500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

After the bodies of ten American airmen in their B-24 Liberator were found in the Mao’er Mountains in a remote area of central China, the local villagers did the most extraordinary thing: They banded together to dig an entirely new road to make sure those airmen could be retrieved and returned to their families.


In 1997, the remains of these World War II-era airmen were repatriated to the United States from China. The bodies were entombed in the B-24 where they died, at the very top of China’s tallest mountain, impassable by most. But Chinese farmers on the hunt for herbs came across the rusted sarcophagus in October 1996.

From that day on, it was the mission of the locals to get these ten airmen home.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

The summit of Mao’er Mountain is not the easiest place to get to.

Some 52 years before they were found, the ten airmen were flying their second mission in complete darkness. They had just come from a successful raid against Japanese ships of the coast of Taiwan in August, 1944. They could not have predicted they were about to run into the 6,000-foot-tall mountain.

The crash spread debris across the mountain’s dangerous steep and slippery slopes, where it all stayed exactly as it landed for more than half a century before the two farmers came across the wreckage. When discovered, Chinese officials sent video and photo of the site to then-President Bill Clinton. In a show of gratitude for the United States’ wartime efforts, 500 locals of Xingan County banded together for two months to cut a path and dig a road to the crash site so the bodies could be extracted.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

American C-47 carrying supplies for Chinese troops. Flying the mountains in China was dangerous for even the more experienced pilots.

By January, 1997, a team of forensics experts from the U.S. POW/MIA Office were able to traverse the mountain path the the site. It was still a treacherous climb, but the road made it all possible. Without the locals’ effort, getting the remains of the airmen back to the U.S. would have been nearly impossible.

Fifty years ago these brave young men scattered their blood over this beautiful region,” Liang Ziwei, director of foreign affairs in Xingan told a group of assembled reporters.

Identified by their dog tags, they were indeed young – the youngest was just 19 and the oldest was only 27. Their families were notified and the remains sent to Hawaii for official identification.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The evolution of women’s service in the military

Women have been serving in the military in one capacity or another since the Revolutionary War; Molly Pitcher cooled down canons during that time. However, it wasn’t until World War II that women gained recognition as full-fledged members of the military. WWII was a turning point for women in military service. This was the time when we saw the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs), Women’s Army Corps, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.


WWII saw nearly half a million women in uniform in both theaters of conflict during that time. The valuable role women played during the war, along with President Truman’s determination to make changes within the military, led to the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. With this act, for the first time, women were recognized as full members of the Armed Services. This meant they could finally claim the same benefits as their male counterparts. This also made it so those women who chose to do so, could make a career in the Army or Navy.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, there were tens of thousands of women who volunteered for service. Many of them were nurses. However, they also made great strides among all of the military branches, donning both Marine and Air Force uniforms to serve alongside those already serving in the Army and Navy.

During the 1960s in Post-Vietnam America, great social changes were made throughout the nation. Many of those changes were driven and led by women. The Women’s Rights Movement not only fought for equality in the workplace, carved out places for women in the political arena, and opened up new opportunities in higher education, but it also led to changes for women in the military. One of the biggest changes in the treatment of women in the military during this time was giving them the opportunity to attend the service academies. Opening these academies to women was pivotal for the treatment of women in the military because, for the first time, they were allowed to obtain officer status in the ranks. This then placed them in positions of leadership and authority throughout all the branches.

The 1990s began with the Gulf War. During this time, female military members distinguished themselves. For the first time, women won the right to serve as combat pilots during the war. By the end of the decade, women were serving on combat ships and flying warplanes from carrier ships. However, in 1994, these female service members did suffer a bit of a setback when the Secretary of Defense refused to allow them to serve in units whose primary mission was ground combat.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

www.army.mil

With the 21st century, women saw even greater strides in their opportunities in service. Colonel Linda McTague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron, and women in the Army and Marines began to edge closer to being able to serve in full combat duty. In 2013 the ban on women in combat was finally lifted, and the branches were given two years to comply with full integration. By 2015 two women completed Army Ranger school, which led to the decree that all combat duties should be open to women as well.

The past few years have seen women gaining advancement to some of the highest levels of authority in the military. They have also been given the opportunity to complete elite training courses, along with Ranger school, women have been allowed to enter the ever difficult Navy SEAL officer training courses. One thing is for certain, women in the military have come a long way since World War II, and it is definite that they will continue to be seen and heard in their ever growing-roles in all of the branches of the U.S. military.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This E-4’s grave is the most dangerous gravesite in the world

In January 1961, the U.S. Army suffered its only nuclear accident and the only fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The accident was caused by the manual removal of a control rod in a nuclear reactor in Idaho. The resulting explosion killed two Army specialists and a Navy Electrician’s Mate. One of the Army specialists, Richard McKinley, was so irradiated that his body had be interred in a lead-lined casket, covered in cement and placed in a metal vault before burial.

The special grave is now at Arlington National Cemetery where it is under special watch, unable to be moved without permission from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.


500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

That’s not really what we think of at Arlington National Cemetery.

The official cause of the explosion was ruled an accident, although some suspect it might have been a suicide due to the nature of the accident. In the nighttime hours of Jan. 3, 1961, three enlisted men working the reactor at an experimental Idaho-based Reactor Testing Station were killed when one of the nuclear core’s control rods were removed manually.

That is to say one of the men removed the uranium-235 control rod 50 centimeters – with his hands. Just 40 centimeters was enough to send the reactor to critical.

And it did send the reactor critical, immediately unleashing 20,000 MW in .01 seconds, causing the nuclear fuel to melt. The melted uranium began to interact with the water in the reactor and produced a violent explosion of steam that caused part of the core to rise three meters in the air.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

In the late 1970s, it was even alleged that the incident was an intentional murder-suicide.

Army Specialist John Byrnes and Navy Electricians Mate Richard Legg were also killed in the incident, the first and only deadly nuclear incident on U.S. soil. They were buried in their hometowns. Specialist Richard McKinley would have to be buried elsewhere – somewhere his irradiated body could not harm anyone else.

When the specialist removed the control rod by hand, he had already absorbed enough radiation to kill him a few times over but the resulting steam explosion sent the rod flying through his body, contaminating it with long-life radioactive isotopes.

He was placed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and sealed in a metal container. His body now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. Along with delivery of the body came the orders from the Assistant Adjutant General of Arlington Cemetery:

“Victim of nuclear accident. Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters.”
MIGHTY MOVIES

Daniel Craig is injured on set of Bond 25

James Bond has fallen and it looks like his final mission has been put on hold. But for how long?

On May 14, 2019, Variety reported that 007 actor Daniel Craig reportedly “slipped and fell quite awkwardly,” which resulted in a twisted ankle and led to him being “flown to the U.S. for X-rays.” This report comes from unnamed sources at The Sun, meaning, for now, the top-secret allies of James Bond (or anyone from EON productions) have not confirmed this is real.

According to the report, Craig was filming the final scenes of the new film in Jamaica, and subsequent scenes, thought to be shot at Pinewood Studios in London have been suspended. Should Bond fans worry? Will the movie ever be completed?


BOND 25 Live Reveal

www.youtube.com

In all likelihood, Daniel Craig will bounce back and the movie will still come out on time. After all, Harrison Ford broke his leg in 2014, and The Force Awakens still came out on time in 2015. We’re not saying who is tougher — Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford — but if Han Solo can deal with a broken leg, then James Bond can get over a twisted ankle.

That said, here’s hoping Craig makes a swift recovery, if only so he can get back to his dad duties as well as his secret agent work, too.

Bond 25 doesn’t have a title yet is and is scheduled to be out sometime in February 2020.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Finns stopped the Soviets with this polka song

There’s a subsection of YouTube dedicated to playing the same song on repeat, over and over again, for hours at a time. Parents think it’s just a part of raising children when they have to listen to the same kids’ song, over and over again, for days at a time. Both of these cases have nothing on the five months of playing the exact same polka song over 1,500 times, continuously, as the Soviets retreated from Finland during the Continuation War.


As the Finns recaptured the city of Vyborg from the Soviets, they would have to travel across land saturated with mines left behind by the Soviets.  When the Finns chased out Soviet soldiers, the Soviets retreated to safety, the mines detonated and devastated the Finns. There were so many mines left that civilians, even after reclaiming the city, were still forbidden to reenter their homes.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
…if they still had one. (Photo via War Archive)

This was until an unexploded mine and the radio equipment next to it was brought to Jouko Pohjanpalo, credited as being the “father of Finnish radio” for his work establishing the Finnish radio field. Jouko tinkered with the explosives and the associated radio device and discovered that it operated at the frequency 715 kHz. Inside the radio receiver were three tuning forks. When a certain three-note sequence was sent over the radio and all three forks vibrated — boom.

Now all they needed to do was send out a signal to jam the sequence. They needed something fast with a lot of chords that wouldn’t also set off the mines. So, they played Säkkijärven Polkka by Viljo “Vili” Vesterinen. It was an immensely popular song at the time and many Finns associated it with great national pride, similar to how Americans feel today hearing America, F*ck Yeah!

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

And so began Operation: Säkkijärvi Polkka. The Finns blasted the song at 715 kHz so the mines wouldn’t explode and they continued to fight. The Soviets learned what was going on and changed the radio frequency for their mines. Because the Soviets didn’t change the mines, just the frequency, the Finns played the song on repeat on every frequency the mines could possibly operate on. Out of the one thousand or so mines in the city, only 12 went off.

In a press interview years later, Jouko told them,

In the crowds and the homeland, the operation received a legendary reputation because of its mystery. Säkkijärvi’s polka went together about 1,500 times. All kinds of rumors circulated about somebody crazy enough to have emitted it on every radio station.

To hear the majestic polka song that helped win a war, check out the video below.

(Dallape30 | YouTube)

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

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
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

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
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

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
(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

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
*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

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
(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

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
(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

Mattis: For the first time in 70 years, Pentagon will audit defense spending

The funding process for the U.S. military is back in a healthy place, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said on May 23, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The secretary spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, and on May 24, 2018, he participated in the U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.


Mattis emphasized the ties between the National Defense Strategy and the budget process, and said the budget submission was underpinned by strategy for the first time in 10 years.

DoD funding process

He has urged congressional leaders to provide predictable funding for the department since taking office, and urged Congress to become more involved in its constitutional duty to fund the department. In nine of the last 10 years, the department spent at least some of the time under a continuing resolution.

“What that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn’t have a strategic framework within which you’d go, for example, to the Congress and say here’s why we want additional money here,” the secretary said.

And the department couldn’t get additional monies under a continuing resolution. “Without the steady budget, we could not do new starts,” Mattis said. “So things from the Army’s modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.”

This situation caused the American military overmatch to erode over time, and now the department must make up for lost time, the secretary said.

“We are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and … the omnibus bill,” he said.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Mattis is pleased that Congress is no longer in a spectator role with the budget, “but actually saying where they want money put. There will be arguments … and good arguments, about where the priorities should be. And that’s up to us to make certain we can bring the analysis that we have of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.”

More lethal military

Still, DOD officials must recognize that proposed changes must be tied “to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” the secretary said. “And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.”

Finding funding from within is also a major push, and Mattis insists DOD must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has given the department new tools to enable the Pentagon to adopt best practices from industry and reform processes inside the department.

“Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment,” he said.

Pentagon reform

After years of stops and starts, he said, the Pentagon may actually be able to deliver on sustainable reforms. “I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner,” he said. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.

“We’ll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we’re going to fix every one of them,” he continued. “So, I can look you people in the eye and say I’m getting your money and here’s what I’m doing with it.”

New technologies and new uses for older technologies are being studied with research into artificial intelligence, hypersonics, outer space activities, and research in the cyber realm, the secretary said.

“These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we’re going to keep this this experiment of America alive,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 epic photos from our enemies’ Instagram feeds

We have a history of showing off American military hardware, training, and photos. But we’re not always great about showing the great photographic work of our rivals. (Our “enemies” if you’re feeling aggressive or if you need to make your headline more click-baitey.)


So, we just took a quick walk through the Instagram feeds of the Chinese and Russian militaries as well as their senior leaders and found these seven epic photos that show off their hardware, troops, training, and celebrations.

Because they’re coming from Instagram and we don’t have the rights to download the images and upload them raw, you’ll also see the captions the photos were shared with. Lucky us, the Russian military includes English captions on their photos. The Russian caption comes before the English one, so just scroll until you see some familiar letters.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh-VBjxn5vj/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Chinese Armed Forces on Instagram: “We serve China! – People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Su-30MKK – #中国 #中华人民共和国 #中国人民解放军 #中国人民解放军空军 #中国武装力量 #中华人民共和国武装力量 #plaaf…”

www.instagram.com

This Su-30MKK is an export variant of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30. It’s flown by the China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force and is a capable fourth-generation fighter. It’s primarily used to protect from other fighters or to conduct strikes against targets on the ground like an F-15 does.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0GHMPIAG5L/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “До Дня ВМФ чуть больше недели, а морпехи Тихоокеанского флота уже целый месяц репетируют эпизоды шоу, которое состоится во Владивостоке в…”

www.instagram.com

These armored personnel carriers are Russian BTR-82As. They can race along the ground at about 62 mph and have only been in service since the end of 2009. A three-person crew is needed to operate the vehicle, and seven more can ride in the back. It boasts a 30mm auto-cannon as well as a 7.62mm machine gun.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0Akdy7ge8o/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Удивительные кадры первых репетиций Главного военно-морского парада, посвященного Дню ВМФ, прошедших вчера в Санкт-Петербурге. В…”

www.instagram.com

A Russian helicopter, most likely the Mi-17, flies over St. Petersburg during rehearsals for a national holiday. Russia’s transport helicopters are some of the best in the world, and their attack helicopters have gotten better and better as well, though the most-modern Apaches and Vipers can likely still clear the sky.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BzS_LkwpVoL/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Instagram post by General Zhuang Dingman • Jun 29, 2019 at 2:15pm UTC

www.instagram.com

Chinese troops lift tires filled with water and dump them on themselves. The general who shared this image provided no context, but displays like this are common for Chinese troops, especially special operators, when cameras are nearby to capture the moment.

That may make it sound like these troops are just photo models, but China’s special operators have actually placed highly at recent Warrior Competitions in Jordan, taking first and third in 2017 and second in 2018.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0gSJnOgC-y/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Небо Москвы вчера озарили 2500 фейерверков в честь 75-ой годовщины освобождения Бреста от немецко-фашистских захватчиков ⠀ Брест был…”

www.instagram.com

The Russian government and its citizens celebrate the liberation of Brest, Belarus, during a party in Moscow. Brest was one of the first Russian cities lost during the German invasion in World War II but Russia re-took the city in 1944, 75 years ago.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BvpAt8NgtSy/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]General Zhuang Dingman on Instagram: “Airmen erect air-defense missiles!!!!!”

www.instagram.com

Chinese troops prepare to erect an air defense missile. China has a wide selection of air defense missiles including S-300 and S-400 missiles imported from Russia as well as domestically built HQ-9 and HQ-22 missiles.

There’s some speculation about how much technology China might have reverse-engineered from Russia without permission, but the HQ-9, at least, was first deployed before China got access to Russian air defense missiles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This designer might be the most important mind in American military history

These days, aircraft designers aren’t exactly household names. Quick, can you tell me who designed the F-22? How about the F-35? No? Don’t worry, not too many can.


Back in the day, aircraft designers were big names. Kelly Johnson of Lockheed is rightly famous for designing the SR-71 and P-38, among other planes. But only one man can say that he designed aircraft that helped avenge both Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Ed Heinemann. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

His name is Ed Heinemann, and he holds the distinction of having designed both the plane that won one of the most pivotal battles in naval history and today’s best multi-role fighter. According to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, he became the chief engineer at Douglas Aircraft Corporation’s El Segundo plant in the 1940s.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
A Douglas A-20 Havoc pulls up during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (Photo from DoD)

While there, he designed the A-20 Havoc and, more notably, the SBD Dauntless. The SBD is most famous for what it did in the span of roughly five minutes on the morning of June 4, 1942, about 175 miles north-northwest of Midway Atoll. In that timeframe, three Japanese aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Soryu, and Kaga, were fatally damaged by dive-bombers launched from aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CV 6) and Yorktown (CV 5).

The SBD wasn’t all. While with Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Heinemann also designed some Cold War standbys of the United States: The A-3 Skywarrior and the A-4 Skyhawk.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
The A-3 Skywarrior may be the most underrated airplane of the Vietnam War. (U.S. Navy photo)

Heinemann left Douglas in 1962 to join a company called General Dynamics. In the wake of the Vietnam War, that company would be one of two asked to develop a lightweight fighter for the United States Air Force that took into account lessons learned from fighting the Communists. Heinemann oversaw the project team, which would produce a multi-role fighter that would become almost as widely exported at the Skyhawk, until his retirement in 1973.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off from the base during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Aggressor pilots are trained to act as opposing forces in exercises like RF-A to better prepare U.S. and allied forces for aerial combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

That plane, Ed Heinemann’s last aviation creation, would win the competition, and even get to star in a movie, all while becoming the backbone of the United States Air Force in Desert Storm (where it served alongside some modified A-3s) as well as the War on Terror. According to a book he co-authored on aircraft design, Ed Heinemann, in the last days of his career, oversaw the development of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how Army divers excavate underwater tombs

Full of sediment from the bottom of the sea, a gray metal basket slowly rose out of the turquoise water. While it appeared to only contain muck, it offered hope to the U.S. military divers waiting to inspect its contents.

The divers — mainly from the Army’s 7th Engineer Dive Detachment — were archaeologists of sorts. As they sifted through the mud the consistency of wet cement, the divers searched for personal effects or aircraft wreckage to prove they were on the right path.


The ultimate discovery, though, would be the remains of the six Soldiers who went missing after their Chinook helicopter crashed off the coast here during the Vietnam War.

Each year, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency oversees more than 70 joint missions around the world in search of the remains of American service members at former combat zones. In Vietnam, there are still over 1,200 service members who have not yet been found.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Spc. Douglas Adams, a diver with the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, puts on his diving helmet before he heads 80 feet below the surface as part of an underwater recovery mission near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 19, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)


Some of those operations are underwater recovery missions, which rely heavily on the Army’s small diving force.

“Everybody in the military signs up to go to war. We fight the nation’s battles. That’s what we do,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Kratsas, the agency’s only master diver. “But I know if I ever got killed in battle somewhere, I would want my remains brought home to my family and I know they would want the same.”

Zero visibility

As the most senior diver on the recent 45-day mission near Nha Trang in southern Vietnam, Kratsas helped ensure the safety of the divers who plunged 80 feet into the dark waters.

Depending on the weather, four two-man teams from the dive detachment spent about an hour each day on the sea floor. While hidden beneath the waves, they used 8-inch vacuum systems to dredge sediment within specified grids of the archaeological site.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Staff Sgts. Thomas Hunnicutt, center, and John Huff, monitor two divers in a decompression chamber following their dive as part of an underwater recovery mission near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 20, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

At times, the divers stood on the sea floor buried in thick silt up to their shoulders. Divers sucked out the silt until they reached the hard-packed seabed, where pieces of the helicopter had been resting for decades.

The next day, much of the silt had to be dredged out again due to the sea currents that brought in more.

The painstaking efforts of these underwater missions, especially in the murky waters off the coast of Vietnam, are repeated daily in hopes to reunite those lost in war with their loved ones.

“We do exactly what the land team does,” said Kratsas, 46, of Lordstown, Ohio. “We dig a hole in the earth, we put it in a bucket and we screen it. The same exact process that they do, except ours is at 80 feet and we can’t see it.”

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
A floating barge where Army and Navy divers worked from as they searched for the remains of Soldiers lost in a Chinook helicopter crash during the Vietnam War near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 19, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

Side-scan sonar and magnetometer work helps pinpoint metal objects on the sea floor to better focus diving operations. But sites can often cover a vast area, particularly if an aircraft or ship has broken into pieces.

A site’s depth can also limit how long a diver can safely stay under the water. At 80 feet below, the Army divers only had 55 minutes to work during each dive. Once back on the floating barge, they were rushed into a pressurized chamber to ward off chances of a decompression illness by gradually returning them to normal air pressure.

“Bottom time is definitely a premium,” said Spc. Lamar Fidel, a diver with the detachment, which falls under the 8th Theater Sustainment Command in Hawaii. “That’s where we make our money.”

In a previous mission, Fidel said they were able to dive for about six hours at a time. That site, which was in search of two pilots from an F-4 Phantom fighter jet that crashed in the Gulf of Tonkin near northern Vietnam, was only about 20 feet deep.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
A Navy diver dredges with a venturi vacuum system during an underwater recovery mission in search of missing American service members from World War II near Palau, Jan. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)


It was also Fidel’s most memorable diving mission so far.

For 14 years, he said, the agency had gone to the site unable to recover any human remains. Then last year, using the work of past missions, his team discovered a bone that led to the identification of one of the missing pilots.

“As soon as you see that, that hits you right in the heart,” said Fidel, 28, of Atlanta. “It makes you realize what you did … wasn’t all for nothing.”

Exclusive group

While DPAA depends on Army divers for many of its missions, there are only about 150 of them across the service.

The small, elite career field has a high failure rate of roughly 60 to 80 percent for those training to become a diver. Much of the reasoning behind the tough entry course is that lives are always at stake during missions.

“Every time we get in the water, you have a chance of having a diving-related casualty,” said Staff Sgt. Les Schiltz, a diving supervisor assigned to the agency.

The deeper a person dives, the more at risk they are to suffer from a decompression illness. The two main problems divers face are decompression sickness, or the “bends,” and an arterial gas embolism. While the “bends” results from bubbles growing in tissue and causing local damage, the latter can have bubbles travel through the arteries and block blood flow. It can eventually lead to death.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Staff Sgt. John Huff, a diving supervisor with the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, briefs fellow divers before they dive 80 feet to the sea floor to collect sediment in search of the remains of American Soldiers near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 19, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

Divers also need to watch out for sharks, jellyfish and other dangerous marine life.

“There are a lot of things in the water that can hurt you,” Schiltz said. “You plan accordingly, you look ahead to where you’re going to be, and you try to mitigate all those risks as much as you can.”

The thrill of diving often outweighs the dangers for many of the Soldiers. When under the water, Schiltz, 28, of Vernal, Utah, says it is like being in a different world.

“It’s probably the same reason someone will explain to you why they skydive or why they snowboard off cliffs,” he said. “There’s always a danger to it and that just makes it even better.”

Army divers are tasked to do a variety of missions that can have them repairing ships and ports or conducting underwater surveys. For many divers, though, the recovery missions have the most impact on them.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
A pair of Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment jump into the water during an underwater recovery mission near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 20, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

“It takes you to a more emotional point in your life,” Schiltz said.

While every diver wants to be the one who discovers the remains of a service member, the master diver describes the somber event as a shared win whenever it happens.

“Everybody’s out here to do one job and just because you happen to be the one diver on the job when you find something, it’s not you that found it,” Kratsas said. “It was a team effort.”

When not diving, Soldiers have several side jobs to keep operations afloat. They monitor oxygen levels and depth of fellow divers or serve as back-up divers to assist in an emergency. They also tend to umbilical cords that connect divers to the barge or help run a water pump for the suction hose.

When a basket is brought up to the barge, they all scoop out the sediment into buckets and screen it.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Spc. Timothy Sparks, a diver with the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, monitors the air levels of two divers during an underwater recovery mission near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 20, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

Some divers are surprised by the condition of some items pulled from the water. Even if items are buried at sea for a long time, salt water can sometimes preserve them better than at land sites where the acidity of soil breaks them down faster.

“A lot of times the wreckage is in such good condition, you can still read serial numbers,” said Capt. Ezra Swanson, who served as the team leader for the recent mission.

Pieces of an aircraft can also put things into perspective for the divers when they hold them in their hands.

“The last time someone was with that, it was the aircrew when they were going down,” said Swanson, 30, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “It’s like a connection between you and that crew.”

Archaeological site

Decades of sediment often buries human remains in an underwater tomb. To unearth them, dig sites are properly logged with historical data from previous missions.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Members of a joint team, the majority of whom were Army divers, screen sediment from the sea floor as they search for the remains of American Soldiers from the Vietnam War near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 20, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

Dive teams may pick up where they left off before or continue another team’s work at a site. An underwater archaeologist will direct a team where to dredge using grids, typically 2 by 4 meters wide, which are marked off on the seabed.

Similar to the guessing game of “Battleship,” if a certain grid has a successful hit with evidence being dredged up from it, divers will concentrate on nearby grids.

Even one fragment, such as a bone or tooth, could solve a case if it can be identified by laboratory staff back at the DPAA headquarters on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
A member of the underwater recovery team inspects a 7.62 mm cartridge, which was found while screening sediment from the sea floor near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 20, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

“Sometimes you only find small fragments, but with today’s technology and with DNA [testing], we can still get a lot of information even from tiny little bits,” said Piotr Bojakowski, an underwater archaeologist with the agency.

Personal effects, such as rings, wallets or dog tags, can also produce a strong case for identification.

Since the recovery process can be slow and methodical, Bojakowski will remind divers to stay patient to ensure no evidence is overlooked.

“Take your time, don’t rush the process,” he tells them. “It’s more important that you do screening properly and find this small piece than to rush it through. Because once you lose it, we will never find it again.”

If years of careful research do not provide clues of human remains at a site, the agency may be forced to redirect efforts elsewhere.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains
Pieces of possible wreckage from a Chinook helicopter crash site are inspected by members of a joint team during an underwater recovery mission near Nha Trang, Vietnam, March 20, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)


“It’s a difficult, difficult decision to make,” Bojakowski said. “The ideal situation is to find the remains and material evidence. But providing an answer that the remains are not at the site is also an answer to some degree. Sometimes that’s the only answer we can get.”

Despite the long, hot days that had baskets come up empty during their recent mission, the Soldiers still kept at it for weeks. And when the time comes again, they will likely return to the same spot to do the same work.

To them, the mission is bigger than themselves.

“They know the cost and the sacrifice and have a very high appreciation for the guys who lost their lives,” said Swanson, the team leader. “They’re willing to push through the challenges and make sure they do everything they can to bring those guys home.”


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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how going to space makes you a better person

When the Space Force eventually gets off the ground and troops start making their way toward the stars, they’ll be elevated as people. No, we’re not talking about physical elevation. And no, we’re not talking about the status that comes with being one of the elite few to break the Earth’s atmosphere. We’re talking about elevation on both a spiritual and moral level.

Every astronaut that has been to space shares an experience. From up there, they can look back at this tiny, pale blue speck of space dust, and it’s a life-changing, mind-opening sensation. This isn’t to say that “many” astronauts have this experience — it happens to every single astronaut from all walks of life and from every nation. It’s a feeling that astronauts have reported completely independent of one another.

It’s what they’re calling the “Overview Effect.”


You spend your entire life in one spot on this planet, or maybe you’ve traveled across it — regardless, you’re only ever seeing a small fragment of the whole. It’s only when you can step back (or out, in this case) and truly see the big picture that you can really take it all in.

By looking down at this planet from outer space, astronauts can see everything. Every life born. Every country and its cities. And the collection of glimmering lights on the surface is its entire living population. Photography from space has been around since the 1960s — the famous Blue Marble photo, the very first full-planet photo, was taken on December 7, 1972 — but it doesn’t elicit the same response as seeing it with your own eyes.

It’s been described as being set free from Plato’s Cave. Suddenly, you’re looking at Earthly issues from a galactic perspective — and it changes everything.

Funnily enough, the phenomenon wasn’t been recognized until 1987, when philosopher Frank White put a name to it, calling it the “Overview Effect.” The very first human being in space, Yuri Gagarin, first gave clues to his experiencing of the Overview Effect by saying,

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty and not destroy it.”

It’s also worth noting that he also never said, “I see no God up here.” That’s a myth.

Astronauts come back with a sense of purpose after taking in such an awe-inspiring view. It’s hard for minor problems to bother you, apparently, when you’ve been given a look at the true scale of such problems. They describe it as a form of transcendental meditation when they realize what they’re looking at.

Astronauts who’ve experienced this sensation say it never leaves them, and they’ll remember the feeling until the day they die. Ed Gibson, the science pilot aboard the Skylab 4 once said,

“You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things in the universe. Your life and concerns are important to you, of course. But you can see that a lot of the things you worry about do not make much difference in an overall sense.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Instagram accounts every military spouse should follow

Instagram has fully dominated the zeitgeist. The “can I get your number?” of years’ past has mutated into the “what’s your IG handle?” of the new era. But you don’t have any need for that anymore. You’re married to a member of the United States armed forces. So here’s a handful of accounts to bring your carpal-tunnel thumb scrolling into the new age with a bit of inspiration for the loved ones of military members.


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/officialarmywife101/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Army Wife 101 (@officialarmywife101) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@officialarmywife101

This account is one of the most popular MILSO (military significant other) accounts on Instagram. ArmyWife101 covers everything from veteran’s issues to perfect care packages to promoting fellow MILSO accounts.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/airmantomom/?hl=en expand=1]Amanda (@airmantomom) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@airmantomom

Amanda has a great account for any woman who has transitioned from military to service to motherhood. In addition to having a very current IG profile, she also runs a podcast under the same @—a perfect program to underscore a jog around the block.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/themilitarywifeandmom/ expand=1]Lauren Tamm (@themilitarywifeandmom) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@themilitarywifeandmom

Lauren is a military wife and mother of two who documents her life closely for her followers. It gives fellow military spouses a gentle look into the life of someone who can empathize with the struggles and triumphs of someone who is facing life as a military mother. Her shots are artfully composed and sure to crack a smile.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/reccewife/ expand=1]Kim (@reccewife) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@reccewife

Kim is a tough ass, salt of the earth, no-nonsense Canadian military spouse. Her sardonic wit gives her profile a bit of an edge and is perfect for anyone who wants a glimpse into the parallel life of a military spouse across our northern border.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/soldierswifecrazylife/ expand=1]Julie (@soldierswifecrazylife) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@soldierswifecrazylife

If you want something a bit more personal— Julie has you covered. She’s a military spouse and mother of two who fills her account with personalized messages of support in a non-partisan, playful way. She’s a spoonful of honey on your IG feed.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/humans_on_the_homefront/ expand=1]Humans on the Homefront (@humans_on_the_homefront) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@humansonthehomefront

This handle is, unfortunately, inactive since 2017 (although the hashtag is alive and well). However, it has 61 posts archived to sort through. Each detailed post tells the stories of the brave men and women who serve our country, as well as the incredible people who love them. Any military spouse, parent, relative, or friend could get a twinkle of inspiration from this account.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/movingwiththemilitary/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Moving With The Military (@movingwiththemilitary) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@movingwiththemilitary

This account is like “Extreme Home Makeover: Military Spouse Edition.” Maria operates the account, which shows makeovers that they do for USOs, military spouses, and a whole other assortment of charitable military work. It’s a breath of positivity on your feed.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/theseasonedspouse/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]The Seasoned Spouse (@theseasonedspouse) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@theseasonedspouse

Lizann works this account as a super valuable resource to MILSOs everywhere. She creates workshops and masterclasses to give tips and advice to newly minted military spouses dealing with everything from deployment to surviving the holidays at your parents.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/support_lgbt_military/ expand=1]Support LGBT Military (@support_lgbt_military) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@support_lgbt_military

This is a beautiful account filled with stories, profiles, and (best of all) memes that empower LGBT veterans and service members. The account is highly active and, with over 10K followers, has a massive community with which to interact.​

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/thewaitingwarrior/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Michelle Bowler (@thewaitingwarrior) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@thewaitingwarrior

Michelle Bowler balances mothering four children with the difficulties of being an “Army wife” at Ft. Campbell. Her IG account’s message is clear—”you are not alone.” Her whole goal is to act as a supportive lens to all MILSO’s and loved ones of first responders. Michelle also has a podcast with 46+ episode of interviews with spouses of all experiences, talking about various parts of military and first responder spouse life.

Articles

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.


But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.

Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.

Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.

As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.

Lynch had to wait to find out his run was successful, though. He was targeted with a missile as he came out of the dive and was forced to take evasive maneuvers. He wouldn’t learn about his success until he returned to base.


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