazi regime weren’t as fast at replacing the men and materiel who were actively taking down the regime. The Allies were forced to slow down and, in some places, pause as their supplies caught up to their breakneck drive toward Germany.

This lull gave the Germans time to regroup and rest.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

The worst was yet to come.

Before the Allies could enter Germany, there were a few things they had to consider. They had to cross the Rhine, the city Aachen was under siege and refused to surrender, and the Allies were afraid the Germans would destroy the Ruhr Dam. To avoid this, the Allies needed to enter the dense woods that lay between the city and the dam and do it before the Germans thought to blow the dam.

During the relatively brief lull in the fighting, the Germans made good use of the Hürtgen Forest. Its hills and ravines were loaded with minefields, booby traps, barbed wire, and anything else they could think of that might halt the Allied advance or end it entirely. What’s more, deep inside the woods were the overgrown and abandoned remains of the concrete Siegfried Line. The advantage in numbers and air superiority the Allied troops enjoyed would be completely negated by the forest. The dark woods were now almost impenetrable, and the Allies were walking into it.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

This is not the place you want to assault.

For four months, the Allies sent men into the German-held meat grinder trying to dislodge the Nazis. Among the Germans trying to keep the Americans out was a Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. Lengfeld was a young officer who had just taken command of his unit in November 1944, after his commander was killed in combat. He and his men were holed up in a lodge of some kind, sheltering themselves from the elements and trying to stave off their hunger. Next to their shelter was a minefield known as the Wilde Sau.

An American attack pushed Lengfeld’s Germans from their shelter, but his men quickly counterattacked and retook it the day after. The U.S. troops scrambled out so fast that one of them walked right into the Wilde Sau and immediately stepped on a mine. The man survived and began calling for help.

None came. And to this day, no one knows who the wounded American was.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

This road once bisected the Wilde Sau minefield.

Lieutenant Lengfeld ordered his troops that no one was to fire at any Americans who would come for the man. Hours passed, the man begged anyone within earshot to help him. But no one came. The man cried for his compatriots the entire time, but still, no one came to his aid. Lengfeld decided he would help, and took a team of his medics along a road that led to the minefield. He was determined to help the man, but while his team had placed anti-tank mines along the road, he did not know the location of anti-personnel mines. Lengfeld stepped on one immediately, shredding his back. He would die later that night.

In 1994, a monument was erected at the Hürtgen Forest Cemetery, bearing the name and wartime deeds of Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. It read:

Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944,
Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life
while trying to save the life of an American
soldier lying severely wounded in the “Wilde
Sau” minefield and appealing for medical aid.

The monument was placed there by the American members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment to honor Lt. Lengfeld.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USS Lincoln just completed massive live-fire exercise

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) successfully completed a Live Fire With A Purpose (LFWAP) exercise, Dec 6, 2018.

LFWAP is a reinvigorated missile exercise program conducted by the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), designed to increase the proficiency of the Combat Direction Center watch team by allowing them to tactically react to a simulated real-world threat.

SMWDC, a supporting command to strike groups and other surface ships in the Navy, is responsible for training commands and creating battle tactics on the unit level to handle sea combat, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), amphibious warfare and mine warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Its headquarters are located at Naval Base San Diego, with four divisions in Virginia and California.


Two IAMD Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) led teams aboard Abraham Lincoln through LFWAP. They’ve spent the last month working closely with Combat Systems Department to plan a simulated threat, train them on response tactics and execute a safe live fire.

“The most challenging aspect of these exercises is getting the ship’s mindset to shift from basic unit-level operations to integrated, advanced tactical operations,” said Lt. Cmdr Tim Barry, an IAMD WTI instructor aboard Abraham Lincoln. “On the opposite side of that, the best feeling is seeing the watch team work together, developing confidence in themselves and their combat systems.”

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile during Combat System Ship Qualification Trials.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyler Sam)

LFWAP is an important evolution that departs from scripted events to focus more on scenario-driven events. Watch teams have the opportunity to use their pre-planned responses and the commanding officer’s orders to defend the ship from dangers that mirror potential threats on deployment.

“This isn’t a pass or fail event; it’s a validation — a means for sailors to develop confidence prior to deployment,” said Lt. Lisa Malone, the IAMD WTI execution lead from SMWDC. “This is the ‘Battle Stations’ for Combat Systems. We want them to come out of this with a new sense of teamwork, a feeling of preparedness and an excitement for what the future will bring.”

LFWAP allowed Abraham Lincoln to react to a sea-skimming drone in real time. The lead for this evolution was Abraham Lincoln’s Fire Control Officer, Ens. Ezekiel Ramirez.

“To show everyone we’re ready to defend the ship and our shipmates is best feeling ever,” said Ramirez. “Today, we put the ‘combat’ in Combat Systems.”

After detecting the target using radar, Combat Systems used the ship’s Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) to engage it.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

A Close-in Weapons System fires during a pre-action Aim Calibration fire evolution aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt)

“This training has really brought us all together and made us work more cohesively; we feel like a real unit now,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew Miller, who fired the RAM that brought down the drone. “We’ve worked hard this last month and had this scenario down-pat, and to see that drone finally go up in an explosion was the perfect payoff.”

LFWAP is another example of how Abraham Lincoln is elevating Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12’s operational readiness and maritime capabilities to answer the nation’s call.

The components of CSG-12 embody a “team-of-teams” concept, combining advanced surface, air and systems assets to create and sustain operational capability. This enables them to prepare for and conduct global operations, have effective and lasting command and control, and demonstrate dedication and commitment to become the strongest warfighting force for the Navy and the nation.

The Abraham Lincoln CSG is comprised of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 2, associated guided-missile destroyers, flagship Abraham Lincoln, and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier set to become the first ever female Green Beret

For the first time ever, a woman is now “in the final stage of training” to become the U.S. Army’s first female Green Beret.


The female soldier, who has not been identified by the Army, is an enlisted member of the National Guard, and was one of only a handful of women to ever make it through the rigorous 24-day assessment all aspiring Soldiers must survive in order to earn a spot in the year-long Special Forces qualification course, commonly referred to as the “Q Course.” According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, this Soldier is nearing completion of the Q Course, which means her accession into the role of Special Forces engineer sergeant is all but guaranteed, provided she doesn’t fall out of training due to injury or a sudden shift in her performance. There is also at least one other woman in the same Q Course, though the Army did not indicate whether or not she was expected to pass.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Soldiers, assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Operational Detachment-A, prepare to breach an entry point during a close quarter combat scenario while Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez/Released)

The Army isn’t releasing any information about the Soldier that may soon earn the mantle of first-ever female Green Beret, citing security concerns and standard protocol.

This Soldier won’t be the Army’s first ever female to earn a role within a Special Operations unit, however. In 2017. a female Soldier earned her place in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a forty others have now completed Ranger School, which is widely considered to be not only grueling, but among the best leadership courses in the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those women, Captain Kristen M. Griest, became the Army’s first female infantry officer back in 2016.

“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Robertson)

Although the title “Special Forces” is often attributed to all Special Operations units in popular culture, in truth, the title “Special Forces” belongs only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Special Forces Soldiers are tasked with a wide variety of mission sets and often serve as physical representation of America’s foreign policy at the point of conflict. That means Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare, training foreign militaries for internal defense, intelligence gathering operations and, of course, direct-action missions aimed at killing or capturing high value targets. Earning your place among these elite war-fighters means excelling throughout 53 weeks of arduous training centered around combat marksmanship, urban operations, and counter-insurgency tactics, among others.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Audie Murphy held off waves of armor and troops while atop a burning tank

There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.


Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.

Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).

About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.

Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.

During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine
Audie Murphy played himself in a movie that detailed his exploits. Photo: Youtube

As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,

It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.

Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,

I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.

Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.

When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.

Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.

A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.

Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.

Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.

On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.

That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Recalled from the Mekong Delta to set a world record in the Olympics

Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.


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A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.

The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.

“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
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U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.

(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)

Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.

“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.

But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.

When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’

How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.

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While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.

He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.

“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.

The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).

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Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:

You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’

They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.

Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.

Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.

Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a Congressman’s press conference killed 800 US sailors

Loose lips sink ships, the old saying goes. Nothing could be more true. And the combination of an international audience with highly classified intelligence along with a complete lack of understanding for what’s important and what’s not can be disastrous. It should come to no surprise for anyone reading that a Congressman learned this the hard way.

Back then, at least, it was enough to cost him the next election.


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This f*cking guy.

In the early days of World War II, the Japanese didn’t really understand Allied submarine technology. Most importantly, they had no idea American and British submarines could dive so deep. When fighting Allied subs, the Japanese set their depth charge fuses to explode at a depth roughly equivalent to what their submarines could handle, which was a lot more shallow than American and British subs could dive. As a result, the survival rate of Allied submarines encountering Japanese ships was amazingly high.

For the first year or so of the war, the Americans enjoyed this advantage in the Pacific. Japanese anti-submarine warfare was never sophisticated enough to realize its fatal flaws, and American sailors’ lives were saved as a result. Then Kentucky Congressman Andrew J. May made a visit to the Pacific Theater and changed all that.

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Droppin’ charges, droppin’ bodies

The Balao-class submarines of the time could dive to depths of some 400 feet, much deeper than the depth Japanese ships set their depth charges to explode. Congressman May was informed of this during his visit, along with a ton of other sensitive war-related information. Upon returning from his junket in the war zone, May held a press conference where he revealed this fact to the world, informing the press wires that American sailors were surviving in incredible numbers because the charges were set too shallow. The press reported his quotes, and eventually, it got back to the Japanese.

Who promptly changed their depth charge fuses.

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A depth charge-damaged submarine.

Vice-Admiral Charles Lockwood was understandably livid when he heard the news, not just because a Congressman had leaked sensitive information to the press for seemingly no reason, but because he knew what the tactical outcome of the reveal would be. And Admiral Lockwood was right. When the Japanese changed their fuses, it began to take its toll on American submarines, which might have normally survived such an attack. He estimated the slip cost ten submarines and 800 crewmen killed in action.

“I hear Congressman May said the Jap depth charges are not set deep enough,” Lockwood reportedly told the press. “He would be pleased to know that the Japs set them deeper now.”

When the time came for May’s re-election campaign after the war in 1946, the reveal (which became known as The May Incident) along with corruption allegations became too much for the Kentucky voters, and May lost his seat in the House of Representatives. May served nine months in a federal prison for corruption.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army has a dream team working on its robotic future

As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.

The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.


“We are coming together to tell each other what we’ve done over the last year,” said Dr. Stuart Young, a division chief in the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Adelphi, Maryland, and the RCTA’s collaborative alliance manager.

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Principal investigators and researchers from the Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance meet at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia June 5-7, 2018, to coordinate efforts.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The group formed in 2009 to bring together government, industrial and academic institutions to address research and development required to enable the deployment of future military unmanned ground vehicle systems ranging in size from man-portables to ground combat vehicles.

Partners include:

• General Dynamics Land Systems – Robotics
• Carnegie Mellon University – The Robotics Institute
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Florida State University
• University of Central Florida
• University of Pennsylvania
• QinetiQ North America
• Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Lab

Young said the laboratory is focused on transitioning new capabilities to industry partners so they can continue to mature them.

“Since this is a basic and applied research program, we’ll transition it to them so they can get it into an experimental prototype in development,” he said. “Certainly the problem that we are working on is very hard. It is difficult to operate robots in the wild, anywhere in the world, but that’s the kind of problem the Army has to solve.”

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World-renowned robotics researchers from industry, academia and the U.S. Army are part of an alliance to explore futuristic robotics that may lead to new capabilities for the future force.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The Army’s vision is to make unmanned systems an integral part of small unit teams.

“We’re trying to go from tools to teammates so you can work side-by-side with them,” Young said, continuing with, “In order for robots to be teammates, they must operate in unstructured, complex environments.

“And then in order for the robots to be a useful teammate, they have to communicate naturally like a human does,” Young said. “We’re doing a lot of work in human-robot relationships, understanding concepts in the same way that humans do, trying to get the robots to understand those concepts in the same way so that the teaming can occur more naturally.”

Over the eight years of the alliance, researchers have achieved many milestones in the robotics field.

“New methods for robots to autonomously interact with and perceive the outside world have been developed to improve reasoning, situational awareness, trust and mobility in challenging battlefield environments,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “In the past eight years, researchers have teamed with academia and industry supported by the Robotics CTA to establish robotics technology critical to next generation Army objectives for multi-domain operation.”

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Geoff Slipher (right), the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Autonomous Systems Division chief speaks with Army researcher Chris Kroninger June 6, 2018, at the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance review at the University of Pennsylvania.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The alliance conducts research in four technical domains:
  1. Perception: Perceive and understand dynamic and unknown environments, including creation of a comprehensive model of the surrounding world
  2. Intelligence: Autonomously plan and execute military missions; readily adapt to changing environments and scenarios; learn from prior experience; share common understanding with team members
  3. Human-Robot Interaction: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments
  4. Dexterous Manipulation and Unique Mobility: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments

“We’ve certainly come a long way, and yes, we have a long way to go,” Young said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in understanding and developing new theory and techniques for communicating between the robots and the humans. We must generate more novel techniques to be able to address those types of problems.”

Researchers said the meetings in Philadelphia were a valuable experience as they continue to plan for a capstone event at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2019, where they will demonstrate the culmination of their research achievements to Army leaders.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.