Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, there was a small group of special operations troops who took the fight to the enemy. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a highly secret outfit comprised of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Commandos who conducted covert cross-border operations deep into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam.

SOG recon teams consisted of a few Special Forces operators and their indigenous troops, or “little people,” as the Americans affectionally called them.

Khanh “Cowboy” Doan, a South Vietnamese commando, was one of them.

In the early 1960s, Cowboy’s father saw that America would have a bigger role in Vietnam’s affairs, and so prompted his son to learn English. And so Cowboy became an interpreter. As American involvement in the Southeast Asian country grew, Cowboy began working for the American forces and soon ended up in SOG.

During his career in SOG, Cowboy participated in scores of missions. He was part of the relief column that went into Lang Vei, a Special Forces A camp that had been overrun by NVA tanks and troops in the early stages of the Siege of Khe Sanh. He also took part in a mission where his nine-man team squared off against 10,000 NVA troops.

While in SOG, Cowboy narrowly escaped death numerous times. In one instance, he didn’t go out with his team for some reason, and the team (ST Alaska) ended up being wiped out save one man who escaped and evaded for two days before getting picked up.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Cowboy honoring a fallen comrade after the war.

In 1972, after operating in SOG for six years, Cowboy lost his leg during a mission across the fence.

At the end of his career, he had served in numerous recon teams, including ST Alaska, Virginia, Idaho, and Alabama.

After Saigon fell in 1975, Cowboy thought that the cleverest thing to do in order to avoid the wrath of the North Vietnamese was to go North, where they wouldn’t be expecting him. After 11 years and 14 failed escape attempts from the country, he managed to reach the Philippines in 1986 and from there the US.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Cowboy surrounded by former Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink (right) and SOG operator John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer (left) during a recent podcast (John Stryker Meyer).

Recently, Cowboy contracted COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized with serious symptoms. What’s worse, his entire family was also infected, including his wife, son, and grandson. As a consequence, they are hard put to make ends meet. Cowboy was released from the hospital and is back in his home, but he still has to go through dialysis twice a day, totaling nine to ten hours of treatment.  The good news, however, is that he is improving by the day.

Some of Cowboy’s SOG buddies, including Special Forces legend John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer, who has written extensively about America’s secret war in Vietnam, have set up a GoFundMe campaign to support their brother-in-arms and his family.

The GoFundMe campaign (you can visit the page by following this link) aims at helping Cowboy and his family during this difficult time. Donations will help pay rent, cover medical expenses not covered by his insurance, and buy food and medicine for Cowboy and his entire family.

So far, hundreds of people have donated.

“Please thank every person who donated to help me [and] my family. I can’t believe it. We [are] amazed. Please tell every person: ‘You have rescued my life,’” Cowboy told Meyer.

Men like Cowboy fought for their country against the Communist tide. But they also fought for their American brothers, with whom they share a bond that only war and adversity can forge.

“Cowboy is a clearly a legend but also very humble,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Buran: How the Soviets stole the Space Shuttle

Although America’s space shuttle was not the budget-friendly platform it was intended to be, the program was so successful that the Soviet Union decided to build their own. Unbeknownst to most, they actually did, and it even flew in space.

On April 12, 1981, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia roared to life for the first time. As the shuttle’s three powerful main engines ignited, they burned a swimming pool’s worth of fuel every 25 seconds, thrusting the 4.4 million pound shuttle into the sky with an astonishing 37 million horsepower. In just eight and a half minutes, the shuttle would expend all of the fuel in its massive orange fuel tank and burn through its two solid-fuel rocket thrusters.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
(NASA)

If you were to start an 80’s sitcom just as the Columbia launched that day, the space shuttle would go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour before the first commercial break.

The success of Columbia’s first mission was an exciting time for the United States, but on the other side of the globe, it left Moscow in a sour mood. The Soviets had been watching America’s space shuttle program mature, thanks to America’s more media-friendly approach to space travel. In fact, by Columbia’s first launch, the Soviets had already begun development on their own space shuttle–one that bore a striking resemblance to NASA’s new crown jewel.

Using the Cold War as rocket fuel

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Richard Nixon meets Leonid Brezhnev June 19, 1973 during the Soviet Leader’s visit to the U.S. (Wikimedia Commons)

The American space shuttle program had roots that reached all the way back to the Apollo era, but the concept itself wasn’t presented to the public until 1972. Two years later, as NASA’s efforts were beginning to take shape, a secret meeting was held in the Kremlin between the head of the Soviet Union’s Military-Industrial Commission, Vladimir Smirnov, and the Soviet leader at the time, Leonid Brezhnev.

While the Americans had always done a good job of dressing their space efforts up as nothing more than the pursuit of science and national pride, the military applications of such a vehicle were clear. America’s space shuttle would allow for the launch of bigger, more complex spy satellites, allow crews to fly into orbit to conduct maintenance or repairs, and, most importantly, allow for the vessel itself to be re-used–theoretically driving down the price of orbital operations. Among the Soviets, there was also the fear that this new spacecraft could be used as some sort of orbital bomber.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise under construction in 1976 (NASA)

“Such a vehicle is like an aircraft. It is capable, through a side maneuver, of changing its orbit in such a way that it would find itself at the right moment right over Moscow, possibly with dangerous cargo,” Smirnov explained in the meeting.

Just as defense officials in the United States may have over-estimated (or intentionally inflated) the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s various military and technological programs, Smirnov and his supporters knew that it was in their best interest to really sell the idea that the American shuttle posed a serious threat to Soviet interests.

“They began to use the shuttle to frighten Leonid Illyich Brezhnev and they explained to him that damned shuttle could zoom down on Moscow at any minute, bomb it to smithereens and fly away,” a Russian journalist wrote in 1991, just before the Soviet Union fell.

“Brezhnev understood, yes, of course, an alternative weapon is necessary.”

The Cold War was ripe with this sort of military one-upmanship, both as a means to gain a military advantage, and as a public means of validating each nation’s respective economic models. Every American success the Soviets couldn’t match was seen as a defacto argument in favor of capitalism by leaders in Moscow.

In effect, admitting that they couldn’t build their own shuttle would mean acknowledging that the Soviet system was falling short of the scientific, engineering, and material capabilities of America’s government model. This ideological conflict was the very bedrock of the Cold War, and just ten years before the Soviet Union would collapse under the weight of its own failure, things were already beginning to look bleak. The Soviet Union needed a win, and Smirnov was able to convince Brezhnev that a Soviet space shuttle could be just that.

The Soviet’s secret Space Shuttle program begins

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Soviet Buran space shuttle (WikiMedia Commons)

By early 1976, the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the Soviet Council of Ministers gave their approval to move forward with plans to develop a new shuttle. Heading up the secret effort was Col. General Alexander Maksimov, a military official tasked with managing the Soviet’s existing military space programs. Two scientists, V. P. Glushko and Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy, were also tasked with leading the effort, but among those involved, there was no doubt that the new shuttle program, dubbed “Buran,” would be a distinctly military endeavor.

“It is no secret to anyone in our sector … that the Energia-Buran system was ordered from us by the military,” said Yuri Semenov, developer of the Energia booster program. “It was said at meetings on various levels that American shuttles, even on the first revolution, could perform a lateral maneuver and turn to be over Moscow, possibly with dangerous cargo. Parity is needed, we needed the same type of rocket-space system.”

Initially, the Soviets considered restarting a previous space-plane program called “Spiral.” Development had ended on the small space-plane concept more than a decade prior, however, and Soviet officials noted that the intended use of “Spiral” wouldn’t offer anything close to the capability offered by America’s forthcoming shuttles.

Stealing the Space Shuttle

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
(NASA)

With the Americans making steady progress on their own space shuttle program by the late 1970s, the Soviet leadership recognized how far behind they were. If they were going to keep pace with NASA, they would need to find a way to expedite the design process without backtracking to their canceled Spiral program. While the decision to scrap Spiral was made based on its limited capability, many within the Soviet Union were frustrated by the seemingly schizophrenic approach to developing orbital platforms.

“The Spiral was a very good project but it was another mistake for our government. They said Americans didn’t have a space shuttle [back then] and we shouldn’t either and it was destroyed. Then, after you made your space shuttle, immediately they demanded a space shuttle. … It was very crazy of our government.”

-Georgi Grechko, Soviet Cosmonaut

Despite the frustrations of those involved and the Soviet Union’s impending collapse, at the time, the Soviet space program remained among the best in the world. Its scientist and engineers had racked up victory after victory in the first rounds of the Cold War’s space race, putting the first satellite, animal, and man into orbit before the Americans. NASA may have thrown a knockout punch with the moon landing in 1969, but the Soviets were far from down for the count. If America could design a space shuttle, it was entirely plausible that the Soviets could too. The only question was: Could they do it fast enough to keep pace with NASA?

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
NASA Shuttle and Buran shuttle compared

Without help, the answer seemed to be a resounding no, but the Soviets were no strangers to reverse engineering American technology. For instance, in the late 1950s, the Soviets got their hands on one of America’s highly capable air-to-air missiles, the AIM-9 Sidewinder, through a deal brokered with China (and one pilot’s incredibly good luck). The Soviets were able to glean a great deal of information about missile technology from the single missile they acquired and rapidly put Soviet variants of the missile into production. A space shuttle, however, would certainly be a lot tougher to steal… but as it turned out, they wouldn’t have to.

America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, was a civilian agency that was clearly delineated from America’s military. While this separation may have been more about aesthetics than function (nearly every space effort had military implications), NASA did not treat its shuttle program like it was the development of a weapon system at all. As a result, documentation and even plans for the shuttle were all considered unclassified–and readily available to the public. In fact, much of the material the Soviet Union needed was hosted on commercial databases, making the effort to gather these documents one of the first (if not the first) case of digital espionage.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
(WikiMedia Commons)

“Documents acquired dealt with airframe designs (including the computer programs on design analysis), materials, flight computer systems, and propulsion systems. This information allowed Soviet military industries to save years of scientific research and testing time as well as millions of rubles as they developed their own very similar space shuttle vehicle.”

-The 1985 CIA analysis on “Soviet Acquisition of Militarily Significant Western Technology”

Reaching orbit

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
(Wikimedia Commons)

With all the technical information they needed, construction on the Buran began in 1980, and within just four years, the Soviets were able to unveil their strikingly familiar-looking space shuttle. Despite the clear aesthetic resemblance, however, the Buran did depart from the American design in a number of important ways.

First and foremost, rather than housing the shuttle’s main engines within the spacecraft itself, the Soviets chose to simply attach their shuttle to their super-heavy lift Energia rocket. It was also designed and built to operate autonomously, making it capable of completing orbital missions without a crew on board. Perhaps the most significant departures from the American shuttle were the four jet engines mounted on the rear of the aircraft that would offer the vehicle powered flight. However, despite there being images of these jet engines on the Buran, they were not present as the spacecraft prepared for its first orbital flight.

On November 15, 1988, seven and a half years after the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, the Buran launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soviet space shuttle did not have a crew on board, which may have been seen as an appropriate precaution. Less than 20 years earlier, three cosmonauts died after their Soyuz 11 spacecraft depressurized in space. Four years prior to that, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was killed in the first-ever launch of the Soyuz spacecraft. While crew safety was likely a consideration, by 1988, the Soviet Union was already amid political turmoil. Killing another crew in a space launch would not have helped the situation.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Soviet Buran space shuttle (Wikimedia Commons)

The Buran first reached low earth orbit on the back of its massive Energia rocket. From there, it boosted itself into a slightly higher orbit before circling the planet twice and beginning reentry. Without its jet engines, the Soviet space shuttle would have to glide back to its runway at the Baikonur Cosmodrome just like the American shuttle. Unlike the American shuttle, however, the Buran had no pilot on board to manage the descent.

In a resounding success for the ship’s autonomous systems, the Buran touched down shortly after reentry, making what some called a “flawless” runway landing. In fact, upon closer inspection, the Buran’s heat shielding seemed to have faired even better than America’s first shuttle launch. With new data to work with, the Soviets began preparing for another launch that would never come.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Remains of a Buran spacecraft being towed to Zhukovsky Airfield (Wikimedia Commons)

Three years after the Buran’s first and only successful flight, the government of the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it, any hope of ever putting the Soviet space shuttle Buran back into orbit.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The World War II origins of Navy ‘Torpedo Juice’

Going to any bartender that knows their craft and ordering a “torpedo juice,” means you’ll get a cocktail that’s two parts alcohol (any alcohol) and three parts pineapple juice. It’s not a bad drink, but it’s not exactly refined.

Neither were the World War II sailors who created the concoction. These guys had to do something to mask the harsh kick of the liquor by any means necessary. It just so happened that juice was the most readily available. 

In Mike Ostlund’s 2011 book, “Find ‘Em, Chase ‘Em, Sink ‘Em: The Mysterious Loss of the WWII Submarine USS Gudgeon,” he details how sailors were able to drink the grain alcohol carried by submarines, even after the Navy tainted the supply.

Even during the best days of World War II, a good stiff drink was hard to find. For U.S. Navy submarine crews, it was next to impossible – to find one. So they would make their own, using the fuel that fed the submarine’s deadly torpedoes. 

Torpedo tubes on a US destroyer

One might think Americans would be used to either having to distill their own booze or to go completely without. The United States had only emerged from Prohibition less than a decade before the start of the Second World War. But no, Americans enjoyed their drinks and sailors were already known for their love of the hard stuff. 

Since there were no bars, pubs or stills aboard the submarines – and there wasn’t room for anything of the sort anyhow – they made the best of their situation. They converted to fuel used to drive their torpedoes into 180-proof alcohol. 

At first, the sailors could just pop open the fuel and start drinking, but it wasn’t always that way. Torpedo fuel was made from pure grain alcohol back then and the Navy brass knew it. They also knew that once the sailors aboard ship realized it, there would soon be a significant lack of fuel for torpedoes. 

Soon, Ostlund writed, Navy leadership began to add croton oil to the fuel stores. Drinking the alcohol with the oil additive gave sailors extreme stomach pains and diarrhea. Unlike the wood alcohol used by the government to poison industrial ethyl alcohol during Prohibition, the croton oil wouldn’t kill or blind sailors. They were still needed to fight the war, after all. The pain and suffering would soon pass. 

The Navy thought its fuel troubles were over and its fuel stores safe from thirsty sailors. They were wrong. There’s nothing more resourceful than a sailor in need of a drink on long haul sea voyages. 

Aboard the USS Gudgeon, sailors figured out how to separate the croton oil from the alcohol. The fuel was stored in five gallon cans and poured into a 50 gallon vat for use in the torpedoes. The sailors smuggled the fuel in their original five gallon containers back to anywhere they could set up a still, usually a hotel in a port city. 

They then simply distilled the oil from the alcohol, using the same method used to make grain alcohol in the first place. The stuff was then mixed with any kind of juice the sailors could find.

Operating a still in a random hotel wasn’t entirely without risk. The makeshift still setups can – and did – explode, setting fire to the hotel, buildings, and whatever happened to be nearby. A small price to pay for a bit of relaxation away from one of the world’s deadliest jobs. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Tom Clancy used this wargame for ‘Red Storm Rising’

Tom Clancy’s 1986 novel Red Storm Rising is arguably his literary tour de force. Following on the heels of 1984’s The Hunt for Red October, it cemented Clancy’s status as the inventor of the techno-thriller genre. Despite being a massive best-seller, Clancy never won a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize for his contributions to the field of literature.

In Red Storm Rising, “Dance of the Vampires” featured a Soviet attack on a NATO carrier force centered on USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and the French carrier Foch (R99). In the book, the Nimitz was badly damaged by two AS-6 Kingfish missiles, while the Foch took three hits and was sunk.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

There was little understanding of how new technology like the Tu-22M Backfire would play into a war.

(DOD painting)

But how did Clancy manage to make that moment in the book so realistic? The answer lies in a wargame designed by Larry Bond called Harpoon. Bond is best known as a techno-thriller author of some repute himself, having written Red Phoenix, Cauldron, and Red Phoenix Burning, among others. But he designed the Harpoon wargame, which came in both a set of rules for miniatures and a computer game. (Full disclosure: The author is a long-time fan of the game, and owns both miniature and computer versions.)

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

Alas, poor Foch, you were doomed from the start.

(U.S. Navy photo)

At WargameVault.com, Larry Bond explained that while the end result had been determined, what was lacking was an understand of two big areas: How would all these new systems interact, and what would the likely tactics be? As a result, they ran the game three times, and it was not a small affair: A number of others took part, resulting in each side’s “commander” having “staffs” who used written standard orders and after-action reports.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

A simulated massacre of Tu-22M Backfires off Iceland also shaped the plot of ‘Red Storm Rising.’

(U.S. Navy)

Each of the three games had very different results, but the gaming helped to make Red Storm Rising a literary masterpiece of the last 20th century. Incidentally, Harpoon further shaped Red Storm Rising through a scenario called the “Keflavik Turkey Shoot” – a gaming result that convinced Clancy to include the Soviet Union taking Iceland in the early portions of the book.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

While she sits in reserve today, at the time of ‘Red Storm Rising,’ USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was the latest and greatest in naval technology.

(US Navy photo)

Bond released a collection of those scenarios, and some other material into an electronic publication called “Dance of the Vampires,” available for .00 at WargameVault.com. It is a chance to see how a wargame shaped what was arguably the best techno-thriller of all time.

Articles

These 6 heroes of Desert Storm may warrant medal upgrades

With some recent upgrades to medals for heroism during the War on Terror, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at some awards from Desert Storm. During that conflict, no Medals of Honor or Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, but there were two Navy Crosses and two Air Force Crosses.


Without further ado, here are six people whose awards may warrant an upgrade:

1.William F. Andrews

Awards to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross

Then a captain flying the F-16, Andrews received three awards for valor during Desert Storm. Two of them were the Distinguished Flying Cross, one was the Air Force Cross.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. (Dept. of Defense photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force.)

The DFC awarded for his actions on Jan. 23, 1991, looks like it should be upgraded – Andrews pressed his attack through heavy fire to put ordnance on the target.

The other medal warranting an upgrade should be the Air Force Cross for his actions on Feb. 27, 1991. After ejecting from his damaged F-16, Andrews was injured upon landing. Despite his injuries, Andrews chose to remain in the open and warned fellow pilots of threats until he was captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

2. Richard A. Cody

Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
The pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade fires AGM-114 Hellfire missiles during the combined arms live fire training exercise for Saber Strike 16 at the Estonian Defense Forces central training area near Tapa, Estonia on June 20, 2016. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

Then a lieutenant colonel commanding an attack helicopter battalion, Richard Cody drew the tough task of leading Task Force Normandy to forcibly open a gap in Iraqi radar coverage. It was a very high-stakes mission – if Cody failed, Saddam’s regime would have plenty of time to give Coalition pilots warning. Task Force Normandy succeeded, and the Coalition lost only one aircraft on the opening night.

3. Randy S. Wenzel

Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross

At the time, Wenzel was a major, and took part in a massive strike on Jan. 18, 1991. Wenzel pressed his attack despite heavy fire from enemy surface-to-air missiles, putting his bombs on the Habbiniyah artillery mission. According to his citation, the successful strike “severely reduced” the ability of Saddam’s regime to produce replacement artillery pieces.

4. Richard Balwanz

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
ODA 525, which Richard Balwanz led. Shortly after they infiltrated, they were discovered by civilians. (DOD photo)

Over a decade before the events that would be described in the book and movie Lone Survivor, Richard Balwanz faced the same situation Michael Murphy did. He made the same decision. As the Daily Caller notes, Balwanz brought his entire team back.

As an interesting trivia note, William Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross flying support for Balwanz’s unit.

5. Keith Dewayne Andrews

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

Andrews was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of the “left hook” that flanked the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, when he received the Silver Star for rescuing five troops who were pinned down by two Iraqi machine gun positions. According to his citation, Andrews made his way through a minefield to take out the first position with a hand grenade. Then, like Brian Chontosh did during Iraqi Freedom, he grabbed an enemy weapon and took out the second position.

Pure badass stuff.

6. Thomas J. Trask

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
A U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low. Thomas J, Task flew a similar helicopter within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While he is a three-star general today, Thomas J. Trask was a captain when he received the Silver Star as a MH-53J Pave Low pilot. While it is not exactly unarmed (GlobalSecurity.org notes it has three .50-caliber machine guns or 7.62mm miniguns), it’s not exactly the best option if you face off against enemy SAMs or AAA. Yet Trask went within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot.

That took a ton of guts and skill.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

When people mention “Pappy” — otherwise known as Gregory P. Boyington of VMF-214 — the “Black Sheep Squadron” immortalized in the late 1970s series “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” comes to mind.


There is a good reason; Boyington, a Medal of Honor recipient, is the top-scoring Marine Corps ace with 28 kills. He was also an ace with the Flying Tigers (six kills).

But there is another Pappy who did much to help turn back the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. This was Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn.

“Pappy” Gunn had served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years before retiring to start airlines in Hawaii and the Philippines. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he returned to the service — and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in medical supplies to besieged troops on the Bataan Peninsula. He was evacuated to Australia, and in the summer of 1942, he began his major contribution to the war effort.

Gunn started to add M2 .50-caliber machine guns to the noses of A-20 Havoc light bombers. The planes had been okay, able to carry a ton of bombs, but bombing from high altitude often didn’t work with ships. So Gunn began modifying the A-20s, and later the B-25s, with M2s scavenged from fighters that had brought back their pilots, but which wouldn’t be repaired. He also developed the tactics these planes would use.

 

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
9th Air Force Douglas A-20G or A-20H over France. Note the solid nose holding six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (US Air Force photo)

It was a very lethal masterpiece. Word filtered back to the manufacturers, Douglas and North American, and soon new versions of the B-25 and A-20 were out, built and inspired by Gunn’s field modifications. One version of the B-25 would carry 18 forward-firing M2s — the firepower of three P-51 Mustangs!

These planes would make their mark in the Southwest Pacific. Japan was trying to reinforce troops in New Guinea, where the Americans and Australians were fighting fiercely. Gunn’s modifications would be put to the test in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Japan sent eight transports, escorted by eight destroyers to deliver nearly 7,000 troops to Lae from Rabaul.

On March 3, 1943, they began. The Japanese force was simply unprepared to handle the Allied firepower. Despite cover from 100 fighters, their convoy was savaged. The strafing, combined with skip-bombing and mast-height bombing, tore the transports and half the destroyers apart. Only 1200 troops and practically no equipment made it to Lae.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
Planes from the 5th Air Force carry out a low-level attack during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (US Air Force photo)

Gunn would serve throughout the war, retiring as a full colonel. He then went back to re-building the airline he had started prior to World War II breaking out. In 1957, he was killed when his plane crashed during a storm. While not well-known, Gunn’s legend is one that does the United States Air Force proud.

MIGHTY HISTORY

U-2 spy plane took its first flight 64 years ago, but it was an accident

On Aug. 1, 1955, a prototype of the U-2 spy plane sprinted down a runway at Groom Lake in Nevada, and its massive wings quickly lifted it into the sky.

That wasn’t exactly how it was supposed to go. It was meant to be a high-speed taxi test, but the prototype’s highly efficient wings pulled it into the air unexpectedly. The plane’s first official flight happened three days later.

Lockheed Martin footage captured the moment the venerable Dragon Lady started its 64-year career.


U-2 First Flight

www.youtube.com

The U-2 was developed in secrecy by Lockheed in the early 1950s to meet the US government’s need to surveil the Soviet Union and other areas from a height enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft systems couldn’t reach.

Renowned engineer Kelly Johnson led the project at Lockheed’s advanced development lab, Skunk Works.

“Johnson’s take was all right, I need to get as high as I can to overfly enemy defenses, and how do I do that? Well I put big wings on there; big wings means higher. I cut weight; cutting weight means higher, and then let me just strap a big engine on there, and that’s it,” U-2 pilot Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said at an Air Force event in New York City in May 2019.

One thing Johnson ditched was wing-mounted landing gear. On takeoff, temporary wheels called “pogos” fall away from the wings.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

Master Sgt. Justin Pierce, 9th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, preforms preflight checks on a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base in California, April 16, 2018.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

“So [Johnson] basically took a glider with parts and pieces from other Lockheed aircraft and strapped an engine to it and delivered it before the anticipated delivery date and under budget,” Nauman said.

The plane Johnson and Lockheed produced was well suited for flight — as the Groom Lake test showed, it didn’t take much to get it off the ground.

“The pilot was out there taxing around, and [during] a high-speed taxi — we’re talking about 30ish miles an hour — the plane actually lifted off on its own, completely unexpected,” Nauman said.

“And they thought, ‘OK, hang on, let’s go back and make sure we’re approaching this test phase the right way.’ And they found the thing just wants to get off the ground.”

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

A U-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS America.

(US Navy)

Same name, new-ish plane

Throughout its career, the U-2 has been reengineered and redesigned.

The plane that took off at Groom Lake was a U-2A. The next version was the U-2C, which had a new engine; a U-2C on display at the National Air and Space Museum flew the first operational mission over the Soviet Union on July 4, 1956.

The U-2G and U-2H, outfitted for carrier operations, came in the early 1960s. The U-2R, which was 40% larger than the original and had wing pods to carry more sensors and fuel, arrived in 1967.

The last U-2R arrived in 1989, and most of the planes in use now were built in the mid-1980s.

Since 1994 the US has spent id=”listicle-2639718396″.7 billion to modernize the U-2’s airframe and sensors. After the GE F118-101 engine was added in the late 1990s, all U-2s were re-designated as U-2S, the current variant.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The Air Force now has about 30 single-seat U-2 for missions and four of the two-seat TU-2 trainers. Those planes have a variety of pilot-friendly features, but one aspect remains a challenge.

“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said.

“You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy,” he said, referring to a part of the pilot-interview process where candidates have to fly the U-2, adding that the landings were done safely.

Despite its grace in flight, getting to earth is an ungainly process that takes a team effort.

Another qualified U-2 pilot in a high-performance chase car — Mustangs, Camaros, Pontiacs, and even a Tesla — meets the aircraft as it lands.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

A U-2 pilot drives a chase car behind U-2 during a low-flight touch and go at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 15, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

“As the airplane’s coming in over the runway, this vehicle’s chasing behind it with a radio, and [the driver is] actually talking the pilot down a little bit, just to help him out … ‘Hey, raise your left wing, raise your right wing, you’re about 10 feet, you’re about 8 feet, you’re about 2 feet, hold it there at 2 feet,'” U-2 pilot Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, said at the same event.

As the plane “approaches a stall and it’s able to land, you have that experienced set of eyes in the car watching the airplane, because all [the pilot] can see is right off the front,” Patterson said.

The absence of wing landing gear means that once it’s slows enough, the plane leans to one side and a wingtip comes to rest on the ground.

“The lifespan of the U-2, the airframe, [is beyond] 2040 to 2050 … because we spend so little time in a high-stress regime,” Patterson added. “Once it gets to altitude it’s smooth and quiet and it’s very, very nice on the airplane. The only tough part is the landing.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of the legendary HH-60 Pave Hawks

Based on the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk, the HH-60G Pave Hawk is a highly modified version with upgraded communications and navigation suite. The forward-looking infrared system, color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system, enables the Pave Hawk to fly in bad weather. The in-flight refueling probe and auxiliary fuel tanks allow the Pave Hawk to outdistance other rescue helicopters.

The Pave Hawk’s crew of pararescue airmen can utilize its hoist, capable of lifting 600 pounds, to perform personnel recovery operations in hostile environments. The HH-60G is also used for civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support, and rescue command and control.


Design and development

In the early 1980s, the Air Force began its search for a replacement of the aging HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter. The Air Force acquired UH-60 Black Hawks and modified them with a refueling probe, additional fuel tanks and .50 XM218s machine guns. These helicopters were renamed “Credible Hawks” and entered service in 1987.
In 1991, the Credible Hawks and new Black Hawks were upgraded again and re-designated to Pave Hawk.

After almost 40 years of service, the HH-60G Pave Hawk will be replaced by the HH-60W. Increased internal fuel capacity and new defensive systems and sensors will provide increased range and survivability during combat rescue missions. The fleet of HH-60Gs will be fully replaced with 112 HH-60Ws by 2029 with the first delivery scheduled for 2020.

Operational history

The HH-60 has operated during operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Enduring Freedom, and continues to operate in Resolute Support and Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting coalition ground operations and standby search and rescue for U.S. and coalition fixed-wing combat aircraft.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, secure the area after being lowered from a U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk during a mission Nov. 7, 2012, in Afghanistan.

(Photo by staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Personnel from 305th Rescue Squadron flew HH-60 Pave Hawks to rescue “Lone Survivor” Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, after his four-man team was ambushed in the mountains of Afghanistan and he was the only one to survive.
After Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, more than 20 active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard Pave Hawks were deployed to Jackson, Miss., in support of recovery operations in New Orleans and surrounding areas. Pave Hawk crews flew around-the-clock operations for nearly a month, saving more than 4,300 Americans from the post-hurricane devastation.

Within 24 hours of the Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami in 2011, HH-60Gs deployed to support Operation Tomodachi, providing search and rescue capability to the disaster relief efforts.

Since then Pave Hawks have been instrumental in saving lives during natural disasters and major floods.

Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, flies over Pardee Reservoir, in Lone, California, Saturday, April 14, 2018, during interagency aircrew training with CAL FIRE. Cal Guard helicopter crews and support personnel gathered for three days of joint wildfire aviation training to prepare for heightened fire activity in the summer and fall.

(Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Did You Know?

  • PAVE stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment
  • To improve air transportability and shipboard operations, all HH-60Gs have folding rotor blades.
General Characteristics:
  • Primary Function: Personnel recovery in hostile conditions and military operations other than war in day, night or marginal weather
  • Contractor: United Technologies/Sikorsky Aircraft Company
  • Power Plant: Two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines
  • Thrust: 1,560-1,940 shaft horsepower, each engine
  • Rotor Diameter: 53 feet, 7 inches (14.1 meters)
  • Length: 64 feet, 8 inches (17.1 meters)
  • Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (4.4 meters)
  • Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
  • Fuel Capacity: 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms)
  • Payload: depends upon mission
  • Speed: 184 mph (159 knots)
  • Range: 504 nautical miles
  • Ceiling: 14,000 feet (4,267 meters)
  • Armament: Two 7.62mm or .50 caliber machineguns
  • Crew: Two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner
  • Unit Cost: .1 million (Fiscal year 2011 dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: 1982
  • Inventory: Active force, 67; ANG, 17; Reserve, 15
  • This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    The time that the British conquered Manila

    The Philippines is a diverse country that draws from an eclectic mix of cultures. Much of the Filipino culture and heritage was influenced by trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as occupation by foreign countries like Spain, America, and Japan. In the Philippines, you can eat Chinese rice noodles, hear Indonesian, Malay, and Spanish words in the same conversation, and ride a jeep that’s been converted into a public bus to visit WWII historical sites. However, most people would be surprised to learn that the Pearl of the Orient was once under the control of the British Empire.

    The Seven Years’ War lasted from 1756-1763 (fighting in the Americas started in 1754 with the French and Indian War, but fighting didn’t begin in Europe until 1756). The conflict between the great European powers spanned the globe, making it the first true world war. During this time, the Philippines was a wealthy Spanish colony made famous by its grandeur and the Manila Galleon Trade. Eager to take a piece of this wealth, Britain planned an invasion of Manila with four store ships, three frigates, eight ships of the line, and 10,300 men.


    The invasion force sailed from India and anchored in Manila Bay on September 23, 1762. Not expecting the European war to come to the Philippines, the 9,356 Spanish and Filipino defenders were caught off guard. Outnumbered and unprepared, the Spaniards enlisted the help of native Kapampangan warriors to resist the British invasion. The fighting was fierce, with the British firing more than 5,000 bombs and 20,000 cannonballs on the city. Spanish resistance did not last long and a formal surrender ended hostilities on October 6. The greatest Spanish fortress in the Western Pacific capitulated after just two weeks.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    A map depicting the British attack on Manila (Source: Library of Congress)

    The Spanish defeat resulted in the sacking and pillaging of Manila. Houses and buildings were pillaged and burned, people were killed, tortured, and raped, and countless treasures were looted, lost, or destroyed. Not even the churches of the archbishopric in Manila were spared from the violence. To spare the city from further destruction, the British demanded a ransom of four million Mexican silver dollars which acting Governor-General Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra agreed to, preventing further loss of life.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    The British occupation of Manila (Source: The Filipinas Heritage Library)

    With the help of the Kapampangan, Spanish forces retreated from Manila to the Bacolor, Pampanga where they established a new colonial capitol. There, the Spanish organized a resistance to contain the British invasion. An army of over 10,000, most of them natives, was raised for this cause. Although they lacked sufficient modern weapons, resistance forces managed to keep the British confined to Manila and Cavite.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    British troop movements during the Occupation of Manila (Source: Malacanang.gov.ph)

    During its occupation of Manila, Britain took advantage of its location to increase trade with China. The British were unable to capitalize further on their conquest, since the Seven Years’ War ended with the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. That said, news of the peace agreement did not reach the Philippines until early 1764. The British ended their occupation, departing Manila and Cavite, in the first week of April 1764.

    Over a century later, the Filipino nationalist and vocal opponent of Spanish occupation, Jose Rizal, lived in London from May 1888 to March 1889. He was astounded to find Filipino artifacts in the British Museum. Among the cultural treasures were the Boxer Codex (c. 1590) and a rare copy of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). According to Kirby Araullo, author and co-founder of the Busolan Center for Filipino Studies, the two artifacts are among the most important primary sources of early Philippine history.

    The Spanish defeat was also a turning point for the Spanish Empire; it showed that Spain was no longer the dominant world power that it once was. The Spanish vulnerability emboldened many uprisings against Spanish occupation, including an ill-fated revolt by the national hero couple, Diego and Gabriela Silang. The Sultan of Sulu, a former Islamic state that controlled islands in the present-day southern Philippine Islands and north-eastern Borneo, was also freed from Spanish imprisonment during British occupation. He aligned with the British against the Spanish and increased pirate raids by the Sultanate of Sulu against Spanish colonies.

    The Battle of Manila was a major military, political, and financial blow to the Spanish Empire. Although the British were unable to carry out a full conquest of the islands, the Spanish defeat was the catalyst for continued Filipino uprisings and resistance to Spanish occupation.


    MIGHTY HISTORY

    That time MacArthur promised to capture a hill or die on it

    During the bloody and costly Argonne Offensive, American forces had to fight for three weeks and suffer 100,000 casualties to reach the objectives that were planned for the first day of fighting. One of those objectives was a large, well-defended hill that Douglas MacArthur was ordered to either capture or spend 5,000 lives in the failure. MacArthur promised his name would be on the list if he failed.


    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur poses in a French castle recaptured from German forces one week before the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began in World War I.

    (U.S. Army Lt. Ralph Estep)

    MacArthur was a brigadier general at the time, recently passed over for promotion and in command of the 84th Infantry Brigade, and he and his men had already fought viciously from Sep. 26, 1918, to early October. MacArthur had led some of their attacks, including a daring nighttime raid, from the front, earning him nominations for what would become his sixth and seventh Silver Stars.

    But the 84th was moved up to a division at Côte de Châtillon. It’s a large hill that dominates the surrounding terrain, and MacArthur assessed that it was the center of German fortifications in the area. He carefully laid his plans for attack and, as he was finishing up, his new corps commander visited him in his tent.

    Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall and MacArthur were old friends and shared a cup of coffee. When he was done, Summerall stood to leave and told MacArthur, “Give me Châtillon, MacArthur, or turn in a list of 5,000 casualties.”

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    American troops fighting in France in World War I. It was America’s first time in fully industrialized combat, and the learning curve was steep.

    (Library of Congress)

    It was a surprising order, but it highlighted the dire straits the American Expeditionary Force was in. Their first offensive in the Meuse the month before had gone very well, but America still had to prove itself to its allies. And Germany was close to winning the war before America entered it. Russia had fallen out of the war in 1917, and the French people were weary after over four years of fighting on their soil.

    France could still fall, Germany could still win, and America would be seen as weak and exploited even if Germany lost the war without a significant American victory. Summerall and the other senior generals were willing to do nearly anything to prove that America was a real power on the world stage and to punish Germany for sinking U.S. ships.

    But MacArthur was no slouch either. Remember, in less than a month of fighting before this meeting, he had earned himself nominations for two more Silver Stars. Though he would later be embarrassed by the drama of his response, what he said to Summerall at the time was, “All right, general. We’ll take it, or my name will head the list.”

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Soldiers of Headquarters Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division fire a 37mm gun during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, where American Soldiers fought their most difficult battle in World War I.

    (U.S. Army)

    To paraphrase, “I will come back with that hill or on it.” On October 14, MacArthur began his attack with “my Alabama cotton growers on my left, my Iowa farmers on my right,” as he referred to the National Guard forces under his command. The 83rd Infantry Brigade, made up mostly of New York and Ohio units, fought bravely beside the 84th.

    It took three days. As MacArthur later wrote:

    …little units of our men crawled and sneaked and side-slipped forward from one bit of cover to another. Death, cold and remorseless, whistled and sang its way through our ranks. But like the arms of a giant pincer my Alabama and Iowa National Guardsmen closed in from both sides. Officers fell and sergeants leaped to command. Companies dwindled to platoons and corporals took over.”

    Côte de Châtillon fell to American hands late on October 16, MacArthur had led from the front, and he would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his great courage “in rallying broken lines and in reforming attacks, thereby making victory possible.”

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    The hill Cote de Chatillon as photographed in 2018. In 1918, this hill was the site of stubborn German defenses which required the sacrifice of 3,000 American casualties to liberate.

    (Georgia National Guard Capt. William Carraway)

    The Germans counterattacked, ferociously, but MacArthur and his men held on, and the hills nearby quickly fell to American forces. The 42nd Infantry Division, of which the 83rd and 84th were part, would be temporarily relieved from front line duty on October 18. The two brigades had suffered 3,000 casualties taking the hill.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    11 American spies who did the worst damage to the US military

    History has shown that all American spies are not created equal in terms of the damage their efforts have done to military readiness. Here are 11 of the worst:


    1. Julius Rosenberg gave Russia plans for nuclear bombs.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

    Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested in 1950 for espionage thought to date back to 1940. They were most famous for giving the Soviet Union atomic secrets, specifically the design for the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The spy ring Julius operated was also responsible for giving the Soviets proximity fuses and radar tubes, two technologies key to effective air defenses which would have played a large part if the Cold War had ever turned hot.

    Documents from the Venona Project have shown that Ethel may not have been involved. Her brother, who was caught before the Rosenbergs and testified against both of them, later said that Ethel was not part of the ring. Julius and Ethel were both executed in 1953 after a controversial trial. The trial was called a sham, especially the case against Ethel Rosenberg. It was so hotly contested, it soured America’s relationship with France.

    2. Noshir Gowadia gave B-2 Stealth technology to China.

     

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

     

    Noshir Gowadia is an Indian-American who was an engineer on early stages of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Though Gowadia was paid $45,000 for his work, he was angry that he wasn’t kept on the project for future phases that were worth much more money. Gowadia wrote to a relative about his dissatisfaction and started his own consulting company.

    In 2005, federal investigators arrived at his Maui, Hawaii home to collect evidence that he had knowledge of an effort to help China develop stealth technology for their cruise missiles. Gowadia admitted to many of the accusations, though he claimed he had only used declassified materials. A jury disagreed, and he was sentenced to 32 years in prison, disappointing prosecutors who had sought life imprisonment.

    China is too closed off to know for sure which stealth designs use information from Gowadia, but China now has a stealth fighter and multiple cruise missiles that are hard to detect on infrared.

    3. Chi Mak’s betrayal put modern sailors in jeopardy.

     

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate Airman Ron Reeves

     

    Chi Mak’s activities are hard to get exact, since much of his espionage career is still unknown. The FBI began investigating him in 2004, and the case went to trial in 2007. Mak had worked on Navy engines as an engineer for a defense contractor and had collected sensitive information from other engineers before sending collections of it to China.

    When the FBI raided Mak’s home, first in secret and later after arresting Mak and his wife, they found stacks and stacks of classified information relating to naval technology, much of it still going into new Navy ships. The exact nature of what was released has not been made public since the technologies are still classified.

    Mak is serving a nearly 24-year, six-month prison sentence after his conviction in 2007. The other spies who worked with Mak plead guilty, receiving shorter prison sentences and deportation orders.

    4. Ana Montes deliberately misled the joint chiefs while leaking secrets to Cuba.

     

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Photo: Defense Intelligence Agency

     

    From 1984 to 2001, Ana Montes was slipping classified information to Cuba. Hers was a case of spycraft straight out of a novel. She’d don disguises to slip into Cuba, listen in South Florida to shortwave radio broadcasts from Cuba, and slip packages to handlers. And, she did all of it with two FBI siblings and another FBI agent as a sister-in-law. Ana’s sister was a hero of an FBI crackdown in southern Florida that netted other members of Ana’s spy ring, including her handler.

    Montes operated by memorizing documents at her desk, first in the Department of Justice and later in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and then typing them on her personal computer at night. She received medals from both the U.S. and Cuba for her activities, though only Cuba gave her a contracted lover. Before she was caught, she had become a regular briefer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council. When she was finally arrested, she was pending a promotion to the CIA Security Council. She is currently serving a 25-year sentence.

    5. Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames dimed out every American spy they could name.

     

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Photos: FBI

     

    Though they’re combined on this list because their main damage to the U.S. military was in exposing an American spy in Soviet Russia, Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames were two of the most damaging spies in U.S. history. Ames only operated from 1985 to 1993, while Hanssen spied from 1979 to 2001.

    Together, their leaks resulted in the exposure of hundreds of U.S. assets in the Soviet Union, but their most direct damage to the U.S. military was from exposing one high-level asset. Gen. Dmitri Polyakov was the head of Soviet intelligence and a major spy for the U.S., providing information on Soviet anti-armored missile technology, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and China. That fountain of military intelligence shut down when Polykav was revealed by Ames and Hanssen, leading to Polykav’s execution in 1988.

    6. John Anthony Walker told the Russians where all the U.S. subs were during the Cold War.

     

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

    John Walker was a Navy Warrant Officer who made some bad investments and found himself strapped for cash. So, in late 1967 he copied a document from the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force Headquarters in Norfolk, Va. and carried it home. The next morning, he took it to the Soviet Embassy in Washington where he leaked it.

    For the next 18 years, Walker would leak the locations and encryption codes for U.S. assets as well as operational plans and other documents. He even recruited his son into the operation and tried to recruit his daughter who served in the Army, but she was pregnant and separating from the service. There are even claims that the sinking of the nuclear armed USS Scorpion was due to Walker’s espionage.

    Walker and his son were finally caught after Walker’s ex-wife told everything to the FBI. Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said the Soviet Union gained, “access to weapons and sensor data and naval tactics, terrorist threats, and surface, submarine, and airborne training, readiness and tactics” as a result of Walker’s spying. It’s thought that some advances in Russian naval technology were given to them by Walker. He died in prison last year.

    7. Larry Chin may have made the Korean War go on much longer.

    Larry Wu-Tai Chin was a translator for the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he became a translator for the CIA until his arrest in 1985. During this time, Chin passed many documents and photographs along to his Chinese handlers.

    Some experts claim Chin’s actions during the Korean War, when he gave the Chinese government the name of prisoners he interrogated, made the Korean War last longer. Chin told the Chinese government everything that was revealed during the interrogations. He was arrested in 1985 and convicted of all charges, but he killed himself before he was sentenced.

    8. James Nicholson sold the intelligence team roster to Moscow.

    Harold James Nicholson’s espionage weakened U.S. observation of the Russian Federation during the mid-’90s. Nicholson was the head of CIA officer training program for two years, and he is believed to have sold the identities of all new officers trained during his tenure. In addition, he sold the assignment information for new officers headed on their first assignment.

    In an affidavit discussing the case against Nicholson, the lead investigator pointed to two ways that Nicholson directly compromised military operations. First, he gave away the identity of a CIA operative heading to Moscow to collect information on the Russian military. Second, he gave the Russians the exact staffing requirements for the Moscow CIA bureau, allowing them to better prevent leaks to the U.S. of classified military information.

    Nicholson was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 25 years. From prison, he doubled down on espionage by teaching his son spy tradecraft, telling him state secrets, and then having his son meet up with old Russian contacts to collect money. He confessed to this second round of espionage in 2010.

    9. James Hall III sold top-secret signal programs to the Soviets.

    U.S. Army signal intelligence warrant officer James Hall was assigned to a crucial listening post in West Berlin from 1982 to 1985. While he was there, he was feeding information on key programs to his Soviet handlers. Hall released tons of documents, intercepts, and encryption codes, exposing many operations to Soviet eyes.

    Arguably his most damaging action was letting the Soviets know about Project Trojan. Trojan would have allowed, in the case of war, the U.S. and its allies to target Russian armored vehicles, missiles, and planes by tracking their communication signals. Since Russia had the clear advantage in armored warfare at this point, the success or failure of Trojan could have decided who won the start of a war.

    Hall had more limited access to crucial information when he was reassigned to the United States. In 1988, he bragged about his 6 years of spying to an undercover FBI agent. Hall was tried and sentenced, serving his sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas until his release in 2011.

    10. Col. George Trofimoff gave it all to the KGB through his brother the archbishop.

    When George Trofimoff was finally arrested in 2000, he was just a bag boy. As a retired Army Reserve colonel though, he is the highest-ranking American ever convicted of espionage. Trofimoff spied for the Soviet Union from 1969 to 1994, a 25-year career.

    The worst of the damage was done while Trofimoff was the chief of the U.S. Army’s operations at a NATO safe house where Soviet defectors were debriefed. The safe house had copies of nearly all U.S. intelligence estimates on Soviet military strength. Most weekends, Trofimoff would takes bags of documents home from the safe house, photograph them, and return them to the office before giving the photos to his brother, a Russian Orthodox priest who would go on to become the Archbishop of Vienna.

    Trofimoff was arrested at his home at 1427 Patriot Drive and tried for espionage in 2000. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

    11. Benedict Arnold tried to abort America.

     

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam
    Portrait: Thomas Hart

     

    A traitor who almost strangled America in her crib, Gen. Benedict Arnold is so infamous that his name is used to mean treachery. He was once a hero of the revolution though, attaining multiple victories through brilliance of maneuver. His greatest feat was his victory at the Battle of Saratoga, which convinced France that it was worth it to come out in support of American independence.

    Arnold lost his wife during the war and found himself the target of personal and professional attacks from politicians. Convinced that the war would fail and harboring deep resentment of the American political system, Arnold handed over the plans to West Point and agreed to surrender the defenses in exchange for 20,000 British pounds (approximately $3 million today).

    But the plans were intercepted and Arnold fled to England. The Revolutionary Army was shaken by the loss of a major hero while they were still fighting against the better equipped and trained British Forces. Arnold would live out his life in England as a rich man, but forever be known as a traitor.

    Bonus: Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden

    While not technically spies since they didn’t work for a foreign government, the classified intelligence revealed by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are the two most famous leaks in recent memory. Both released tons of documents embarrassing to the U.S. and damaging for foreign relations.

    Manning stole documents from his work in Army intelligence by storing them on an SD card and sending the files to Wikileaks. The leak included state department cables, detailed event logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a video of an Apache mistakenly engaging Reuters journalists.

    Snowden’s leak was the more damaging. Roughly 200,000 thousand stolen documents were given to journalists, some leading to the compromise of U.S. intelligence operations abroad. Approximately 1.7 million documents were stolen, though Snowden has given conflicting reports on whether they’ve been destroyed or are stored.

    Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence while Snowden is living in Russia to avoid prosecution in the U.S.

    Read more: John Oliver just exposed a very big lie surrounding Edward Snowden

    Or: This top secret green beret unit quietly won the Cold War

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

    It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

    The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Matthew Williams

    Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

    According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

    Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

    Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

    Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Ronald J. Shurer

    Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

    The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

    The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

    In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Melvin Morris

    Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

    That’s badass.

    Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

    Kyle Daniels

    The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

    Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

    “Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

    President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

    Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    This flawed government report triggered nuclear panic in Cold War

    Anyone who survived the Cold War likely remembers the fear that, with almost no notice, an endless rain of Soviet missiles and bombs could begin that would end the war. Even if your city wasn’t hit, the number of nukes that America and Russia would have exchanged would have ended the war. But there was a problem: the Soviet Union had a tiny fraction of the missiles necessary. The confusion can be traced back to one flawed report.


    In the early 1950s, rumors were growing that the Soviet Union was developing better ballistic missiles, massive weapons that took off, reached a high altitude, and then fell on or near a specified target. Early ballistic missiles were used in World War II, and they were unguided and crude weapons.

    But the U.S. and Russia had seized as many German scientists as they could in the closing days of World War II, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were each suspicious of what the other was doing with the co-opted scientists. If the Soviet Union was concentrating on missile research, they could beat America to space, and they might get a massive missile arsenal that could deliver nuclear warheads by the dozens.

    And then the Soviets launched a missile test, sending a ballistic missile 3,000 miles across Siberia and other Soviet territories.

    Worried about the possibility of Soviet attacks, President Dwight D. Eisenhower assembled a panel to try and figure out how many nuclear warheads, bombs, and ballistic missiles the Soviet Union might have, as well as how to defend against them. Two brilliant scientists led the research into the ballistic missile numbers.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Intercontinental ballistic missiles are a highly inefficient way to deliver warheads, but they’re also hard to defend against and you don’t have to risk the lives of your own troops to attack your enemy.

    (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

    Herb York was part of the scientific director at Livermore Laboratory, a nuclear research lab. And Jerome Weisner was a science adviser to the president. They were both capable men, but they had to do their research with very little information.

    They figured out how much factory floor space the Soviet Union had and then tried to work out how many rockets they could build per year. But they didn’t know how much of that factory floor space was actually dedicated to rocket production, whether sufficient quantities of materiel was dedicated to the cause, or how efficient the Soviet’s manufacturing methods were.

    So York and Weisner prepared a worst-case number to the president. Basically, if the Soviets were as efficient as America in rocket production, dedicated most of their available factory space to the effort, and gave sufficient labor and materiel to the project, they could produce thousands of missiles in just a few years. That was at least one new missile a day, and potentially as many as three to five missiles, each capable of taking out an American city.

    Now, this wasn’t a complete stab in the dark. York and Weisner had looked at Soviet factory output, and there was a curious gap between America and the Soviet Union on the production of consumer goods and some war materials. Basically, Soviet factories were either drastically under producing, or else they were producing something hidden from America.

    And what America did know of Soviet re-armament after World War II indicated a nation that was preparing for war. They had rapidly developed an arsenal of atomic and then nuclear bombs, produced hundreds of heavy bombers, then developed capable jet engines and re-built their air force for the jet age, all while churning out thousands of radar systems and armored vehicles and tanks.

    So, if you thought the Soviet Union had a lot of unused factory space and wanted to create a massive missile capability, you would probably assume that they were going to churn them out by the thousands, just like they had with radar and other capabilities.

    Cowboy: A legendary commando in America’s secret war in Vietnam

    Explosions like this, but in American cities. It’s a problem.

    (U.S. Navy)

    And York and Weisner’s numbers were included in the document Deterrence Survival in the Nuclear Age, better known as the Gaither Report in November 1957. It was supposed to be secret, but it quickly leaked, and the American people suddenly learned that the Soviets might already have hundreds of missiles with thousands on the way.

    Oh, and Sputnik had just launched, so it was clear to the public that Soviet missile technology was ahead of American. Eisenhower tried to play down the report, and might have comforted some people, but plenty of others saw it as a sign that he was hiding an American weakness.

    And so the idea of a “missile gap,” that the U.S. was far behind the Soviet Union in terms of missile technology and numbers was born. This set off a short-lived panic followed by years of anxiety. It also underlined the importance of two other aspects of the Gaither Report: deterrence by America’s nuclear arsenal and survival through shelters and, later, civil defense.

    America would drastically increase its missile development and other aspects of its nuclear arsenal, seeking to close the gap from the Eisenhower through the Kennedy administrations. But, under Kennedy, the U.S. would learn through improved spy satellite and plane imagery that the missile gap actually went the other direction.

    America’s arsenal was massively larger than the Soviets’. At the time of the Gaither report, the Soviet Union only had four intercontinental ballistic missiles, the really capable ones.

    And, instead of building thousands by 1960, they constructed about 100 more in the first few years after 1957.

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