In the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, many locals read endlessly, write often, and sing loudly.
But not by choice.
In extrajudicial indoctrination camps around Xinjiang, ethnic Uighur men and women are forced to study Chinese history, write personal reflections, and sing songs like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China.” Many are beaten, tortured, and are unable to go home.
China considers this process “re-education.” It runs outside the court system with people dragged away for infringements like talking to a loved one overseas or having a beard, and there is no course for appeal.
A recent estimate put the number of people who have been, or are currently, interned since April 2017, in the hundreds of thousands, or even just over one million.
Though the exact total is unknown, Adrian Zenz, a social researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, pored over local job ads and government bids to find new evidence of the system’s existence and scale.
Since 2016, there were government bids to construct or upgrade 73 facilities in Xinjiang that, despite various names, appeared as though they will operate, wholly or at least in part, as re-education centers.
Re-education centers are often disguised as vocational training hubs, as many were in these bids, but the details betray their hidden purpose.
Together, the facilities required guard rooms, video surveillance, security fences, police equipment, police living quarters, handheld security inspection devices, steel-reinforced concrete walls, and even iron chains.
“Many of these facilities are heavily secured, to an extent that they do not just aim to keep potential intruders out, but to keep those inside under tight surveillance.” Zenz told Business Insider.
Twenty bids listed new or upgraded monitoring or video surveillance. One bid from January 2018, wanted 122 cameras to cover the whole facility without leaving any “dead angles.”
One center required security nets, the renovation of a guard room, and “four watchtowers.” Another, submitted on April 25, 2018, requested an 86,000 square-foot “underground facility.”
These security features, according to Zenz, confirm reports that vocation centers frequently function as internment camps, though many facilities likely sit on a continuum.
“All we know is that a substantial number of facilities, likely capable of holding at least several hundred thousand, are geared more towards the re-education side. Some are explicitly and directly marked as re-education facilities. More than likely, facilities with a stronger vocational training focus can likewise hold several hundred thousands,” said Zenz.
“Some even specifically state that they are designed to perform ‘re-education.’ An official government notice from April 2017, pertaining to these facilities in a particular prefecture mandated that training topics include military drill, Chinese language, legal knowledge, ethnic unity, religious knowledge and patriotic education.”
Job ads are also a huge giveaway
As easy as it may be to silently whisk away thousands of people to new re-education centers, skyrocketing prisoner would also require a huge recruitment drive.
According to Zenz, from May 2017, counties with large ethnic minority populations “initiated a wave of recruitments” for so-called education and training centers.
But ads for such staff were often listed in the same ads as open police positions, and some ads even preferred recruitees with a military or police background.
Other job ads conflated the two roles, hiring “training center policing assistants.” If the staff were being hired to work at a regular vocation center the high number of security personnel would be “difficult to explain,” said Zenz.
Ads also frequently lacked required skills or qualifications that would normally be crucial to providing vocational training. Many required only a middle-school education whereas other provinces, where few Uighur would live, usually require at least a bachelor degree.
In one Xinjiang country, where Uighurs make up 95% of the population, 320 jobs available at a “training center” had three criteria: have a middle-school education, be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and be part of the ethnic majority Han.
Re-education isn’t the only problem Uighurs face
In an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, authorities in Xinjiang have targeted almost any form of religious expression by Uighur Muslims.
Women have been banned from wearing burqas and veils. Residents were barred from fasting during Ramadan with restaurants ordered to stay open despite religious obligations. And in 2016, millions of Xinjiang residents were ordered to surrender their passports and must seek permission to travel abroad.
Authorities have installed surveillance apps on residents’ phones and begun collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types from all Xinjiang residents aged between 12 and 65. They have also collected voice samples that may be used to identify who is speaking on tapped phone calls.
McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 Eagle, knew it had a winner on its hands with the plane. It was the first U.S. fighter with greater engine thrust than weight, allowing it to accelerate vertically like a rocket. And it was highly maneuverable, so it could out fly its likely adversary in the Foxbat and other MiG jets.
But McDonnell Douglas and the U.S. Air Force wanted to prove that the F-15 was superior to anything Russia had before pilots clashed in actual combat. After all, if your enemy knows their likely to lose in a real battle, they’ll hopefully just stay home.
So they took a pre-production version of the F-15 and stripped everything unnecessary off of it, to include the bulk of its paint. It had an Air Force graphic on the fuselage, but the standard gray, anti-corrosion paint was removed to save even that little bit of weight. Their goal was to set all of the major time-to-climb records for planes.
If time-to-climb sounds like a niche record to compete on, it’s actually super important to air combat. Speed, max altitude, and acceleration are all important as well. But speed in a climb determines which plane in a dogfight is likely to get above the other while they’re maneuvering. And altitude equates to extra energy and speed in a fight, because the higher pilot works with gravity instead of against it while attacking.
The first record was shattered on Jan. 16, 1975. Maj. Robert Smith took off from North Dakota in freezing weather. Smith conducted a 5G pull-up and rocketed up past 3,000 meters, over 9,840 feet. He hit his mark in 27.57 seconds, shattering the old 34.5 record.
That afternoon, another major broke the 6,000-meter, 9,000-meter, and 12,000-meter records. Another pilot destroyed the 15,000-meter record by 37.5 seconds, breaching the altitude in just 77.05 seconds.
And yes, all three pilots were flying the same Streak Eagle. They went on to beat the Foxbat’s records for 20,000 meters, 25,000 meters, and 30,000 meters in the following two weeks. The 30,000-meter record was beaten in just under 3.5 minutes. That 30,000 meters number equates to 98,425 feet, and the pilot coasted to 103,000 feet before beginning his descent.
The Streak Eagle used in all of these record-setting flights is now in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
The increase in rates of sexual misconduct at the military academies detailed in the Defense Department’s annual report of sexual harassment and violence are “frustrating, disheartening, and unacceptable,” the Pentagon’s director of force resiliency said.
Rates of sexual crimes continue to be high, particularly against women, and rates of alcohol abuse by cadets and midshipmen continues to be a concern, Elise P. Van Winkle said.
Navy Rear Adm. Ann M. Burkhardt, the director of DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office; Nate Galbreath, SAPRO’s deputy director; and Ashlea M. Klahr, DOD’s director of health and resilience, briefed Pentagon reporters on the department’s report to Congress.
The survey covers the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y,; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Van Winkle and Burkhardt stressed that addressing sexual harassment and violence at the academies is a leadership problem. Both said solutions require changing the culture at the academies.
“We know it takes time to promote and sustain a culture free from sexual violence,” Van Winkle said. “Our cadets and midshipmen must model the ethical behavior we demand of our future officers. But it is leadership’s responsibility to ensure they have the moral courage to demonstrate this behavior.”
Burkhardt stressed that cadets and midshipmen must promote “a climate of respect, where sexual assault, sexual harassment and other misconduct are not condoned, tolerated or ignored.”
The report noted that the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact increased from the 2016 report, while the rate of cadets and midshipmen choosing to report has remained unchanged.
“Leadership establishes culture,” Burkhardt said. “Leaders enforce standards, and leaders ensure the safety of those entrusted to their care.” The survey shows that cadets and midshipmen have great confidence in senior leaders, but that they have less confidence in their peer leaders, she said. “This is an area we must improve,” the admiral added. “These are our future leaders. We must instill in them the responsibility to intervene and prevent this type of behavior.”
Past initiatives made short-term progress, but that progress could not be sustained. “We are looking at the entire life cycle of our cadets and midshipmen from acceptance into the academies to entrance into the active force,” Van Winkle said.
Basic cadets run on the U.S. Air Force Academy’s terrazzo in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 12, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Darcie Ibidapo)
Alcohol abuse is clearly a factor in sexual harassment and violence. The survey found that 32 percent of men and 15 percent of women had five or more drinks when drinking. Twenty-five percent of women and 28 percent of men said they had memory loss from their binges, Galbreath said.
The overwhelming majority of cadets and midshipmen understand the special trust placed in them and the responsibility they bear to behave honorably to all. The military must get rid of the bad apples that poison the barrel, Van Winkle said.
“We will not waver in our dedication to eliminate sexual assault from our ranks, nor will we back away from this challenge,” she said. “Our commitment is absolute. While we are disheartened that the strategies we have employed have not achieved the results we had intended, we are not deterred.”
The service academies mirror what is happening in the greater American population. The last time there was a comparable survey for colleges, the service academies were doing better than their civilian counterparts, Van Winkle said.
Deep in the swampland along the Alabama-Georgia border is U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. It’s home to many beautiful locales, such as Sand Hill, where you’ll hear drill sergeants snapping the civilian out of young infantrymen, and the Red Diamond Land Navigation course, where you’ll blink and run into a banana spider web. Most importantly, however, is the Inouye Parade Field at the National Infantry Museum.
Built and commemorated in 2009, the National Infantry Museum houses the rich history of America’s infantry dating back to the Revolutionary War. The parade field just outside is no different. Sprinkled across the field is ‘Sacred Soil‘ from the battlegrounds of Yorktown, Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Descendants of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and commander of the infantrymen who forced the British surrender at Yorktown, laid their soil first. Henry Benning Pease Jr., descendant of Brig. Gen. Benning and namesake for the installation, laid the soil from America’s bloodiest single-day battle, Antietam.
Samuel Parker Moss, grandson of the most decorated officer of WWI, Lt. Col. Samuel I. Parker, and George York, the son of Sgt. Alvin York, spread the soil of Soissons, France. Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor on D-Day, and great-grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt, spread the sand from the Normandy beach. Son of Charles Davis, Kirk Davis, spread the dirt of Corregidor Island to represent the WWII Pacific Theater.
Col. Ola Lee Mize, who held Outpost Harry and earned the Medal of Honor, and Gen. Sun Yup Paik laid ground from Korea. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hal Moore and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Basil Plumley brought the soil from the Ia Drang Valley and other Vietnam battlefields. And finally, Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, the senior enlisted adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, spread soil from the battlefields of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to honor Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom respectively.
In 2014, the parade field was named after the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who held his ground at San Terenzo, Italy against overwhelming forces and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ever since that bright March morning in 2009, every single infantryman who graduates out of Fort Benning will have the honor of walking among the heroes of every major conflict in American history.
The first time the radio was used in an aircraft, the message wasn’t one about science, technology, or even the wild blue yonder. It was much more mundane – but still unexpectedly hilarious. When the crew of the Airship America decided to attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, they opted to take a radio system with them along with a cat that had been living in the airship’s hangar, one named Kiddo. The first message transmitted by the airmen was about Kiddo.
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
It was 1910, and America’s airman Walter Wellman loaded five companions onto the airship America in an effort to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. Though the mission would end in a kind of disaster (and not cross the Atlantic), it would still be historic, setting a number of firsts and records for traveling by air. The ship traveled more than a thousand miles and stayed in the air for a whopping 72 hours. Wellman also decided he would take a radio system and an engineer with him so he could communicate with ships below.
He also brought a stray cat, one they named Kiddo. But Kiddo wasn’t as daring as his human companions – at least not at first. And he made his wariness known to the rest of the crew.
“We can never have luck without a cat on board,” said navigator Murray Simon, a superstitious former sailor.
Kiddo was especially vocal with the radio engineer, Melvin Vaniman. Vaniman didn’t seem to like cats that much in the first place but when Kiddo began meowing loudly, crying, and running around “like a squirrel in a cage,” Vaniman decided enough was enough, and he made the first-ever ship-to-shore radio transmission to a secretary back on terra firma:
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
The crew weren’t heartless. They tried to lower Kiddo into a trailing motorboat down below using a canvas bag, but the seas were much too rough to successfully do it, so they had to take him back up. Kiddo eventually got his air-legs and began to grow more accustomed to the floating dirigible. He even became a valuable member of the crew, warning them when the barometer dropped and a storm was on the horizon.
Wellman’s airship from the deck of the SS Trent.
It was the weather that would force the crew of the America to abandon ship and that particular plan to cross the Atlantic. Just a few hours into the journey, two of their engines failed. They proceeded with the remaining engine to drive them, but they soon realized it was throwing a lot of sparks into the area of a very hydrogen-filled balloon. Averting the likely fire, they ditched the airship and headed for the attached lifeboat. Kiddo came along too.
The America also sent the first radio distress signal from an aircraft when the airmen decided to abandon the ship. When the lifeboat detached from the airship, the balloon lifted off like never before – and was never seen again. The crew were rescued by a British steamer, the SS Trent. Kiddo and the crew returned to New York. Kiddo received a hero’s welcome and spent the rest of his days as an attraction at Gimbel’s department store.
At some point in our military life, most of us pick up a nickname. Most of the time, that nickname is hilarious…to everyone else. How we came by it is a story for the ages. But that seems to be the way it’s been in any armed force for a long time.
After Vikings raiding villages during the Middle Ages, they would then write their exploits in great sagas that detailed their deeds and combat adventures.
But the problem with that was they didn’t have name tapes on their raiding gear. And if they did, a LOT of them would read “OLAF.” How do you tell the story of what two (or more) Olafs did on a single Viking raid, when none of them have last names?
Like military nicknames and callsigns, they came from stories of the person in real life or descriptions of the Viking in question – like “Hálfdan the Generous and the Stingy with Food.”
But they are a critical piece to the warrior’s story and even influence the plot. For example, “Ǫlvir the Friend of Children” earned his nickname because he wouldn’t catch children on spears, which was a custom of the time. That could be a critical piece of literary characterization.
Times have definitely changed since “Þórir Leather Neck” earned his nickname. Today, Marines wear that title with pride, but Þórir was being made fun of for the goofy cowhide armor he tried to make.
And then there are the less family-friendly nicknames.
Like you and your buddy who nicknamed someone “Fartbox” and made it stick, the Vikings of yesteryear were no more mature. Nicknames included Kolbeinn Butter Penis, Herjólfr Shriveled Testicle, Skagi the Ruler of Sh*t, and Hlif the Castrator of Horses.
And then there were the badass nicknames like Ásgeirr the Terror of the Norwegians, Þorfinnr the Splitter of Skulls, and Tjǫrvi the Ridiculer.
The Medievalists tells us that the best source for Viking nicknames comes from the saga that details the colonization of Iceland in the 9th and 10th Centuries.
Female sailors can soon sport several new hairstyles including locks, ponytails and options that fall below the collar in certain uniforms, according to new approved regulations announced July 10, 2018.
Lock, or loc, hairstyles and buns that span the width of the back of a female sailor’s head will now be authorized for women in all uniforms. Ponytails will be OK in service, working or physical-training uniforms — provided there’s no operational safety concern. And hairstyles that hit beneath shirt, dress or jacket collars will be approved in dinner-dress uniforms.
The changes were approved by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bob Burke, and announced by six members of a working group during aNavy Facebook Live event.
Richardson credited the working group, which took feedback from the fleet, with coming up with and presenting the new grooming recommendations.
“We just demonstrated that a recommendation can make things happen, so I want to hear from you,” he said.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund)
If a female sailor’s hair falls beneath the collar now, she’s limited to buns, braids or cornrows. Ponytails were only previously authorized in PT uniforms.
Some black female service members have complained that they’ve been forced to wear wigs in uniform in order for their hairstyles to meet military standards. Hairstyles like locks give those women more options for styling their natural hair.
Richardson said policies and regulations shouldn’t just make the Navy more lethal toward its adversaries, but should also make the service more inclusive.
Full details, including a timeline on the changes and implementation guideline, will be announced in an upcoming service-wide administrative message.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
As the coronavirus spreads in the US, “tens of thousands” of National Guard troops could be called up to assist efforts to combat the disease, the National Guard chief said Thursday.
There are more than 2,000 National Guard members on state active duty in 27 states, but the number is expected to increase. As of last Friday, only 400 Guard members were active in just six states.
“We anticipate that number going up relatively quickly, in fact doubling by this weekend,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” he told reporters, adding that “this could blossom in the next couple of weeks as governors and states determine their needs.”
The National Guard has a long history of responding to disasters, including public-health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.
“We are involved in a multitude of mission sets,” Lengyel said. “The National Guard is providing medical testing, assessments, facilities, ground transportation, logistics, command and control, planners, liaison officers, and we will continue to adapt as this unfolds.”
As of Tuesday in New York, which has over 3,000 coronavirus cases, there were 900 New York National Guard troops on duty assisting at drive-thru test stations, cleaning public spaces, and distributing food, the Guard said in a statement.
“Going forward, we expect the role of the National Guard will continue to grow and evolve to meet the country’s needs during this historic pandemic,” Lengyel told reporters.
The Guard is having to implement certain force protection measures, however, as six Guard members have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
“My No. 1 priority is taking care of our National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families,” the chief said in a recent statement. “The readiness of our force will be critical to the success of this nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.”
With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.
The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.
Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.
The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.
The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.
Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.
Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.
Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
In 2017, Puerto Ricans battled economic hardship and the lasting effects of Hurricane Maria at home as they celebrated 100 years of American citizenship. On March 2, 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed by Congress, making the island a U.S. territory and guaranteeing citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born after April 25, 1898. With citizenship came all the requirements of citizenship: serving on juries, paying taxes, and being drafted for military service.
Just in time for World War I.
Welcome to the party, pal.
It was just twenty years after the United States usurped the island’s Spanish rulers in the Spanish-American War and annexed Puerto Rico as a territory of the United States. By the end of the United States’ participation in World War I, the Selective Service Act would draft some 2.8 million men, sending an estimated 10,000 troops to France every day. The U.S. Army had come a long way from the third-rate militia it was before the war. To meet the requirements of becoming a great, global power, it needed the manpower of one.
American territories, which at the time included Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and others, were exempt from the draft. The legislature of Puerto Rico immediately asked Congress to extend conscription to American territories – namely Puerto Rico. But this was purely at the request of the Puerto Ricans.
Puerto Rican Cpl. Ricardo LaFontaine in 1917.
In all, some 236,000 Puerto Ricans from the island signed up for selective service for a potential draft notice. Of those, 18,000 would go on to serve in the war. But they weren’t always welcome. African-American Puerto Ricans, like many minorities in the U.S., weren’t entirely welcome and ended up in segregated units. For those Puerto Ricans not of African descent, they would be assigned to some regular units in the U.S. military. Still, President Wilson, in the face of discouragement from the War Department, created a Puerto Rican Division.
A full 70 percent of those Puerto Ricans who signed up for service in World War I were rejected for no other reason than the War Department didn’t know what to do with them in a segregated Army. Despite this, there has long been a conspiracy theory that held Puerto Rico was only granted citizenship so they could fight in the war. If that were true, the U.S. would have sent a lot more Puerto Ricans than it did.
President Donald Trump has stated several times his desire to acquire Greenland, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to its beauty and natural resources, Greenland is located between the US and Russia, making it strategically important in a Cold War-like conflict between the two.
Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory, with its own government that handles domestic issues. On Aug. 16, 2019, Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “We’re open for business, not for sale.”
The US has operated Thule Air Base in Greenland’s high Arctic since the 1950s. While the mission of the base has changed over time, the base is now charged with warning North America about incoming intercontinental ballistic missles (ICBMs).
Read on to learn more about Thule Air Base.
A sunny view of the ramp at Thule Air Base, Greenland, shortly after the NASA P-3B research aircraft arrived on Mar. 18, 2013.
(NASA photo by Jim Yungel)
Thule Air Base is 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and midway between New York and Moscow. The base is home to the 12th Space Warning Squadron, which detects ICBMs headed toward North America with its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
1st Lt. Ariel Torgerson (left), 821st Support Squadron Communications Flight commander, issues the oath of enlistment to Staff Sgt. Eric Jennings, 821st SPTS.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darrell Kinsey)
The orientation letter for new Thule Airmen welcomes them to “The Top of the World.” It also stresses just how remote the installation is: “There is no ‘local town.’ The closest Inuit (native Eskimo) village, Qaanaaq, is located 65 miles away. There is no ‘off-base’ except for the bay, the ice cap and what appears to be thousands of miles of rocks and/or ice.”
Thule is located on Greenland, the world’s largest island. Construction was completed in 1953. Thule’s population is about 600 military and civilian personnel — 400 Danes, 50 Greenlanders, 3 Canadians, and 140 Americans.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) visits units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019.
(Preston Schlachter / North American Aerospace Defense Command)
Thule is locked in by ice nine months each year. A Canadian Icebreaker ship comes in during the summer to clear a path for cargo ships from the US, Canada, and Denmark to replenish the base’s supply of fuel, construction supplies, cargo, and food.
A seasoned Greenlandic hunter and his dog sled racing team speeds into the home stretch toward the finish line March 30. Thule Air Base celebrated Armed Forces Day March 30-31 by inviting native Greenlandic residents to the base, some of whom traveled up to three days across the extremely cold environment by dog sled to attend the celebration.
(U.S. photo by Master Sgt. Robert Brown)
In the summer months, Thule sees 24 hours of sunlight. Flowers like poppies bloom, and cotton and moss grow. Birds like peregrine falcons fly in, and mosquitos proliferate — to the extent that locals refer to them as the “Greenlandic Air Force.”
Storm conditions at Thule can be extreme, and are divided into five categories: Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, with Delta being the most threatening. Under Delta storm conditions, personnel are required to shelter in place, and no travel is allowed at all, with the exception of emergency vehicles.
The NASA P-3B research aircraft is being prepared outside the hangar at Thule Air Base for a science mission across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska.
(NASA photo by Michael Studinger)
While there is limited internet and opportunities for outdoor activity during the summer months, there’s a lot Thule doesn’t have: A bank or ATM, paved roads or sidewalks, or a clothing store. It also doesn’t have a view of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights — it’s too far north.
The officers of the USS Liberty were sunbathing on the decks of their ship on June 8, 1967, just outside of Egypt’s territorial waters. Not too far away, Egypt was in the middle of the Six Day War with the Israelis, who would occupy the Sinai Peninsula by the war’s end.
The peaceful day aboard the intelligence-gathering ship was destroyed when Israeli Mirage and Mystere jets tore through the air – and dropped ordnance that ripped through the Liberty’s hull.
Commander William McGonagle was severely wounded as the Israelis fired rockets, dropped napalm on the bridge, and then strafed his ship. He still managed to call his crew to quarters and take command of the Libertyfrom the bridge. The ship was on fire, men were dead and wounded, and McGonagle himself was burned by napalm and losing blood.
The Liberty was not a warship but a lightly-armed, converted freighter — a holdover from World War II. Her mission was to collect signals intelligence and radio intercepts on the war between the Arabs and Israelis but not to get involved in the fighting or violate Egyptian sovereignty.
With his ship still in range of the U.S. 6th Fleet, Cmdr. McGonagle radioed the USS Saratoga, which sent 12 fighters to assist. Those fighters were recalled on orders from Washington. The Israeli fighters eventually let up and disappeared on their own. But that wasn’t the end of the attack. When they were gone, three Israeli torpedo boats opened up on the American ship and blew a 40-foot hole in the Liberty’s hull.
The armaments on the USS Liberty were totally outmatched. The ship was carrying only four .50-caliber machine guns, a far cry from the Egyptian ship Israelis claim shelled the coastline that morning. The Liberty was a sitting duck.
With his ship burning and flooded, McGonagle directed the maneuvering of his ship for 17 hours while critically wounded. He refused medical treatment until he was convinced more critically wounded members of his crew were treated. He didn’t give up command until the Liberty encountered a U.S. destroyer.
For his gallantry and determination, McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Israel maintained that its attack on the Liberty was a mistake, that the planes were looking for an Egyptian ship, the El Quseir. Some find this troublesome, considering the El Quseir was a very different size than the Liberty and had a very different profile. Still, The IDF’s own inquiry says the Israeli Chief of Naval Operation did not know the Liberty was in the area. The captains of the torpedo boats maintained that closer identification was impossible because the Liberty was “enveloped in smoke.”
McGonagle’s official account of the incident corroborates the Israeli account, but the crew of the Liberty aren’t so certain. A 2002 BBC Documentary includes interviews with the Liberty’s crew, Israeli officials, and even Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time.
“I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation,” then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said of the Liberty Incident “Their sustained attack to disable and sink Libertyprecluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. … I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”
There are numerous conspiracy theory-related sites, some even run by Liberty crewmembers, that call into question some of the actions of the Israeli forces and of the orders from Washington. Some of these theories include:
• The Liberty was attacked to keep the U.S. from knowing about Israel’s upcoming attack on Syria.
• Trying to draw the U.S. into a greater anti-Arab war.
• Hiding Israeli war crimes (alleged massacres of Egyptian POWs).
• Israelis using unmarked aircraft.
• Torpedo boats machine gunning life rafts.
• Jamming radio signals meant that Israel knew the frequency the ships would be on– and thus knew they were American.
Official accounts (including from McGonagle) maintain that the Israeli torpedo ships halted mid-attack and offered assistance once the identity of Liberty was ascertained. The Americans politely declined.