On Oct. 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter wrapped the Space Medal of Honor around the neck of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon. It was the first-ever of such medals awarded, even though the medal was authorized by Congress in 1969 — the year Armstrong actually landed on the moon.
Better late than never.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson. Armstrong, one of six astronauts to be presented the medal, was awarded for his performance during the Gemini 8 mission and the Apollo 11 mission.
The list of men also receiving the Space Medal of Honor that day was a veritable “who’s who” of NASA and Space Race history: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and — posthumously — Virgil “Gus” Grissom. They received the medal from the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and on the recommendation of the NASA administrator.
Today, as the list of Space Medal of Honor recipients grows, it continues to have such esteemed names joining their ranks, as earning it requires an extraordinary feat of heroism or some other accomplishment in the name of space flight while under NASA’s administration. Just going to the moon doesn’t cut it anymore — Buzz Aldrin still does not have one.
President Clinton presented the Congressional Space Medal of Honor to Captain James Lovell for his command of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission. Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13 the same year he received the medal.
(Clinton Presidential Library)
Recipients can also receive the award for conducting scientific research or experiments that benefit all of mankind in the course of their duties. In practice, however, most of the recipients of the Space Medal of Honor died in the course of their duties. The crew of the ill-fated Challenger disaster who died during liftoff and the crew of the Columbia shuttle, who died during reentry are all recipients. To date, only 28 astronauts have earned the Space Medal of Honor, and 17 of those were awarded it posthumously.
Though the award is a civilian award, it is allowed for wear on military uniforms, but the ribbon comes after all other decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces.
In the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is a selling point. It hearkens back to the cinematic classics of Akira Kurosawa by putting the duels of feudal samurai into a sci-fi setting. When we watch Jedi go toe-to-toe on-screen, it sets our imaginations ablaze. And when it comes to merchandise, there are lightsaber toys flying off the shelves, as every kid wants to get their hands on that ultimate blade.
While this weapon is all-powerful and completely practical in both fiction and our imaginations, in reality, there are a number of headaches that would come with using a high-powered energy blade in contemporary combat.
1. Lightsabers are useless against guns
Let’s get the obvious shortcoming out of the way: range. A lightsaber’s max effective range is about three feet out from the user’s hand. Blasters, on the other hand, reach much further.
We can cut the lightsaber a bit of slack since the blasters in Star Wars aren’t shooting at the speed of light, or even at a fraction of the muzzle velocity of an M4. Wired recently calculated the speed of blaster rounds at 34.9m/s (or 78mph) — similar to a Major League Baseball pitch. So, it’s feasible that our heroes can deflect the lasers at a constant rate like they do in the films, but you’d definitely tire yourself out, like a baseball batter constantly swinging at fastballs.
But we’re not fighting anyone who uses blasters, so… they’re basically only useful against other lightsabers.
2. You can’t really practice with lightsabers
Imagine how troops practice with their weapons. There’s dry training (training that doesn’t involve actually firing the rifle) and time at the range where you fire at a designated target. This becomes a little more challenging when you’re using a weapon that only has two settings: “off” and “able to slice through feet of hardened steel.”
Any practice with a lightsaber would need to be done with a fake. By practicing with a real one, you’d run the risk of chopping off your buddy’s arm.
Your only options are this ball thing or some rocks…
3. It’s worthless if you don’t have the force
Without any Jedi training, anyone who picks up a lightsaber would probably chop off their hand. Or they’ll drop it and watch it burn a hole through to the core of the planet.
And even Jedi Masters aren’t that great at fighting…
4. There’s no safety on a lightsaber
Let’s look at the basic build of a lightsaber: There’s handle that you hold onto, the extremely deadly blade, and the button that turns it on. Nowhere on the device is there any kind of safety mechanism.
If you bump into a chair and accidentally hit the button while it’s holstered, your leg gets cut off. If you’re fighting a Jedi, they could (spoiler alert) turn it on with the force and it’ll impale you. Imagine how many lightsaber battles would’ve been ended sooner if, while duelists lock sabers and stare each other down, someone just force pushes their adversary’s lightsaber.
In the lead up to World War II, the U.S. Army Air Force had to make tough decisions on how to spend limited defense dollars. Decades of strict budgets after World War I left capabilities across the military underdeveloped, and the Air Forces decided to spend their part of the pie focusing on strategic bombing.
When the Army Air Force was looking for a new bomber in the early 1930s, they floated the idea of getting a beastly four-engine bird. Most bombers had two engines at the time, but it was thought a larger, four-engine plane could carry more bombs a longer way.
Boeing proved this was true with their Model 299. It had four engines and could carry 8,000 pounds of bombs while flying at faster speeds than other bombers of the day. It carried 13 large machine guns, mostly .50-cals. A reporter for The Seattle Times dubbed it a “flying fortress” in a photo caption and Boeing ran with it.
The future looked good for the Model 299 as it dominated a fly-off competition in 1935. But then it crashed and so was disqualified. Worse, it turned out that that the Model 299 was way more expensive than its primary competitors, and so the Army chief of staff ordered a two-engine bomber instead.
And the new doctrine did treat the planes like they were fortresses, even though the fortress moniker originated with a journalist and was adopted by salesmen. As navigator Bob Culp recalled in 2008, “When you realize you’re protected by a very thin skin of aluminum, you realize you’re not really in a fortress.”
Basically, 9-12 planes would fly in a box so their guns would cover all angles of attack. Three or more of these boxes would fly together. There was a lead box, then a box that flew higher, and finally a trail box that flew low.
With 36 planes formed into three boxes, there were 468 machine guns present. They would have 324,000 rounds of ammunition between them. The spread of a single .50-cal. machine gun would fire rounds across a spread 600 yards wide when firing at planes 1,000 yards away. With 468 planes firing 600-yard-wide spreads, it was thought they could form an actual wall of deadly steel at oncoming fighters.
And so the doctrine was approved, and aviation officers fooled themselves that B-17s really could defend themselves.
But then American B-17s made their European combat debut in 1942. The planes flying over Europe in daytime proved easy pickings.
Flak gunners didn’t give the first crap about all those machine guns on the planes. Worse, B-17 pilots couldn’t maintain the precise boxes necessary for 360-degree coverage, and gunners couldn’t always keep the proper fields of fire.
Crews could head home, their duty fulfilled, after 25 missions. Only 1 in 4 would survive to reach that milestone. On one of America’s first large bomber raids in 1942, less than 300 bombers set off for Nazi-occupied Europe and 60 of them were lost, an attrition of over 20 percent.
Even when new fighters joined the war, the problem persisted anytime the B-17s outflew their escorts. In October 1943 the Eighth Air Force flew Mission Number 115 against factories in Schweinfurt, Germany. The 291-plane formation survived well while British Supermarine Spitfires and then P-47 Thunderbolts escorted them to the border. But then they were alone against German fighters.
Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.
The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.
4. OC-135 Open Skies
This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.
5. E-8C Joint STARS
The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.
6. B-52 Stratofortress
Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.
7. F-35A Lightning II
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)
Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)
8. CV-22 Osprey
The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.
9. B-1B Lancer
The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.
The Toronto Maple Leafs held a stunning tribute to the victims that died after a van rammed through several pedestrians in Toronto on April 23, 2018.
During the hockey match against the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs’ announcer referenced the incident in which a van hit and killed at least 10 people and injured 15.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, our first responders, and to all those affected,” the announcer said during the game. “All of Toronto is with you.”
After observing a brief moment of silence, the crowd cheered and sang along in unison with singer Martina Ortiz-Luis for the national anthem.
Around 1:30 p.m. local time, a van jumped the sidewalk and plowed through a busy intersection in downtown Toronto.
Police arrested a male suspect who is believed to have been previously known to Toronto officials. The suspect, identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was arrested after threatening to brandish a firearm. According to law enforcement officials, the incident is believed to have been deliberate.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 2013, the United States government finally admitted the famed Area 51 of conspiracy theory lore was not only real, but also there are a lot of tests that go on there. And that was about it. Even though the area’s existence was confirmed, nothing else about it was revealed.
All we really know is that the area is located north of Las Vegas, at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the desert and there are two other facilities at Groom Lake, the Nevada Test Site and the Nevada Test and Training Range.
The truth is that even though a lot of secret research, testing, and training happens at Area 51, for the most part, it’s just like any other military installation (except there’s no flying over Area 51). You still need access to go on the base and if you go on the base without access, a number of things could happen.
Just like any other military base, how you illegally enter the base will determine how Air Force security forces (or whoever is guarding Area 51) responds to you. So, in short, swarming Area 51 like the internet planned to do a few years back would go terribly, terribly wrong for everyone involved.
If you were to somehow find yourself on the base without being authorized to be there, there’s no roving execution squad driving around to find infiltrators. I mean, they are looking for infiltrators, but security forces isn’t going to summarily execute one.
Air Force security forces are authorized to use deadly force on an intruder, as every sign outside of a base installation says. They don’t, however, have to use deadly force. In fact, before they start shooting at you, you have to demonstrate three things: intent, opportunity, and capability of either using deadly force yourself, causing bodily harm, or damaging or destroying resources.
So tiptoeing onto a base might get you captured and questioned, but it won’t get you executed unless you start going all “True Lies” on anyone who happens to accidentally cross your path. Again, this is true of any base. At Area 51, the entrances to the Groom Lake area are really far from any actual buildings, so there’s no opportunity there.
Driving like a bat out of hell through a gate, however, might demonstrate all three conditions at the same time, so there are good odds that the shooting will start immediately, maybe even before you make it to the gate. This actually happened at a regular base in 2010, when the driver of a stolen car refused to slow down or stop at the entrance of Luke Air Force Base.
The driver got lit up by Air Force security forces and though he made it onto the base, he didn’t make it far. He crashed the vehicle almost immediately and was arrested by local authorities.
At Area 51, the third criteria for the use of deadly force might be interpreted a little more loosely, considering the installation’s national security mission. If the Air Force is okay with assuming that anyone not authorized to be in the area has the intent and capability of causing harm to national security and is capable of doing whatever it takes to do so, then they might just assume that the only good intruder is a dead one.
Kim Jong Un doesn’t take well to being dissed. Remember how North Korea threatened Sony over The Interview? Though, one has to like the fact that in that film, Kim became a firework to the tune of Katy Perry’s Firework.
So, here are some of the ways Kim knocks off those who dissed him. This dissing can take the form of trying to steal a propaganda poster (which lead to a fatal prison stay), possessing the Bible, or even having American or South Korean films in your possession. So, how might Kim do the deed?
Here are some of the ways he’s offed those who angered him in the past:
Everyone’s starving in North Korea. That includes man’s best friend. Kim Jong Un, though, is reportedly more than willing to feed dogs. Guess he’s trying to spin himself as an animal lover with this method.
6. Anti-Aircraft Guns
This is probably the most notorious method. Kim is known to have used this method on one high-ranking official by the name of Ri Jong Jin who fell asleep during a meeting where the North Korean dictator was giving a speech. He and another official who suggested policy changes were blown to smithereens at Kim’s orders.
Kim Jong Un used this deadly nerve agent earlier this year to kill his half-brother, who was seen as a threat. This hit took place in Kuala Lampur, showing that North Korea’s dictator can find a way to kill people he wants dead – even when they flee the hellhole that is North Korea. What’s really awful is how persistent VX is.
4. Machine Guns
Kim Jong Un has also used regular ol’ machine guns on enemies. One reported instance was on an ex-girlfriend, although she later turned up alive. He did use this method to knock off the engineers and architects who designed and built a 23-story building that collapsed and killed 500 people, though.
3. Burned with Flamethrowers
Flamethrowers are considered some of the scariest weapons when wielded in war. Kim Jong Un turned them into a very nasty method of execution for an official who was running a protection racket.
2. Blown up with a Mortar
When Kim Jong Un wants you to mourn, you’d better mourn. One high-ranking official in the North Korean military was busted “drinking and carousing” after Kim Jong Il died in 2011. He got the death penalty, which was carried out by making him stand still while a mortar was fired, obliterating him.
When Kim Jong Un executed his uncle, his aunt was understandably upset. Kim. Though, wasn’t very consoling to his bereaved aunt, and had her poisoned in May 2014.
Yeah, Kim Jong Un can be real nasty when he wants you to go. So, either don’t cross the Pyongyang Psycho, or if you do…make it really worth it.
While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.
Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.
In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.
Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)
The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.
The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.
The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.
Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment; 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, race their M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle toward the opposition force (OPFOR) during a battle simulation exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin.
(Photo by Maj. W. Chris Clyne, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.
Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.
This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2018, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.
The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Here’s what it can do:
Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.
It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.
In defusing tensions between the United States and North Korea in 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un returned the remains of 55 allied troops, kept by the North for the previous 65 years or more. Almost 7,700 members of the United States Military remain unidentified from the Korean War, which killed more than 36,000.
North Korea returned the remains in July 2018 after a historic summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. It was a first for a sitting President to meet the reclusive leader of North Korea and a first for the North Korean dictator to meet with a non-Chinese foreign leader outside of the Hermit Kingdom.
Transfer cases, containing the remains of what are believed to be U.S. service members lost in the Korean War, line a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)
Unidentified remains were transferred from the United Nations Command in South Korea to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the team that manages the repatriation of American war dead, identifies them, and ensures they are returned to their families for a proper burial. They were received in an “honorable carry” ceremony in Hawaii.
The only personal item returned by North Korea that could identify any of the remains was the dog tag of Army medic Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. It was the first of such returns since President George W. Bush halted the cooperation with North Korea in 2005.
An honor guard detail of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command personnel conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)
DPAA’s mission is to search for, find, and account for missing Defense Department personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and other recent conflicts. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts, with 34,000 believed to be recoverable.
The recently recovered remains have been mostly identified. The lab responsible is still finalizing the process and doing one last quality check before telling the families of the fallen. Master Sgt. McDaniel’s family has already received his dog tags, along with the hope that their long-lost father is among the honored dead on their way home. Only three others have been positively identified thus far.
Trump and Kim are expected to meet again in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2019.
The Battle of Antietam is also known as Sharpsburg. Bull Run is also called Manassas. Shiloh is also Pittsburg Landing. Some of these may be familiar to you, some of them may sound weird. But there is a reason for it, and it’s mainly because of the Soldiers who fought the War Between the States.
History class is difficult enough without having to remember two names for each event. If you grew up around Murfreesboro, chances are good that’s how you (or the older members of your family) refer to the battle. You’d cock your head in bewilderment when someone calls it, “Stone’s River.” Well sorry, Tennessean; there were two American sides to this war and your side lost.
There is a system in place for this duopoly. And it’s not like calling Janet Jackson “Miss Jackson” just because you’re nasty.
When the battles of the ‘War of Southern Independence” were fought, the troops gave them names after what stood out most. The bulk of Union troops, being city dwellers and townspeople, remarked on the natural features of a battlefield. Confederates, by and large from rural areas, remembered the manufactured, populated, or otherwise man-made features of the area. So, where Northerners saw Bull Run, a tributary to the Occoquan River, Southerners thought about the local railroad station nearby in Manassas, Virginia.
So, now the battle had two names.
Many battles are well-known by just one name, however. And for the ones that do have two names, one is typically more known than the other. The reason for that is simple, too: history is written by the victors, and the War of the Rebellion is no different. With a few notable exceptions, the battles were named by the victor.
Author’s note: This is a very hypothetical look at how a fight between two of America’s greatest expeditionary units could play out. Obviously, this battle would never actually happen since paratroopers and Marines rarely fight outside of bars. Both sides can only use their indigenous assets and their rides to the fight, no requesting Patriot missile support or a carrier strike group.
During the short War of Alaskan Secession in 2017, one brutal battle pitted an Army Airborne Brigade Combat Team against a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The fight centered on Fort Glenn, an abandoned World War II airfield on Umnak Island in the center of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division attempted to take the fort for the Alaskan Independence Forces while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit steamed north to capture it for the Federal Forces.
The Alaskans wanted the base to act as an early-warning installation and a platform for controlling Arctic traffic while the Federal Forces needed it as a marshaling and power projection platform for the invasion of Alaska.
The soldiers and Marines raced to the island, each unaware of the other’s plans. 4th Brigade caught a ride from Alaskan Air National Guard C-17s while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rode in on their dedicated Navy ships, the USS Peleliu and the USS Germantown, from where they were already steaming in the northern Pacific.
The paratroopers arrived first, jumping into the grass and wildflowers covering Fort Glenn. After Army pathfinders walked the runway and declared it safe for airland operations, C-17s began ferrying the unit’s heavy equipment onto the base.
It was at this critical moment that the Army colonel learned from one of his UAV operators that the 31st MEU was south of the island and steaming towards Deer Bay, a natural beach that sat at the foot of Fort Glenn.
This was a crisis for the airborne unit. A surprise winter storm approaching mainland Alaska had grounded the F-22s and other fighters captured as the war began, but the commander knew the MEU would still be able to launch its eight Harriers and four attack helicopters with the Navy’s ships safely out of the storm’s path.
The Army had limited options. They could attempt to defend Fort Glenn with what static defenses could be emplaced quickly, hide and set up an ambush at the beaches for when the Marines landed, or withdraw to the nearby high ground at Mount Okmok, a volcano that rarely erupts.
Javelin missile teams jumped out and positioned their launchers to screen for aircraft flying low and slow. Riflemen grabbed their assault packs and began setting up their own positions.
The soldiers waited and watched as the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles crept into view. It wasn’t until the first of the Ospreys and SuperCobras neared the beach and spotted the humvees that the Javelin crews began firing.
The first missiles streaked toward the aircraft, but they had only limited anti-air capabilities. Two SuperCobras and two Ospreys came down, but the rest of the aircraft began evasive maneuvers.
The Humvees moved up from the dead space to give their gunners a shot at the Marines coming in. TOW missiles and 40mm grenades began striking the AAVs making their way to the beach while .50-cal gunners targeted the Marines Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts.
The Marines, though surprised to find the beach occupied, were masters of amphibious warfare. The command quickly ordered the landers to turn south where the terrain around Deer Bay would protect them from the missiles. The AAVs began suppressive fire to cover the movement.
The Marines knew that since the Army fired Javelins, an anti-tank missile that is a risky choice against helicopters, the Javelin was their only anti-air missile. So the Harriers were free to fly just a little too fast and a little too high for the Javelins, and therefore they were able to rain destruction.
Once the Harriers were airborne, it was over for the Army’s heavy weapons platforms. After destroying the Humvees, they went after the Army howitzers and the few M1135 Strykers on the island.
The Army attempted an organized withdrawal to the mountain as the two remaining SuperCobras returned with the Harriers. The LCACs and Landing Craft Units offloaded the Marines’ six Light-Armored Vehicles and 120 humvees. The surviving AAVs swam onto the shores.
Army mortar crews, riflemen, and the surviving Javelin firers fought a valiant delaying action, but the island provided little cover and concealment and they were destroyed.
By the time the storm had passed over the Alaskan mainland and the governor could send reinforcements, the resistance on Umnak Island had been essentially wiped out. There was simply too little cover and concealment for the paratroopers to defend themselves against the air and armored support of a MEU once the Marines knew that they were there.
America has 50 attack submarines in active service designed to tail and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships. China and Russia have dozens more.
Strangely enough, only one submarine battle has been fought underwater in over 100 years of modern submarine warfare — it was a World War II action that saw a British sub with limited firepower attack a much larger German adversary.
The fight took place in 1945, near the end of the war. British intelligence intercepted communications about Operation Caesar, an attempt by Germany to send advanced technology to Japan, helping it stay in the war and, hopefully, buying the Axis a few more months to turn everything around.
The Germans had loaded prototypes and advanced weapon designs as well as German and Japanese scientists onto U-864 with massive amounts of liquid mercury for transport to Japan. Some of the most exciting pieces of technology onboard were jet engines from German manufacturers.
Operation Caesar was launched on Dec. 5, 1944, under the command of Corvette Capt. Ralf-Reimar Wolfram. His rank is the equivalent of a U.S. lieutenant commander or major — fairly junior for such an important mission.
His initial plan was solid. The Allies controlled much of the water he would have to transit, and the beginning was the most dangerous. Britain had solid control of the North Sea, so Wolfram decided to stick to the coast and allow German shore installations to protect him.
Unfortunately for him, he grounded his sub while going through the Kiel Canal and had to head to drydock for repairs. While the boat was being repaired at Bergen, Norway, an attack by British planes dropping “earthquake bombs” damaged the pen and the sub, further delaying the mission.
This delay would prove fatal. Britain had intercepted early communications about the mission, and the delay gave them a chance to send a British submarine to intercept the German one. The HMS Venturer was sent to Fedje, Norway.
Venturer was a fast attack submarine, quick, but with a smaller crew and armament than its enemy. It could fire four torpedoes at once and had a total inventory of eight torpedoes to U-864’s 22.
The British sub, under command of Lt. James S. Launders, moved into position on Feb. 6, 1945. Launders was a distinguished sub commander with 13 kills to his name, including the destruction of a surfaced German submarine. The technological challenges he was facing would still be daunting, though.
The Venturer had only two methods of finding an enemy sub, hydrophones or active sonar. The active sonar would give away his position, but the hydrophones had a limited range. And the boat’s torpedoes were designed to attack ships on the surface.
Worse for Launders and his crew, by the time he arrived, Wolfram and U-864 had already passed their position. The German sub was safely beyond the British position.
But then the German sub’s diesel engines began to misfire. Wolfram had a decision: press forward with his mission and risk engine trouble or failure while sailing north past the Baltic countries and Russia and through the Arctic Circle, or double back for additional repairs.
Out of an abundance of caution, Wolfram headed back to Bergen, taking him right through Launders’ trap.
On February 9, the British crew was monitoring their hydrophones when the misfiring diesel engine on the German sub gave away its position. Launders had his sub stealthily move to the source of the noise where he first saw an open ocean, a sign that the engine noise was coming from underwater.
Then, he saw what he suspected was an enemy periscope, likely the German subs snorkel mast that allowed it to run its diesel engines while shallowly submerged. Launders knew he had his target in front of him.
The Venturer tailed the U-864 for the next few hours. U-864 began taking evasive actions, a sign that it had likely detected the British presence.
The British, running low on battery power, decided to put all their eggs in one basket, attacking with two salvos of four torpedoes. The first salvo was “ripple-fired,” with each torpedo launch coming about 18 seconds after the previous one.
The British sub dove and began re-loading its four tubes. Again, the British fired all four. Of the eight torpedoes, seven were complete misses.
One was a direct hit. The British hydrophone operators heard the torpedo impact, the explosion, the wrenching of iron as the pressure crumpled it like paper, and the dull thud as the wreckage crashed to the sea floor.
The site was undisturbed for almost 60 years until the Norwegian Navy discovered it in 2003. Mercury was leaking from damaged vials, and Norwegian authorities decided to bury the wreck under tons of sand and rocks to prevent further damage to the ecosystem.