When we think of Yemen, the images that come to mind may be crude, even gruesome: bombings, dilapidated buildings, drying desserts, and bleeding citizens. It’s easy to forget that this war-torn country used to produce the vast majority of the world’s coffee. While today Brazil and Vietnam top that list — Yemen doesn’t even make the top 10 — Yemen still produces some of the world’s most expensive beans.
The small Middle Eastern nation is often cited as one of the primary examples of conflict coffee. We need not look any further than aptly named port city of Mocha, or Al Makha, along the Red Sea to find proof of this. The city once served as a center for intertribal trade and excursion in the Ottoman Empire during the 1800s — their chief commodity being Yemeni coffee beans. With the British eventually taking over the country in 1839 and Dutch traders smuggling coffee out of Yemen, the country’s coffee monopoly was effectively ended. As a result, Mocha faded into the arcane. This, however, had no impact on the ensuing bean or the crisis that would strike the city.
1850: A servant serves coffee to a group of Yemeni coffee merchants who have set up camp in the desert on their way to Mocha.
(Photo by Hulton Archive)
With Mocha’s ease of geographical access, it served as the perfect access point for Houthi rebels seeking to overtake the government. This particular insurgency was known for grooming youths to fight primary Yemeni military under powerful backing from Iran as well as a Saudi Coalition. What ensued was a swath of violence that eventually escalated into civil war among the Yemeni citizens.
Because of the ongoing mobilization efforts, Mocha has suffered stagnation — both physically and financially. With exports limited and war crippling internal trade, many of the port cities were unable to thrive. This all changed for Mocha in the mid-2010s when Mocha’s coffee industry was revitalized.
During the first wave of coffee culture, a heavy emphasis was placed on low-quality beans globally. These beans were cheap, easy to produce, and easy to sell in large batches. Yemen’s land, however, didn’t bode well for that type of farming. The coffee Yemen was able to grow was in small, flavorful quantities. With the third-wave of coffee and the boom of specialty beans, entrepreneurs in Yemen and abroad saw the chance to help their motherland thrive.
Fresh coffee harvested by Yemeni farmer.
(Adobe Stock photo.)
In 2015, Mokhtar Alkhanshali journeyed to Yemen in hopes of sourcing Yemeni beans. While the drink has its roots in Yemen, finding coffee produced in its homeland was a difficult feat. While he was eventually successful, his return journey was delayed when the airport was bombed just a day before his flight. This marked the beginnings of Yemen’s civil war.
Alkhanshali was due to arrive in Seattle for a coffee-tasting contest, so he used a rowboat to get to Africa to make it to the U.S. on time — an effort that bore success at the contest. He attracted the attention of Blue Bottle, who would spend over 0 per pound for coffee imported from Yemen, attracting other buyers in the process. Alkhanshali went on to found Port of Mokha, one of the most successful sourcing companies to date.
To this day, Mocha is known for producing one of the finest coffees on the planet, and in spite of war, they’re still able to thrive because of their revitalized economy. The country faces other problems, such as low farming space and a shortage of water; however, coffee from Yemen is still of the utmost quality. By sourcing responsibly, we’re able to help communities endure conflict.
11 Questions & A Cup of Coffee: Fox News Correspondent Katie Pavlich
On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
Here is his story.
From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge
Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.
On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.
“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”
Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.
Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.
World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”
He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.
“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”
On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.
“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”
Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.
World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.
Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.
“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”
From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.
“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”
After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.
Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force–Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conducted close-air-support drills during Exercise Northern Screen in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.
Northern Screen is a bilateral exercise that includes cold-weather and mountain-warfare training between MRF-E Marines and the Norwegian military, Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, 2018.
“A lot of what we do as joint terminal attack controllers is structured off of a NATO standard and by us communicating with our Norwegian allies we’re overall increasing our ability both as Americans and a united force on how we do our procedures,” said Sgt. John C. Prairie II, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller for MRF-E. “It’s making us more tactically and technically proficient.”
The Marines practiced aircraft medical evacuations and discussed air-control tactics to ensure safety and success in extreme cold-weather environments.
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conduct close-air support in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
“With cold-weather training and the gear, one of the biggest downfalls we have is that electronics drain a lot quicker,” said Prairie.
To mitigate such effects Marines cycle through gear more often to keep electronics charged and minimizing use to conserve energy.
“It’s good to work with the gear in a new environment,” said Prairie. “Setting it up, breaking it down, running through the processes, it gives you a new look on how to do it in a new environment.”
Arctic conditions not only affect gear, but also Marines. They must adapt and train to overcome environmental challenges and succeed in missions without injury.
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers prepare for close-air support drills in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
“The cold-weather predeployment training has really helped out the Marines and really prepared them for what we’re doing out here,” said Prairie. “I feel that everything has gone very smoothly, we’ve definitely improved our efficiency both with our gear setup, break down, our communications with the aircraft and the processes with the Norwegians. I think we’ve done a really good job of building up our ability here.”
This opportunity is a vital asset to train with other nations in environments unlike those in the U.S. This type of training improves NATO capabilities in a non-combative environment to be prepared for any challenges our Allies might face.
Are you dating or talking online to someone who says they are a military member? Have they asked you for funds or documents? You might be looking for true love, but chances are good that you are the victim of one of thousands of military romance scams conducted every day.
U.S. military officials have warned those involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with someone claiming to be a U.S. military member serving in Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere.
Officials and websites like Military.com receive hundreds of questions or allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone who claims to be in the U.S. military but started asking for money for various false service-related needs such as transportation costs; communication fees; or marriage, processing or medical fees.
(Flickr photo by Mr Seb)
Victims of these online scams often think they are doing a good deed by helping a military member. Instead, they have given their money to a scammer, sometimes losing thousands of dollars, with very low possibility of recovery.
The U.S. has established numerous task forces to deal with this growing epidemic. Unfortunately, the people committing these scams are often overseas — using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes.
Are you being scammed? Here’s how to know.
Military romance scams: what to look for
There are a variety of words and phrases used by scammers to hook unsuspecting men and women into relationships. Here are some examples:
They say they are on a “peacekeeping” mission.
They say they are looking for an honest woman.
They note that their parents, wife or husband is deceased.
They say they have a child or children being cared for by a nanny or other guardian.
They profess their love almost immediately.
They refer to you as “my love,” “my darling” or any other affectionate term almost immediately.
They tell you they cannot wait to be with you.
They tell you they cannot talk on the phone or via webcam for security reasons.
They tell you they are sending you something (money, jewelry) through a diplomat.
They claim to be in the U.S. military; however, their English and grammar do not match that of someone born and raised in the United States.
Military romance scams: common questions
Scammers tend to use similar stories to convince men and women that they have a legitimate need. Military.com regularly receives questions about these claims. Here are common answers to those questions:
Military members and their loved ones are not charged money so that they can go on leave.
No one is required to request leave on behalf of a military member.
A general officer will not correspond with you on behalf of military personnel planning to take leave.
A general officer will not be a member of an internet dating site.
Military members are not charged money or taxes to secure communications or leave.
Military members do not need permission to get married.
Military members do not have to pay for early retirement.
All military personnel have medical insurance for themselves and their immediate family members (spouse and/or children), which pays for their medical costs when treated at health care facilities worldwide. Family and friends do not need to pay their medical expenses.
Military aircraft are not used to transport privately owned vehicles.
Military financial offices are not used to help military personnel buy or sell items of any kind.
Member of the military deployed to combat zones do not need to solicit money from the public to feed or house their troops.
Deployed military personnel do not find large sums of money and do not need your help to get that money out of the country.
Military romance scams: how to avoid them
You can avoid being taken for a ride by a military romance scam artist by practicing a few easy habits.
(Flickr photo by Saws)
Never send money. Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees via Western Union.
Do your research. If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out. Research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
Communicate by phone. Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
Fact-check. Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality. Check the facts.
Don’t use a third party. Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often, the company exists but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
Watch for African countries. Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country. While some U.S. troops are stationed there, they are few and far between. Someone claiming to be in a place where we have few troops is suspect. Many scams originate in Nigeria.
Watch for grammar. Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
Be guarded. Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who pledges their love at warp speed.
Military romance scams: how to get help
How do you get help if you are the victim of a romance scam or think you have found a scammer posing as a military member?
Unfortunately, if you’ve given money to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get it back since scammers are often located overseas and are untraceable.
You can, however, report it.
You can report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership) on its website.
You can also report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations. Report it online or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT.
Finally, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Chinese military has deployed military personnel and armored medical vehicles to Germany for joint drills, a first for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as it attempts to forge closer ties with Europe.
The joint exercise — Combined Aid 2019 — is focused on preparing troops with the medical service units of the Chinese and German armed forces to respond to humanitarian crises, such as mass casualty incidents and serious disease outbreaks, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported.
The exercise follows a cooperative military medical training exercise in 2016 in Chongqing, where the PLA and the German Bundeswehr practiced responding to an imaginary earthquake scenario.
“We’ve seen China increasing its participation in these kinds of activities. It provides a low risk means to demonstrate its commitment to global governance, which may help reduce anxiety about its growing military capabilities,” China watcher Matthew Funaiole, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told INSIDER.
“Training exercises also help improve its coordination and logistics, which is helpful for the modernization process,” he added.
Chinese troops in Germany.
The PLA’s paramedical forces have been stepping up their participation in this type of cooperative training. These troops have even been deployed to humanitarian crisis zones, such as the Ebola outbreak in certain parts of Africa.
Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that there may be more to the Chinese military’s activities than preparing for crises.
“The PLA in the future will need to go abroad to protect China’s overseas interests in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative,” he explained. “If there could be some basic mutual trust and understanding with NATO forces, the risk of potential conflict could be greatly mitigated.”
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to a massive Chinese-led project designed to position China at the heart of a vast, far-reaching global trade network.
Wany Yiwei, a European studies expert at Renmin University of China, stressed that uncertainty as a result of the Trump administration’s “America First” policy has created new opportunities for China and Europe.
“As the leader of the EU, Germany has said that Europe should take charge of its own security,” he told the Hong Kong-based SCMP. “It is also a brand new world security situation now, as both China and Europe would want to hedge their risks in dealing with the US.”
Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council, told Stars and Stripes that “the presence of the Chinese military in Germany for this exercise creates very bad optics for Germany, NATO and the US and is a cheap propaganda victory for China.”
Last year, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) conducted its first combined exercise with the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) in waters near China’s new military base in Djibouti. It marked an unprecedented level of cooperation at that time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Amazon Prime is pushing their new show, Jack Ryan, based on the Tom Clancy character that has saved Britain’s queen, hunted Russian subs, and interrupted terrorist plots across the world in both novels and movies from the ’80s to today.
The character is a mainstay of the the thriller world — an American James Bond — which is why it’s so great that Amazon cast comedy icon John Krasinski in the role.
Now, Funny or Die has done what we’ve all been thinking — they cut together the Jack Ryan commercial and scenes from The Office, pitting America’s top analyst-turned-spy against the criminal genius of Dwight Schrute, the socially awkward and pretentious beet farmer who’s always hatching some failed scheme to teach his office mates a moral lesson.
Jim (left) feigns working at his desk as Dwight (center) looks at what he believes to be a gift-wrapped desk. Spoiler: The desk is actually gone completely. Jim made a fake frame for the wrapping and the whole thing collapses when Dwight tries to sit down.
Dwight is best known by his self-appointed job title: Assistant to the Regional Manager. Abbreviated, of course, as the Ass. Man.
He labors for years to outmaneuver Jim Halpert, now Jim Ryan, in a series of escalating pranks, from disappearing desks to fake spy taps to false faxes from the future. Apparently, Dwight is not putting up with it any longer.
Check out the hilarious video mashup below and get a look at more sinister Dwight Schrute.
Jack Ryan debuted August 31, but has already been been renewed for a second season. In the first season, Ryan notices irregularities in bank transactions and eventually finds evidence of a growing terrorist threat against the U.S., leading him across the world in a quest to hunt down the leaders and prevent the attack.
The show brings Michael Bay and John Krasinski back together. The men had previously worked together on 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a dramatization of the horrible events at the U.S. embassy in Libya in 2012. 13 Hours was probably the most well-known example of Krasinski’s pivot from comedy to action.
After years of playing Jim Halpert in The Office and performing other comedic roles, Krasinski has been branching out, directing movies and focusing on action roles.
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
Throughout the 1930s pilots around the world were continually trying to push the limits of anything that had been done before in the air. While the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart are more familiar names in the Western World, the Soviets had their own equivalents such as Mikhail Gromov who, in 1937 along with his two man crew, managed to break the world distance record for non-stop flight, flying 6,306 miles from Moscow to California via a rather dangerous North Pole route. Hailed as heroes upon their return, Premier Joseph Stalin decided the Soviet Union should follow this up in 1938 by having a group of women pilots attempt to set the distance record for non-stop flight for a female crew. The selected trio, who each already held one or more world records for female aviators, were Polina Osipenko, Valentina Grizodubova, and Marina Raskova.
And so it was that on Sept. 24, 1938 the three ladies took off from an airfield in Shchcyolkovo near Moscow, in a Tupolev ANT-37, which normally had a range of about 5,000 km or 3,100 miles. Their destination was Komsomolsk-on-Amur over 3600 miles away. Unfortunately for them almost immediately upon departing they encountered a number of issues including a thick layer of clouds and icing conditions which forced them to climb above said clouds, in the process losing all sight of the ground for the duration. Not long after this, their radio stopped working. Without a clear view of the ground for almost the entire flight, Raskova used the stars, a compass, and their airspeed to roughly determine their position as they flew. When the clouds finally broke, they found themselves flying over Tugur Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk, about 500 km or 300 miles directly north of their intended destination.
Low on fuel, they desperately attempted to find an alternate place to land, but the engines died first. With some form of a crash landing inevitable and a navigator no longer having anything to do, Grizodubova ordered Raskova to parachute out of the plane from about 6,500 feet with the hope that it would increase her odds of survival. Of course, decreasing her odds slightly, she chose to leave her emergency survival kit for the other two women, reportedly only taking two chocolate bars with her for rations to trek through Siberia with. When Raskova safely hit the ground, she noted the direction the plane was gliding and began hiking after it.
As for the pilot and co-pilot still aboard, they were forced to make a gear up, dead-stick landing in a frozen swamp near the upper part of the Amgun River, in the end successfully executing what is termed in pilot-speak as a “good landing”- in that all occupants survived and were able to walk away from the wreckage.
As for Raskova, she hiked for a full ten days before finally locating the downed aircraft and her comrades. Not long before she arrived, a search crew located the plane. While this was a good thing for the women, unfortunately two of the search planes collided overhead and killed all 15 aboard as the horrified pilots watched from below. A few days later, the women were picked up via boat.
When they arrived back in Moscow, their harrowing journey, which managed 3,671.44 miles in 26 hours and 29 minutes (though in truth they had flown some 6,450 km or 4,007 miles total), had indeed set the distance record for a straight line, non-stop all-woman crew. That, along with how they handled themselves in such adverse conditions saw them lauded as heroes across the Union, including quite literally being given the “Hero of the Soviet Union” award, among other honors.
Fast-forwarding about three years later in June of 1941, Germany decided to invade. During Operation Barbarossa, almost 4 million troops were thrown at the Soviet Union, and in one fell swoop the Axis managed to destroy approximately 66 airfields and about 80% of the military aircraft in the Soviet Union at the time.
German troops at the Soviet state border marker, June 22, 1941.
With an abundance of pilots and few planes, you might think this was not exactly an ideal environment for female pilots of the era to be given a job- especially not in combat- but two factors saw Stalin convinced establishing all female squadrons was something they should do. First, Raskova wouldn’t stop berating Stalin about it, noting both in the air and on the ground that forgoing using half your populace when the enemy was almost at the doorsteps of Moscow was foolish. Another factor was that among the planes still available were a large number of Polikarpov Po-2’s- an open cockpit two seat 1928 biplane made of wood and fabric, mostly meant for flight training and crop dusting.
Slow and plodding, the Polikarpov cruised along at a breakneck pace of about 68 mph (109 km/hr) and a never exceed if you don’t want your wings to fall off speed of 94 mph (151 km/hr). Combine that with a maximum climb rate of a mere 500 feet per minute (152 meters) while traveling at a speed not that much faster than Usian Bolt while ascending, and these weren’t exactly planes male pilots were itching to fly to the front in…
For reference here, the Luftwaffe were flying such planes as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger, which had an engine possessing about 25 times the horsepower as the Polikarpov, cruised along at 280 mph (450 km/hr), with maximum speeds of 426 mph (685 km/hr), and could climb in excess of 3,000 ft/min. That’s not to mention this plane came equipped with dual 13 mm MG 131 machine guns. The pilots of the Polikarpov Po-2’s, on the other hand, were given hand pistols as their air to air combat weapon… No doubt when in a dog fight, they also were instructed to make “pew pew pew” sounds to increase the effectiveness of their arsenal.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, should one get shot down or the fabric of the aircraft catch fire, which occasionally happened when tracer bullets ripped through them, as weight was at a premium, the pilots weren’t given parachutes… On top of that, the planes themselves did not come equipped with radios or any other such equipment. A map, a compass, a pistol, and their wits were what the stick and rudder Po-2 pilots brought with them on their combat missions.
A damaged and abandoned Po-2 forced to land in Ukraine, and subsequently captured by German troops, 1941.
Now, you might at this point be wondering what possible use these pilots could serve flying these planes into combat other than reducing the Soviet population by a couple hundred pilots. Well, the one marginally potent weapon the planes did come equipped with was bombs- up to six of them, weighing approximately 110 lbs each (50 kg).
Planes few wanted to fly sitting on the ground and Raskova refusing to shut up about it, Stalin ordered her to form three all female squadrons, though the 588th Bomber Regiment, who would come to use the Polikarpov Po-2’s, was the only one to remain exclusively staffed by women throughout the war.
As for the young ladies who volunteered to fly in these death traps, they ranged from about 17 years old to their early 20s. And while you might think the name they’d soon be given would be something along the lines of “Target Practice”, their incredible effectiveness and near non-stop bombardment of the Germans at the front starting on June 8, 1942 and continuing all the way to Berlin, earned them another nickname — The Night Witches.
So just how effective were they? For the approximately four years they were active, they flew close to an astounding 30,000 missions, with an average of about 250 missions each. To put this in perspective, airmen aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress in 1944 had a 1 in 4 chance of surviving to the 25 mission mark for their rotation. But in the case of the Night Witch bombers, some flew near or greater that number in under a week. One, who we’ll discuss shortly, almost managed that number of missions in a single night. Despite the incredible number of missions they flew, over the course of the war, of the 261 women that flew in the 588th, only 32 died, and a handful of those not from combat, but tuberculosis.
A Polikarpov Po-2, the aircraft type used by the regiment.
This bring us to Nadezhda Popova, who managed the record of 18 missions in a single night when she helped chase the Axis as they retreated from Poland. Popova, who started flying at aged 15, was a flight instructor by 18, and decided to join up not long after her brother, Leonid, was killed in the early stages of the conflict. She states, “I saw the German aircraft flying along our roads filled with people who were leaving their homes, firing at them with their machine guns. Seeing this gave me feelings inside that made me want to fight them.”
The Nazis would soon come to regret making an enemy of Popova, who shortly was about to go all John Wick on them for killing her brother. But before that, unfortunately for her, when she tried to enlist, she was turned away, with Popova later stating of this, “No one in the armed services wanted to give women the freedom to die.”
Nevertheless, given her credentials, when the 588th was formed when she was 19 years old, they had a place for her. She would go on to fly an incredible 852 missions during the war, despite, as she stated in an interview in 2009, “Almost every time, we had to sail through a wall of enemy fire. In winter, when you’d look out to see your target better, you got frostbite, our feet froze in our boots, but we carried on flying…. It was a miracle we didn’t lose more aircraft. Our planes were the slowest in the air force. They often came back riddled with bullets…”
On that note, after returning from one mission where she was tasked with dropping supplies to ground troops who were bottled up in Malaya Zemlya, she found 42 bullet holes in her plane, one in her helmet, and a couple in her map. It was then that she joked with her navigator, “Katya, my dear, we will live long!”
In truth, Popova, who became a squadron commander, survived the war, among other honors receiving the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, and was a three time Order of the Red Banner recipient (awarded for extreme heroism and courage demonstrated in battle), twice awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class… and the list goes on and on- badass. She was a badass basically.
As for her life after, she married an airmen, Semyon Kharlamov, who she met after the two had separately been shot down on Aug. 2, 1942. While she couldn’t see his face as it was covered in bandages, they hit it off as they joked around together during their trek back to safety. They got hitched almost immediately on war’s end. For work after, she continued her pre-war career as a flight instructor, ultimately living to the ripe old age of 91 years old, dying on July 8, 2013.
Going back to the squadron as a whole, given their extreme vulnerability in the air, you might at this point be wondering how these women not only almost all survived, but proved to be so incredibly effective?
Well, given their slow speed, the fact that in a dogfight they’d quickly be made into Swiss cheese by enemy planes, and the fact that they needed to deploy their paltry payloads at extremely low altitudes to actually accurately hit a target, meaning ground based crew could likewise easily turn the pilots of these craft into wreckage riders, flying missions in daylight with any regularity wasn’t really an option if one liked to keep breathing.
Thus, in an era before incredibly accurate terrain mapping and GPS systems to help avoid said terrain, these women voluntarily hopped inside their antiquated pieces of equipment and ascended to the heavens in darkness- the darker the better.
Stealth was their only way of surviving, and they used it to their advantage at every opportunity. Navigating in darkness towards their assigned enemy targets, usually hugging the ground as much as possible until getting close to their targets to avoid being spotted by enemy aircraft, once they located their targets, the women would employ a number of strategies to actually get close enough to deliver their deadly payloads. These included doing things like flying in groups and intentionally having one or two of the planes up high attract the attention and fire from those on the ground, while others would idle their engine and try to slip in closely undetected. Another strategy was to do what is generally considered in aviation 101 as a great way to die, especially in the often frigid environments these women were flying in- cut their engines completely in flight and at relatively low altitudes.
They’d then silently descend onto their targets until almost literally right over the heads of the enemy and finally drop their bombs, kick the engine back to life (hopefully) and get back to base as fast as possible to be loaded back up and sent out again and again to the front line.
Describing this, the chief of staff for the 588th, Irina Rakobolskaya, noted, “One girl managed to fly seven times to the front line and back in her plane. She would return, shaking, and they would hang new bombs, refuel her plane, and she’d go off to bomb the target again.”
Popova would state of this strategy, “We flew in sequence, one after another, and during the night, we never let them rest… the Germans made up stories. They spread the rumor that we had been injected with some unknown chemicals that enabled us to see so clearly at night…. This was nonsense, of course. What we did have were clever, educated, very talented girls…”
Effective, one German soldier would later state in an interview after the war of the Night Witches, they were “precise, merciless and came from nowhere.”
Dedicated to delivering their payloads no matter what, one former 588th member stated that occasionally the bombs would get stuck when trying to drop them just over the target. The solution was simply to have one of the two women in the plane scramble out on the wing and kick it loose, often while under heavy enemy fire- all leading author Kate Quin to note, “You women are crazy. You’re incredibly brave, but my god you’re crazy.”
A sentiment Popova would later echo in her waning years, stating, “I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes. I can still imagine myself as a young girl up there in my little bomber and I ask myself, Nadia, how did you do it?”
Moving on to the nickname the Germans gave them and which they would so proudly embrace once they learned of it, it is widely speculated that this was because of the wooshing sound the planes made as they glided down through the air, like the sound a witch flying on her broomstick. However, there is no primary documentation backing this speculation up at all, despite it being almost universally repeated. And, for our part, we’re just guessing not a single German soldier ever actually had heard the wooshing sound of a witch flying on a broomstick to compare. So allow us to suggest our own alternate hypothesis- that it wasn’t so much the sound that was the inspiration, but, instead, the name “The Night Witches” was actually because these were women, flying at night, on aircraft made of wood, not unlike a witch flying on a broomstick.
Whatever the case, in the end, for their heroism, almost 1 in 10 of the women of the 588th were honored with the Hero of the Soviet Union award. For reference here, while that award was given out almost 13,000 times over the entire life of the Soviet Union, the badass ladies of the 588th accounted for approximately 1/4 of all women who ever received it.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Russian military aircraft — everything from long-range bombers to advanced fighters to spy planes — have ventured close to Alaska three times in one month, twice prompting US F-22 stealth fighters to intercept the aircraft.
Two pairs of unidentified Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew past northern Alaska Sept. 21, 2018, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced in a statement, noting that while the surveillance aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, they remained in international airspace.
The flight follows an alarming incident Sept. 20, 2018, in which two unresponsive Russian Tu-160 bombers approached the British coastline, causing France and the UK to scramble fighters to intercept the supersonic aircraft.
“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement, adding, “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”
A Russian Tupolev Tu-160.
Japan encountered similar problems on Sept. 19, 2018, when it sent fighters to intercept Russian fighter jets approaching Japanese airspace. The same thing happened in early September 2018.
Two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers accompanied by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets approached western Alaska on Sept. 11, 2018, leading the US to dispatch two F-22s in response.
A similar incident occurred on Sept. 1, 2018, when two of the same type of bomber entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska-based NORAD F-22 fighters were sent out to deal with that situation as well.
Following the first incident early September 2018, American defense officials speculated that the Russian bombers may have been practicing for possible cruise missile strikes on US missile defense systems in Alaska, although the true purpose of the flights is difficult to discern.
While seemingly disconcerting, Russia does this sort of thing fairly regularly. Russian Tu-160 bombers flew past Alaska in August 2018, and another pair of bombers did the same in May 2018. These flights come at a time in which tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US and Philippine troops have reportedly been training for a potential island invasion scenario, which is a real possibility as tensions rise in the disputed South China Sea.
On April 10, 2019, US and Filipino forces conducted a joint airfield seizure exercise on a Lubang Island, located adjacent to the sea, in what was a first for the allies, Channel News Asia reported April 11, 2019.
The drill was practice for a real-world situation in which a foreign power has seized control of an island in the Philippines, taking over the its airfield, GMA News reported.
“If they [the Filipinos] were to have any small islands taken over by a foreign military, this is definitely a dress rehearsal that can be used in the future,” Maj. Christopher Bolz, a US Army Special Forces company commander involved in planning the exercises, told CNA.
“I think the scenario is very realistic, especially for an island nation such as the Philippines,” Bolz added.
US Marines and Philippine marines land on the beach in assault amphibious vehicles during an exercise in Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 3, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)
The Philippines requested this type of training last year. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must be ready to any eventualities,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Pondanera, commander of the exercise control group with the AFP-SOCOM, explained.
Balikatan exercises are focused primarily on “maintaining a high level of readiness and responsiveness, and enhancing combined military-to-military relations and capabilities,” the Marine Corps said in a recent statement. Balikatan means “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog.
Both the US military and the Marines have stressed that the ongoing exercises are not aimed at China, although some of the activities, such as the counter-invasion drills, seem to suggest otherwise.
Thitu Island, known as Pagasa in the Philippines, is the only Philippine-controlled island in the contested South China Sea with an airfield, and the current drills come as Manila has accused China of sending paramilitary forces to “swarm” this particular territory.
“Let us be friends, but do not touch Pagasa Island and the rest,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a recent message to China. “If you make moves there, that’s a different story. I will tell my soldiers, ‘Prepare for suicide mission.'”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippines lacks the firepower to stand up to China, but it is protected under a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.
In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed US commitment to defend the Philippines, stating that “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.”
If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.
In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.
The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.
(USS Constitution Museum Collection)
USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.
The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.
The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.
It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.
In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.
The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.
The P-38 Lighting was a superb long-range fighter in all theaters of the war. The plane is best known for the “Zero Dark Thirty” operation of the Pacific Theater – the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Capt. Tom Lanphier.
But the P-38 didn’t get there right away.
In fact, given its ground-breaking design, it was going through a lot of teething problems.
According to AcePilots.com, one of the biggest problems was compressibility. The P-38 was one of the first planes to deal with it due to its high speed (up to 420 miles per hour), especially when they dove.
This P-38 compressibility chart is taken from a USAAF P-38 pilot training manual. Pilots of early P-38s (ones without the 1943 dive flap retrofit) were advised against steep dives as compressibility would force the plane to dive more steeply as well as immobilize the controls, a situation that could prove fatal if initiated below 25,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force graphic)
What would happen is a shock wave of compressed air would form, keeping the plane’s elevators from working. The P-38s would be caught in a dive, and unable to pull out until they got to lower altitudes.
As a result, German fighters knew that diving was a way to escape. One pilot who had a close call was Air Force legend Robin Olds, who described his incident in an episode of “Dogfights.”
After a lot of work, Lockheed designed some flaps that would help address the issue by changing the airflow enough so the elevators would be able to function.
A number of kits were put together to be installed on P-38s in the field, but those destined to go to England never got there, hamstringing the P-38s there.
A Royal Air Force pilot mistook the United States Army Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo plane carrying the kits for a Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol plane. Given the Condor’s reputation, they were prime targets. The C-54 was shot down, and the kits were lost.
As a result, the P-38s went into combat unable to pursue a German fighter diving to escape the “Fork Tailed Devil” and fight another day.
Nintendo’s new version of the Nintendo Switch costs just $200, and it’s scheduled to arrive on Sep. 20, 2019.
The Nintendo Switch Lite, which was revealed on July 10, 2019, after months of rumors, is similar to the flagship $300 Nintendo Switch in many ways — and crucially different in a few ways.
Outside of price, here’s how the two Nintendo Switch versions stack up:
1. The Nintendo Switch Lite costs 0 less because it’s a portable-only console.
The Nintendo Switch is named as such for its ability to switchbetween form factors.
You can take it on-the-go, as a handheld console! You can dock it at home and play games on your TV, as a home console! You can even prop it up on its built-in kickstand, detach the two gamepads, and play multiplayer games with a friend, as a standalone screen/console! Madness!
The Nintendo Switch Lite, however, isn’t quite so verstatile. It’s intended for one thing: Handheld gaming.
Like the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS before it, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a portable game console. It runs the same games as the Nintendo Switch, but it can only be used as a portable game console.
2. The Nintendo Switch Lite is smaller than the flagship Nintendo Switch, in both its body and screen sizes.
On the standard, 0 Nintendo Switch console, the touch screen is 6.2 inches. On the new Nintendo Switch Lite, the touch screen comes in at 5.5 inches.
Similarly, as seen above, the overall size of the Switch Lite’s body is shorter and skinnier than the standard Switch console.
3. The Joy-Con gamepads don’t detach from the Switch Lite.
Another major selling point of the original Nintendo Switch console was its removable gamepads — the so-called “Joy-Con” controllers. A single Nintendo Switch console, with Joy-Cons, is a two-player standalone gaming system! Pretty incredible!
But the Nintendo Switch Lite is a handheld console, intended for a single person to use it as a handheld console. Thus, the Joy-Cons are built directly into the hardware.
Notably, you can pair various other Switch controllers to the Switch Lite — the Joy-Cons, for instance, or the Switch Pro Controller — which is handy if you still want to play multiplayer games like “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” on the itty-bitty screen.
4. The d-pad is an actual d-pad now.
For many, the version of a d-pad on the left Joy-Con was an abomination. Four directional buttons? Instead of a connected d-pad? What?!
The Nintendo Switch Lite solves that issue by putting in a standard d-pad.
5. The battery life is a little better on the Switch Lite.
Are you looking for a whopping half hour increase in battery life? You’ve come to the right place: The Switch Lite is exactly that. Instead of a maximum of 6.5 hours (like the original Switch), the Nintendo Switch Lite has a maximum of 7 hours.
As always, though, battery life will differ based on the game you’re playing: Games with intense graphical needs will chew through your battery faster, as will playing games online. So if you’re playing “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” online with the brightness up, your mileage will very likely vary.
6. The Switch Lite comes in three colors: Yellow, Grey, and Turquoise.
The standard Nintendo Switch has a few different color options based primarily around swapping Joy-Cons of various colors, but the Nintendo Switch Lite is going all-in on color choice.
In addition to the three seen above — the standard colors that the Switch Lite will be offfered in — expect special editions, like the “Pokémon” one that arrives this November with the new game “Pokémon Sword Shield.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.