Warriors in their Own Words: The 'Tunnel Rats' of Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.

Such a terrifying prospect was reality for the brave “tunnel rats” of Vietnam, soldiers tasked with entering and clearing the makeshift tunnels dug by the VC in Vietnam. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes, clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps. Hear their stories:


In 1946, Viet Minh (a predecessor to Viet Cong) resistance fighters began digging the tunnels and bunkers throughout the countryside to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat. By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100 miles of tunnels from which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing. The numerous ‘spider holes,’ as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called, were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “tunnel rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense as they crawled in to clear these tunnels.

Here’s what you didn’t know about these courageous troops:

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a “tunnel rat”, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War

1. The shorter the better

Many of the “tunnel rats” from Austraila, New Zealand, South Vietnam, and America volunteered for the dangerous position.

However, the brave troops that were picked for the job were commonly the shortest grunts in the platoon — for obvious reasons.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

2. Most “tunnel rat” dogs didn’t work out

It’s well-known that dogs are great at detecting IEDs in modern warfare, but they weren’t too good at sniffing out the many booby traps placed by the North Vietnamese around tunnel entrances.

3. Their rate of fire

If a soldier took enemy contact, their training taught them to adjust their rate of fire. Instead of firing multiple shots, the troop would commonly fire single shots, making use of echoes to confuse the enemy. After deafening shots rang out and reverberated off of tunnel walls, the enemy would left puzzled as to how many rounds they had left.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

4. To wear a gas mask or not to wear a gas mask…

When entering a tunnel, many troops decided against wearing gas masks as they obstructed breathing and vision. Although crawling into a wall of gas was a possibility, many “tunnel rats” chose to take their chances.

Check out Simple History‘s video below to learn more about the dangerous job these brave tunnel rats had.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Howard Hughes and the CIA teamed up to steal a sunken Soviet submarine

Legendary American billionaire Howard Hughes had a knack for making money. It seemed like everything the business magnate touched turned to pure gold. So when he built a massively expensive drilling ship to explore the ocean depths for minerals, no one batted an eye.

Howard Hughes in front of a sea plane

It even sparked an interest by other companies to explore sea beds for valuable and rare minerals. 

What no one knew was that the geological explorer wasn’t designed for mineral extractions at all. Instead, it was a joint venture between Howard Hughes and the Central Intelligence Agency to pull a sunken Soviet submarine from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. 

In 1968, the Soviet Navy lost a new submarine, designated by the United States as K-129. The reasons or timing of the loss were not known, but American intelligence did notice a large Soviet fleet deployment in the Pacific Ocean. Analysts determined that it was likely due to the loss of a sub, so the U.S. decided to search for the submarine too.

The Soviets eventually gave up. The Americans found K-129. When the Russian fleet returned to normal activity in the Pacific, the Americans launched a plan to recover the sub, along with any intelligence it could gather on its ability to launch missiles and whatever else could be salvaged. 

But the boat was below more than 16,000 feet of water, more than 1500 miles from Hawaii. Any recovery ship large enough to pull K-129 from the bottom of the ocean would not be missed by Soviet intelligence. That’s where elusive billionaire Howard Hughes came in.

The Hughes Aircraft Company was already a major defense contractor with the U.S. government, developing (among other things) the first air-to-air combat missile for the U.S. Air Force. He soon announced to the world that he would build a deep-sea drilling platform named the Hughes Glomar Explorer to search for manganese on the ocean floor. 

Howard Hughes's Glomar Explorer
The Glomar Explorer at the Port of Long Beach

Coming from an eccentric though successful billionaire like Hughes, this announcement not only sparked interest in such exploration by other deep-sea drillers, but it provided an excellent cover for the platform’s real mission: lifting K-129 from the bottom of the Pacific. It was code-named Project Azorian.

K-129 was more than 330 feet long and displaced more than 3,500 tons. This required Howard Hughes’ company, Global Marine Development, to build a ship that had advanced stabilization measures and could lower three miles of salvage equipment deeper than any previous salvage in human history. It took three years to build the Glomar Explorer and move it into position. 

The USS Halibut, a nuclear submarine, was used to locate and photograph the wreck of K-129. After locating it and targeting the section of the wreck to be lifted into the hold of the drill ship. Once salvaged, the entire operation would take place aboard the Glomar Explorer, but underwater. In 1974, the ship was in position and the salvage began. Howard Hughes was about to become a bit more famous– but things didn’t go exactly as planned.

A mechanical claw was designed and lowered to the ocean floor essentially by building the claw’s lowering pipe as it dropped to the submarine below. It was built 60 feet at a time. The claw slipped through a hole in K-129. To be lifted, the claw’s piping was dismantled and the claw raised. 

As the claw was being raised, however, structural failures in the steel used to forge the claw caused it to fail and as much as two-thirds of K-129 fell back to the ocean floor. What the CIA was able to raise, however, was an intelligence gold mine. This included Russian code books and nuclear torpedos. 

Six sailors were also recovered and given a proper burial at sea. A CIA camera crew documented the recovery but the only footage ever released was the funeral of these six sailors, given to the Soviet government. 

Howard Hughes’ ship, the Glomar Explorer was a marvel of engineering but outside of raising Soviet submarines, it was inefficient and costly to maintain. It was leased by the Navy to private companies for mineral exploration for the next 20 years but eventually found its way to a Chinese scrapyard. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines take Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for nighttime ocean test

The world is constantly advancing around us. As the most feared fighting force in the world, it is imperative Marines advance their capabilities along with it. The Corps’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle is here to improve Marines’ amphibious capabilities.

Marines with the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, tested the ACV’s maneuverability and performance during low-light and night operations on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s beaches, Dec. 16-18, 2019.

The Marines spent hours driving ACVs the Southern California surf and in the open ocean to assess how well they could interface with the vehicle and conduct operations in low light.


“AVTB has been on Camp Pendleton since 1943,” said David Sandvold, the director of operations for AVTB. “We are the only branch in the military who uses our warfighters to test equipment that is in development.”

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle ashore during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle into the ocean during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle into the ocean during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines take a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out for open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle along the beach during low-light surf transit testing at Camp Pendleton, December 18, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Marines drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle out of the water after open ocean low-light testing at Camp Pendleton, December 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

“I am loyal to tracks, but the more I learn about these vehicles, the more impressed I get with all its features and how it will improve our warfighting capabilities,” said Sandvold.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force has more pilots but struggles to train them

The Air Force is grappling with a protracted pilot shortage, with the total force lacking about 2,000 fliers, the majority of them fighter pilots.

Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.


Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine in July 2018 that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.

The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.

“When I first started there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Capts. Wes Sloat, left, and Jared Barkemeger, 7th Airlift Squadron pilots, take off in a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.

The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.

“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.

“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.

Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

President Donald Trump and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, second right, with two US Air Force pilots at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 15, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.

In 2018, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered pilots.

Koscheski said the stand down led the force to train about 200 fewer pilots than expected, though he and other Air Force officers have said that pause gave the service time to reevaluate the training.

A syllabus redesign was done “first and foremost … to create better pilots,” Koscheski said. “The side benefit is it now takes five to nine weeks less to get pilots through pilot training, so … we’re able to get more [students] through [the pipeline], but now it just increases production.”

Researchers from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies have also called on the Air Force to increase its use of contractors, arguing in a report in early 2018 that “innovative uses of contractors in the training pipeline” were needed to ramp up pilot production without depriving front-line squadrons of fliers.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

A 64th Aggressor pilot on the flight line after a Red Flag 17-4 exercise sortie on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 25, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

The Air Force has already brought in contractors to fill the role of “red air,” in which US pilots pose as rival aircraft.

Koscheski told Air Force Magazine that the service was considering bringing in contractors to be instructors.

‘A leap into the unknown’

The lack of instructors has led some training squadrons to implement stop-gap measures and compensate in other ways in order to use their limited resources in the most efficient way.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona found out in 2017 it would only get 13 of the 26 F-16 instructor pilots it requested. Rather than spread the pain, the wing commander sent 12 of the new instructors to the 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which will take over F-16 training as the 56th shifts to F-35 training operations.

Back at Luke, Air Force officers decided to shift their remaining resources to the squadron training on newer-model F-16s. That shift was a better use of resources and better for pilots, they told Aviation Week in early 2018, but it still was “a leap into the unknown.”

Other bases are making changes to the training itself to handle more pilots with the same number of instructors.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Pilots prepare a T-6 Texan II for a training flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, June 13, 2018. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft Air Force Pilots learn to fly before moving on to more advanced aircraft.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Pettis)

At Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Air Force officials are preparing for an increase of more than 100 student pilots in the next few years. By 2021, the base expects to have about 450 student pilots.

“We have an increased student load coming, and from 2017 to 2021 the forecast is a 34 percent increase in students,” Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, told The Oklahoman in July 2018.

But officials at Vance don’t expect to get more instructors for several years. Judy said the base would instead increase its use of simulators and change other parts of training in order to adjust to the increase.

“We believe we have found a way to trim off about six weeks from the current 54 weeks of training that students go through,” Judy said. “That will allow us a greater throughput [of students] with the amount of instructors we currently have now.”

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

popular

Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

What happens when U.S. troops in Afghanistan take fire from Taliban fighters, fortified inside a building?


It’s pretty simple. Call in the Warthogs to bring on the BRRRRRT.

The BRRRRRT comes from the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The Avenger fires beer-bottle-sized 30 mm chunks of aluminum alloy at 3,342 feet per second.

More than one re-upload on the internet says the attack is from a Pakistani F-16, but the distinctive BRRRRRT from the GAU-8 is an unmistakeable sound.

So whatever this building is made of – concrete, cinderblocks, who knows – didn’t stand a chance. It’s no wonder everyone who calls in close air support and gets an A-10 gun run has the same reaction to the jaw-dropping power of the GAU.


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why a Civil War soldier would drop a gun to pick up his unit’s flag

If during the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, you watched the superb 1993 movie that starred Martin Sheen, Sam Elliot, Jeff Daniels, and Tom Berenger, you probably noticed something that may not have made a lot of sense at a couple of points in the movie.


Perhaps the best-known instance is at the 3:55:09 mark of the Extended Edition of “Gettysburg” (available at Amazon.com) where an artillery round takes out a group of Confederate troops, including the soldier holding the flag.

The troops re-organize to fill the gap, but one of the troops picks up the flag and drops his rifle. That’s right – that soldier has taken his gun out of the fight!

Screenshot from Gettysburg trailer

Sounds completely crazy, right? What the heck is going through someone’s mind that they would take their gun out of the fight in the middle of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle? I can just hear Gunny Hartman shouting, “What is your major malfunction?”

Well, in 1863, war was much different. There were no radios. Messages were delivered by junior aides – essentially acting as runners with messages back and forth. Blue Force Tracker was 140 years into the future. But there was still the need to tell whose units were friendly, which were okay to shoot at, and where the heck all of them were.

The answer back then was to have each regiment have a specialized flag – or “colors.” So, now everyone – from the commanding general to the lowest private knows which unit was where. This was important, as the Minnesota Historical Society noted, since it meant troops could rally behind them for a charge, or to fall back.

That meant whoever held the colors had to have a lot of guts. He was out in the open, and he was a target. During some fighting on the first day of Gettysburg, one Confederate regiment had 10 different color bearers in 10 minutes, and lost 14 color bearers that day. The Union regiment opposite them lost at least three of their own.

The colors had such importance that many a Medal of Honor citation involved either capturing an enemy unit’s colors, or saving the colors of a soldier’s own unit. Given that importance, it is not surprising then, that in 1863, a soldier’s logical response when a color bearer was hit would be to drop his gun and pick up the colors.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s a better way to open North Korea to the world

International diplomacy between nuclear nations, like the US and North Korea, doesn’t rate as an easy task for even the most seasoned statesmen, but for some reason it’s commonly discussed in horse racing terms — carrots and sticks.

In diplomatic negotiations, a nation will offer another nation a carrot, or some kind of benefit, while threatening a stick, some kind of mobilization of leverage.

Carrots can be economic benefits or normalizing relations. Sticks can be military force or economic sanctions. Today’s diplomats still talk about North Korea in these terms, or as you would talk about training a horse.


But Christopher Lawrence of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider that approach could be all wrong, and hidden in the history of failed talks with North Korea could be a better way forward.

North Korea won’t trade missiles for carrots

“If the regime ever agrees to give up nuclear weapons, it will not be for fleeting rewards or written security guarantees, but for a long-term, completely different political relationship with the United States going forward,” Lawrence wrote in his new paper on North Korean diplomacy.

In other words, carrots won’t solve the crisis. Demonstrably, sticks, in the form of sanctions and military threats, haven’t solved it either.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
North Korea’s most carrot-looking missile, the Hwasong-14.
(KCTV)

Instead, Lawrence proposes looking back to 1994, when North Korea’s nuclear program was in its infancy and the US actually significantly rolled back its plutonium capability, which it could use to make weapons, in exchange for building light water reactors, which are used for nuclear power.

No other acts of diplomacy with North Korea ever had the same level of physical results. Instead of the US simply cutting a check and promising not to invade, a US-led consortium began building energy infrastructure, which could function as a physical bond to imply a commitment to peace.

Therefore, US carrots to North Korea “will only be meaningful if they speak credibly about the political future — and physical, real-world manifestations of a changing relationship, such as shared infrastructure investments, often speak more credibly than written words,” writes Lawrence.

Talk is cheap. Infrastructure isn’t.

Kim Jong Un apparently wants the US to guarantee his security, but “written security assurances are less than credible,” Lawrence told Business Insider. “If we get what we want out of North Korea, why would we follow through?”

North Korea seems sensitive to shifting US rhetoric, as its reaction to being compared to Libya and Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal clearly show.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Michael Vadon)

Instead, Lawrence said the US and its allies should focus on building real infrastructure in North Korea to improve the country. The US’s carrot here would happen at a synchronized pace to North Korea taking steps to denuclearize.

“I think think the main insight is we should not be thinking in terms of gifts to the regime, but points of US skin in the game,” Lawrence said.

A slow push of US investment and infrastructure in North Korea would allow Kim to control the propaganda narrative, and own the achievements as his own, rather than handouts from Trump, which could help sell the deal.

This could potentially solve the issue of North Korea opening up to the outside world too fast and becoming destabilized when its impoverished, closed-off population gets a taste of outside life.

Also, Kim seems to genuinely want infrastructure help, reportedly telling South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in “I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” in his country.

The continuing US relationship with North Korea and the physical presence of US investment in the country provides a mechanism for keeping the talks on track. If North Korea doesn’t make good on its end, the US “can turn the lights out” on its investments, according to Lawrence.

Far from thinking about who will win or lose the upcoming summit by counting up the carrots and sticks at the end of the horse race, Lawrence offers a vision of what building a lasting peace in Korea could look like.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of February 13th

Hump Day Horoscopes in your mouth, you nasty boots. Noadamus here, operator and internet prophet with crystal magic who can see the future. Okay, I made the crystal crap part up, but I was raised by hippies and weaned on goats’ milk, so open your ear holes and listen to PaPa Bear.


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Go crazy. You’re not paying.

Aquarius

Some weeks suck, but not this one — not for you, at least. Your favorite kind of friends want to party, the ones who pay for everything. Money is basically falling into your pocket and your mental capacity is amped up to the max. You might even manage to keep your secret love affair hidden. Just watch your mouth through the weekend, because tempers run hot this week.

Pisces

Can’t go home ’cause you have to work past COB and Household 6 won’t shut up about it? Just take a deep breath, everything starts to look better closer to the weekend. You might even find some time to nerd out on whatever Dungeons Dragons spells you’re casting. By next Wednesday, you’re a powerhouse, smoldering and passionate.

Aries

Seriously dude (or dudette), chill the F’ out, ‘fore you give yo-self a hernia. Your energy is almost unlimited, but everyone’s patience is not. You’re kicking ass and taking names, crushing every PT event, and you’re goddamn Jonny Ringo at the range, but you don’t know everything, and next week, a family member won’t hesitate to remind you, repeatedly.

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You’re gonna get some attention. Doesn’t mean you want it.

Taurus

The weekend brings a surge of energy, useful during CQB and for meeting your future ex-girl/boyfriend. Your tactical knowledge pays off and thrusts you into a leadership role, but causes you more disruption than your stubborn ass would care for. You are likely to be recognized as the subject-matter expert.

Gemini

Wednesday has you on edge. Take a knee and drink water. You’ll live… probably. Not everyone is out to get you, and people still like you, and yes, everybody thinks you’re clever. Snuggle up with your woobie, and if you can suck it up until next week, your silver tongue will return and you’ll be a superstar at work again. Speaking of stars, if you got pipes, middle of next week is a great time to rock an open mic.

Cancer

Whatever secrets you’re hiding are subject to rumor and gossip this Wednesday. Just remember your SERE training: say nothing, and by the weekend, people will move on to more interesting talk. Early next week, everyone from your significant other to the MPs to the crustiest Gunny in the division wants to butt heads with you. And they call you sensitive? By the middle of next week, things are starting to look up.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

You’re really only sabotaging yourself.

Leo

Remember that one time you let your friends talk you into doing the stupid-ass sh*t that almost got you court-martialed? Oh wait, that’s this Wednesday. Pull your head out of your ass, Corporal, and try not to pick any more fights at work. Next week looks good for your wallet; guess all that day-trading is finally paying off.

Virgo

Wednesday is a trifecta of suck. The house (or family) is demanding money, friends and coworkers are overly argumentative, and your buddy told everyone about your browser history. It’s called cyber security. Seriously, sergeant. Next week sucks, too, but at least after the weekend, nobody is busting your balls at work. I’m prescribing some meditation classes — you must chillax.

Libra

Why you stirring up so much shit? Your neighbors are pissed, the morons in your unit are pissed, every damn instructor you have to deal with is pissed. You need to ask yourself — who’s actually the asshole here? Here’s a hint: It’s you, you pretentious snob. You cannot win all of these battles and some of these people are on your side. Don’t be such a blue falcon, buddy f*cker.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

It’s probably for the best that you still live in the barracks.

Scorpio

If all of your idiot friends overdraft their credit cards at the gentlemen’s club, does that mean you will, too? Dumb question, we both know you will. Don’t wake up Thursday morning five bills in the hole. In fact, this Wednesday and every night through this weekend, just stay in the barracks and watch a documentary on Buddha or something. Oh yeah, don’t let your aggression get the better of you next week.

Sagittarius

You’re bleeding money trying to keep up with your rent and your drinking escapades. Don’t get mad when people get pissed off by your scandalous behavior and your inability to commit to a relationship. The good news is that next week you will remember you have a job and, even though you will not have the most squared away uniform, your aggression will inspire others and make peers and supervisors alike forget how much of a flake you are.

Capricorn

Trust me, I really want to lie to you and say things are looking up, but… things continue to be terrible for you and you will continue to be a moody asshole. You can’t use this excuse to be a miserable human being; you’re better than that. If you have children, keep them occupied this week or they might burn down your house, and no one wants to listen to you b*tch anymore.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Troops may soon get the lightest helmets ever made

The helmet is an essential piece of gear that protects our troops, but such protection doesn’t come without heft. Even with sophisticated technologies and materials, today’s Modular Integrated Communications Helmet weighs a little over three and a half pounds. That might not sound like much to a reader at home, but when you add on night-vision goggles and a radio, it quickly becomes quite the load for the average soldier to carry on their noggin.

That said, relief may be on the horizon. DuPont, a science company responsible for the development of many advanced materials, announced in a press release that it will be introducing a new, lightweight, synthetic fiber that could lighten helmets by up to 40 percent. The new fiber is known as Tensylon® HA120.


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Here is a look at how Tensylon will be used to lighten helmets.

(DuPont)

“Innovation is a continuous process at DuPont,” said John Richard, vice president and general manager of DuPont Kevlar® and Nomex®.

“We’re constantly looking for new solutions that are stronger, lighter, and more comfortable for the men and women protecting us. They deserve the best protection, so they can stay focused on the high-risk job of safeguarding their communities and their countries.”

The helmet is designed to provide what DuPont calls, “optimum ballistic properties and impact resistance” through the use of a “Tensylon® solid state extruded ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) film technology.” This will not only provide greater protection from bullets, but it will also reduce the threat from “back face deflection” — which is when an impact dislodges another portion of the armor, striking the wearer at a point opposite to the initial impact.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

These Marines from the First Marine Special Operations Battalion could be among troops who benefit from lighter helmets.

(DOD photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Storm)

There’s still a long way to go before this new technology lands in the hands (or on the heads) of troops. Still, it’s a good sign. In an era where troops are constantly expected to tack on a few pounds here, a few ounces there, a lightened load is a welcome relief.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Taiwan is preparing for war by training fighter pilots to use freeways as runways

When a civil war between Chinese powers ended with victory for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the Republic of China’s government retreated to a region of the nation that had only recently been returned from Japanese control, known as Taiwan. They quickly established a provisional capital in Taipei, and so began a half-century long staring contest from across the Pacific Ocean’s Taiwan Strait. Today, tensions remain high between these two Chinese governments, prompting complex foreign relations and sporadic military posturing between each government and their respective allies.


On Tuesday, Taiwan conducted an unusual series of military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against a Chinese attack even after its military installations had been rendered useless by wave after wave of Chinese air strikes and naval bombardments. Taiwan knows China could feasibly neuter their military response capabilities fairly quickly, and in order to stay in the fight, they’d need to get creative with how they field their intercept and attack aircraft. When you’re fresh out of airstrips but still have fighters to scramble, what do you do?

You close down the freeways.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Freeway or Runway? It all depends on the circumstances.

(Photo courtesy of Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau)

“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen told the press on Tuesday. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability. We should maintain a high degree of vigilance.”

As a part of the drills, Taiwan launched four different types of military aircraft from portions of highway that were shut down for use as makeshift airstrips. Long stretches of blacktop normally reserved for slow-moving commuters fighting their way through workday traffic instead became packed with American sourced F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, along with French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan-made IDF fighters. Each aircraft took off carrying a full combat load.

The drills not only demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to scramble fighters and support aircraft from the freeway, it also proved conclusively that Taiwan’s troops can conduct refueling and ammunition replenishment operations right there on the highway, redeploying jets back into the fight quickly even after their air bases have been destroyed.

Taiwan fighters land on highway for Chinese ‘invasion’ wargames

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“There are only a few military air bases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” Air Force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao explained.

Over 1,600 military personnel took part in the drills, along with Taiwan’s new variant of the F-16 that has been called the “most advanced fourth-generation fighter on the planet” by its builder, Lockheed Martin. The F-16V offers advanced AESA Radar sourced through Northrop Grumman, as well as a variety of updates and upgrades to avionics and combat systems meant to make it a formidable opponent for just about anything in the sky that isn’t Lockheed Martin’s flagship fighter, the F-35, or its sister in stealth, the F-22.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The F-16V is touted as the world’s most advanced fourth generation fighter by Lockheed Martin

(Promotional image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The F-16s that took part in Tuesday’s drills notably flew carrying two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, sourced from the United States, meaning their primary role in a fight would be to engage with encroaching aircraft and vessels, rather than air-to-surface strikes against the Chinese mainland.

With only about a hundred miles separating Taiwan’s shores from China’s, it stands to reason that combat operations would begin with a heavy bombardment of Taiwan’s few operational airstrips. These drills, however, suggest that even such an offensive may not be enough to stop Taiwan from responding with some of the best fighters on the planet.

Articles

This top-secret jet bomber spied on Americans in Normandy

Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.


The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.

In fact, one flight of P47 Thunderbolts spotted a flight of three Ar 234s 10,000 feet below them in 1945 and attempted to use the Thunderbolt’s high dive speeds for an attack run. The Nazi pilots waited until the Americans had almost reached them and then tore away at full speed as the P-47s coughed on their smoke.

For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
The only known surviving Arado Ar 234 Blitz aircraft now rests at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. (Photo: Michael Yew CC BY 2.0)

At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.

That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
The P-51 is one of the only aircraft to shoot down an Arado Ar 234 in flight. It did so thanks to a group of P-47 Thunderbolts that forced the jet-powered bomber into a speed-bleeding turn. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant)

One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.

A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Bryan made his attack in a dive which allowed his Mustang to keep up with the German jet while his .50-cal machine guns chewed through the Arado’s right engine. The German pilot was left without momentum, without adequate engine power, and with too little altitude. He went down with his jet.

Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam
An Arado Ar 234B bomber sits in a captured hangar with Junkers Ju 88G. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.

The only surviving Ar 234 is in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the “Ghost Army” was a silly, yet absolutely brilliant strategy

When playing poker, a bluff is a completely logical strategy. You’ve got basically nothing and you’re trying to pressure your opponent into thinking you’ve got them completely beat via pure posturing. In a time of war, when both sides employ hundreds of scouts, do near-constant aerial reconnaissance, and have spies constantly floating around the battlefield, bluffs shouldn’t work.

You’d think that any soldier with a pair of binoculars would realize that something was amiss upon observing a bunch of plywood artillery cannons, tank-shaped balloons, cardboard cutouts of troops, and a couple commo guys messing around on the airwaves. And yet the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known as the “Ghost Army,” went on to fool the Nazis at every turn.

As the old Army saying goes, if it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.


Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

If you saw this from your cockpit for half a second and you had no idea your enemy was using inflatable tanks, you might fall for it, too.

(National Archives)

The Ghost Army was inspired, in part, by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s successful use of hoax tanks as part of Operation Bertram, but during Operation Quicksilver, Americans took things to the next level. British measures employed to successfully fool Axis onlookers were good, but the assets of the Ghost Army were exceedingly precise. Each inflatable tank took days to make, and they were so realistic that enemy reconnaissance couldn’t tell the difference.

To help sell the illusion, radio guys blasted the sounds of tanks through loud speakers. This way, any onlooking Nazi scout would hear what sounded like an entire division of tanks rolling through the area, quickly glimpse the balloon tanks in the distance, and promptly run back to their commander to prepare for the impending “fight.” The inflatable Sherman tanks weren’t alone — they also employed wooden mock-ups of artillery guns in dugouts that would draw out enemy fire.

Visual deception was key, but another crucial task was sending out relevant radio transmissions in hopes that they’d be intercepted by the Germans. The illusion worked best when several types of deception worked in concert. The Nazi code-breaker would “intercept” a message about the 23rd moving to a certain point on the Rhine, the Luftwaffe would fly ahead and see the “tanks,” and, if any Nazi scouts were to see soldiers of the 23rd, they’d likely see troops donning high-ranking officers uniforms — and this is exactly what the Ghost Army wanted them to see: a seemingly ripe target.

The 23rd drew the attention away from many key Allied movements, leaving the Germans easily flanked by the actual Army that came to fight. The Germans were too distracted by the Ghost Army to realize that the Americans started crossing the Ruhr River and, as a consequence, they arrived first at the Maginot Line many, many miles away from where the Americans would break through.

All thanks to a bunch of artists and jokers.

To learn more about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, check out the video below:

Articles

11 scary ghost stories, legends, and haunted military bases

The military profession can be downright scary at times, and that element has given rise to some of the best ghost stories and urban legends out there. Here are few of the most enduring classics from around the services:


1. F.E. Warren’s native tribes

Cheyenne, Wyoming is the home of F.E. Warren AFB, part of the USAF’s Global Strike Command and command of all U.S. ICBMs. But before Wyoming had the power to eradicate mankind, it had the power to eradicate Crow Creek Indians.

Fort D.A. Russell was built to help protect railroad workers from the local native tribes. They were undeniably good at it, massacring many of the Crow Creek, and for the last 100 years, people reported seeing uniformed cavalry troops patrolling the base at night to keep the natives at bay.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The fun doesn’t end there. Warren is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Wyoming – maybe even America. The ghost of “Gus Quarters” is doomed to live on Warren AFB. Legend has it a man named Gus was caught in bed with an officer’s wife. To escape the angry husband, “Gus” jumped out of a second-story window, accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline – and becoming Jody for all eternity.

Troops on the base report unexplained doors and cupboards opening and closing on their own, believing it was Gus Quarters, looking for his pants after all these years.

2. Kadena Air Base’s haunted house

Building 2283 on Kadena is a single family home for field-grade officers that currently sits vacant, not because there aren’t enough O-5s at Kadena, but – legend has it – because the spectral samurai warrior that occasionally rides through the house.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Other sightings at 2283 have included a woman washing her hair in the sink, a curtain opening in front of a tour group, a phone ringing despite there not being a phone line connected to the house, and lights and faucets turning on by themselves (which would surely drive the samurai ghost father of the house insane thinking about the water bill).

Residents of the house have reported bloodstains on the carpet and curtains, as well as an unearthly chill in one of the rooms, the room where a real teenage girl was stabbed to death by her stepfather. Another account alleges a Marine Corps officer bludgeoned his wife in the house.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

Conveniently, there’s a day care center next door, and both are across the street from an Okinawan Samurai Warrior’s tomb.

3. Fort Leavenworth’s dozens of haunted houses

Widely considered the most paranormally active site in the U.S. Army, Leavenworth has upward of 36 haunted buildings. One guardhouse, Tower 8 of the Old Disciplinary Barracks that was torn down in 2004, still stands. A soldier who committed suicide with his service shotgun inside Tower 8 will sometimes call the guard control room. Maybe for an aspirin.

After a prisoner uprising during WWII, guards executed one of 14 prisoners every hour but ran out of room on the gallows. So they used the elevator shaft in the administration building as an extension. Now soldiers report hearing screams from the elevator when no one else is around.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

As novel as the idea of a centuries-old, haunted, and abandoned prison might be for ghosts, the most haunted area is called the Rookery. The building was once the base commander’s quarters but was turned into family housing – and people still live there.

The rookery is said to house a number of ghosts. “The Lady in White” was supposedly tortured and killed by local tribes while the soldiers were off-post. She screams and chases people she sees in the night. You don’t have to chase us, lady. The screaming was enough.

Also in the Rookery are Maj. Edmund Ogden, who is presumably in command of all the ghosts in the building (and died in 1855), a young girl named Rose, her nanny, and a young man called Robert. Rose whistles around the house while Ogden seems to just walk around all day in spurred boots. It said that Maj. Ogden once asked a team of ghost hunters to leave his house.

4. March Air Reserve Base’s hospital-turned-dental clinic

What is today a dental clinic once housed a children’s tuberculosis clinic – and in the basement below was a morgue. Some of the staff reported seeing apparitions of small children playing in the building at night or hiding objects.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

 

One ghost is less than playful: A teenage girl has been reportedly seen walking around the hospital, her face sliced open, talking to herself and searching for the person who cut her.

5. The Kadena Chicken

The 18th Wing at Kadena sports a yellow patch with a chicken prominently featured with its wings in the air, seemingly surrendering. This urban legend has it that during the Korean War, the 18th Wing’s pilots abandoned their crew chiefs as the base was being overrun. The maintainers were then hung with safety wire by the enemy. The safety wire is still supposedly hanging in Osan.

This is a very old Air Force urban legend. Why would the Air Force keep the wire hanging? Aside from questionable decorations, a better reason not to believe this myth is that the patch has been around since 1931, when the 18th Wing was the 18th Pursuit Squadron.

6. Edgar Allen Poe on Fort Monroe

The famous poet died in Baltimore of a mysterious illness whose symptoms match those of rabies. While he was alive, however, he was stationed at Monroe as an artilleryman. Other ghosts said to reside at Fort Monroe include Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Chief Black Hawk.

Abraham Lincoln gets around in his afterlife. It’s good to stay active when when you’re 208 years old.

7. Bitburg Middle School’s ghost Nazis

The Bitburg School is run by DoD Dependents Schools-Europe. Bitburg Middle School was constructed in Bitburg Air Base’s housing in 1956, supposedly on the site of a Nazi airbase. It’s also consistently rated as one of the most haunted places in Germany, sharing that list with a pagan ritual altar and the Dachau concentration camp.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

As if it weren’t enough to be full of ghosts, they’re also Nazi ghosts, which is way more frightening. Lights constantly flash on and off throughout the night, windows move on their own, and oh yeah: people are heard screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the building. Only at night.

8. The USS Hornet’s 50-member ghost crew

The Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy. In 27 years, the ship lost 300 of her men to accidents and suicides. Tourists and sailors alike report strange voices and apparitions of sailors in (outdated) uniforms, roaming the halls of the ship. Radios and other equipment on the vessel are said to turn on and off on their own.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

If any reader is interested in seeing the ghost crew of the Hornet, you can now pay to sleep aboard the WWII-era ship was decommissioned in 1970. Now moored in San Francisco, people can tour its most paranormally active areas.

9. Kadena’s (yes, again) Ghostly Gate Guards

The old Gate 3 at Kadena was said to be frequented by a WWII-era soldier covered in blood, asking for a light for his cigarette. That gate was eventually closed and a new one is being built in its place. Which is crazy, because he could easily solve a manpower issue. Would you approach a gate manned by ghosts? Me neither.

He might be looking for any number of Japanese soldiers who were once said to approach the gate in the 1990s. They approached so many times, it was recorded in the 2000 book “Ghosts of Okinawa.” The gate was closed because I can only assume it’s terrifying.

10. Guantanamo Bay’s eternal officer’s club

The Bayview complex at Gitmo was originally built in 1943 as the base officer’s club. Now there are four spirits who are there for eternity to occupy the upstairs Terrace Room.

A “woman in white” is an old woman with long hair and a long white dress. She sits in a chair and looks out into the parking lot. She also switches lights on and off when no one is in the club. It is said the woman lived in an apartment in the club until she was found dead in a bathtub there.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

She has a decent view, though.

The wives of base commanders have also reported a man in khakis walking from the living room of the CO’s residence to the bathroom. In 2007, Paula Leary, who was in the house at the time said she believed the ghost just wanted to know there was someone else in the house. The area where the house stands was the site of Marine camps from 1901 until 1920, so it may not just be any khaki chief walking around, but a salty old Marine.

11. Helmand Province’s cursed Russian graveyard

The 2/8 Marines in Helmand reported figures speaking Russian at Observation Point Rock. They found graves at the site, a place in Helmand considered cursed by the locals because of the unending amount of bones that are constantly dug up there.

Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

The Marines’ story is now an episode of SyFy’s “Paranormal Witness.”

“The Rock,” as it came to be known, was the reported site of Afghan mujahideen executing Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation. Because of the bones and the strange sightings, it soon became known as the “Haunted OP.” But it wasn’t just the Marines seeing or hearing things. The UK’s Welsh Guards who came to the OP before the Marines reported strange noises and unexplainable lights in their night vision.

A Rundown of Rumors:

  • The ghost of an airman suicide from the 1970s haunts the RAPCON. Occasionally crying is heard by airmen, and never civilians.
  • A USAF Security Forces airman at Ramstein AB locked himself in his closet and committed suicide. Now, his ghost locks unsuspecting airmen in their closets.
  • Warren AFB’s ICBM Museum also houses a ghost named Jefferey.
  • U.S. military bases have golf courses so they can be used as mass graves in the event of high casualties.
  • The clinic at Spangdahlem Air Base houses a ghost named Erich.

Listen to our veteran hosts discuss haunted bases and urban legends in the U.S. military.

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