These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

It might surprise the casual student of history to learn that the United States was not alone in supporting South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. America’s traditional list of allies joined us in trying to contain the spread of Communism in South East Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. Each one of them brought the pain to the enemy in their own way.

South Koreans were so zealous in their fight against Communism that everyone else actually had to restrain them at times. Aside from the powerful bombing campaigns, America employed precision special operations units, which North Vietnamese called “the men with green faces.” It was the Australians they feared most, however.

At any given moment, everything would be fine and then, suddenly, you’d see all your men killed in the blink of an eye. That’s how they knew the Aussies were in the area.


Even though Aussies had been in Vietnam since 1962, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment first arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 with the mission of conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols in the dense Vietnamese jungles.

They were so effective in the field, the NVA called the Australians the “Ghosts of the Jungle.” They even provided instructors to the United States’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol school. They would operate on 24-hour missions in the areas surrounding friendly bases.

Related: You had to bet your life to graduate from the Vietnam-era ‘Recondo’ school

Small fire teams of four to six men moved much more slowly than any other unit, even other special operations units. But once in contact with the enemy, the Australians unleashed a barrage of fire, designed to make the enemy believe there were more men on the opposing side than there really were.

The slow, quiet movement and hellish raking fire the Australians brought to the NVA and VC made them the most feared enemy unit in the areas of South Vietnam. Even the most quiet VC infiltrators could easily walk into a devastating Aussie ambush.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

An SASR patrol during Operation Coburg, South Vietnam 1968.

(Australian Defense Ministry)

Each Aussie SASR unit operated with an attached New Zealand SAS trooper and each of the three “Sabre” squadrons did, at least, a one-year tour in Vietnam, operating throughout Phuoc Tuy province as well as in Bien Hoa, Long Khanh, and Binh Tuy provinces. They also deployed with American Special Forces and Navy SEALs throughout the country.

The Australian SASR first came in contact with the enemy in May, 1966, when they met a Viet Cong force in the area around Nui Dat. It did not go well for the VC. From there, the Aussies spread their recon patrol range by several kilometers. By the end of their time in Vietnam, the unit performed 1,200 combat patrols with one killed in action, one dead from wounds, three accidentally killed, one missing, and one death from illness. Another 28 men were wounded in action.

Before leaving in 1971, the ANZACs killed 600 enemy troops, the highest kill ratio of the entire war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This international scavenger hunt holds a million dollar prize

Thousands of cryptocurrency enthusiasts are taking part in an international scavenger hunt to find clues that promise to lead the winners to a prize of $1 million in bitcoin.

It’s called Satoshi’s Treasure, and it’s a game that’s part logic puzzle and part scavenger hunt, with clues found in both the digital and physical worlds. Each clue will reveal a fragment of the digital key used to access the game’s bitcoin wallet, and the winner will be the first person or team to put together at least 400 of these fragments to be able to claim the $1 million worth of bitcoin, according to cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk.

Nearly 60,000 people have signed up on the Satoshi’s Treasure website to receive notifications about new clues and game updates, CoinDesk reported May 12, 2019.


The game is being run and funded by a group of crypto investors. One of the co-creators of Satoshi’s Treasure, crypto investor Eric Meltzer, told CoinDesk that no single person knows all the locations of the clues or all of the key fragments.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Satoshi’s Treasure)

“There are so many unknowns in this game that we kind of just want to see what happens,” said Meltzer, founding partner of crypto investment firm Primitive Ventures. “Part of the meta game that I think people are going to like is trying to figure out who is behind this.”

Game organizers say that since the first clues were released on April 16, 2019, many teams have been formed to work together toward finding key fragments and solving the game. A team organizing tool called Ordo has already been created, which will help to properly credit those who solve clues, and fairly divide up the id=”listicle-2637018554″ million prize at the end for the winning team.

According to the Satoshi’s Treasure website, the hunt is intended to “test the mettle of anyone who wishes to add some excitement to their lives.” The game has a simple set of rules that revolve around the tenant of “do no harm” — keys will not be hidden on private properties, no clues will require any destruction, and participants need to “always show respect” for fellow hunters.

CoinDesk reports that teams comprise of not only veteran crypto users, but also those new to bitcoin and those who are in it for the thrill of the hunt. The game’s creators say Satoshi’s Treasure prioritizes accessibility to anyone who wants to participate. For example, the latest clue was found on physical business cards distributed at the Magical Crypto Conference this weekend in New York.

“I’d say Satoshi’s Treasure is so exciting because it’s the pure joy of a treasure hunt,” crypto investor Nic Carter told CoinDesk. “It’s global and anyone can participate.”

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

Articles

7 life events inappropriately described using military lingo

Military service members are famous for their special lingo, everything from branch-specific slang to the sometimes stilted and official language of operation orders.


That carefully selected and drafted language ensures that everyone in a complex operation knows what is expected of them and allows mission commanders to report sometimes emotional events to their superiors in a straightforward manner.

But there’s a reason that Hallmark doesn’t write its cards in military style for a reason. There’s just something wrong with describing the birth of a first-born child like it’s an amphibious operation.

Anyway, here are seven life events inappropriately described with military lingo:

1. First engagement

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
A U.S. Marine proposes to his girlfriend during a surprise that hopefully led to an ongoing and happy marriage. (Photo: Sgt Angel Galvan)

“Task force established a long-term partnership with local forces that is expected to result in greater intelligence and great successes resulting from partnered operations.”

2. Breaking off the first engagement

“It turns out that partnered forces are back-stabbing, conniving, liars. The task force has resumed solo operations.”

3. Marriage

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Again, this is a joke article but we really hope all the marriages are ongoing and happy. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb)

“Partnered operations with local forces have displayed promising results. The new alliance with the host nation will result in success. Hopefully.”

4. Buying a first home

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Glassey)

“The squad has established a secure firebase. Intent is to constantly improve the position while disrupting enemy operations in the local area. Most importantly, we must interrupt Steve’s constant requests that we barbecue together. God that guy’s annoying.”

5. Birth of the first child

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
*Angels play harmonious music* (Photo: Pixabay/photo-graphe)

“Task force welcomed a new member at 0300, a most inopportune time for our partnered force. Initial reports indicate that the new member is healthy and prepared to begin training.”

6. Birth of all other children

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(Photo: Gilberto Santa Rosa CC BY 2.0)

“Timeline for Operation GREEN ACRES has been further delayed as a new member of the task force necessitates 18 years of full operations before sufficient resources are available for departure from theater.”

7. Retirement

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(Photo: Lsuff CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Task force operators have withdrawn from the area of operations and begun enduring R and R missions in the gulf area as part of Operation GREEN ACRES. Primary targets include tuna and red snapper.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Huge, strange-looking’ snakes spotted around Marine base

A year after Marines were told to quit feeding an alligator that lived near their barracks, reports of “huge” snakes at a North Carolina base have prompted officials to reiterate their warnings against pets, scaly or otherwise.

A red-tailed boa, a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet, was spotted in a parking lot at Camp Lejeune in June 2019. The sighting followed another report of a 2-foot-long ball python slithering in the lobby of the barracks in the Wallace Creek.

“Since we have had two fairly recent incidents, we felt it was important to educate base personnel and the public on the issues that can be caused when exotic species are either intentionally or unintentionally released into the natural environment,” Emily Gaydos, a wildlife biologist with Camp Lejeune’s land and wildlife resources section said.


The Marine Corps doesn’t track the number of exotic snakes or other animals found on base, Gaydos said. But the pair of reports prompted officials to remind Marines that snakes are not among the domestic animals they’re allowed to have in base housing.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

A red-tailed boa.

“Domestic animals do not include wild, exotic animals such as venomous, constrictor-type snakes or other reptiles, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, iguanas, or other ‘domesticated’ wild animals,” a release put out last week states. “No privately-owned animals are allowed in work areas, barracks, or bachelor officer or enlisted quarters.”

There were no reports of snake bites or other injuries after the reptiles were found in the barracks and parking lot, Gaydos said. Neither are poisonous. The snakes were both transferred to local rehabilitation facilities that are “permitted and have the expertise to properly care for the specific species,” she added.

Since neither snake is native to the Camp Lejeune region, officials there warned Marines of the unintended consequences of introducing them into the environment.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

A ball python.

“An exotic species may prey on native species, have no predators, outcompete native species for food or other resources, introduce diseases, or interrupt a native species’ life cycle in some way,” the release warns.

In Florida, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there is trying to fight the spread of iguanas, which are thriving in the warmer temperatures there. The Washington Post reported that homeowners there are being told to “kill the green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” as the lizard population booms without any natural predators.

This isn’t the first time North Carolina Marines have been warned about messing up the local ecosystem.

Last year, a nearly 6-foot-long alligator had to be moved after wildlife experts discovered the reptile living near the barracks at Marine Corps Air Station New River was being fed by humans.

Marines tempted to feed the local creatures were given clear guidance: Don’t even think about it.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Daniel Craig hit the gym with a leg cast and put us all to shame

I love Bond. But, for very obvious reasons, I don’t want to actually be James Bond. For one thing, that dude is surely riddled with STDs and for another thing, having that many arch enemies would make going to the grocery store to buy diapers a real pain in the ass. But, after seeing a photo of Daniel Craig working out on the set of the newest James Bond movie, I realize I do wish I was more like our incumbent 007 actor. The man just had ankle surgery and he’s already back to work, pumping iron like a boss, making me realize my complaints about too much cream cheese on my bagel the other day are really lame.


On June 15, 2019, the official James Bond Twitter account dropped a photo of Daniel Craig working out at Pinewood studios where the next — as yet untitled — James Bond film is filming. This time a few weeks back, Craig messed-up his ankle while filming a pivotal scene in Jamaica. But, according to various reports, and obviously, this photo, Daniel Craig is going to be just fine following minor ankle surgery.

Now, here are the ways I am exactly like Daniel Craig: I have blond hair, I am a father, and sometimes, minor setbacks occur while I’m trying to do something that can derail my entire day. For me, these setbacks often involve being frustrated that there is no mustard in the refrigerator or that I have again, forgotten to buy the correct kind of plastic bags for the recycling bin. For me, these kinds of things can knock me down quicker than a flying kick from an assassin. I sigh deeply. I grit my teeth. And through it all, I generally feel sorry for myself. Will I now have to spend 20 minutes going to the hardware store to locate one specific kind of screw for the weed-eater because I managed to lose the only type of screw that will fit? Yes, yes I will. And I am going to grumble about it! It isn’t fair!

Grumbling and complaining might seem to be the God-given right of every father, but I gotta say, seeing D. Craig working out with an ankle cast made me feel like shit. Am I really going to be the guy who lets his day get ruined because the barista screwed up my coffee order? As a dad, I never have outbursts of anger around my daughter, but sometimes the fatigue and frustration of parenting will crop up in other, more petty ways. Would Daniel Craig do this? I mean, I’m sure he swore a lot when his ankle got screwed up while filming Bond, but would he really throw a hissy-fit? I mean, I know the guy has great health insurance because he’s a movie star, but still, I bet he would be a little bit more chill about this stuff.

This photograph of Daniel Craig has changed me the same way an ejector seat can quickly get rid of an unwanted ninja chilling in your passenger’s seat. Petty baggage is dumb. Setbacks happen. Let’s be like Daniel Craig and just get on with it. Dads of the world, hear me out on this one: Let’s all channel our inner Daniel Craigs more often. If this guy can hit the gym and be James Bond two weeks after ankle surgery, surely, all of us can complain a little less about cleaning baby food up off the ground or taking the trash out on time.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to upgrade firepower for two brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.

“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.



This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.

This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.

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

Articles

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.


But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time-lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.

But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)

The C-47 performed swimmingly as well, and Air Force leader Gen. Curtis LeMay approved the modification of two planes in 1964.

The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.

The pilots would take off with a 7-man crew and seek out small bases and villages under fire by North Vietnamese forces. When fighting popped off, the crew would drop flares out of the open door and the pilot would fly a race track pattern over the target, pouring fire on it the whole time.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over Saigon in 1968. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: Public Domain)

If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.

The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

A number of AC-47 pilots and crew members were cited for bravery while serving aboard the plane, including Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow. Levitow was on an AC-47 that was struck by a mortar round.

Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.

The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.

He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Shoot it down!’: The tragic tale of two American balloonists over Belarus

It was the fourth day of the 1995 Gordon Bennett Cup, one of the world’s most prestigious balloon races and one of the most challenging as well.

Alan Fraenckel, 55, and John Stuart-Jervis, 68, were over the skies of Poland before dawn on September 12, 1995, heading toward Belarus with a real chance of winning.

The two Americans, residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands, were excited by the prospect of flying over the former Soviet republic, which was mostly off limits until gaining independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Race organizers said Belarusian authorities had been informed about the Americans’ plans and had cleared them, along with four other American racers who were also planning to fly over Belarus in two other balloons.

However, as Fraenckel, an airline pilot by profession, and his copilot, Stuart-Jervis, headed into Belarus, they were tracked for more than two hours by Belarusian air-defense system before a military helicopter sprayed the balloon – which was filled with some 900 cubic meters of highly flammable hydrogen — with machine-gun fire, sending it crashing into a forest in western Belarus and killing both men.

Belarusian authorities said the balloon – registered in Germany as D-Caribbean — had strayed too close to a military airbase and missile-launch site and had failed to respond to radio calls or warning shots.

The International Aeronautical Federation would later say that Belarusian authorities had known about the race since March, had authorized the balloon of Stuart-Jervis and Fraenkel as well as those of J. Michael Wallace, Kevin Brielmann, David Levin, and Mark Sullivan. Moreover, race officials said the pilots had provided specific flight plans during the race.

Belarus did express regret over the tragedy, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology. Washington slammed Minsk for dragging its feet on notifying them of the incident and was further incensed when Belarusian authorities issued fines of $30 to the other balloonists – who had been forced to land — for not having visas.

“This is a farce,” said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns at the time. “We expected an apology from the Belarusian government and instead we got a bill.”

The incident came a year after Alyaksandr Lukashenka — a former collective farm manager who cast himself as a crime and corruption buster — had been elected president of Belarus, a post he would hold for decades as he erected an authoritarian system much like the former Soviet one, crushing all opponents who stood in his way.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (center) with his American and Russian counterparts, Bill Clinton (right) and Boris Yeltsin, shortly after he came to power in 1994.

Spirits High

Hours before tragedy struck, Fraenckel and Stuart-Jervis were in radio contact with Wallace and Brielmann, who were only 20 kilometers away after more than 60 hours of flight.

“We have 12 bags [of ballast] left,” said Fraenckel, “and all our water. We’re going to do a fourth night.”

“If you can’t find your crew,” answered Wallace, a close friend of Fraenckel’s, “you could still land now. My guys are right under you.” Half joking, half serious, Wallace was aware that the other balloon stood a good chance of winning if it stayed aloft.

“I don’t think so,” chuckled Fraenckel.

The Gordon Bennett Balloon Race, named for the millionaire sportsman and owner of the New York Herald newspaper, is the premier event among balloon racers. In principle, it is a simple event — the winner is the balloon that flies the furthest from the starting point without landing.

But it is literally a killer, and dozens have fallen victim to it over the years. In the 1923 race, which was held in Europe, five balloonists were killed by lightning, and a half dozen more were seriously injured in storms.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
The 1995 Gordon Bennett Cup, which Stuart-Jervis and Fraenckel had high hopes of winning before tragedy struck.

In 1995, the year of the Belarus tragedy, German balloonists Wilhelm Elmers and Bernd Landsmann set the race record for longest flight time, remaining aloft for more than 92 hours before touching down in Latvia on September 13.

That year, the race began on September 9 when 17 balloons lifted away from the starting point at Wil, Switzerland. By the evening of September 10, six of the balloons had landed in various locations in Western Europe, ending their bid for the trophy.

Witness To A Tragedy

As the Americans were traversing the skies of western Belarus, Vasil Zdanyuk, editor in chief of the Belarusian newspaper Svododnye Novosti and a correspondent for the Moscow-based Military Journal, sat down for an interview in his Minsk office with Belarusian Air Force commander Valery Kastenka.

“About 20 minutes into our interview, the operative on duty at the Air Defense Forces called and said: ‘We have the following situation: an unidentified object has appeared not far from our facilities, not far from an airfield.’ There is a military airbase nearby,” recounted Zdanyuk to Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

In fact, according to Zdanyuk, Kastenka was at that moment explaining the nuisance that low-flying probes — mostly weather balloons — posed for Belarus’s air defenses.

“Kastenka recounted how one of these balloons flew right over Minsk and almost caused a panic, although there was no danger,” he recalled. “And he says, ‘See how lucky you are. We are discussing it, and there is a balloon in the air.'”

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
The gunship that shot down the balloon was a Russian-made Mil Mi-24 combat helicopter. (file photo)

Kastenka ordered a military helicopter – a Mil Mi-24 — up in the air to check out the object.

As the military gunship got closer to D-Caribbean, Kastenka flicked on the speakerphone, letting Zdanyuk hear the conversation between Kastenka and the helicopter commander.

“After five more minutes, when the helicopter had flown around [the balloon], the operative asked: ‘What should we do with it?’ ‘What should we do? Let’s shoot it down,’ [Kastenka] added a few tough expletives. And I’m sitting there, doing the interview, and all of this is being recorded,” Zdanyuk said.

Zdanyuk said he could even hear the fusillade of machine-gun fire as Kastenka allegedly boasted to him: “You see, this is how we work. This is how we serve.”

The bodies of Fraenckel and Stuart-Jervis were later found in a forest near the town of Byaroza, after having fallen some 2,000 meters.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
The balloon Stuart-Jervis and Fraenkel were traveling in was shot down near the town of Byaroza in western Belarus.

Zdanyuk told Current Time in his December 2019 interview that he was confident Kastenka did not know the balloon was manned, speculating things may not have taken a tragic turn had Kastenka waited some 20 minutes until the other two American balloons appeared.

“Then he would have been more cautious: Why are they flying one after another,” Zdanyuk said. “And it would have become clear that a world ballooning championship from Switzerland was taking place.”

The Other Americans

Of the two remaining U.S. balloons, the first to land was the N69RW, navigated by David Levin and Mark Sullivan.

“At first we stuck to a more northern route: we headed to a small part of Russia near Latvia and climbed over the Baltic. But when in the morning the balloon began to rise due to solar energy, we turned east to Belarus,” Sullivan later recounted.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Competitors line up a the start of the Gordon Bennett Cup in September 1995. Stuart-Jervis and Fraenkel’s balloon can be seen in the foreground.

Two hours before crossing the border, the balloonists tried to contact the Minsk air traffic control center. Their signal was confirmed, but they were answered in Russian, although English is normally used in international aviation communication.

Wallace and Brielmann landed in Belarus after being ordered to do so by the Belarusians. Levin and Sullivan ignored a similar order, but also landed in Belarus because of deteriorating weather.

A Mockery?

The Belarusian government expressed regret for the incident but stopped short of offering a formal apology.

“We would call upon the Belarusian government to get its act together and to make sure that all the entities of the Belarusian government…begin to understand that the way they are handling this incident and the way they are treating American citizens is really a mockery,” the State Department’s Burns said on September 16, 1995.

“Whatever the circumstances may have been, and whether or not the balloon was able to answer radio calls from the Belarus military, the shooting was absolutely indefensible,” he said. “Moreover, the Belarus government took 24 hours even to notify us of the incident. We are strongly protesting and demanding a full investigation by the Belarus government.”

The Interstate Aviation Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) — a loose grouping of former Soviet republics — investigated the incident with representatives of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and German aviation authorities also participating.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Balloonist John Stuart-Jervis in 1986.

In its final report, the committee concluded the causes of the shooting were: “Unauthorized flight into the airspace of [Belarus] by an unidentified balloon, with no radio communication [between the balloon crew and Belarus air traffic control (ATC)0],” and “errors by [Belarus] anti-aircraft defense elements in the identification and classification of the airship that violated [Belarus] airspace.”

Yury Sivakou, head of the Belarusian Security Council at the time of the incident, defended Belarus’s actions, telling Current Time in 2019 that any country under similar circumstances would have done the same.

“If an unidentified aircraft appears in foreign space — in any country — first they negotiate with it, then they raise the appropriate air defense forces, which either enter into communication or force it to land,” said Sivakou, now blacklisted by the EU for his alleged role in the abduction and killings of opposition leaders in Belarus in the 1990s. “Even if radio communication does not work, there is a whole range of various [actions]: flapping wings and so on to force it to land, or indicating manually, ‘Follow me.’ In this case, the balloon did not react at all, and that was very strange at the time.”

According to Sivakou, the military assumed there could be “anything” in the balloon gondola. They came to this conclusion because there was an air base and other military facilities nearby.

He dismissed reports that the crew involved in the downing had been awarded medals as “speculation and rumors.”

“People died – it’s a tragedy,” he said. “Who awards anything in such cases? This was no act of aggression. It was just an accident.”

‘Forgive Us’

While families of the victims have never received a formal apology or any compensation from Minsk, many ordinary Belarusians expressed sorrow and shame for how its government had acted.

Alyaksandr Artsyukhovich, studying at a U.S. university at the time, expressed hope the shooting would be the last such tragedy.

“My country is a mess now,” he wrote at the time. “Millions of people feel themselves manipulated and frustrated. I only hope that the [recent] incident [will] be the only tragedy. Only removal of the artificial barriers built by the West to our integration into the world’s community can normalize things in Belarus.”

On the first anniversary of the tragedy, activists in Belarus placed a simple stone at the crash site with a cross, the date of the accident, and the phrase in Belarusian: “Forgive us.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

To prevent Russian invasion, Ukraine might need NATO

Ukraine’s border service has said that it will only allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Crimea following the imposition of martial law.

Kyiv imposed martial law in 10 of its 27 regions for 30 days on Nov. 28, 2018, after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

“In connection with the introduction of martial law, the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea can be crossed exclusively with Ukrainian documents,” a spokesman said on Nov. 29, 2018.


Citizens from all nations were previously allowed to enter Crimea through the administrative border via mainland Ukraine. But the process for doing so for non-Ukrainians was fraught with bureaucracy.

Crimea is accessible by plane from Russia or via Russia’s newly built bridge from the country’s mainland. But under Ukrainian law, those routes are illegal. Violators — and there have been many — are given official bans of three years or longer by Kyiv.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov to help protect Ukraine.

He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian president later on Nov. 29, 2018, tweeted that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine.

“No need to run to shops and buy matches and salt. There will be no restrictions on cash withdrawals, currency-exchange operations, travels abroad for Ukrainian citizens. For Russian citizens, these restrictions will be introduced. And I think that’s quite justified,” he wrote.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 dead since April 2014.

In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hoped European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.

“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said.

“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”

Opening a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit to urge the release of the ships and crews.

“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of the captured Ukrainian sailors have since been transferred to a detention center in Moscow, according to one of their lawyers.

Dzhemil Temishev wrote on Facebook on November 29 that his “colleagues” in the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow had informed him that some of the Ukrainian sailors had been brought there.

Also on Nov. 29, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, saying it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”

Putin has claimed that the naval confrontation was a ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March 2019.

A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already had a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.

“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.

The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is the arena usually patrolled by NATO.

Ukraine is a partner of NATO but not a member of the military alliance. NATO has already said it “stands with Ukraine” and has called on Russia to release the captured ships and their crews.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned Russia on Nov. 26, 2018, that “its actions have consequences.”

Poroshenko, who on Nov. 28, 2018, instituted martial law in parts of Ukraine in response to the Russian actions, told Bild he had evidence suggesting Russia is planning a new ground offensive against Ukraine, and he said he had shown NATO partners satellite pictures supporting that allegation.

“Germany also has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we don’t stop him?” Poroshenko told Bild.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy has joined Poroshenko in calling for increased protection from NATO, saying on Nov. 27, 2018, that “I urged [NATO] to increase [its presence] in the airspace above the Black Sea and the number of military ships in the Black Sea as a guarantee of security and a guarantee of stability in the Black Sea.”

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

EU: ‘Utmost Concern,’ But No New Sanctions

Poroshenko’s remarks came as the European Union failed to muster support for any immediate new steps to either impose new sanctions on Russia over the naval incident or increase enforcement of existing sanctions on Moscow.

Poland, Britain, and the EU’s Baltic states have called for more sanctions, but after three days of debate, the EU’s 28 states could agree only to issue a statement on Nov. 28, 2018, expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia.

The statement issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini did not mention sanctions, saying only that the bloc will “act appropriately” while continuing to monitor the situation.

The bloc’s top powers, Germany and France, have so far emphasized efforts to ease tensions. Other members, including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, have been calling for a softening of sanctions on Moscow.

The EU first imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea, and it has ratcheted up those sanctions from time to time. The United States on Nov. 27, 2018, called for stricter enforcement of the EU’s existing sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials and businesses.

While the EU failed to take any immediate action against Russia, in a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, Estonia said on Nov. 28, 2018, that it had summoned its Russian ambassador and condemned Russia’s use of military force in the incident.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Before the F-35, these 10 airplanes became legends after rough starts

Critics of the F-35 have jumped on the fact that it has suffered a host of problems during the developmental test process while Air Force leadership has remained bullish on the jet’s transformational potential. This isn’t the first time this dynamic has come into play while fielding an airplane.


Here are ten planes that had rough starts, but eventually became mainstays.

1. F4U Corsair

 

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(Photo: U. S. Navy)

The “Ensign Eliminator” was a high performer, but the complexity of the plane lead to a lot of fatal accidents. In fact, at one point, the Navy was willing to let the Marine Corps use the plane from land bases during World War II, sticking with the F6F Hellcat (not a bad bird, either). The plane kicked butt, to put it mildly. Eventually, the Navy began to fly Corsairs off carriers near the end of World War II, when it needed high performance to take down kamikazes. The plane then proved to be a good ground-attack bird, particularly during the Korean War.

2. P-51 Mustang

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

The first version of the P-51, the P-51A, was saddled with the Allison engine. That gave it problems at higher altitudes. Still, some recognized that the P-51 had potential, and decided to try the Rolls Royce Merlin. We all know how that worked out.

3. P-38 Lightning

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

Hard to believe that a plane designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson of Lockheed “Skunk Works” fame would have problems. But the plane used by Tom Lanphier to take out Isoroku Yamamoto had trouble – lots of trouble. Early versions of the Lightning were crippled by issues with compressibility. One such incident over a wheat field near Rostock nearly spelled the end for the legendary Robin Olds. Eventually, new dive flaps fixed the compressibility problems, and the P-38 went on to a glorious career – with Yamamoto as the most famous “kill” among many.

4. F-111 Aardvark

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The “Vark” had long range, high speed, and a heavy payload. It also had teething problems that earned it the wrath from William Proxmire, who called it a “Flying Edsel.” Well, the kinks got worked out – and the plane became a reliable all-weather attack bird – and during Desert Storm, F-111E and F-111F planes flew hundreds of sorties, with no losses.

5. B-1B Lancer

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

It had a reputation as a “hangar queen” in the 1980s, and it had problems with the ALQ-161 jammers. Just procuring the plane was a huge fight in Congress. But in the 1990s, the B-1B came into its own as a conventional bomber.

6. C-17 Globemaster

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

This plane had huge issues during RD. It nearly ended up canceled after only a few dozen airframes were built. However, the plane soon proved it was more than capable of replacing the C-141, and now is not only in service with the Air Force, but with NATO, the Royal Air Force, and a number of other countries around the world.

7. C-5 Galaxy

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Justin D. Pyle)

 

This plane had its problems, too. Cracks in the wings and cost overruns put this plane in jeopardy and lead to load limits. Those have been fixed, though, and the C-5 is getting a round of modernization that will keep in service for decades to come.

8. V-22 Osprey

 

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

This plane was in the aviation equivalent of “development hell.” Many times, pundits, politicians, and even Dick Cheney wanted to cancel it. But the Osprey survived, became a game-changer, and now is the backbone of Marine Expeditionary Units.

9. F/A-18 Hornet

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
An F/A-18C Hornet with 10 AMRAAM and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This plane had its problems, notably short range (which was somewhat overblown – in the fighter role, it actually had longer range than the F-4 Phantom), and the ever-familiar cost over-runs. But the Navy and Marine Corps stuck with the Hornet and that plane became the backbone of carrier air wings in the 1990s and early 2000s.

10. F-16 Fighting Falcon

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force.)

The Air Force brass initially didn’t want it. The engine would cut out in the middle of flight, forcing pilots to make deadstick landings. But the F-16’s problems were resolved, and the plane has a long service record with the United States Air Force, the Iron Eagle movie franchise, and many export buyers.

So, when people want to chop a defense program over some teething problems, just remember that even the successful planes once had those problems, too.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran gives the world notice of its intent to enrich uranium

Iran says it has informed the UN nuclear agency that it has launched the process of increasing its capacity to enrich uranium in case the 2015 agreement that curbed its nuclear program collapses.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said on June 5, 2018, that a letter was handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to inform it of the decision.

But he also said Iran will continue adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal and that the country’s nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.


In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal that set strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam
President Donald Trump
Photo by Gage Skidmore

The other signatories to the accord — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — said they remain committed to the deal. Iran for now also is honoring the agreement.

“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at [the Natanz enrichment plant], we can announce the opening of the center for production of new centrifuges,” Salehi said, quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

This “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges,” he insisted.

Salehi said the move was in line with instructions from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ordered preparations for the resumption of unlimited uranium enrichment should the nuclear deal — known by the acronym JCPOA — fall apart.

“If the JCPOA collapses…and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation…centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA,” Salehi said.

During a visit to Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Iranian plan to increase its nuclear-enrichment capacity was aimed at producing nuclear weapons to be used against Israel, its archrival.

“We are not surprised [by Iran’s announcement],” he said in a video statement. “We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use.

The nuclear agreement allows Iran to continue 3.67 percent uranium enrichment, far below the roughly 90 percent threshold of weapons-grade.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 striking photos from 2019 of the US military in action

The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.

Insider took a look back at the thousands of photos of the military in action and selected its favorites.

The following 11 photos, many of which were also Department of Defense favorites, were the ones we chose.


These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Harris)

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

2. A Wyoming Air National Guard C-130 fires flares over Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyo., Sept. 24, 2019, during a training mission.

DoD pick

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicole Rogge)

4. Marines use a fire hose to extinguish a fuel fire during live-burn training at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2019.

DoD pick

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-At-Arms 1st Class Joseph Broyles)

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

6. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan Vasquezninco provides security during small boat raid training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 10, 2019.

DoD pick

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Morton)

8. Three MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters line the seawall at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as the sun rises over the St. Johns River on June 13, 2019.

DoD pick

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Army Sgt. Henry Villarama)

9. Army paratroopers jump from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over the Bunker drop zone at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 14, 2019.

DoD pick

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

10. An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, two Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs and two F-15 Eagles fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker during a training mission over England, Sept. 16, 2019.

DoD pick

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson)

11. A service member jumps out of a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey during parachute training at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban have fought for days to take this capital back

Afghan government forces have retaken most of Ghazni from the Taliban as clashes continued for a fourth straight day after the militant group launched an assault on the eastern city, officials say.

Security forces recaptured some 90 percent of Ghazni after reinforcements were sent to the city, Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Javed told RFE/RL late on Aug. 13, 2018.


Javed said clashes continued into the evening on Aug. 13, 2018, in Ghazni’s Baghe Bahlool area, one of the last pockets that remain under Taliban control.

Earlier on Aug. 13, 2018, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami said that some 1,000 additional troops had been sent to Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, and were trying to clear the city of Taliban militants.

“With the new measures in place, we expect that there will be a considerable development in the next 24 hours in the situation in Ghazni,” Bahrami told reporters in Kabul.

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

“We hope there will be a good development,” he added.

Afghan officials were quoted as saying that U.S. Special Forces units were on the ground helping to coordinate air strikes and ground operations but that was not confirmed by the U.S. military.

Ghazni is a strategic city located on the main road linking the capital, Kabul, with southern Afghanistan.

Three days after the militants launched their assault on the city of 270,000 people early on Aug. 10, 2018, information was difficult to verify with telecommunications services being shut down due to the clashes.

Bahrami said the ongoing battle had killed about 100 police officers and soldiers, as well as at least 20 civilians. He also said that 194 Taliban fighters were killed.

Officials at the Interior Ministry were quoted as saying that the fighting also left at least 15 civilians dead and more than 400 others wounded.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called on the parties to “protect the lives and rights of civilians and to protect civilian infrastructure,” particularly medical facilities.

“Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming very scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment,” Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

He also said it was “unsafe” for people to travel to larger cities where medical facilities are available.

Food supplies in the city were “reportedly running low,” he added.

Shah Gul Rezayee, a lawmaker from Ghazni, told RFE/RL on Aug. 13, 2018, that the “Taliban has torched many parts of the city.”

Some Ghazni residents who fled to other cities described panic and fear in the city, Rezayee said, speaking by phone from Kabul.

“They say dead bodies are laying uncovered in the streets, people are facing a shortage of food and drinking water, and there is no electricity in the city,” she added.

A communications tower was destroyed by the Taliban, cutting off cell-phone and landline access to the city.

“People can’t contact their relatives and friends, and it has added to the fear and panic,” Rezayee said.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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