There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.
One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.
An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”
It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.
One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.
Spitzner with his wife and daughter.
Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.
So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.
He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.
Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.
There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.
Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.
Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.
Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.
Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.
Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.
As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.
Security Forces airmen at Nellis Air Force Base responded to an early morning call from flightline airmen who were refueling a government vehicle. They found a woman who had been raped and assaulted in a van parked on the base – and her attacker was still there.
That’s what airmen are telling a popular Air Force culture page on Facebook.
Multiple sources tell Air Force amn/nco/snco that at 5 a.m. local time, airmen on Nellis noticed a woman approaching them on Dec. 4, 2018, at the on-base government vehicle refueling station. Dressed much too lightly for the cold weather, she told them she had just been assaulted inside a nearby white van and escaped her attacker and asked them for help.
The woman, who was said to be a civilian and had no connection to the base, was wandering around for 20 or so minutes before coming across the airmen.
Nellis Air Force Base flightline airmen discovered the woman at around five in the morning, while moving to gas up their GOV.
(U.S. Air Force)
Within minutes, Air Force Security Forces arrived on the scene to take her statement and the statements of the airmen who found her as she walked. Witnesses told the Air Force culture Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco that the woman was from Mesquite, Nev., some 70 miles away. She allegedly told Security Forces she was kidnapped by a Russian man and driven to the base in a nearby parking lot, where she was sexually assaulted.
She also told the police the van was still parked there. Security Forces locked down the base and then responded to reports of a white van parked in the lot of the Nellis Dining Facility. How the van was able to get on the base isn’t known.
Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs has not yet responded to phone calls for confirmation. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department could not be reached. This post will be updated when possible.
Sources tell Air Force amn/nco/snco that the two had been in the parking lot for more than an hour before the man, who the escaped victim said spoke with a Russian accent, fell asleep. When she woke up, he was still asleep, so she escaped and began looking for help. She had never been on the base before and didn’t know where to go. That’s when the airmen came across her.
The woman was handed over to female Security Forces airmen and taken to the Medical Group, where a sexual assault response coordinator and medical team was waiting. Witnesses say the Security Forces officers who interviewed them for statements left the gas station for the DFAC, sirens blazing.
At the time, the treaty was landmark, deemed a new cornerstone of strategic stability.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement for the first time eliminated an entire class of missiles and set up an unprecedented system of arms control inspections — all hailed as stabilizing the rivalry between the keepers of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.
Now, that treaty between Washington and Moscow, known as the INF, is on the rocks, with U.S. President Donald Trump announcing plans to abandon the accord, and national-security adviser John Bolton saying in Moscow on Oct. 23, 2018, that the United States will be filing a formal notification of its withdrawal.
What’s next may be the demise of an even bigger, more comprehensive bilateral arms treaty called New START. And experts suggest that if that deal were to become obsolete, it would all but guarantee a new arms race.
“If the [INF] treaty collapses, then the first new START treaty (signed in 2010) and the follow-on New START treaty will probably follow it into the dustbin of history,” Aleksei Arbatov, a negotiator of the 1994 START I treaty, said in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Signed in 2010 in Prague by U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, New START built on the original START I by effectively halving the number of strategic nuclear warheads and launchers the two countries could possess. In February, each country announced it was in compliance.
U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, sign the New START treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010.
Though the treaty is due to expire in 2021, the two sides could agree to extend it for another five years.
From Moscow’s side, there is interest. During their meeting in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin suggested to Trump that they extend the pact. From Washington’s side, it’s unclear if there is any interest in doing so.
“If the INF treaty goes under, as appears likely, and New START is allowed to expire with nothing to replace it, there will no verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s,” says Kingston Reif, a nuclear analyst at the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank. “The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.”
After simmering quietly in classified intelligence discussions, the INF dispute moved to the front burner in 2014 when the U.S. State Department formally accused Russia of violating the treaty by developing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range that exceeded treaty limits.
Russia denied the accusations, even as Washington officials stepped up their accusations in 2017, accusing Moscow of deploying the missile.
In November of that year, Christopher Ford, then a top White House arms control official, for the first time publicly identified the Russian missile in question as the 9M729.
Trump has pushed the line that, if Russia is not adhering to the INF, then the U.S. won’t either.
Ahead of Bolton’s meeting with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia had violated the INF, saying that “Russia was and remains committed to this treaty’s provisions.”
Following Bolton’s meeting with the Russian president amid two days of talks with Russian officials, the U.S. national-security adviser downplayed suggestions that the demise of the INF treaty would undermine global stability. He pointed to the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from another important arms control agreement: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also known as the ABM.
As a top arms control official in President George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton was a vocal advocate for pulling out of the ABM treaty.
National-security adviser John Bolton.
“The reality is that the treaty is outmoded, outdated, and being ignored by other countries,” Bolton said, referring to the INF agreement. “And that means exactly one country was constrained by the treaty” — the United States.
“I’m a veteran arms control negotiator myself, and I can tell you that many, many of the key decisions are made late in the negotiations anyway, so I don’t feel that we’re pressed for time,” Bolton said.
“One of the points we thought was important was to resolve the INF issue first, so we knew what the lay of the land was on the strategic-weapon side. So, we’re talking about it internally…. We’re trying to be open about different aspects of looking at New START and other arms control issues as well,” he said.
All indications to date are that the Trump administration is lukewarm at best on the need to extend New START. When the administration in February2018 released its Nuclear Posture Review—- a policy-planning document laying out the circumstances under which the United States would use its nuclear arsenal — there was no mention of extending the treaty until 2026.
In testimony September 2018 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Trachtenberg, the deputy U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said the administration’s review of whether to extend New START was ongoing.
Matthew Bunn, who oversees the Project On Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, suggests that instead of pulling out of the INF, the Trump administration should push for a bigger deal that includes not only dismantling the Russian missile in question but also extending New START and ensuring it covers the new generation of Russian weaponry under development.
“Letting the whole structure of nuclear arms control collapse would bring the world closer to the nuclear brink, roil U.S. alliances, and undermine the global effort to stem the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said.
“Both sides are now complying with New START and benefit mutually from its limits, verification and the predictability — all the more so while the viability of INF is in question,” Ernest Moniz, U.S. energy secretary under Obama, and Sam Nunn, a former Republican senator and arms control advocate, wrote in an op-ed article. “Losing either one of these agreements would be highly detrimental; without both, there will be no arms control constraints on nuclear forces, which will exacerbate today’s already high risks.”
Ford and other U.S. officials had already signaled that the United States was moving more aggressively to push back on the alleged Russian missile deployment.
Asked whether Washington planned to develop and deploy its own intermediate-range missiles — similar to what happened in the 1980s before the INF treaty was signed — Bolton said the Trump administration “was a long way” from that point.
Still, the prospect prompted the European Union’s foreign office to release a statement that criticized both Washington and Moscow.
“The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” it said.
When Milunka Savić’s brother got the notice that he was to be drafted to serve in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria, Milunka instead cut her hair and went to serve in his place. It was the first act of bravery and defiance that would come to define her life and her service. By the end of three wars – in all of which she served with distinction – she would be the most decorated female combatant in military history.
The history of women serving in combat is relatively new. Before the mid-20th Century (depending on which army), women were relegated to non-combat roles and medical fields. There are many examples of women who served in combat, however, they just had to hide their true gender, lest they be drummed out of the service. No matter how skilled or valuable, once discovered, they were invariably let go. Not so for Milunka Savić.
Once mobilized, Savić deployed to the front lines an amazing ten times before she was wounded fighting the Bulgarians. It was on her tenth trip to the front that she was wounded in a sensitive area, her chest. Once the medical men got to her, they discovered her secret, and she was sent before her commander. This man wanted to send a very competent soldier to the nursing corps, but Milunka Savić stood at attention for a full hour while he tried to wait her out. Luckily for Serbia, he relented and sent her back to the war.
After returning to duty, she managed to capture 23 Bulgarian prisoners while earning a promotion to Corporal. By the time World War I rolled around Milunka Savić was still in the Serbian Army. The one-woman wrecking crew fought the Great War from the very beginning in 1914, quickly earning a Karađorđe Star with Swords, which was the highest military honor the Kingdom of Serbia could bestow upon its troops at the time – and Savić earned two of them. This wasn’t the only honor she would earn.
During World War I, she managed to rack up two French Légions d’Honneur, Russian Cross of St. George, British medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal. She was also the only female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre. When World War II rolled around, she was no longer in the military, but she chose to keep fighting in her own way. She ran an infirmary for partisans fighting the Nazi occupation.
After the end of World War II, Savić settled down in Belgrade where she lived the rest of her life with three adopted children. She lived on a small government pension but she never stopped watching the door – just in case some Bulgarian tried to come back for revenge.
In 2017, when Hurricane Irma, a monster Category 5 storm, barreled toward Florida’s southern peninsula and Homestead Air Reserve Base, The Air Force Reserve commander had a lot of decisions to make.
Thankfully, history – in the form of Air Force historians – was on her side.
The Air Force Reserve Command history office pulled data and information from three previous hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5, which devastated the base 25 years ago. In just a few hours, the office had a timeline and a list of issues that came up in each of the three previous storms. Historians worked through the data with the Innovation, Analyses and Leadership Development directorate, or A9, and determined that the biggest issue was maintaining communications as Andrew had continued into Georgia, knocking out power to the AFRC’s battle staff.
The commander and staff then worked to prevent history from repeating itself.
The results were good communications throughout the storm, clean up and reconstitution. The base opened airfield operations and sustained 24-hour operations, offloading 112.8 short tons of cargo and relief supplies, including two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, cargo and personnel from the 66th and 920th Rescue Squadrons and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Those “good comms” resulted in the AFRC coordinating aircraft, relief supplies, Airmen and equipment with the right skills and the right gear to save lives. In previous years, relief efforts were delayed because nobody could talk.
“Now, did History do all that?” asked Dr. Jim Malachowski, a senior aerospace historian for the Air Force History and Museums Program at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. “No but knowing what worked and didn’t work in the past gave her a good starting point to ask the right questions.”
Malachowski explained when the right knowledge is injected with historical perspective at the right point in the decision cycle it helps commanders make better decisions.
The history of Air Force history
Located in the heart of Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, is a gold mine and although it does not contain precious metals, the Air Force Historical Research Agency is filled with the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of original documents concerning U.S. military aviation. The more than 100 million pages of Air Force history inside the repository chronicles the evolution of American military flight and provides a treasure trove of information for researchers, authors and historians.
While touching the pages of history is unique, said Malachowski, applying the historical lessons learned from the study of past wars is fundamental to the preparation for the next. This is why it is so crucial for the Air Force’s operational and institutional memory is preserved.
Sam Shearin, a researcher with the Air Force Historical Research Agency looks through World War II unit lineage documents, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. There are more than 70 million pages devoted to the history of the service, and represents the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of documents on US military aviation.
(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)
When he established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, widely considered the architect of the Air Force, He assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.” Historians had to be independent so history would be recorded accurately and factually “without an axe to grind.”
The collection of historical data for the Air Force began before the service’s inception, even pre-dating the Army Air Corps. Without a plan to preserve it, the bulk of airpower history from the First World War was lost. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Committee on Records of War Administration to preserve an accurate and objective account of military experiences. By 1943 the AAF Archives had been established and historians began collecting, assimilating and organizing contemporary and historical information.
The creation of this archive dedicated to receiving, organizing and preserving the information gathered by these early historians has evolved into today’s collection.
The majority of AFHRA’s library consists of unit histories, written by unit historians, which chronicle Air Force operations and activities in peace and war from World War I to the present day. These materials provide the data and historical perspective to support planning and decision-making processes throughout the Air Force.
The archive was later moved to Maxwell AFB from Washington D.C., putting it in the direct control of the Air Force and at the disposal of professional military education students, faculty, and the public.
The history kept inside of AFHRA’s walls isn’t just sitting idle – it’s continually being added to, vigorously being researched and, most importantly, actively being interpreted by Air Force historians to get valuable information to leaders and decision makers to create a more efficient and lethal Air Force.
Collecting the data
Capturing Air Force history begins with aerospace historians. Today, there are just over 200 historians placed at wings and 10 major commands, which is 75 percent less than in 1990. Air Force civilians now fill all roles in collecting the history at wings and commands.
Air Force civilian and Reserve historians also support a continuous deployment rotation as combat historians to support combatant commands and joint staff tasking across the globe.
A researcher at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., looks through microfilm to track down the shipment history of bomber aircraft that were shipped overseas to fight during WWII, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. Private researchers can visit and use the AFHRA for research.
(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)
Dr. Bill Harris, the Deputy Director of the Air Force History and Museums Program, says whether at home station or deployed the most important aspect of a historian’s job is being actively involved in their organizations.
“What Aerospace historians bring to the table is we are the only person in the room whose sole job is to capture and preserve the institutional memory,” said Harris. “Just documenting the events of this war will not help the leaders of the next. We also interpret. So, in history professor terms, interpreting is how we help decision makers understand and learn from the past.”
Harris explains when historians are operationally integrated into situations they observe while also collecting and recording what happens, documenting the “right now for the future.” A historian will understand the organization’s history and have a deep knowledge base of the mission set. They recognize patterns and can provide a quick write-up to inject information to leadership on that highlights how other people have navigated similar situations before decisions are made this time.”
The first priority for field historians at the wing and MAJCOM level is to complete and submit an accurate periodic history report, which are the official history of an organization and serves as its institutional memory in AFHRA’s archive.
“To do the job, you have to get out there and be part of the mission, collect hundreds of important documents, reports, and emails and then figure out where the holes are., We do that with interviews.” said Malachowski. “Research interviews are more QA to find out what’s going on inside the organization. Oral history interviews are a little bit more in-depth interviews conducted with key personnel whose memories and perspectives are recorded for future generations.”
Job two for historians is heritage.
The Air Force history slogan is history makes us smart, heritage makes us proud.
In addition to a dozen field museums, historians often work within their organizations to build squadron heritage rooms and displays to showcase physical reminders of the unit’s historical past to promote morale and serve as daily reminders of a unit’s identity.
That identity is also visible in a unit’s heraldry. “Organizations use visible, enduring symbols to promote spirit de corps, morale and a sense of heritage,” said Jack Waid, a historian at Air Force Materiel Command Headquarters. “Air Force heraldry in the form of emblems gives Airmen a connection to the past and the motivation to live up to the proud lineage from which they come.”
The Air Force Historical Research Agency keeps a repository on the unit’s emblem history, including original and re-designed emblems and the paperwork approving the artwork.
(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)
With the newly authorized transition from the Airman Battle Uniform, which did not permit the wear of unit patches, to the Operational Camouflage Pattern, Airmen will once again be to wear their units on their sleeve.
Waid explains it’s important to understand, emblems and patches are completely separate entities and authorization to display them is approved and maintained by different Air Force offices as well.
“Our office deals with a unit’s official emblem, but anything that goes on the uniform, like patches, are approved through the AF/A1 (Office of Personnel) uniform office,” said Waid. “A unit’s history and lineage goes with an emblem whereas a patch is a wearable symbol of pride, history, warrior spirit and honor.”
With more than 7,000 emblems to convert into OCP patches, there is a huge demand for the production and supply chain. The Air Force estimates it will take the full-30 month OCP transition period to manufacture and distribute all the patches. For units with approved emblems, the MAJCOM/A1 office will notify them when their patches are ready to order.
Units without an approved emblem should contact their historian.
“Since June we have been doing everything in our control to help units make sure they have an accurate emblem,” said Waid. “More than two-thirds of AFMC’s units are without an emblem or possessing one that does not meet standards.”
“It is important to make sure the time-honored Air Force unit patch returns to the uniform properly so that units can display their heritage with pride. Wearing the squadron patch completes the family group, you have your name tape and then you have the greater family, the Air Force, but now these patches give Airman an opportunity to show how extended their family is and how rich their heritage is by wearing their unit’s emblem.”
Changing the paradigm
For decades, periodic history reports were written in narrative monograph format, a print-era framework that could reach hundreds of pages. It was long and time consuming to write and worse to search for answers. “Even with academic historians, the monograph just isn’t the answer anymore. Technology has changed, but our reports haven’t.” said Malachowski.
The Secretary of the Air Force recently directed that commanders would integrate their historians in operations at the wing-level and above and ensure they had access to data and information to complete timely history reports.
With fewer historians, a high-demand deployment schedule and mountains of data to ingest, historians have little time to write long, cumbersome reports and even less time if they want to be fully involved in their organizations.
Something had to change.
“With the help of the Air Force Survey Office, we asked more than 150 wing and group commanders what they needed from historians. The commanders are very adamant that they don’t want these hundred-page tombs. They want something much, much shorter because they don’t have whole lot of time and they want something focused more on their priorities,” said Harris.
A survey of historians said the same thing. Historians want to be more involved with their units and want a better process.
“If we lock ourselves away for half of our time to write we are not out in our units doing our job. So we have to refocus the writing and we have to improve our ability to put the right things into the archives for future researchers,” said Malachowski. “So all we can really do is record the present for the future and the real funny thing is it is exactly what Gen. “Hap” Arnold told us in 1943. He wanted us to record the present for the future. So we’re going back to the future, if you will.”
General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers, and commander of Army Air Forces in victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. He established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, when he assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.”
Arnold’s direction was to document the operations and activities of an organization immediately into a rough form that future historians would improve on. He believed the only reason a history program should exist is to further the operational efficiency of the Air Force.
The Air Force History program had to redesign itself in a dynamic new way and embrace change by revising their policies and revolutionizing their processes.
Now, a modular history report is being adapted that stresses accuracy, speed and relevance across the joint enterprise. It provides uniformity and consistency, which synchronizes history operations across the Air Force and focuses on unit activities and operations at the right level of warfare. This new system also creates one standard of writing for peacetime and wartime reports.
The four-part modular system reduces the writing complexity of history reports to a more short and concise process on what matters most to the commander, unit and mission. Short studies are written and published immediately, freeing up historians to be historians.
Another change is the creation of an Operational History Branch that is solely focused on war and contingency operations. All wartime history reports will be routed and evaluated through this fusion cell to write monthly and annual summaries that provide a holistic picture of combat operations.
“The way it’s designed the Operational Historian Branch will help us mature history at the Joint warfighting level, improve historical support to deployed commanders, and prevent several historians from deploying each year,” said Malachowski. “Most wings only have one historian so this saves us from turning out the lights at so many home station history offices.”
Focused on the past since its inception, the Air Force History Program has now reinvented itself by embracing its own past in order to create a more efficient future.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
When playing poker, a bluff is a completely logical strategy. You’ve got basically nothing and you’re trying to pressure your opponent into thinking you’ve got them completely beat via pure posturing. In a time of war, when both sides employ hundreds of scouts, do near-constant aerial reconnaissance, and have spies constantly floating around the battlefield, bluffs shouldn’t work.
You’d think that any soldier with a pair of binoculars would realize that something was amiss upon observing a bunch of plywood artillery cannons, tank-shaped balloons, cardboard cutouts of troops, and a couple commo guys messing around on the airwaves. And yet the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known as the “Ghost Army,” went on to fool the Nazis at every turn.
As the old Army saying goes, if it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.
If you saw this from your cockpit for half a second and you had no idea your enemy was using inflatable tanks, you might fall for it, too.
The Ghost Army was inspired, in part, by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s successful use of hoax tanks as part of Operation Bertram, but during Operation Quicksilver, Americans took things to the next level. British measures employed to successfully fool Axis onlookers were good, but the assets of the Ghost Army were exceedingly precise. Each inflatable tank took days to make, and they were so realistic that enemy reconnaissance couldn’t tell the difference.
To help sell the illusion, radio guys blasted the sounds of tanks through loud speakers. This way, any onlooking Nazi scout would hear what sounded like an entire division of tanks rolling through the area, quickly glimpse the balloon tanks in the distance, and promptly run back to their commander to prepare for the impending “fight.” The inflatable Sherman tanks weren’t alone — they also employed wooden mock-ups of artillery guns in dugouts that would draw out enemy fire.
Visual deception was key, but another crucial task was sending out relevant radio transmissions in hopes that they’d be intercepted by the Germans. The illusion worked best when several types of deception worked in concert. The Nazi code-breaker would “intercept” a message about the 23rd moving to a certain point on the Rhine, the Luftwaffe would fly ahead and see the “tanks,” and, if any Nazi scouts were to see soldiers of the 23rd, they’d likely see troops donning high-ranking officers uniforms — and this is exactly what the Ghost Army wanted them to see: a seemingly ripe target.
The 23rd drew the attention away from many key Allied movements, leaving the Germans easily flanked by the actual Army that came to fight. The Germans were too distracted by the Ghost Army to realize that the Americans started crossing the Ruhr River and, as a consequence, they arrived first at the Maginot Line many, many miles away from where the Americans would break through.
All thanks to a bunch of artists and jokers.
To learn more about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, check out the video below:
Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.
Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.
Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.
“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”
With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.
“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”
“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”
For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.
“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”
Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.
U.S. Naval Academy.
“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”
Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.
“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”
When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.
“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.
The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.
“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”
Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.
The U.S. Navy plans to begin deploying interceptors that can shoot down hypersonic missiles aboard some Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in just a few years. Though some critics counter that the Navy’s timeline seems awfully optimistic, as no existing missile defense system has proven capable of intercepting an inbound hypersonic weapon.
Hypersonic missiles fly in excess of Mach 5, and potentially much faster than that, making them so much faster than the ballistic and cruise missiles previously employed by national militaries that even advanced air defense systems like America’s destroyer-based Aegis Combat Systems can’t find and shoot down hypersonic missiles in flight. This has raised the alarm among many within the Defense Department, both in order to field America’s own hypersonic weapons and, of course, to find ways to defend against those employed by foreign militaries.
There are different methods of achieving hypersonic velocities with a missile, including scramjet propulsion that often requires either a rocket-assist at launch or deployment from fast moving aircraft, as scramjet motors require a high volume of airflow in order to effectively operate. Conversely there are also hypersonic “glide vehicles,” which are traditionally carried to a high altitude using a rocket motor similar to those employed on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The hypersonic glide vehicle then separates from the booster and travels back to earth at exceedingly high speeds. In fact, some of these missiles travel so fast that the kinetic transfer of their impact is enough to sink a vessel without the need for an explosive warhead.
The United States has been fairly public about its efforts to begin fielding its own suite of hypersonic missiles in the coming years, but until recently, America’s Defense Department has echoed the popular consensus that hypersonic weapons can’t be stopped. Now, however, America’s Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) is seeing rapid development for the purposes of deployment specifically (at least initially) aboard America’s advanced destroyers.
America already relies heavily on its fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers for missile defense, which some critics have called a waste of destroyer bandwidth. When serving in an air defense role, U.S. Navy destroyers are left criss-crossing specific areas of ocean to maximize their ability to intercept inbound missiles, which, some argue, is a waste of a platform that’s capable of supporting a wide variety of defense operations. However, it seems the U.S. Navy’s plan for hypersonic defense will also leverage the multiple launch tubes available on America’s destroyers, effectively guaranteeing the continued use of destroyers for missiles defense for years to come.
The RGPWS system has apparently been designed specifically for use in the Mk. 41 vertical launch tubes utilized by America’s destroyers and other vessels, which will allow this hypersonic-intercept capability to be rapidly deployed and adopted aboard existing vessels with little need for modifications. According to the Navy, this will allow America to “proliferate the capability” across the force very rapidly.
This system is specifically tailored toward the glide-vehicle method of hypersonic weapon propulsion, designed to engage an inbound hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) during its un-powered glide phase, which despite its extraordinary speed, is the point I which these platforms are most vulnerable to intercept.
Of course, in order to effectively intercept HGVs, the Navy will need advanced warning of their launch. In order to do so, the Navy is working with the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency to field a new space-based sensor system that is expected to be operational within the next three years. Using the early warning provided by this new sensor array, the RGPWS will theoretically be capable of projecting the trajectory of HGVs and intercept them before they’re able to reach their target.
While the RGPWS system will be limited to destroyers initially, these systems will likely find their way into a variety of platforms, including ground and air-launched varieties. If the U.S. is able to find a way to reliably intercept inbound hypersonic weapons, America’s naval stature, and many defense official’s position on the future of aircraft carriers, will both likely shift. Currently, many law makers and defense officials are looking to de-emphasize the role of carriers in near-peer conflicts over fear of losing them to indefensible hypersonic weapons.
As for exactly how the RGPWS system will work–that much remains a secret for now.
Lewis “Chesty” Puller (1898-1971), was a 37-year veteran of the USMC, ascended to the rank of Lieutenant General, and is the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps. He served in: WWII, Haiti, Nicaragua and the Korean War. The concrete facts surrounding his military service are astounding, but his grassroots legacy is carved out by stories echoed through generations of Marines that sound crazy enough to be true only for Puller.
His nickname “Chesty” came from the legend that he had a false “steel chest.”
There are many legends surrounding how Lewis “Chesty” Puller got his nickname. One says that it came from his boisterous, commanding, voice that was miraculously heard over the sounds of battle. There are even some that say that it is literal— and that his chest was hacked away in the banana wars and replaced with an iron steel slab.
“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us, they can’t get away this time.”
This is one of the most iconic quotes from Puller. His men were completely surrounded, and what initially seemed like doom, would soon be revealed to them as the beginnings of victory.
He always led by example.
Puller famously put the needs of his men in front of his own. In training, he carried his own pack and bedding roll while marching at the head of his battalion. He afforded himself no luxuries his men did not have—usually meaning a diet consisting only of “K” rations. When in New Britain, legend has it that he slept on the bare floor of an abandoned hut and refused to let the native people make him a mattress of banana leaves. And he always refused treatment when wounded until his men had been attended to.
He was awarded: 5 Navy Crosses, a Distinguished Service Cross, and the Silver Star.
Among the many reasons for his highly decorated resume,Puller earned them for: leading his men into five successful engagements against super numbered armed forces in Nicaragua, after a 6 day march he reversed and defeated an ambush on an insurgent platoon that tripled his men in size, held the front against mile-long enemy forces in Guadalcanal, and defended crucial division supply roots against outnumbering forces in sub-zero weather in the Korean War.
Smoked a pipe while under bombardment at Guadalcanal.
In 1942 “Chesty” was a Lt. Col, and commander of 1st battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at Guadalcanal. He was the only man with combat experience, and many of his men did not dig foxholes. Lt. Col. Puller’s leadership was immediately tested as they were bombarded their first night. Puller ran up and down the line, instructing his men to take cover (behind whatever they could) and when it was nearing over, Puller walked the lines while casually smoking a pipe and reassuring his Marines of their eventual victory.
He is portrayed in multiple films.
Puller’s most notable appearances in film are in HBO’s The Pacific where he was played by William Sadler, and (perhaps his most iconic representation in American storytelling) in the John Ford documentary about his life Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend narrated by John Wayne.
“Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”
This quote is taken from Puller while at… a flamethrower demonstration.
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
Warriors guard their hearts underneath a stoic resolve because showing emotion is often misunderstood as a weakness. Leaders often weigh the needs of the many against the needs of the few to build a brighter future for their people to live and prosper. Love is an unstoppable force that can influence the influencer or conquer the conqueror. What can those in command do when love is true but the world is wrong?
They change it.
Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World-GARDENS OF BABYLON PART 1
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Queen Amytis. He knew his queen’s happiness stayed in the green mountain valleys of her childhood home in Media. In order to make his wife happy, he built one of the seven wonders of the ancient world between 605 and 562 BC in what is now known as modern day Iraq.
The word ‘hanging’ that gave the wonder its name sake comes from trees planted on elevated balconies. The wonder used raised platforms, aqueducts, and a system of irrigation centuries before their time to water the vast collection of plants and trees.
He literally built his wife a mountain.
Archaeologists debate whether the wonder was built in Nineveh (back then called New Babylon) instead of Babylon itself. The ruins shared the same fate as Cleopatra’s Tomb of being lost in the sands of time.
Emperor Hongzhi seen here not cheating on his wife with 10,000 options.
They refused concubines and consorts — Emperor Hongzhi of China
High status men in late imperial China over the age of forty were encouraged to take on a second wife or a mistress. It was also common that your mistress would try to kill your first wife and all your children. In the case of Emperor Hongzhi, he had his mother killed by one of his father’s mistresses.
The death of his murdered mother by a mistress was enough to highlight the advantages of monogamy. He had no children outside of his one marriage to his empress and had no extramarital affairs.
He loved his wife and five children so much that he did not want to risk their safety over loose women and swore them off completely. The importance he placed on monogamy was seen as out of place since most emperors during those times had a man-cave harem with 10,000 available women, empire wide, determined to show you the privileges of being a ruler.
Dr. Kenneth Swope, of the University of Southern Mississippi describes Hongzhi as the “most uninteresting and colorless of all the Ming emperors.”
He chose to have his life be seen as a model of morality and his morals as the center piece for his anti-corruption campaign. He used his love for his one and only wife to shape his empire in peace.
“That was still an expensive divorce, Henry.”
They changed religions — King Henry VIII of England
Marriage and religion are touchy subjects, especially when conversions are involved. Henry VIII had fallen in love with with a young woman named Anne Boleyn, but there was a problem: he was already married. He became convinced his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was cursed because she was his brother’s widow. The king commanded asked the pope to annul his marriage.
However, Catherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and he commanded urged Pope Clement VII to not annul the marriage.
The king then decided that he didn’t need the pope’s permission to do anything so he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, changed England’s religion, decreed his daughter Mary illegitimate, and got a divorce. In 1533 Henry and Anne Boleyn were married.
She then bore him a daughter so he had her beheaded.