The Russians have a strange history with the Unidentified Flying Objects. While 99 percent of the UFOs encountered by Russia and the Soviet Union over the years were probably American spy planes, they insist that one of them actually landed and its crew decided to step out and stretch their legs.
And then they shot a bunch of children.
In the late 1980s, The New York Times quoted Soviet police Lt. Sergei A. Matveyev, who swore he saw the spaceship, saying that lanky, three-legged creatures landed in a park in the Russian city of Voronezh on Sept. 27, 1989. Some 300 miles from Moscow, citizens of Voronezh reported a deep red ball, around 10 feet in diameter, landing in a park.
“It was not an optical illusion,” he told the Russian TASS News Agency. “It was certainly a body flying in the sky. I thought I must be really tired, but I rubbed my eyes and it didn’t go away.”
A hatch opened and out stepped a three-eyed creature that stood nine feet tall and was dressed in silver overalls and bronze boots. It left the ship with a companion and a robot. After taking a triangle formation around the robot, the robot came to life. A boy began to scream in terror. That’s when the stuff hit the fan. With a look, the boy was paralyzed.
The aliens disappeared briefly and returned with “what looked like a gun” and shot the boy, who disappeared. He reappeared later, after the spacecraft had departed. Citizens of the town reported multiple sightings of the ship between Sept. 23 and Sept. 27, but when Soviet investigators came to the scene, their only abnormal finding was elevated levels of radioactive Cesium-23.
As for the children who witnessed the landing in the park, they were all separated. When asked to draw what they saw that day, they all drew “a banana-shaped object that left behind in the sky the sign of the letter X.” The boy who was abducted could remember nothing about the craft.
The local interior minister said that if the craft appeared again, they would dispatch the Red Army to investigate the event. If the aliens had returned in full force to invade the Soviet Union, they would have met the joint capability of the Soviets along with the United States, as President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed at the 1985 Lake Geneva Summit to join forces against any extraterrestrial invader.
Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.
In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.
That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.
When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:
A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.
The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.
The Specialist knows all and does nothing.
The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:
The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.
The Second Noble Truth – Desire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.
The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).
A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.
In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!
Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.
The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.
They have accepted pain without pay.
They have taken duty without distinction.
Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.
They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.
Stairs workouts are among the quickest, most accessible, and straightforward ways to get in shape, fast. No, you don’t need a gym’s stair climber to do them. Find some stairs, run, jump, and step up them, come down, and repeat — that’s all it takes to burn a ton of calories, and, if you keep it up, lose weight. It’s an effective workout for a number of reasons: For one, it’s a heart rate exercise that’s equivalent to a sprint-style running session. Second, stair work adds up. Research has shown that taking just 200 steps a day, five days a week for 8 weeks, can improve cardio fitness by almost 20 percent. An added bonus: it’s a leg day workout that puts a minimal impact on your joints.
The biggest downside to stair workouts is that they get, well, boring. The workout below aims to solve this. It features 10 moves to shake it up and is intended to be a 20-minute sweat session. The faster you do each sequence, the higher your heart rate and the more calories you will burn. But it’s more important to practice good form than it is to be fast: Keeping your back straight, shoulders back, and knees over toes as you climb will build strength in the right muscles so you’ll be stronger the next time you tackle a stairs routine.
1. Step ups
Stand at the base of the staircase. Raise your right leg and place your right foot one the second step (skipping the first step). Push off the floor with your left foot and shift your weight onto your right as you step up. Swing your left leg in front of you, bending your left knee, while swinging your right arm forward for counter balance. Step back down to start position. Perform 10 step-ups with your right leg, then switch sides. Do 3 sets total.
Stand at the base of the staircase. Bend your knees and swing arms behind you, then swing them forward as spring off the ground and propel yourself onto the second step. Land on both feet. Jump back down using both feet. Do 10 jumps x 2 sets.
3. Fast feet
Starting at the base of the staircase, sprint to the top as fast as you can, moving your feet rapidly like a football drill. Do the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs. That means if you only have a single flight to work with, you’ll sprint to the top, sprint back down, and repeat 5 times.
4. Triceps dips
Sit on the second step, knees bent, keeping feet on the floor below the stairs. Place hands at either side of your hips on the edge of the second step, palms facing forward. (Note: If you are tall, sit on the third step instead.) Slide your hips forward until your butt is off the step, using your arms to support your weight. Bend and straighten your arms, feeling the burn in your triceps. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
5. Incline lunges
Stand at the base of the staircase. Work your way to the top taking three steps at a time. Pause in the lunge position between each step, allowing maximum load on your front quad with every step. Do the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs, jogging back down to the start and repeating if you only have one flight to work with.
Stand perpendicular to the staircase, right hip closest to the stairs. Bend right knee and step up onto the first step, bringing your left leg with you. Quickly step up onto the second step. Work your way to the top using your right side to propel you. At the top of the flight, work your way back down using your right side to lead you again. At the bottom, reverse and jog sideways up the stairs using your left side to lead the way. Jog back down left-side first. That’s one set. Repeat 3 times.
7. Incline clapping push-ups
Stand at the base of the staircase. Place hands on the third step, arms straight. Keeping your back straight and in line with your legs, bend elbows and lower chest to the stairs. Hold for a second, then explosively push off the stairs and clap your hands together before landing in the extended push up position. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
8. Backwards jog
Stand with your back to the base of the staircase. Using caution, walk up the stairs backward, engaging your glutes and hamstrings with every step. Note: This moves requires a bit of balance and coordination (more than you might think!). Use the side wall for support with one hand if needed. For those more advanced, try this exercise at a slow-jog pace. Complete the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs.
Stand at the base of the staircase. Shift weight onto your right leg, lifting left foot off the floor. Bend right knee, swing arms behind you, then swing them forward as you push off the floor and jump onto the first step with the right leg. Hop back down, keeping left foot off the floor. Complete 10 jumps on right side, then switch legs. (Note: Use side wall for balance as needed.) Do 2 sets total.
10. Decline push-ups
Squat facing away from the stairs and the base of the staircase. Place your hands on the floor in front of you and shift your weight forward so your arms arm supporting your body. Keeping hands on the floor, walk your feet backwards up the stairs behind you until they are on a step that allows you to create a straight line from your extended arms to your toes (probably the third step). Keeping your back and legs straight, bend your elbows and do a push up. Note: Decline push ups are hard and it’s normal that you can’t go as deep as you would on a flat surface.) Do 10 reps, 2 sets.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.
“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.
Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.
“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)
I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.
It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.
Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:
• “No, singing or playing of music;
• no cooking food;
• avoid speaker phones
• watch your voice volume
• deal with gas in the restroom
• always knock before entering a cubicle
• no “prairie-dogging”
In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!
“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.
“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.
“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”
I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”
Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.
“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.
“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”
We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.
I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.
Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:
“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”
“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.
“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.
The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.
My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.
A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).
I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.
I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:
1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are
2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base
3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property
4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.
5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.
6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice
7. Never litter
8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness
9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with
10. Never reveal the locations of buried items
11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment
12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!
Brandon Fugal is the owner of Skinwalker Ranch. As the Chairman of Colliers International in Utah, Brandon is one of the most prominent businessmen and real estate developers in the Intermountain West. From an early age, he has been fascinated with the mysteries of our universe and the question of whether or not we are alone. In 2016, Brandon purchased Skinwalker Ranch from aerospace tycoon Robert Bigelow in order to investigate and study the strange and unexplainable phenomena that has been reported there for more than two centuries.
WATM: Good afternoon Mr. Fugal, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. What can you tell us about the upcoming season?
Thank you for your interest and following us on our journey in the upcoming season two launch. It will unveil new revelations and exciting updates for the general public. It is a completely unscripted and authentic series following the day-to-day efforts of our investigation. I think a lot of people don’t realize that this is truly ongoing. It’s a 24/7/365 a year investigation with our multi-disciplinary team. They’re getting accustomed to the cameras and the filming team following their every effort.
WATM: What detail about Skinwalker Ranch interested you the most that made you decide you’re the one to solve this?
The most interesting detail of Skinwalker Ranch is that it had been a secure scientific research project since 1996. It presented the best opportunity to establish a living laboratory for the purpose of studying paranormal phenomena. I acquired the property as an open-minded skeptic having never seen a UFO, orb or anything of the sort. I wanted to bring a new level of scientific rigor and focus to this property and its very intriguing history. Most people acknowledge that this 512-acre piece of property known as Skinwalker Ranch is the most scientifically studied paranormal hotspot on the planet. It continues to exhibit the highest frequency and concentration of everything from UFO activity to electromagnetic anomalies to even unfortunate acute medical episodes that seem to attend the phenomenon.
WATM: What kind of things have you witnessed during the off-season?
A continuation of activity including most notably of unexplained electromagnetic phenomenon that continues to be observed and recorded during various experiments. For example, we have had a number of very dramatic incidents involving drone surveys and activity over the property resulting in the total destruction of very expensive equipment engaged in the investigation. These incidents continue to have no conventional explanation.
WATM: Last season there were newly discovered dangers on the ranch. You hired Dr. Christopher Lee, a Radiation oncologist to help your team. What was his reaction after you explained some of the phenomena that you’ve witnessed?
Dr. Lee was very concerned. Not only the type of injuries and acute medical episodes documented but also the transient, unpredictable nature of those cases. Being available and consulting with the team to establish more aggressive help and safety protocols was a high priority.
WATM: What do you take into consideration before authorizing an experiment on your property?
I think it is important to know that anyone who enters the property is required to sign a liability waiver acknowledging the danger and risks of entering the property. When conducting research and experiments we work to utilize various scientific instruments in order to monitor and identify any potential harmful activity. We also try to take a proactive approach to identify those activities that pose the most risk.
WATM: Are you satisfied with the progress that your team has made over these two seasons?
I’m incredibly proud of the team and incredible work that has been accomplished. I believe we have presented the most compelling evidence regarding the phenomenon on record. The diversity of events and activity witness and recorded is astounding.
WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the military audience?
Several team members have served our country. Most notably, one of our security officers is a retired Marine, Kaleb Bench. We value and respect the experience and perspective brought to this effort by those who have served our country.
I believe we are just getting warmed up. I believe what we have witnessed and documented is just the tip of the iceberg relative to what will ultimately be revealed. The fact that we are not alone in the universe, or at least that our reality is not what it seems, appears to be evidence through our investigation. We look forward to being completely transparent and collaborative with the community as we continue. I consider my ownership a stewardship and believe the only way we’re going to truly discover the secret of Skinwalker Ranch and the possible the nature of our own world, may lie in the ongoing investigation.
Season Two of The HISTORY Channel’s popular nonfiction series The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch returns on Tuesday, May 4 at 10PM ET/PT.
In the 241 years since the US declared independence from the English in 1776, the uniforms of those serving in the US Army have changed drastically.
Over the years, as the nation grew, uniforms, too, have evolved to fit the times and take advantage of changes in tactics and technology. In some cases, as this paper from US Army History notes, the changes were minor affairs, while in other cases, the look of the US Army was radically changed.
The gym is full of people of every age, race, and religion, all of whom have their own reasons for being there. It’s a place where people can build themselves up, both mentally and physically, in a positive environment. Unfortunately, there’s a select few who show up with other things on their minds.
These “gym skunks” usually show up to hit the weights, but then quickly decide to do and say stupid sh*t, leaving people asking themselves, “why even show up?”
Avoid these 6 things to save yourself from being one of those skunks.
Circuit training outside of circuit training sessions
Circuit training is a workout method in which you conduct a series of exercises, back-to-back, in a specific and dedicated area. One biggest pains in the ass is when you’re about to use a machine or bench and somebody rushes over from the other side of the gym to let you know they’re using that machine.
Unless the gym is specifically dedicated to circuit training, this kind of behavior boils down to hogging machines that you aren’t even currently using.
Some of the most beautifully fit people show up to the gym to get their daily workouts in. Sure, some people like to turn heads — they’ve worked hard on their bodies and the ego boost is nice. So, by all means, we give you the blessing to look their way and (politely) admire.
However, it’s important to respect that some gals or guys go to specific lengths to not attract your pervy eyes. For example, if someone’s wearing a baseball cap down low to avoid eye contact, do them a favor and leave them alone.
“You should really think about modifying your technique.”
We’ve seen this happen countless times: Someone giving workout tips to a person who isn’t seeking advice. It’s even funnier when the person handing out tips is out of shape.
A visit to the gym shouldn’t turn into a photo shoot. Those who attend the gym on a daily basis and see amateur models snapping selfies in the mirror make this face:
Being an equipment vulture
We understand that there are people who want to workout and get out of the gym in a timely manner. This means finding those open machines and bench areas to push out those reps. Unfortunately, those areas might not be available when you want them, so you’ll have to wait for an extra minute or two.
Instead of giving your fellow gym patron time to finish their exercise, some hang around like a freakin’ vulture, waiting to swoop in the moment you’re done.
We get that you want to work on your posing routine in front of the mirror. Honestly, we can respect it, even more so when you have a competition coming up.
However, there’s no need to do it in the middle of the gym where everyone can see you. Most gyms have rooms where they teach classes and in those areas, they have mirrors where you can work on your posing. Going shirtless and posing in front of people who may have issues with their bodies is a f*cked up way to drive them away from their fitness goals.
You never really know what you’re in for when welcoming a new guy to the unit. Sometimes, you get handed a young, clueless private who has no idea what they’re in for. Sometimes, you get an apathetic specialist who’s been in for a minute and they’ll just wiggle right into the flow of things. Sometimes, you get a salty sergeant who’s dead set on making your unit just like their last.
Nobody, however, brings joy to everyone in the ranks quite like a new second lieutenant — and it’s not because everyone is just so excited to see them. It’s because they make for the greatest punching bags in the military.
Literally everyone has a go at the second lieutenant. They’re affectionately called “butter bars,” both because their rank insignia looks like one and because they have about the same value as a stick of butter.
Whether it’s done in good fun or out of spite, it’s your duty to give the new butter bar a hard time. Looking for a little inspiration? Try on these ways of letting your new platoon leader that they’re now one of you.
1. Smoke the hell out of them at PT
When new troops arrive at the unit, you’ll most often meet them for the first time on the PT field. Butter bars have a tendency to make long-winded, elaborate presentations that sound something like, “Hi! My name Lt. FNG and I’m honored to be your new platoon leader!”
By this point, you and the platoon have a certain, established rhythm for morning PT that the fresh-out-of-OCS lieutenant can’t keep up with. Show no mercy and go a few extra laps around the company area. Your guys will be cool with it as long as they understand the joke, and the new butter bar will be absolutely gassed.
2. Send them on a wild goose chase
The age-old tradition of sending the new guy to go find something that totally, 100%, absolutely exists isn’t just for privates. It’s open season for butter bars as well.
They probably won’t fall for the old “get me an exhaust sample” trick — plus, if they did, they’d probably just delegate it down to someone else who would ruin the joke. Try something more creative, like “ask the supply NCO about getting you assigned your new PRYK-E6” if their E-6 platoon sergeant is sitting right there. The NCO will gladly walk them through if it means the potential to pawn the Lt. onto someone else.
3. Introduce them to the actual chain of command
There’s no denying the rank structure. Despite how it plays out, the lowliest second lieutenant technically outranks even the Sergeant Major of the Army. However — and that’s with a huge “however” — that should never be confused with the structure of the chain of command.
If they ever mention that they outrank the battalion sergeant major, don’t interfere — just observe. This will go one of two ways: That Lt. is about to get a boot shoved so far up their ass that they’ll be tasting leather or (and personal experience has proven this to be hilarious) the sergeant major will stay calm and collected as they go and grab the battalion commander. The sgt. major then asks the commander what the f*ck, exactly, is wrong with their new guy. The commander then proceeds to chew their ass out.
Let them lead a land nav course
Lieutenants are generally trained to recite answers found in “the book” as they’re written and land navigation is a skill that entirely almost relies on winging it.
But instead of just letting them lead the platoon into danger, establish dominance over them by going to a land nav course that you know inside and out. Let them think that they’re holding the reins while you’re in the background tossing jokes their way and keeping an ever-watchful eye on where you guys are actually heading.
Toss all the paperwork onto their desk
No one wants loads of crap on their hand receipts and now everyone has some poor fool to pawn them off on. You don’t even have to feel guilty about doing this — it’s basically their job to handle all of the paperwork while the platoon sergeant worries about training the troops.
For added measure, gather up all of the paperwork in one giant stack and drop it on their desk at once in that way that’s typically reserved for comedy films. Enjoy watching the sorrow build in their eyes when they realize that it’s not a joke and all that paperwork really does need to be done by final formation.
Eventually welcome them in
The military is one big, dysfunctional, family. We joke around with each other all the time, but there’s a time and place for all of that — there’s never time for legitimate hate or cruelty towards another person who raised their right hand.
Once the butter bar has taken their lashings, they can finally be welcomed in as the new platoon leader. Sure, feel free to offer the occasional jab here and there — but keep it all in good fun. The troops genuinely respect the new Lt. if they take it all in stride (or throw even better insults back).
In June 1919, the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet was sitting at anchor at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The cruiser Emden sent out the message, “Paragraph 11; confirm.” Then, all 74 of the warships in the natural harbor attempted to scuttle themselves en masse, and 52 successfully destroyed themselves before British sailors were able to beach them or stop their sinking.
21st June 1919: The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow
It’s important to remember for this story that wars have two ending points. There’s the armistice that stops the actual fighting, and then a lengthy peace process will usually result in a full treaty ending the war. After the armistice ended World War I fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, a large portion of the German navy was interned for the treaty process.
The navy had been largely sidelined during the war thanks to a British blockade, so it was largely intact that November. And the Allied powers, in order to ensure that Germany went through with the peace process, demanded that the nation’s most powerful and modern fleet be sequestered at a neutral port.
But, no nearby neutral port agreed to accept the ships, and so 70 of Germany’s best vessels were sent to the British harbor at Scapa Flow, a natural harbor that housed one of the British fleets. Four other German ships would later meet them there.
Three German ships, the Emden, Frankfurt, and Bremse, enter Scapa Flow on November 24, 1918.
When the German ships were officially handed over on November 21, literally hundreds of ships and thousands of people were present to watch the event. Over 190 Allied ships escorted the first batch of 70 German ships to surrender, making that day the largest concentration of naval power in the history of mankind, even if 70 of the ships had breech blocks in their guns to prevent a sudden return to hostilities.
But the fleet languished there for months. Morale on the German ships was bad during the war and worse while they were confined to ships on short rations in British territory. And the German commander had an order from his superiors to prevent the seizure of the ships by any means necessary.
The German navy seems to have believed that the ships would eventually be returned, Britain wanted to see them scrapped, and the rest of the Allies wanted to divvy them up. But as the negotiations in France made it clear that Germany would not get the ships back, German Adm. Ludwig von Reuter planned for how to destroy his own fleet.
A German destroyer largely flooded at Scapa Flow in 1919.
He didn’t know that the deadline had been extended to June 23, but this actually worked out well for him. The British commander had plans to seize the German ships on June 23 if the German diplomats still hadn’t signed the treaty by then.
And so the ships suddenly began to sink. The German sailors raised their German navy flags from their masts for the first time since they had arrived in the harbor. British sailors in the harbor quickly alerted their own fleet as to what was happening, and the fleet rushed back to save what it could.
A good half of the German fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the ‘Bayern’ the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later, in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went.
The German admiral proceeded to the British flagship and declared that he had “come to surrender my men and myself. I have nudding else.”
British sailors were quickly dispatched to the sinking ships to re-close the valves and pump water out. Some British sailors nearly drowned in this endeavor, but they saved 22 of the ships as 52 settled into the mud at the bottom.
A salvage crew works on the largely underwater German battleship Baden after the Scuttling at Scapa Flow. The partially submerged ship at the left is the cruiser Frankfurt.
The British sailors were under orders to only kill those Germans who refused to close valves when ordered or who resisted British actions to save the vessels. Nine German sailors were killed, but there is some controversy over whether all these sailors had resisted or not.
Still, it was the single largest loss of naval power in one day in human history, even though it was a calm day and no battle had actually taken place.
The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.
During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.
With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.
A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.
But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.
Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.
Feature image screen captured from included YouTube video
In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.
While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.
When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.
When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough
Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.
Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.
But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.
For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.
With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.
As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”
A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?
If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.
This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.
“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.” -Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.
Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.
Procuring the hulls
The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.
Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between $25 and $50 million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over $1 million.
Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.
Modifying commercial ships into missile barges
Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.
That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.
Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.
As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.
While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.
The hybrid-crew model
Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.
Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.
By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.
These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.
It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked $400 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.
Are missile barges actually realistic?
Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.
Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.
While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.
Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.
Every student of history knows that the British won the Battle of Britain in August and September of 1940, and that the Spitfire played a key role. But why was that the case?
The answer is stunningly ironic, and it requires us to look at what both the Spitfire and the Bf 109 were supposed to do.
(Yes, I said Bf 109. Believe it or not, calling Willy Messerschmidt’s signature design a Me 109 isn’t accurate. Messerschmidt worked for the Bavarian Aircraft Works, or Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. Now, Messerschmidt bought the company in 1938, but planes designed before the purchase, like the Bf 109, kept the old designation.)
So, with that out of the way, let’s look at the Bf 109 and Spitfire.
Both planes were really designed to fulfill the same mission profile: that of a short-range interceptor.
The Spitfire Mk VB had a top speed of 370 miles per hour, could climb 2,600 feet per minute, and had a combat radius of 470 miles. The Bf 109G had a top speed of 398 miles per hour, a range of 621 miles with a drop tank, and could climb 3,345 feet per minute.
In 1940, the Germans needed a plane to escort their bombers, and the Bf 109 was their only option. They tried the Bf 110, a twin-engine plane with long range and heavy firepower. The problem was, the Bf 110 was easily killed by the more maneuverable Spitfires, so the Bf 109 found itself pressed into service.
But even with a drop tank, the Bf 109 just didn’t have the endurance to be a good bomber escort.
The Spitfire was also plagued with short endurance, but during the Battle of Britain — and even over Dunkirk earlier in the summer of 1940 — it was fulfilling its role as a short-range interceptor.
In essence, it was doing what it was designed to do. The Bf 109 was also a short-range interceptor…but it was pressed into service as a bomber escort, and it just couldn’t hack it.
When the United States entered the war, one thing they were truly successful at was coming up with the perfect escort fighter, the P-51 Mustang. You could say they had learned from Nazi Germany’s mistake.
It’s easy to forget that, even in the midst of World War II, the Army’s administrative requirements marched on. Officers were quickly moved between billets, units were slotted into or pulled out of operational plans, and leaders had to be re-appraised often.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that even men like Lt. Gen. George S. Patton had to take breaks from whooping butt in order to rate other legends like Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley.
The September 1943 “Efficiency Report” is remarkably brief. At the time, the Army didn’t have such strict form for evaluation reports. It’s basically a two-page memorandum with only a couple hundred words of text.
But Bradley had helped make 1943 a great year for the Army. He spent much of the year unsticking problems at the front in North Africa. And, after the defeat of II Corps at the Battle of Kasserine Pass, he pushed for an overhaul of the corps and later took command of it from Patton. It was Bradley who led the corps during the invasion of Sicily.
Patton and Eisenhower both wanted Bradley for their own commands, so it’s probably not surprising that he would receive a good rating from Patton.
And, indeed, when Patton rated Bradley on Sept. 12, 1943, he said that Bradley was “superior” in manner of performance, physical activity, physical endurance, and knowledge of his profession. Four for four at the time. Bradley was a corps commander and Patton recommended him for command of an army.
But the most impressive endorsement of Patton came in question 10 “Of all general officers of his grade personally known to you, what number would you give him on this list and how many comprise your list?”
Patton responded “Number 1. I know all of them.”
The Army gets fairly small at the top, after all.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the North African Theater of Operations, United States Army, commander at the time, concurred with the report.
Thanks in part to the brief but strong recommendations of Patton and Eisenhower, Bradley received command of the U.S. First Army in time to command it against Utah and Omaha beaches and then the breakout into the rest of France. Despite some mistakes, he would take command of an Army Group and take the first major hits of the Battle of the Bulge.
He was a four-star general before the war ended and would later rise to lead the Veteran’s Administration and serve as Army Chief of Staff. He was the last person to be promoted to General of the Army, an Army five-star rank.
The entire September 1943 assessment of him by Patton and Eisenhower is available below: