The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Taliban’s special forces unit

On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.


Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.

The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

When did it emerge?

The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighters published photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.

In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.

But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.

Also Read: The Taliban killed 15 Afghan police in separate attacks

Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during which dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.

On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, was killed in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.

How is it different from other Taliban units?

“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.

Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.

Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.

In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Screengrab from released Taliban video.

The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.

“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”

The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.

Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.

“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”

The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.

 

 

How much of a threat is it?

“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”

Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.

But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.

Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”

Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.

“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.

Articles

How these armies beat their foe with a prostitute, palm trees and plague bodies

Siege warfare is a military tactic in which an enemy army surrounds a castle or fortress and attempts to break in either by physical force or by starving the inhabitants into submission. In other words, it is a nasty ordeal for all involved and it often sports some diabolical tactics.


Here are three sieges from ancient history that show just how nasty things can get.

1. Battle of Jericho (late 17th or 16th centuries BCE)

The siege of Jericho is a well-known story. The Israelites marched around the walls seven times and on the seventh circuit they stopped, the Levites blew into their shofars and the next thing you know the walls came tumbling down, end of story. However, there is an alternative history that wrings more true.

The Israelite commander named Joshua used psychological terror and stealth to bring down the walls of Jericho. In other words, before Joshua mustered his forces on the days preceding the Jericho battle, he sent two men to scout out the area and the city of Jericho like any good commander would.

Once the men were in the city, they went straight to the inn. An inn is a perfect place for a pair of strangers seeking information. The men got lucky when a prostitute by name of Rahab approached them and gave them all the details about the city’s security. Afterward, both spies swore to Rahab that she and her family would be spared so long as she left a scarlet cord hanging from her window.

Once the spies returned with the goodies, Joshua assembled his forces and deployed to Jericho, where they would march around the city for seven days. There are two reasons for this. First was to terrorize the city’s inhabitants with this bizarre rounding of the city day after day.

Second, was to keep the guards along the wall occupied by watching the army. While this goes on, a number of men would break rank undetected and head to Rahab’s window and climb up the scarlet cord. This would go on for six days. After the seventh day came, the Israelite army stopped, the shofars sounded and the men shouted.

This was a signal for the uncertain amount of men staying in Rahab’s apartment to attack the city from the inside by taking the main gate and opening it for the Israelites to storm in. Once the Israelites were in, the slaughter begins.

Every man, woman, child — and even livestock — were put to the sword, except for Rahab and her family.

2. The Siege of Baghdad (1258)

In 1258, the massive Mongol army along with many foreign nations under the authority of Prince Hulegu, surrounded the city of Baghdad after conquering much of Iran and northern Iraq. Once the Mongols settled into camp, the destruction began.

 

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
That’ll teach you to negotiate with a Mongol. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The total size of Hulegu’s army was roughly between 100,000-150,000 men, probably closer 120,000 total.

On jan. 30, 1258, the Hulegu gave the order to commence the bombardment of the city walls. But there was a problem. The Mongol siege crews had no rocks. The siege train carrying the needed stones was three days journey away.

While the Mongols look for suitable projectiles to throw at the city walls, Hulegu ordered his Mongol archers to fire arrows over the walls with messages attached saying the city’s residents would be treated with kindness if they surrender.

While Hulegu sought to end this siege peacefully, Mongol engineers came up empty handed in the catapult rock search. However, not all was lost. Mongol engineers stripped foundation stones from the buildings in the suburbs and uprooted palm trees to use as hasty projectiles, battering the walls of Baghdad (James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen, 145).

The Caliph quickly sent ambassadors to negotiate peace but Hulegu would not hear the plea and detained them. Hulegu’s message was clear, surrender was not enough; it must be unconditional surrender.

While the Caliph continued to send envoys to Hulegu, the Mongols continued to bombard the walls — focusing on the Ajami tower, which was reduced to rubble by Feb. 1. The Mongols would finally break into the city the next day and seized a portion of the eastern wall. However, the battle was far from over and the negotiations continued for another four days. On the 6 February, the bombardment was over but the Mongols remained on the wall until the Caliph surrendered. Hulegu sent another message, this one to the armies of Baghdad. The message told them to lay down their arms and leave their posts.

Seeing the situation was unwinnable by use of arms, the Caliph’s advisors advised him to flee. But one man by the name of Ibn Alqami proposed that the best way to end this was for the Caliph to go before Hulegu. Hulegu’s terms to the Caliph were simple: turn over his daughter so that he could marry her and recognize Hulegu as the supreme authority.

If accepted, Hulegu would end the siege. The Caliph agreed and his forces marched out thinking they were going to retire to Syria. However, the forces were killed and later the Caliph and his sons were put to death. As for Baghdad, well, the hounds of hell were let loose.

The Armenian historian, Kirakos of Gandzak, wrote about the destruction stating:

Hulegu then ordered the troops guarding the walls to descend and kill the inhabitants of the city, great and small. (The Mongols) organized as though harvesting a field and cut down countless, numberless multitudes of men, women, and children. For forty days they did not stop. Then they grew weary and stopped killing. Their hands grew tired; they took others for sale. They destroyed mercilessly.

However, Hulegu’s wife, the senior Khantun (lady), named Doquz Khatun was a Christian. She spared the Christians of Baghdad, Nestorians and other denominations and beseeched her husband not to kill them. And he spared them with their goods and property.

Hulegu ordered all his soldiers to take the goods and property of the city. They all loaded up with gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and costly garments, for it was an extremely rich city, unequalled on earth.

Hulegu himself took his share the caliph’s treasures—three thousand camel loads; and there was no counting the horses, mules and asses.

So how many people died? That answer is disputed. But it has been suggested that as many as 2 million may have been killed in the Mongol destruction. However, this does not take into account the many more that were slaughtered throughout the Near East during Hulegu’s military expedition.

3. “Bring out your Dead!” The Siege of Kaffa (1346)

While this is a not ranking list, the Siege of Kaffa probably wins hands down for the suckiest siege. The reason is that Kaffa is ground zero for the worst plague to date to ever fall upon mankind. However, I understand the plague started elsewhere, but for Europe, Kaffa is the main source. So how did it happen?

 

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Throwing plague-infected corpses over the walls of Kaffa might have been the opening salvo in a regional pandemic. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 1346, Mongols besieged the Genoese city of Kaffa located on the Black Sea. Before this siege, the Mongols and Genoese made an agreement in 1266 that the city would serve as a trading center between Europe and the Far East. However, the city would be taken over by the Mongols later on only to be given back. This seesaw agreement tradeoff would go on for some time.

The final straw came in 1343 when Christian locals and Muslims in the enclave of Tana inflamed. In turn, the Christians fled to Kaffa to escape the wrath of Khan Janibeg. Janibeg sent his army after them and found them hiding in the city. So what better option than to besiege the city.

In 1344, the Genoese were successful in breaking the siege by killing 15,000 of the Khan’s men and destroying their siege engines. The Khan would come back and try again in 1346, but as the Mongol besieged the city, a mysterious illness began to circulate the encampment. The Mongols, seeing their men fall ill and die, decided to use the bodies as a weapon. According to the notary Gabriel de Mussis:

The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults (trebuchets) and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover, one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.

Eventually, the city would surrender in 1349. But the damage had been done, and some of the Genoese took to their ships heading back for the ports in Italy. Unfortunately, some on board of those ships were infected with the bubonic plague. Gabriel de Mussis mentions this, stating:

…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.

Overall, the Siege of Kaffa could be the deadliest siege ever. The outcome of the siege and the bubonic plague affected much of the world, particularly Europe, since Asia was already contaminated.

While it is possible that had the siege at Kaffa not taken place, the plague may not have infected Europe, or it may have come much later. But given that the siege did happen, it may have unwittingly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people out of a population of 80 million in Europe from 1346-1353.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate’s UFO inquiry highlights Washington’s worries about “Doomsday” weapons

In April, the Department of Defense released three videos taken by U.S. Navy pilots showing what the military defines as unexplainable aerial phenomena, or UAPs — more commonly known in civilian vernacular as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

The Pentagon videos clearly show the objects flying in unusual ways, and the audio includes the pilots’ puzzled and astounded reactions, including:


“What the [expletive] is that?”

“There’s a whole fleet of them…my gosh.”

“Look at that thing, dude.”

“That’s hauling ass, dude…look at that thing…it’s rotating.”

“Wow, what is that man?”

“Look at it fly [laughing].”

‘UFO’ videos captured by US Navy Jets Declassified

www.youtube.com

Naturally, the revelation of these unexplained encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating aerial vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, when it comes to so-called UAPs, lawmakers in Washington have more earthbound concerns.

As China and Russia increasingly militarize space, and as Russia develops a new arsenal of high-tech “doomsday” weapons, there is mounting concern in Washington that these seemingly unexplainable aerial encounters could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting their advanced new weapons into action — potentially over U.S. soil.

As a result, a group of U.S. senators has drafted an order for the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among U.S. agencies. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence made the request in a report, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”

The report also calls for the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. Based on information included in the report, the Office of Naval Intelligence maintains an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. That naval task force appears to be the nexus for America’s collation of reports of UAP sightings — comprising data from military branches, intelligence agencies, and the FBI.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The full text of the Senate report on UAPs. Courtesy U.S. Senate.

The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”

While the Senate report marks a major step in congressional oversight of America’s UAP sightings, the Pentagon and federal law enforcement have been alert to the threat for years.

In December 2017, the New York Times reported on the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which reportedly collected reports of UAPs from 2008 until 2012. And over the past two years, the FBI was reportedly tapped to help investigate a spate of UAP reports in Colorado and Nebraska. Some of those UAP sightings occurred near U.S. Air Force installations and were subsequently investigated by security forces at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

F.E. Warren is a strategic missile base and home to the 90th Missile Wing, which operates some 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are armed with nuclear warheads. Those missiles are on 24/7 alert, 365 days a year, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Following the breakdown of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia last year, and with Moscow and Washington increasingly at loggerheads over a broad gamut of geopolitical issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embarked his country’s military on a crash-course program to develop new so-called doomsday weapons.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

An Atlas V AEHF-6 rocket successfully launches from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 26, 2020. The launch of the AEHF-6, a sophisticated communications relay satellite, is the first Department of Defense payload launched for the United States Space Force. Photo by Joshua Conti/U.S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

The 9M730 Burevestnik — known as the “Skyfall” among NATO militaries — is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with virtually unlimited range.

Apart from the Burevestnik, in March 2018 Putin unveiled other new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat U.S. missile defense systems. Among those was the Avangard hypersonic vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.

Russia is also reportedly developing a nuclear-powered underwater drone — the “Poseidon” — that will creep up to an adversary’s coast, detonate a nuclear weapon, and create a 500-meter, or 1,640-foot, tsunami.

According to some scientific journal reports, Russia may also be resurrecting some Soviet-era antisatellite missile programs, particularly one missile known as Kontakt, which was meant to be fired from a MiG-31D fighter.

Whereas the Soviet-era Kontakt system comprised a kinetic weapon intended to literally smash into U.S. satellites to destroy them, the contemporary Russian program will likely carry a payload of micro “interceptor” satellites that can effectively ambush enemy satellites.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The first #SpaceForce utility uniform nametapes have touched down in the Pentagon. Photo courtesy of United States Space Force/Twitter.

The recent creation of the U.S. Space Force reflects the novel threats the U.S. now faces from its adversaries in space.

On June 23, China successfully launched an unmanned probe bound for Mars, underscoring Beijing’s increased interest in its space program. That same day, the U.S. Space Force announced that on July 15 Russia had tested a new antisatellite weapon.

According to a Space Force statement, a Russian satellite released an object that moved “in proximity” to another Russian satellite. Based on the object’s trajectory, Space Force officials said it was likely a weapon rather than a so-called inspection satellite.

That test was “another example that the threats to U.S. and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing,” the Space Force said in a release.

“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk,” said General John Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, in the release.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Su-35 pilot claims that he locked on to an F-22 in Syria

An Instagram account claiming to be of a retired Russian pilot of an Su-35, Russia’s top jet fighter, posted a picture purportedly of a US F-22 Raptor stealth jet flying above Syria, suggesting it was evidence that his older, bigger jet could outflank it.

The picture appears to show an F-22 in flight on what looks broadly like an image produced by an infrared search and track (IRST) system, which the Su-35 houses in its nose-cone area to look for heat, not radar cross section, potentially helping it find stealth aircraft at close ranges.


The author of the post claimed to have spotted the F-22, which has all-aspect stealth and is virtually invisible to traditional radars, during combat operations in Syria.

After describing at length how these encounters usually go — there are dedicated lines of communication used to avoid conflict between Russia and the US as they operate in close proximity over Syria — the author claimed to have locked onto the F-22.

A Business Insider translation of part of the caption reads: “F-22 was arrogant and was punished after a short air battle, for which of course it got f—ed.”

Russia has long mocked the US’s stealth jets and claimed an ability to defeat them in combat. But while Russia can spot US stealth jets by looking for heat and not radar signature, that’s very different from being able to shoot them down.

Even if the images are genuine, “it doesn’t alone suggest that the Su-35S is reliably capable of detecting and intercepting the F-22,” Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

“Furthermore, the F-22 will have been aware of the Su-35’s presence since the latter took off, so it isn’t really any indication of a diminishment of the F-22’s combat advantage,” he said.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The Raptor’s thermal signature is no secret.

(NPAS Filton)

“IRST systems can be used to detect and potentially track stealth aircraft under specific conditions,” Bronk said. But that “doesn’t mean that they are anything approaching a satisfactory solution to the problem of fighting against such targets, as they have limited range compared to radar and are vulnerable to environmental disruption and degradation,” he added.

In essence, he said, an F-22 would have seen the Su-35 long before the Russians saw the American, and the S-35 most likely spotted the F-22 only because it flew up close in the first place.

Bronk previously described looking for fifth-generation aircraft in the open skies with IRST as like “looking through a drinking straw.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, told Business Insider that he was “unable to verify the claims made on Instagram” but that “Russia has been conducting a concentrated disinformation campaign in Syria to sow confusion and undercut US and allied efforts there.”

US pilots can tell when their jets have been targeted by enemy weapons, so they would know whether a Su-35 pilot established any “lock.”

Russian media has since picked up the story, running it with analysis that suggests the Su-35 may be able to defeat the F-22.

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

popular

6 misconceptions civilians have about the Army

Whenever soldiers go on leave, it always plays out exactly the same:


“O! You’re in the Army? My friend from work’s brother is in the Navy, so I know allllllll about it…”

This is followed by a in-depth one-sided discussion about what people think they know about the Army, usually followed by some uncomfortable questions.

Here’s a list of assumptions we get that leave us sitting there thinking, “No, dude. Not even close.”

6. “You’re exactly like the other branches of the Armed Forces.”

This one stings.

It’s not that it’s entirely wrong. There is plenty of overlap between soldiers and other branches. But we still have our own mission and they still have theirs. Especially the stupid Navy.

 

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The best analogy you can use is like the relationship between EMT, nurse, and doctor. They all have a very similar purpose in life, but they each have a different part to play in the grander scheme of things.

5. “You’re all hard ass SOBs with who can ‘John Wick’ someone with a pencil.”

No matter what a soldier did while serving, when they get out they probably won’t correct someone if they hear, “You don’t want to upset him man, he was in the Army! He could snap you in half!”

Many soldiers are required to go to Combatives Level 1 and eventually Level 2 (depending on their unit.) And yes, physical training is a thing everyone does in the morning, and many soldiers also enjoy going to the gym after work ends.

But

While it’s definitely frowned upon, we still have soldiers that look like they should have cheeseburgers slapped out of their hand to make height and weight regulations. Even on the other end of the spectrum, there are also plenty of scrawny soldiers in the Army as well.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Will someone please give Private Rogers that dude’s cheeseburger so he stops looking like he belongs in a Sarah McLachlan commercial.

4. “You’re all wounded and fragile shells of who you once were.”

War is hell. There’s no denying that. But very rarely are soldiers as truly broken as the civilian world thinks we are.

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I don’t know what his problem is, he’s not even looking at the war. (U.S. Army Center for Military History)

When civilians think about soldiers and PTSD, the worst-case-scenario comes to mind. While there are veterans who suffer from acute PTSD symptoms, most service members have the tools to treat their service-related conditions, and nearly all are still functional members of society.

3. “You’re free to make decisions like where you want to live.”

Back to the lighter and funnier side of things, it is always hilarious whenever people say things like, “Why can’t you just call in sick?” or “You’ll be able to take this day off, right?”

Sure, you have the occasional “Army of One” jerk who thinks he can get away with skating. But no. We don’t choose whether or not we want to go to work. We don’t choose days off without a long drawn-out process. And even if you reenlist for a new duty station, chances are, you won’t get to decide where you live in the world.

That’s just the way things are and soldiers get used to it.

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U.S. Army

2. “You’re a master of foreign affairs and know what the military is doing constantly.”

Most soldiers couldn’t even tell you what their Joes are currently doing, let alone what the Special Forces are doing in [Country Redacted]. Even if you were talking with a senior advisor at the Pentagon, they still couldn’t even tell you what every little detail of the Army is up to.

The Army is just way too big and way too diverse, even within itself. When civilians start throwing our opinions into it we’ll either stare blankly or make something smart up.

Also, we don’t like talking about work during leave.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

1. “You’re all constantly training.”

Nothing blows a civilian’s mind quite like the fact that there actually is down time in the military and that we do more than just shoot weapons and practice kicking in doors.

Want to hear what 75% of a lower-enlisted’s day looks like?

Wake up to work out with the platoon at the weakest guy’s level. Pretend to check our equipment that hasn’t been touched since the last time we pretended to check on it. Quick hip-pocket training by a sergeant that was just reminded that they’re a sergeant (“How to check that equipment you just checked,” or “Why DUIs are bad”.) Then wait that for same sergeant to get out of a meeting where they’re told that nothing happened but they should watch out for their Joes getting in trouble. Finally go back to the barracks to do all the things their sergeant was warned about.

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With a packed schedule like that, we’re way too busy to be killing babies, Grandma.

popular

Top lefty pitcher was a World War II engineer

Like fellow Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, pitcher Warren Spahn had his career interrupted by World War II. Unlike Williams, who was already famous when he was drafted, Spahn achieved notoriety after the war. Span had what ball players call “a cup of coffee” (a brief appearance in the majors) in 1942, pitching just four games before he was drafted.

In his Hall of Fame career, most of it for the Boston/Milwaukee Braves, Warren Edward Spahn won 363 games, ranking sixth overall; the most for a left-handed pitcher. A seventeen-time All-Star, Spahn’s career included thirteen seasons with twenty or more wins, three ERA titles, two no hitters (at ages 39 and 40), and a World Series championship and Cy Young Award (both in 1957). Career highlights included an epic 16-inning pitching duel on July 2, 1963, at age 42 with 25-year-old Juan Marichal and the San Francisco Giants.


The game was scoreless when it went into extra innings. Five times Giants manager Alvin Dark went to the mound, intending to relieve Marichal and each time Marichal refused. On Dark’s fifth trip, in the 14th inning, Marichal growled, “Do you see that man pitching for the other side? Do you know that man is 42 years old? I’m only 25. If that man is on the mound, nobody is going to take me out of here.” In the bottom of the 16th inning the game was still tied 0–0. With one out, Giants outfielder Willie Mays hit a solo home run, winning the game. Marichal had thrown 227 pitches, Spahn 201, with the latter allowing nine hits and one walk.

Spahn entered the Army on Dec. 3, 1942, at Camp Chaffee, Ark., a combination training facility and POW camp, and one of the many military bases being built in the crash-construction program overseen by Lt. Gen. Brehon Somervell. Following basic training, he was sent to Camp Gruber, Okla., where he was assigned to the 276th Engineer Combat Battalion. He continued to play baseball, and helped pitch the battalion’s team to the post championship.

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A 1963 publicity still from the 1960s ABC network television series “Combat!” showing Warren Spahn as a German Army soldier.

(Photo by Dwight J. Zimmerman)

On Nov. 4, 1944, Staff Sgt. Spahn and his unit, part of the 1159th Engineer Combat Group, boarded the Queen Mary for France. Of the men in the unit, Spahn later said some had been let out of prison if they would enlist. “So these were the people I went overseas with, and they were tough and rough and I had to fit that mold.”

Spahn soon found himself in the middle of action in the brutal Battle of the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. Spahn recalled being surrounded and he and his men having to fight their way out. During one of the coldest winters on record, Spahn said, “Our feet were frozen when we went to sleep and they were frozen when we woke up. We didn’t have a bath or change of clothes for weeks.”

In March 1945 the 276th was at Remagen, Germany, working around the clock to repair the Ludendorff Bridge. Though damaged by demolitions triggered by retreating German troops, it had not been destroyed, making it the only Rhine River bridge captured by the Allies. On March 17, at about 3:00 p.m., Lt. Col. Clayton Rust, the 276th’s commander, was standing about in the middle of the bridge talking to a fellow officer. Suddenly everyone heard what sounded like rifle shots – rivets were being sheared off from trusses and beams. The bridge, weakened by the demolitions, heavy troop and vehicle traffic, and vibration from artillery fire and construction equipment, was collapsing. A total of 28 men were killed or missing and 65 wounded. Eighteen men were rescued from the river, including Col. Rust. Spahn was among the wounded, getting hit in the left foot by a piece of bridge shrapnel.

The 276th received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions at Remagen. Spahn was also awarded the Purple Heart. In addition Spahn received a battlefield commission, which lengthened his service by another six months. Discharged in April 1946, he returned to the Boston Braves in time to post an 8–5 season.

Historians and fans later claimed that Spahn’s four years in the Army cost him the chance of reaching 400 wins. But Spahn disagreed, saying, “I matured a lot in those years. If I had not had that maturity, I wouldn’t have pitched until I was 45.” Elaborating on the point, he said, “After what I went through overseas, I never thought of anything I was told to do in baseball as hard work. You get over feeling like that when you spend days on end sleeping in frozen tank tracks in enemy threatened territory.”

Warren Spahn retired in 1965. In 1973 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two years before he retired, Spahn made his acting debut in the television show “Combat!” — a cameo as a German soldier.

A YouTube video of American troops crossing the Ludendorff Bridge can be seen here below:

www.youtube.com


YouTube features a number of Warren Spahn videos, one can be seen here below:

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Argunners. Follow @ArgunnersMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The KGB tailed this Frenchman for 8 years, but was he a spy?

Fifty-five years ago, on Sept. 11, 1963, a plane took off from Kyiv for Vienna. On board was Julien Galeotti, a French citizen accused of espionage and expelled from the Soviet Union.

Recently released documents from the KGB archive in Kyiv have revealed details of Galeotti’s story and brought to light the remarkable photographs he took during his travels in the Soviet Union. For eight years, KGB agents followed the man they called “The Moustache.”

But was he a spy?


Galeotti made his first trip to the Soviet Union as a tourist in 1955, with stops in Moscow and Leningrad, which is now St. Petersburg. From the beginning, he attracted the attention of the KGB.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Julien Galeotti.


According to reports filed on him, KGB agents believed the snap-happy Galeotti was trying to make secret “compromising photos” in the Soviet Union aimed at “discrediting and mocking intentionally created ugly images and insignificant aspects” of Soviet life.

In one photograph taken in front of the newly constructed main building of Moscow State University, the KGB alleged Galeotti had set up “clearly posed French citizens depicting unemployed people.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Soviet citizens relaxing on a Moscow bench or French tourists posing as the unemployed?

The next year, Galeotti was back, this time taking a cruise from the southern French port of Nice on to the Black Sea, with stops in Odesa, Sevastopol, and Yalta in Ukraine, as well as Sochi in Russia and Batumi in Georgia. He made similar cruises in 1957, 1959, 1961, and 1963.

Over the years, he took photographs of Soviet citizens standing in lines for basic goods. He photographed a beggar in an Odesa market and military vessels in port.

“At 14:00, he went into the courtyard of Lenin Street, No. 59, and took a photograph of a trash container,” a KGB report from August 12, 1957, said about Galeotti’s time in Odesa. “Then, walking along Provoznaya Street, he photographed poorly dressed citizens.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Residents of Odesa at a public transport stop in 1963.

Soviet agents followed him the entire time, watching him both on board the cruise ship and ashore. According to their reports, Galeotti tried to become friendly with the crews of the ships, showed an interest in Soviet ports and whether military ships were present, and organized anti-Soviet shows and skits aboard the cruise ships.

On his final trip to the Soviet Union in 1963, Galeotti was back in Sevastopol, the Crimean Peninsula port city that was home to the Black Sea Fleet. The KGB arranged to have civilian militia (druzhinniki) headed by KGB agents stationed at sensitive viewing points overlooking Soviet military vessels in anticipation that Galeotti would want to take photos there.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Galeotti’s photo of the Soviet tank rolling down an Odesa street in 1963.

An operational group was set up with the intention of detaining him. The pretext for arresting him was based on the “statements of Soviet citizens,” including a letter from the captain of the cruise ship.

When agents arrested Galeotti in Sevastopol on Aug. 22, 1963, they didn’t find any film on him. He’d managed to pass his rolls to another French citizen who, according to the intelligence reports, hid them in the seat of his Soviet tourist agency bus. That French citizen spent the rest of the cruise aboard ship without disembarking in the Soviet Union again, and the KGB eventually recovered the rolls of film from the bus.

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A market in Odesa in 1963.

Galeotti spent nearly three weeks in custody, first in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, and then in Kyiv, where he was taken for further questioning.

At first, Galeotti denied being a French agent. He said all of his photographs were taken out of personal interest. But eventually he confessed that he had worked with the French secret services, but only during his last trip to the Soviet Union when he’d been asked to photograph military objects in Sevastopol. Later in the interrogation, he admitted that he’d carried out such assignments from his first trip to the Soviet Union.

He said that when he returned to France after each trip, he sent the film to the photo studio of his father, a former French intelligence agent.

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A KGB surveillance photo of Galeotti in Odesa in 1963.

Galeotti “repented of his actions, saying that he had made a terrible mistake that he would never repeat,” the KGB reported following his interrogation.

According to the file, Moscow decided merely to expel Galeotti because, at the time, two KGB operatives had gone missing in France. It was decided “to exploit the situation as part of a more comprehensive plan.” KGB agents continued to follow and photograph The Moustache until the very moment that his plane left the ground.

Upon returning to France, Galeotti told journalists: “I can’t go back to the Soviet Union anymore. But then again, I don’t want to.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A growing body of research indicates that there are likely billion of Earth-like planets that we haven’t yet discovered.

That’s good news for astronomers seeking alien life. Since Earth is our only example of a life-bearing world, scientists try to pinpoint planets like ours when they search for life elsewhere.

That’s what NASA’s Kepler space telescope set out to do. Kepler scanned the skies from 2009 to 2018, and it found over 4,000 planets outside our solar system. A dozen or so of these planets seem like prime real estate for life.

Kepler’s data has produced a growing body of research that indicates there are likely billions more Earth-like planets that we haven’t discovered.

Here’s why scientists are starting to think planets like Earth might be common.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

When astronomers peer across the cosmos for potential outposts of alien life, they look for planets like Earth.

That means a rocky planet that’s roughly the size of Earth. Scientists haven’t exactly defined this size range, since they don’t yet know how big rocky planets can be.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

The habitable zone, or “Goldilocks zone,” around a star is where a planet is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water.

(NASA)

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

This artist’s concept illustrates the idea that rocky worlds like the inner planets in our solar system may be plentiful, and diverse, in the universe.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

A handful of recent discoveries shows that Earths could be common in the universe.

That means alien life could be common, too.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

An illustration of NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

(NASA)

Most of what we know about exoplanets comes from the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

Kepler, which first launched in 2009, retired last year after it ran out of fuel. NASA passed the planet-hunting torch to the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in April 2018.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

From the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly took this photo of Earth and the Milky Way. He posted it to Twitter on Aug. 9, 2015.

(NASA/Scott Kelly)

Based on Kepler’s findings, one NASA scientist estimated that our galaxy alone contains 1 billion Earth-like planets.

Astrophysicist Natalie Batalha sent these rough calculations to the Washington Post in 2015. She noted that it was a conservative estimate.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

This artist’s concept of the Milky Way shows the galaxy’s two major arms and two minor arms attached to the ends of a thick central bar.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Since then, further research has indicated that the Milky Way could harbor as many as 10 billion Earths.

In a study published in August, researchers estimated that an Earth-like planet orbits one in every four sun-like stars.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet on Feb. 12, 2019.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

Those researchers didn’t want to rely solely on the planets Kepler found. That telescope’s method is better at detecting large planets (like Jupiter) than small planets (like Earth).

That means that Kepler data probably underestimates the number of Earth-like planets in the cosmos.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth. This May 9, 2016 transit lasted seven-and-a-half-hours.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein)

That’s because Kepler used the “transit method.” It watched for tiny dips in a star’s brightness, caused by a planet passing in front of it.

Larger planets obstruct more of their stars’ light, making them easier to detect. Plus, Kepler’s method was biased toward small, dim stars about one third the mass of our sun.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

A multi-frequency all-sky image of the universe’s background radiation.

(ESA/ LFI HFI Consortia)

So Ford’s team built a simulation of a universe like ours and “observed” its stars as Kepler would have.

The simulation gave the scientists a sense of how many exoplanets Kepler would have detected in each hypothetical universe, and which kinds. They then compared that data to what the real Kepler telescope detected in our universe, to estimate the abundance of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from nearby one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(SO/M. Kornmesser)

The result: up to 10 billion rocky, Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

“There are significant uncertainties in what range of stars you label ‘sun-like,’ what range of orbital distances you consider to be ‘in the habitable zone,’ what range of planet sizes you consider to be ‘Earth-like,'” Eric Ford, a professor of astrophysics and co-author of the study, told Business Insider in August 2019. “Given those uncertainties, both 5 and 10 billion are reasonable estimates.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

An illustration of the binary star system Sirius. Sirius A (left) is the brightest star in the night sky of Earth, and it has a small blue companion called Sirius B.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon)

Many of those planets could be Earth-like in other ways, too. Last week, a study found that 87% of Earth-like planets in two-star systems should have a stable axis tilt like Earth’s.

“Multiple-star systems are common, and about 50% of stars have binary companion stars,” Gongjie Li, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems.”

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The surface of Mars.

(NASA)

That stable tilt is crucial for life on Earth. The tilt of Mars’s axis changes wildly over tens of thousands of years, creating drastic shifts in global climate that could prevent life from taking hold.

Some scientists think Mars’s changing axial tilt contributed to the disappearance of its atmosphere.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

A star like our sun dies by casting off its outer layers of gas, leaving only the star’s hot core behind.

(NASA/ESA/K. Noll)

In an autopsy of six dead stars, researchers found that the shredded remains of rocky planets contained oxygen and other elements found in rocks on Earth and Mars.

The researchers used telescope data to calculate how much the iron in these rocks had oxidized — the process where iron chemically bonds with oxygen and rusts.

“The fact that we have oceans and all the ingredients necessary for life can be traced back to the planet being oxidized as it is. The rocks control the chemistry,” Edward Young, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “We have just raised the probability that many rocky planets are like the Earth, and there’s a very large number of rocky planets in the universe.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

An artist’s representation of Venus with land and water.

(NASA)

Earths might even be common in our own solar system. Venus may have had oceans and a climate like Earth’s for billions of years.

In September 2019, researchers presented the results of five different simulations of the climate history of Venus. In all five scenarios, the planet maintained temperatures between 20 and 50 degrees Celsius for up to 3 billion years.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this colorized picture of Venus on Feb. 14, 1990, from a distance of almost 1.7 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The researchers think that a mysterious catastrophe about 700 millions years ago transformed Venus into the uninhabitable hothouse it is today.

“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks,” Michael Way, a NASA scientist and study co-author, said in a press release.

It could have been magma bubbling up from below Venus’s surface, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That would have trapped enough heat to reach the broiling surface temperatures that average 462 degrees Fahrenheit today.

“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hothouse we see today,” Way added.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

On the morning of June 22, 2019, astronauts in the ISS captured the plume of ash and gases rising from the erupting Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific.

(NASA)

Even that susceptibility to disaster is, in fact, quite Earth-like.

A supervolcano eruption or asteroid impact could one day make our planet uninhabitable. That could be the end of life on this Earth, but the research shows there may be plenty more Earth-like planets to spare.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 amazing pilots who became an ‘ace-in-a-day’

Fighter aces are a rare and legendary breed: People who are not only skilled enough to fly jets in combat, but so good at it that they can knock down at least five of the enemy without dying themselves. But there’s an even more elite subset of pilots who were able to kill at least five of the enemy in a single day, sometimes a single engagement.

Here are 7 of these elite pilots:


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Colonel James E. Swett earned the Medal of Honor in World War II as a first lieutenant when he killed seven enemy planes in one day.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

1. 1st Lt. James Swett

Marine Corps 1st Lt. James Swett was sent against Japanese fighters near the Solomons Island on April 7, 1943. He led his four-plane flight against 15 enemy bombers and successfully shredded three of them in a single dive. Now separated from the rest of his flight, he attacked a group of six bombers and downed four of them. While lining up on a fifth bomber, he ran out of ammo.

His plane had been damaged in the fighting and he had suffered cuts to his face from a broken cockpit window. He managed to land his stricken plane into the ocean and was picked up by the Navy. His seven kills from that day were accompanied by eight more over the course of the war. He received the Medal of Honor and six Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
1st Lt. Jefferson DeBlanc flew F4F Wildcats against Japanese fighters and bombers.

2. 1st Lt. Jefferson DeBlanc

During fighting in the Solomon Islands on January 31, 1943, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jefferson DeBlanc was sent up to escort dive bombers targeting Japanese ships. A swarm of Japanese Zeroes rose up against them. DeBlanc and his men were able to keep the Zeroes off the dive bombers, but then he got a call for assistance from low-flying bombers that they were under attack by Japanese float planes.

DeBlanc banked down into the fight and shot his way through three of the float planes. Low on fuel and ammo, he finally banked away towards home, only to notice that two Japanese fighters were coming up behind him. DeBlanc turned back to fight and killed the two Zeroes before being forced to bail out of his plane because of the damage from all the fighting. He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions and survived the war.

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Royal Australian Air Force Group Capt. Clive Caldwell was the killingest pilot in Australian history.
(Australian War Museum)

3. Group Captain Clive Caldwell

Group Capt. Clive Caldwell is the highest-scoring ace in Royal Australian Air Force history and was credited with 28.5 kills in World War II. His ace-in-a-day mission came on December 5, 1941, when he was leading two squadrons on patrol in Africa. The allied formation stumbled into a group of German bombers with an Italian fighter escort.

Caldwell went after a group of three bombers and took out the 2nd and 3rd planes in formation with quick bursts, then he made more passes through the now-dispersed bombers and hit two more in wings and engines. Finally, he came up towards the belly of a fifth bomber and waited until he was right against it to open fire, engulfing it in flames and sending it down.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward O’Hare was a pioneer of naval aviation who earned a Medal of Honor when he killed at least five Japanese bombers in just minutes.

4. Lt. Cmdr. Edward O’Hare

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward O’Hare was a legend in early World War II, and his most famous battle came just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On February 20, 1942, a flight of Japanese “Betty” bombers headed for the USS Lexington. One flight of Navy F4F Wildcats went after the first wave, and O’Hare and his wingman were the only ones left to defend against the second wave.

But O’Hare’s wingman experienced a gun jam, and so O’Hare had to go after eight Japanese bombers on his own. He went after the rear bombers on the right side, first, downing two of them quickly with bursts through the engines and fuel tanks. On a second pass, O’Hare destroyed two more with shots to an engine and to a left wing and cockpit. Finally, he hit two more on a third pass, leading him to believe that he had downed six. The engagement had lasted less than six minutes.

He was only credited with five kills, though. Lt. Cmdr. O’Hare unfortunately met his end in 1943 while defending a carrier from a night raid.

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British Defiant fighters had rear-facing gunners.
(Royal Air Force B.J. Daventry)
 

5. Flight Lt. Nicholas Cooke, Cpl. Albert Lippett

During the evacuation of Dunkirk in May, 1940, British Flight Lt. Nicholas Cooke and his gunner, Cpl. Albert Lippett, were sent to help keep the beaches open for evacuation. On May 29, they were in their Defiant when their formation engaged with a group of German Bf 109 fighters and they killed one. Later in the mission, they engaged a group of Bf 109s and Bf 110s, killing one of each.

They refueled and rearmed and headed out for another mission, this time finding a group of dive bombers attacking at the beaches. Cooke positioned the plane near the ground and gave Lippett a stable platform to shoot from. The young gunner targeted the fuel tanks that sat between the German pilot and navigator, killing five over the beaches and helping kill two more.

Only two days later, they would go missing over the English Channel.

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U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Frank Luke downed 18 targets in a single month in World War I.
(U.S. Air Force)

6. 2nd Lt. Frank Luke

Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke was one of America’s most prolific fighters, downing 14 German observation balloons and four planes during his short career. Balloons in World War I were extremely dangerous, well-protected targets, and Luke developed a reputation as a fearless balloon buster. All of this happened in September, 1918.

His greatest one-day total came on September 18 when he made a run on balloons and downed two, then killed two of the German fighters that came up to kill him, and then spotted and killed a German reconnaissance plane on his way back to U.S. lines.

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Then-Lt. Stanley Vejtasa on right as a member of the Grim Reapers, VF-10.
(U.S. Navy)
 

7. Capt. Stanley Vejtasa

Navy Capt. Stanley Vejtasa is one of the few “double aces” with 10.5 confirmed aerial kills. He achieved ace status in a single day on October 26, 1942, when he killed two Japanese dive bombers attempting to sink his carrier and then turned to interrupt a torpedo attack, killing five of them for seven kills in a single mission.

But his greater contribution to the war may have been his skill in dive bombers and other planes while attacking Japanese planes. He was credited with sinking at least five ships including a carrier and damaging seven more, making him one of the very few pilots who can claim ace status against ships.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Worried about coronavirus? Take this infection-control course online

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot life around the world, it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. After all, there are a lot of unknowns. But there are plenty of ways to arm yourself with proper information and feel a bit more grounded. Doctors, for instance, are all mandated to take state-mandated infection courses online. Available to the public, and free unless someone wants to take a test to pass, the courses offer a wealth of public information. While they are a bit of a slog to read (and nary an educational video in sight) they’re helpful for anyone who wants to know everything from if their bleach is strong enough to kill bacteria or how to put on gloves without covering them in germs.


So, which courses might be useful? One, administered by Access Continuing Education Inc., intended for doctors in New York State, and aptly (and drily) titled Infection Control: New York State Mandatory Training, contains a wealth of worthwhile information. The course isn’t like a typical virtual classroom — there are no teachers, no video sessions, and no mandated quizzes at the end. There are no hours required to finish the course and each ‘Element,’ a full-text article that reads about a page long, touches on a different process of how to limit transmission.

Is it an exciting read? No, but the pages are full of very, very important information, including hand washing technique, what the proper etiquette and technique is when coughing, and how to clean spills of bodily fluids. Other relevant information for parents within the text include what protective gear people can wear to limit transmission (including gloves, masks, and goggles) and how to put them on while also keeping them clean. The text also defines the different levels of sterilization and what recommended, medical grade sterilizers can be used and how to dilute bleach.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

Now, a large chunk of the course does focus on safe usage of needles — which is not exactly relevant for parents and Coronavirus — but the text is free to read online for anyone who wants to be educated on best practices and how to stay safe. There’s a test at the end of the course, which does not need to be taken, obviously, as parents could just be reading this for their own information, but could be fun if you’re very, very bored.

The average parent won’t be using scalpels or lancets, but they can learn the differences between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, learn how professionals limit potential exposure from patients when dealing with infectious diseases, and learn strategies for how to limit the spread of pathogens in the home and use those in their own spaces.

Knowledge, at a time like this, can be empowering. It can also be scary if that knowledge is not actionable. That’s why these courses are an excellent resource. They provide parents a sense of control of a situation over which no one has control. They can help parents do all that they can to help keep their families healthy. And that is what it will take to limit the spread of this disease: serious, educated action, social distancing, and disinfecting.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about Agent Orange

Over many centuries, various armies have created and deployed all sorts of weapons to be used against their enemies on the battlefield. Some of these inventive weapons go under modifications and come out the other end even bigger and more badass than before. On the flip side, some old school engineers and scientists get froggy and develop a liquid mixture that they don’t fully understand before they let it loose into enemy territory. Once such infamous mixture that is still affecting troops today, years after exposure: Agent Orange.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

1. It’s full of deadly ingredients

When you combine 2,4,5-T (Trichlorophenoxyacetic) acid with 2,4-D (Dichlorophenoxyacetic) acid, you produce one of the worst herbicides mixture known to man — Agent Orange. The idea of destroying the enemy’s landscape is a historic military tactic, but using an herbicide was considered new and clever development.

However, the chemical compound that could achieve the damaging goal was considered a new type of weaponry. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. stored the Agent Orange liquid in 55-gallon drums that were waiting to be picked up and sprayed.

2. It’s use was codenamed ‘Operation Ranch Hand’

The idea was to use the chemical to burn up the enemies’ vegetation and decrease the number of locations they had available to hide.

During a nine-year period, it’s estimated that 20-million gallons of the toxic liquid were sprayed over the jungles of south-east Vietnam. This mission to deploy the herbicide was known as Operation Ranch Hand.

Also read: A brief, deadly history of chemical weapons

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

3. There were other agents

During World War 2, England and the U.S. came up with the idea of using these herbicides but didn’t deploy the liquid compounds on the battlefield. Although Agent Orange is the most infamous type, there were also Agents Blue, Pink, Green, Purple, and White. Each different type varied in mixtures and strength.

It’s estimated nearly two and a half million troops were exposed to Agent Orange during their time in Vietnam.

4. It contains TCCD

In addition too Trichlorophenoxyacetic and Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Agent Orange also contains Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. TCCD is known for being extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. When troops serving in Vietnam came home, many reported side defects of cancer, congenital disabilities (in their children), miscarriages, and skin diseases among others.

According to the History channel, evidence of Agent Orange can still be found in many areas where the chemical was dropped — nearly 50-years ago.

Check out the HISTORY‘s channel below to watch the interesting breakdown on such a controversy chemical.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 hiking tips you hadn’t thought of from a US Marine

One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.

While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.


Use dry deodorant to manage chafing

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
It doesn’t matter if it’s made for a man or a woman, all that matters is that it works. (Courtesy of the author)

Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.

Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.

Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Also comes in handy if any of your buddies pass out early at a party. (Courtesy of the author)

Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.

Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.

Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
One of the best feelings in the world, followed by one of the worst feelings (putting your boots back on)
(Marine Corps Photo By: Cpl. Matthew Brown)

If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.

If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.

It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.

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