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 TACTICAL

F-35s train in ‘beast mode’ in response to China’s ‘carrier killers’

US Marine Corps F-35B pilots aboard the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, took off with externally stored missiles in the Philippine Sea, which suggests they trained for all-out aerial combat with China.

The move came just days after China deployed its DF-26 missiles that experts say can take down US aircraft carriers from thousands of miles away.


The Wasp regularly patrols the western Pacific and became the first ship to host combat-ready F-35s, the first-ever carrier-launched stealth jets. The F-35B is a short-landing and short-take-off version of the aircraft designed for Marine pilots.

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

An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)

Because of the F-35’s stealth design, it usually stores weapons in an internal bay to preserve its radar-evading shape.

So when the F-35 flies with weapons outside the bay, it’s flying in what Lockheed Martin calls “beast mode.”

The F-35 holds only four air-to-air missiles on combat-focused air missions, and just two when it splits the mission between air-to-ground and air-to-air.

But with weapons pylons attached, Lockheed Martin has pitched the F-35 as an all-out bomb truck with 18,000 pounds’ worth of bombs and missiles in and under the wings.

While the F-35 has never actually tested this extensive loadout, the F-35Bs aboard the Wasp in January 2019 took off with two weapons pylons and at least one dummy air-to-air missile.

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

A fully loaded F-35A.

(Frank Crebas via YouTube)

Other pictures of the F-35s on the Wasp showed guided bombs being loaded up into the jets.

Flying with dummy missiles and pylons under the wings trains F-35 pilots on how the aircraft handles under increased strain, and demonstrates what it’s like to have a deeper magazine in combat scenarios.

Lockheed Martin previously told Business Insider that F-35s are meant to fly in stealth mode on the first day of a war when the jets need to sneak behind enemy defenses and take out surface-to-air missiles.

After the initial salvos, F-35s can throw stealth to the wind and load up on missiles and bombs, Lockheed Martin said.

“When we don’t necessarily need to be stealthy, we can carry up to 18,000 pounds of bombs,” Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, told Business Insider in 2017.

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

Marines load a Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) 9X onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)

China is seeking air-to-air dominance

But the theoretical implications of the F-35’s loadout take on a new importance in the Pacific, where China has increasingly sought to impose its will on international waters.

China has increasingly threatened US ships in the region, with one admiral even calling for the sinking of US aircraft carriers.

China has responded to US stealth fighters with a stealth jet of its own, the J-20, a long-range platform with the stated goal of winning air superiority.

But experts recently told Business Insider that the J-20, as designed, would likely lose in air-to-air combat to almost any US or European air superiority fighter.

While the US may be able to contain China’s air power for now, Beijing recently deployed “carrier-killer” missiles to the country’s northwest. The US, in its recent Missile Defense Review, suggested F-35s could shoot down these missiles in flight.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

12 potential blockbuster movies coming out this year

Disney had an unprecedented year at the box office in 2019.

The company grossed a record $11.12 billion worldwide (and counting), with six movies earning more than $1 billion. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” currently in theaters, is on track to become its seventh. Disney accounted for nearly 40% of the domestic box office.

But experts believe 2020 will be slower for the company and the box office will be more evenly distributed among the major Hollywood studios.

“Next year is more wide open for the rival studios and they’ll share the wealth more evenly,” Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider in October. “Disney will still be a major factor in 2020, but it will be a great year for studios to present a diversity of content.”


While 2020 will likely not reach the box-office highs of the last two years, or even the expected highs of 2021 (which will see four Marvel movies, three DC movies, and the “Avatar” sequel), there are still plenty of potential blockbusters on the way that could give Disney a run for its money.

Below are 12 movies not from Disney that could give rival studios a boost at the box office this year:

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

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in “Birds of Prey”

(Warner Bros.)

“Bird of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” — Warner Bros., February 7

Warner Bros.’ DC movies have been on a roll with the blockbusters “Aquaman” and “Joker” and the critically acclaimed “Shazam!” Next up is “Birds of Prey,” which brings back Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, who was easily the highlight of “Suicide Squad.”

That 2016 movie didn’t fare well with critics, but still managed to gross 6 million worldwide. While diehard DC Extended Universe fans who loved “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad” might be turned away by “Birds of Prey’s” more fun tone, general audiences could turn out for this female-centric action movie.

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

Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place: Part II”

(Paramount)

“A Quiet Place: Part II” — Paramount, March 20

“A Quiet Place” was one of the biggest box-office surprises of 2018, pulling in 0 million off of a million budget. A sequel was inevitable, especially considering Paramount’s otherwise dismal box-office results the last few years.

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

Daniel Craig as James Bond in “No Time to Die”

(Universal)

“No Time to Die” — Universal, April 10

“Skyfall” and “Spectre” were major box-office hits for Sony, with over id=”listicle-2644510669″ billion and 0 million worldwide, respectively. Universal is hoping the 25th James Bond movie, and star Daniel Craig’s last, can replicate that success.

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

Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto in “The Fate of the Furious”

(Matt Kennedy/Universal)

“Fast and Furious 9” — Universal, May 22

The last two movies in the main “Fast and Furious” series, “Furious 7” and “The Fate of the Furious,” both grossed over id=”listicle-2644510669″ billion globally. Last year’s spin-off, “Hobbs and Shaw,” wasn’t as huge but still made nearly 0 million, suggesting the series still has gas. The upcoming ninth installment will pair the main cast of Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez with newcomers like John Cena.

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

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in “Wonder Woman 1984”

(Warner Bros.)

“Wonder Woman 1984” — Warner Bros., June 5

2017’s “Wonder Woman” was a global success with 1 million worldwide. As noted, DC movies are on a roll and with the first “Wonder Woman” being such a hit, there’s no reason to think that this sequel can’t capitalize on that.

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

Anthony Ramos in “In the Heights”

(Warner Bros.)

“In the Heights” — Warner Bros., June 26

“Crazy Rich Asians” director John M. Chu is directing “In the Heights,” based on “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical of the same name. It seems to be a recipe for success.

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

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick”

(Paramount)

“Top Gun: Maverick” — Paramount, June 26

Some sequels to decades-old movies didn’t fare well at the box office in 2019, from “Terminator: Dark Fate” to the “Shining” follow up, “Doctor Sleep.” But “Maverick” will look to avoid the sequel curse by targeting adult moviegoers with nostalgia for the 1986 original “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise.

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

Minions in “Minions”

(Universal)

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” — Universal, July 3

The first “Minions” in 2015 made over id=”listicle-2644510669″ billion worldwide, as did 2017’s “Despicable Me 3.” This “Minions” sequel will try to replicate the Dreamworks franchise’s success. Pixar’s “Soul” will enter theaters two weeks prior, but the name recognition of “Minions” could give it a competitive edge.

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

John David Washington in “Tenet”

(Warner Bros.)

“Tenet” — Warner Bros., July 17

Christopher Nolan follows up his box-office hit, the Oscar-nominated “Dunkirk,” with “Tenet.” Nolan churns out original movies that get audiences to the theater. 2010’s “Inception” made 0 million worldwide and 2014’s “Interstellar” earned 7 million. “Tenet” looks to be his latest mind-bending spectacle.

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

“The Conjuring”

(Warner Bros.)

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” — Warner Bros., September 11

The “Conjuring” franchise, including its spin-offs like “The Nun” and “Annabelle” movies, is a consistent presence at the box office. The first two “Conjuring” movies grossed a combined 0 million worldwide off of modest budgets ( million and million, respectively). This third “Conjuring” film will likely continue the series’ success.

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

Venom in “Venom”

(Sony)

“Venom 2” — Sony, October 2

“Venom” was a surprise hit in 2018 with 6 million worldwide and suggested that Sony could still carry its own Marvel movie universe after its “Amazing Spider-Man” movies disappointed at the box office. The studio has other movies in development, including a movie about Spider-Man’s vampire villain Morbius starring Jared Leto, but it’s following up “Venom” this year first.

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

“Halloween” (2018)

(Blumhouse)

“Halloween Kills” — Universal, October 16

Blumhouse’s “Halloween” sequel/reboot grossed 5 million off of just a million budget. “Halloween Kills” is the first of two sequels coming — one this year and “Halloween Ends” in 2021.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what ‘eternal patrol’ means for submarines

As of this writing, it appears there is little hope for an actual rescue of the crew of the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan. Some reports indicate an explosion was picked up by both American and United Nations underwater acoustic sensors.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
USS Thresher (SSN 593) in 1961. (U.S. Navy photo)

When submarines are lost, they are said to be “on eternal patrol.” This comes from the fact that many times, the term submariners use for deployment is “patrol,” a term that predates World War II (a 1938 movie focusing on a subchaser was called Submarine Patrol). A combat deployment is often called a “war patrol,” and American ballistic missile submarines are on “deterrent patrols.”

These patrols begin when a sub leaves port, and end on their return. When a sub sinks, and doesn’t make it home, the patrol is “eternal.”

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1960. (US Navy photo)

The loss of a peacetime submarine is not unheard of. Since the end of World War II, the United States lost four submarines. Two, the nuclear-powered attack submarines USS Thresher (SSN 593) and USS Scorpion (SSN 589), were lost with all hands. In the late 1940s, two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines, USS Cochino (SS 345) and USS Stickleback (SS 415) also sank as the result of accidents.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
An Oscar-class submarine similar to the Kursk, which sank after an accidental explosion in 2000. (DOD photo)

The United States has not been alone in losing submarines. Most famously, in 2000, the Russian nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk, an Oscar-class vessel, suffered an on-board explosion and sank with all hands. The Soviet Union had five nuclear-powered submarines sink, albeit one, a Charlie-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, was raised, and they lost other subs as well, including one in a spectacular explosion pierside.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A Whiskey Twin Cylinder-class submarine. One sank after an accident, and was not found for over seven years. (DOD photo)

It sometimes can take a long time to find those subs. A Whiskey “Twin Cylinder”-class guided-missile submarine that sank in 1961 took over seven years to find. The Soviets never did locate the Golf-class ballistic missile submarine K-129 until investigative reporter Jack Anderson revealed the existence of Project Azorian.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A photo of the Golf-class ballistic-missile submarine K-129, which sank in 1968, and was later salvaged by the CIA. (CIA photo)

While the cause of the explosion that has apparently sent the San Juan and her crew of 44 to the bottom of the South Atlantic may never be known, what is beyond dispute is that submariners face a great deal of danger – even when carrying out routine peacetime operations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

When the Army experimented with mounting artillery to helicopters

High-Mobility Artillery Rockets systems are trucks that can take highly capable rockets right to the frontlines in combat, but before HIMARs, the Army experimented with strapping rockets onto helicopters in Vietnam and using them as true helicopter artillery — the Redlegs of the sky.


AIR ROCKET ARTILLERY BATTERY – LMVIETHD159

www.youtube.com

To be clear, this wasn’t air support or close combat attack; this was artillery in the air. These units belonged to the division artillery unit, their fires were controlled by the fire direction center, and they specialized in massed fires, not the pinpoint strikes of close combat attack helicopters.

It all started in 1962 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Gen. Hamilton Howze called on military leaders to rethink land warfare, and subordinate leaders came back with a few concepts that might make the Army more flexible. One of those suggestions was to make artillery more responsive by creating two new unit types: aerial rocket artillery battalions and aviation batteries.

The aerial rocket artillery battalions were filled with helicopters strapped with dozens of rockets that they would fire en masse when receiving fire missions. The aviation batteries were helicopter units that could pick tube artillery, usually howitzers, and deliver them to firing points near the battlefield on short notice where they would then be used normally.

For infantrymen in combat, this meant they could request artillery support nearly anywhere in country and get it fast, even if they had been deposited by helicopter miles ahead of any artillery units.

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

Aerial rocket artillery didn’t focus on precision strikes, but they had the firepower to make up for it.

(U.S. Army illustration)

Tube artillery delivered via helicopter is still used today and worked about as you would expect. Usually, military planners would identify the need for artillery ahead of time and send in the gun, suspended under Chinooks, as soon as ground troops secured the firing point. But sometimes, the tube artillery would be requested after combat was already underway, and the Chinooks would rush the howitzers in.

The real craziness, though, came with the aerial rocket artillery battalions, the true helicopter artillery. These were UH-1 Iroquois or AH-1 Cobras modified to carry a loadout almost entirely composed of rockets. For AH-1s, this could be four rocket pods that each carried 19 rockets for a total armament of 76.

At times, they flew with Hueys modified to carry lights. This was valuable in any fight at night, but was especially great for base security where the “light ships” illuminated targets and tube artillery pounded it with rounds.

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

An early UH-1B in an aerial rocket artillery configuration without door guns.

(U.S. Army)

But the rockets were effective in combat, so commanders kept asking for them. In addition to the quick response ground troops could get with helicopter artillery, there was the fact that the birds were more responsive on target than a howitzer conducting indirect fire could ever hope to be.

That’s because the pilots were the artillery officers, and they could adjust their fire on the fly, watching rounds impact and shifting fire as they went with limited guidance from the troops in the fight on the ground. And, aerial rocket artillery was fired from much closer to the target than tube artillery typically was.

The helicopters flew to the target at treetop level until about 1.5 miles away, then they would soar up to 300 feet and begin firing, sometimes ending their attacks as little as .75 miles from the target.

One of the Army’s two aerial rocket artillery battalions was the 2nd Battalion, 20th Artillery. On their first mission in Vietnam on September 17, 1965, they supported 101st Airborne Division soldiers under fire and were credited with killing sixty-four Viet Cong. Two weeks later, the battalion’s Alpha Battery fought an all-night battle to protect a base under attack from infantry and mortars, and they fired their rockets within 100 meters of friendly forces to keep the U.S. soldiers alive.

In December of the same year, the battalion killed approximately 400 Viet Cong while supporting troops in combat.

But if the helicopters were so effective, where’d they go?

Well, they were inactivated. The Army assimilated the helicopters back into aviation units, and division artillery units remained focused on field artillery.

In the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Army focused on precision strikes which close combat attack aircraft were already better suited for.

popular

Love the McDonald’s drive-thru? Thank the military

Now that we can thank McDonald’s restaurants for serving breakfast all day, we should take the time to thank fatigue-clad troops for not having to leave our cars to get it.


Despite the Army and Air Force’s current relationship with Burger King, their first love was McDonald’s and Mickey D’s was more than willing to accommodate that love by mediating the one thing which kept our troops from easy access to the Golden Arches.

In 1975, Army regulations near Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona prevented soldiers wearing their olive-drab fatigues to leave their cars.

 

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

McDonald’s heard their plight and added its first drive-thru to McDonalds stores in Arizona, then to Oklahoma and Georgia to serve the soldiers in those areas.

The first drive-thru came way earlier, however. In 1931, a Los Angeles franchise called the Pig Stand opened the first restaurant where motorists could roll around and get a bag of food, packaged to take home. The first burger chain to feature a drive thru was an In-n-Out in Baldwin Park, California in 1948.

In May 1999, that historic location closed forever so that a new McDonald’s restaurant could open next to it. The first McDonald’s drive-thru was torn down and replaced by a parking lot to serve the new McDonald’s.

Burgers, cars, and troops: the triad of American life.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
NOT Covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan sends armored vehicles overseas for first time in decades

A small contingent of Japanese troops and armored vehicles engaged in military exercises with the US and the Philippines in the Philippines on Oct. 6, 2018, assisting in a humanitarian role during an amphibious exercise simulating recapturing territory from a terrorist group.

A total of about 150 troops took part in the landing on Oct. 6, 2018. Fifty Japanese troops, unarmed and in camouflage, followed four of their armored vehicles ashore, moving over beach and brushland while picking up Filipino and US troops playing wounded.


Japanese Maj. Koki Inoue stressed that Japanese personnel weren’t involved in the combat portion of the exercise but added that the drills were the first time the Japanese military’s armored vehicles had been used on foreign soil since World War II. After being defeated in that war, Japan adopted a pacifist constitution.

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

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force prepares to embark on the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles during KAMANDAG 2 in Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

“Our purpose is to improve our operational capability, and this is a very good opportunity for us to improve our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training,” Inoue said, according to AFP.

The exercise, called Kamandag — an acronym for the Tagalog phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea” — started in 2017 and has focused on counterterrorism, disaster response, and interoperability.

2018’s iteration of the exercise runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, 2018, and the US has said it is not directed at any outside power.

“It has nothing to do with a foreign nation or any sort of foreign army. This is exclusively counter-terrorism within the Philippines,” 1st Lt. Zack Doherty, a Marine Corps communications officer, told AFP.

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

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovanny Rios guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill during KAMANDAG 2, in the Naval Education Training Center, Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 2, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

But the drill’s timing and location put it in the middle of simmering tensions between China and its rivals in the region.

The landing took place at a Philippine navy base in the province of Zambales on the northern island of Luzon. The same base hosted an expanded annual US-Philippine military exercise in early 2018.

About 130 miles west in the South China Sea is Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocks long administered by Manila until China seized it after a stand-off in 2012.

China has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that rejected its expansive claims in the South China Sea and found that it violated the Philippines’ territorial rights.

China has built up other islands and reefs it claims in the South China Sea, adding military outposts and hardware. It has not done that on Scarborough, and doing so would have strategic implications for the US and the Philippines. Manila has said such activity would be a “red line.”

The exercise also kicked off after a series of shows of force by US and Chinese forces in the East and South China Seas, including numerous flyovers by US bombers and a close encounter between US and Chinese warships.

Japan’s presence was one of several recent firsts for that country’s military, which has looked to increase its capabilities and readiness.

Early October 2018, British troops became the first non-US military personnel to be hosted by Japan for military exercises, joining members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force for Exercise Vigilant Isles.

In spring 2018, Japan stood up an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II. Japan has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, and that force, which has carried out several exercises already, would likely be called on to defend those islands.

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

Intel

Navy plane captains get jets flying to the danger zone

If you’ve watched Top Gun, you probably enjoyed the dogfight scenes. Meanwhile, the ladies in the audience fiercely debated over who was more handsome, Maverick or Iceman (though the mustache fans out there might opt for a dark-horse candidate in Goose). But Top Gun, like many military aviation films, left out a crucial person who’s response for getting those jets ready to fly into the danger zone and blast MiGs out of the sky.


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

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Levins, an F/A-18 aircraft mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 and an Issaquah, Wash., native, poses inside of an intake of an F/A-18 Hornet aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

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

One of the jobs a plane captain has is making sure the canopy is absolutely spotless.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dave Hites)

That person is the plane captain. According to a United States Navy release, he or she is responsible for making sure that a plane is fit to fly. This includes performing daily checks on all aircraft and additional checks made before and after each flight. Some of the things a plane captain looks for include cracks on the plane, missing fasteners (which could allow foreign objects to damage an engine), emergency oxygen levels, and canopy cleanliness.

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

Plane captains assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 carry intake screens on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez)

Here’s the kicker: The people responsible for this are some of the newest, youngest personnel in the unit. We’re talking men and women who are anywhere from 19 to 21 years of age. They spend up to six months learning everything necessary to be responsible for a high-performance fighter. A Marine Corps release notes that these people spend as much as 14 hours per day keeping a jet ready. Oh, and they don’t get any overtime pay or comp time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s16W5Fg0dk

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The real challenge is to keep from becoming complacent. After all, one mishap could cost the United States a multi-million dollar jet and the life of the pilot (or the crew). But the plane captains, like the pilots, get their name on the jet.

Learn more about what plane captains do in this Korean War-era film from the United States Navy.

Articles

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.


Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.

Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
F-15Cs of the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron (US Air Force)

As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.

When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.

By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.

What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A Soviet Air Force MiG-23 Flogger, similar to the one which flew pilotless across Europe (US Air Force)

After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.

Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
The crash site of the MiG-23 in Belgium (Public Domain)

Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.

As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.

But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.

The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Was General Lee’s buried family treasure ever found?

As Arlington House was being overtaken by Union soldiers during the Civil War, a keen Mary Anna Custis Lee hid her family’s heirlooms. Unable to take them with her and make a quick get-away, the wife of Confederate leader General Robert E. Lee stashed the goods and ran, with her daughters, reportedly to various family plantations. 

Notably, her husband wrote to her, warning that war would soon come to Arlington House, the eventual location of Arlington National Cemetery. It’s also said that, despite his warning, Mary waited until soldiers were nearing the home to leave.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
East front of Arlington House with Union Army Soldiers on lawn (1864) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

General Lee wrote: “War is inevitable, and there is no telling when it will burst around you … You have to move and make arrangements to go to some point of safety which you must select. The Mount Vernon plate and pictures ought to be secured. Keep quiet while you remain, and in your preparations … May God keep and preserve you and have mercy on all our people.”

And secure them she did. Some reports also state that she buried them on the property. Additional items were packed into trunks and sent to various locations throughout the war, first Alexandria, VA, then Richmond, and finally onto the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, KY. Most notably was the family’s silver. The same silver that belonged to George and Martha Washington, as the latter was Mary’s great-grandmother. 

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army (The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog)

Meanwhile, family portraits were sent to an aunt’s home, while her Cincinnati China (of lesser value than the silver that was shipped off) was nailed in boxes and locked in closets and the cellar. 

However, items that were left in the home were looted and stolen by Union soldiers, including Major General Charles Sandford.

By 1864, Union forces were invading the Virginia Valley, causing Mary to worry that her family’s silver was in danger. General Lee is reported to respond with, “It will be impossible to remove the silver … from Lexington. It will incur more danger in removal than in remaining. It must bide its fate.”

As Union troops advanced toward the Virginia Military Institute, it was arranged for the two trunks carrying Mary Lee’s family silver to be buried by VMI Ordnance Sergeant John Hampsey. On June 12th, Union soldiers set the University on fire, destroying all within their walls. However, as the trunks were placed underground, they were left safe from the flames. 

After the end of the war, in fall of 1865, the Lees asked Hampsey to show them the location of the buried trunks.

Robert E. Lee, Jr. dug them up, stating: “I was sent out with him to dig it up and bring it in. We found it safe and sound, but black with mould and damp, useless for the time being, so my father opened his camp-chest and we used his forks, spoons, plates, etc., while his camp-stools supplied the deficiency in seats.”

The treasure in modern times

After Mary Lee’s death, the silver was willed to her children and other members of the family, eventually splitting the collection over several locations. Over the years, several pieces have been donated by family members, though much is feared to be lost, including the buried trunks from Kentucky. 

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee. (Public Domain)

The latest addition to the Mount Vernon collection was donated in 2007, when two Custis descendants opened two old trunks from a basement and found Mary Lee’s belongings that she had left in the cellar of Arlington House. 

Artifacts from Mary Custis Lee, General and Mary’s daughter, were also found in a Virginia bank in 2002. Two steamer trunks were discovered in the bank’s silver vault, where it sat for 84 years after the owner’s death. It contained more than 4,000 pictures and letters between family members, including those written by General Lee. Today the collection resides at the Virginia Historical Society. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy could make these support ships just for special ops

Special operations personnel are often assigned missions in places where support is hard to come by. Expeditionary Support Bases, like the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) and sister ships, are, in essence, mobile bases, make it easier to bring support within range of troops in austere environments. However, supplies are limited; the United States Navy has just the Puller, with two sisters under construction.


Furthermore, these ships are large and lightly armed, making them vulnerable. The good news is that there may be an option to give more special ops personnel support — and the answer is a combination of two ships already in Navy service.

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

USS Independence (LCS 2), whose trimaran hull is the basis for Austal’s proposed Special Operations Support Vessel.

(U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)

Austal is offering a Special Operations Support Ship. This concept vessel takes the trimaran hull used by Independence-class littoral combat ships and combines it with features from the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, like a stern ramp and the ability to haul vehicles and troops around.

The model showcased at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo at National Harbor, Maryland showed a potent armament suite for this vessel. It included two quad launchers for anti-ship missiles, like the RGM-84 Harpoon or the Kongsberg NSM, as well as a turreted gun forward and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.

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

Elements of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports would be incorporated with the Independence-class littoral combat ship’s trimaran hull to make the Special Operations Support Vessel.

(Photo by Austal)

This Special Operations Support vessel also maintains the ability to operate a helicopter at least the size of a MH-60S Seahawk, which would not only allow it to insert special ops troops, but to also fire AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missiles. Even though the Navy is buying large expeditionary support bases, when it comes to supporting special operations forces in the future, deploying several little ships instead of something large may be the answer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a WWII bomber pilot climbed onto the wing mid-flight to save his crew

Jimmy Ward was a 22-year-old pilot when he received the Victoria Cross. World War II had been ongoing for a year and the British Empire stood alone against Axis-occupied Europe. Things looked grim as a whole, but small time pilots with stories like Sgt. Ward’s added up to a lot in the end.


The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Sergeant James Allan Ward of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF.

The New Zealander was flying with his crew back from a raid on Münster, in northeast Germany. The resistance was light; there were few search lights and minimal flak. He was the second pilot, positioned in the astrodome of his Wellington bomber when an enemy interceptor came screaming at them, guns blazing.

An attacking Messerschmitt 110 was shot down by the rear gunner before it could take down the plane, but the damage was done. Red-hot shrapnel tore through the airframe, the starboard engine, and the hydraulic system. A fire suddenly broke out on the starboard wing, fed by a fuel line.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
A Vickers-Wellington Bomber. The astrodome is a transparent dome on the roof of an aircraft to allow for the crew to navigate using the stars.

After putting on their chutes in case they had to bail, the crew started desperately fighting the fire. They tore a hole in the fuselage near the fire so they could get at the fire. They threw everything they had at it, including the coffee from their flasks.

By this time, the plane reached the coastline of continental Europe. They had to decide if they were going to try to cross over to England or go down with the plane in Nazi-occupied Holland. They went for home, preferring a dip in the channel to a Nazi prison camp.

That’s when Sgt. James Ward realized he might be able to reach the fire and put it out by hand. His crewmates tied him to the airplane as he crawled out through the astrodome and tore holes in the plane’s fuselage to use as hand holds as he made his way to the fire on the wing.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Trace Sgt. Ward’s path from this photo of his Wellington bomber.

He moved four feet onto the wing, avoiding being lifted away by the air current or rotor slipstream and being burned by the flaming gas jet he was trying to put out. He only had one hand free to work with because the other was holding on for dear life.

Ward smothered the fire on the fuel pipe using the canvas cockpit cover. As soon as he finished, the slipstream tore it from his hands. He just couldn’t hold on any longer.

With the fire out, there was nothing left to do but try to get back inside. Using the rope that kept him attached to the aircraft he turned around and moved to get back to the astrodome. Exhausted, his mates had to pull him the rest of the way in. The fire flared up a little when they reached England, but died right out.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally awarded Sgt. Ward the Victoria Cross a month later.

“I can’t explain it, but there was no sort of real sensation of danger out there at all,” Ward later said. “It was just a matter of doing one thing after another and that’s about all there was to it.”

Read Ward’s story in his own words.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Great thinkers through history have written for centuries there is nothing more wasteful of potential talent than war. Young men and women who might have gone on to do great things are mowed down senselessly in wartime, and what we may have gained is forever lost to speculation. Few embody this more than Henry Moseley, a physicist killed by a sniper at the age of 27 during World War I.


Born into a privileged family with both parents being highly educated scientists themselves, Moseley attended the standard progression of private schools, including Eton, as any English boy of social rank would be expected to. He demonstrated his brilliance from an early age, and eventually studied under the famed Sir Ernest Rutherford, considered by many scientists to be the father of modern nuclear physics.

At Oxford, Moseley personally built X-ray spectrometers to study atomic structures. During this process, he also invented the first atomic battery, which is used to this day to power pacemakers and other specialized devices that need compact, long-lasting power sources.

 

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
Henry Moseley before enlisting in the British Army. (Photo: Oxford archives)

During his research, Moseley built on a number of theories proposed by other scientific giants like Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements. The periodic table was riddled with inconsistencies, and it was Moseley who refined it using the number of protons to classify elements by atomic number rather than atomic mass, giving much more precise measurements. He even used this method to predict the existence of elements that had not been discovered yet. Moseley’s Law, concerning the X-rays emitted by atoms which could be used to quantify their structures, is one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of physics.

Moseley was considering where to move forward with his burgeoning career when World War I broke out in 1914. To the considerable dismay of his family, friends and colleagues who tried their best to convince him to stay, he decided to enlist in the British Army. He considered it his duty to go. He joined the Royal Engineers as a telecommunications specialist, which put his considerable skill with technical equipment to good use.

Moseley eventually deployed to the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, where he served as a communications officer. Intended to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the campaign turned into a slaughterhouse for British and Commonwealth forces and is considered one of Winston Churchill’s greatest mistakes.

During the Battle of Suvla Bay, Moseley was transmitting orders over a radio telephone when a Turkish sniper shot him in the head on Aug. 10, 1915. The scientific community had lost one of its most promising members in a ditch at the Dardanelles. Moseley clearly felt that he was fulfilling an obligation to his country.

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion
British troops advancing at Gallipoli in August 1915. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

Following his death, the British government made it policy that distinguished scientists would not be allowed to sign on for combat duty. His loss was felt keenly by many of his colleagues. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Millikan said in 1923:

“In a research which is destined to rank as one of the dozen most brilliant in conception, skillful in execution, and illuminating in results in the history of science, a young man but twenty-six years old threw open the windows through which we can now glimpse the subatomic world with a definiteness and certainty never even dreamed of before. Had the European war had no other result than the snuffing out of this young life, that alone would make it one of the most hideous and most irreparable crimes in history.”

Henry Moseley is buried in a military cemetery in Turkey near where he died. He has a fellowship in his honor at the University of Oxford.

What he may have accomplished if the war had not come along, we will never know. But he died doing what he thought needed to be done. He is remembered as a man who expanded our understanding of the universe while showing great courage.

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