What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.


What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.

One of the biggest dangers was of U-boat attack, when even a single boat could wipe out an entire convoy, provided that the boat was able to surface and attack using its deck gun.

The mariners were in danger from the moment they lost view of the land. U-boats would typically attack deep into the Atlantic, but they liked to remind Americans that they weren’t safe at any time, so some U-boats were sent to hunt right off the coast.

Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.

German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage

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When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.

These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.

And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.

That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.

If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.

What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.

But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.

(U.S. Navy)

When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.

If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.

But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.

To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.

And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.

Luckily for mariners, British innovation and American industry eventually gave the sub hunters the edge over the submarines, culminating in “Black May” 1943 when German losses got so steep that subs essentially withdrew from the Atlantic, allowing the Merchant Marine to finally sail largely in peace.

popular

11 of the most ‘moto’ military reenlistment photos

From under the sea to thousands of feet above the earth, here are 11 photos of Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors reenlisting in style:


This Marine, Lt. Col. Brian Ehrlich (left) reenlisting Sgt. Aron D. Jarvi (right) under the sea at Maeda Point, Okinawa, Japan:

 

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
(Photo: Lance Cpl. Robert J. Maurer/USMC)

Also Read: The 9 Most Badass Unit Mottos In The Marine Corps 

These soldiers from the 7th Sustainment Brigade, Airborne Corps, reenlisting at the South Pole. (Seriously, how often does anyone get to go to the South Pole?)

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

This badass re-enlistment photo of Staff Sgt. Andrew Petrulis, which is fitting because he’s an Air Force EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) craftsman:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: DVIDS

These soldiers prove their efficiency by taking a few minutes to reenlist while in transit aboard an Air Force C-17:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: US Army

The soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division reenlisting in front of the Swords of Qādisīyah in Baghdad, Iraq:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: Staff Sgt. James Selesnick/ US Army

These sailors taking their oath at Ground Zero, ten years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst/ US Navy

This 23-year-old Marine, Cpl. Gareth Hawkins, who demanded to reenlist while being medically evacuated after suffering serious injuries caused by an improvised explosive:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: USMC

Here’s an excerpt from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit about Hawkins’ reenlistment:

The Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. Kevin Gonzalez, along with the Career Retention Specialist Staff Sgt. Chandrash Malapaka, and several others crammed into the tiny room for the ceremony.

“We’re going to do the short version of this,” said the Executive Officer.

Raising his right hand, Hawkins took the oath of enlistment by 1st Lt. Warren A. Frank, his platoon commander. With no time for the usual formalities of backslaps and handshakes, Hawkins was immediately carried out via litter and evacuated.

This damage control sailor who loves his job so much that he re-upped in full gear while being deployed to the Red Sea aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95):

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Meshel/ US Navy

These soldiers taking their oath at CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks football game against the Baltimore Ravens:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: US Army

This Belgian Malinois, Sgt. 1st Class Freida, who reenlisted with her human partner:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: DVIDS

And this PAO serving with the U.S. Navy’s “Leap Frogs” who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to take her reenlistment oath thousands of feet above Earth:

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Photo: James Woods/ US Navy

NOW: These Are The US Army’s Top Five Photos Of 2014

AND: 39 Awesome Photos Of Life In The US Marine Corps Infantry

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52s tore through the South China Sea in a show of force

Two US bombers tore through the hotly-contested South China Sea on Oct. 16, 2018, an apparent power play signaling US determination to continue to fly and sail wherever international law allows ahead of a key meeting between US and Chinese defense chiefs Oct. 18, 2018.

A pair of Guam-based US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers “participated in a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” Pacific Air Forces told CNN in a statement, adding that the flights were in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence, a mission focused on deterring regional challengers.


The Pentagon did not specifically identify which islands the aircraft flew by, but open-source flight tracking data suggests they may have been near the Spratly Islands, the location of a recent showdown between a Chinese destroyer and a US warship carrying out a close pass of the islands. During the incident, which occurred late September 2018, a Chinese naval vessel nearly collided with destroyer USS Decatur.

Following that incident, Vice President Mike Pence warned that “we will not stand down.”

“What we don’t want to do is reward aggressive behavior like you saw with the Decatur incident by modifying our behavior,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Joe Felter, according to CNN. “That’s just not going happen. We’re going to continue to exercise our rights under international law and encourage all our partners to do the same.”

The flight was seemingly intended to send a message that the US will not change its behavior in response to Chinese aggression at sea.

The “Chinese have successfully militarized some of these outposts and their behavior’s become more assertive and we’re trying to have an appropriate response,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver told the reporters while traveling abroad with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver.

China does not see the situation the same way, having previously described bomber overflights in the South China Sea as “provocative.”

China “always respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by other countries under international law,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said at a press briefing Oct. 18, 2018, adding that China “firmly opposes to relevant country’s act to undermine the sovereign and security interests of littoral countries and disrupt regional peace and stability under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation and overflight.'”

“We will take necessary measures to safeguard our sovereign and security interests,” he warned.

The flight, one of many through the disputed East and South China Seas in recent months, came ahead of a meeting between Mattis and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defense minister. The meeting had been previously canceled amid rising tensions over trade, territorial disputes, sanctions, and Taiwan.

Their meeting was described as “straightforward and candid” on Oct. 18, 2018, with Pentagon officials saying that relations with the Chinese military may be stabilizing, according to the Associated Press. The discussions covered numerous topics but focused heavily on tensions in the South China Sea.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

CNO sends a message to the Fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.


Below is the text of his message:

Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.

Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.

Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.

Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.

The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.

Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
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Articles

The Browning Automatic Rifle cut down enemies from WWI to Vietnam

It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.


The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Army 2nd Lt. Val Browning stands with the Browning Automatic Rifle designed by his father. (Photo: Army Heritage and Education Center)

One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.

In the mud-filled trenches of World War I, the rifle was known for its reliability despite the conditions. When troops hit an enemy trench line, they could be reasonably sure that the rifle would spit its 20-40 rounds of .30-06 per magazine without jamming or overheating.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
A group of U.S. Marines patrol Okinawa in 1945. The Marine on point is carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.

Rounds from the BAR hit with enough force to pierce up to .375 inch of steel plate, meaning it could penetrate the armor on most French light tanks stolen by the Germans.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.

It was so respected in World War II that, according to War Is Boring, soldiers “acquired” extra BARs to give themselves more firepower than their units were allotted — a single BAR per squad.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
A U.S. infantryman uses a Browning Automatic Rifle to fire on Chinese troops during the Korean War. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.

For instance, the BAR was one of the weapons Underwater Demolitions Team-13 members used to fight off Viet Cong guerillas during a riverine ambush.

But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s lack of sailing skills could cost it the next war

The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.

“The next war will be analog, and the surface Navy is unprepared for it,” Jonathan Panter, a former US Navy Surface Warfare Officer begins an article in the US Naval Institute’s April edition of “Proceedings,” its monthly publication.


“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.

Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.

“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.


What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)

“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.

The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.

From Panter:

Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.

China has deployed jamming equipment to the South China Sea. Russia has already begun jamming US Air Force platforms over Syria. All expert accounts say that electronic warfare, possibly even space-based attacks on GPS infrastructure in the sky will factory heavily into future warfare, making Panter’s assessment all the more ominous.

Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.

Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 old school problems today’s troops don’t have to worry about

For decades, our troops have faced awful weather, separation from their families, and a diet consisting of the same daily rations, and yet they still complete their vital missions.

In our eyes, that’s badass!

However, as time moves forward, so, too, does technology. Because of that, many modern troops don’t face the same problems as those that came before them. It’s important to always remember and respect just how tough our brothers and sisters-in-arms had it way back in the day.


To all past, present, and future veterans out there, WATM salutes you for your outstanding service. Be thankful that you don’t have to worry about these problems that once plagued the old-timers.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Two trusty SAPI plates.

Getting shot by a small-caliber round

We understand that getting shot sounds like a huge deal — because it is. However, allied troops on the modern battlefield wear a particular type of body armor, called “SAPI plates.” The inserts are made from a ceramic material and are worn over vital organs. These plates protect from small-arms fire and they’re a massive step up compared to what troops wore in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, troops wore only the uniforms issued to them as protection. Taking a round to the upper torso was, almost without exception, a profound injury that left long-term effects.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Lance Cpl. Eric W. Hayes makes a phone call to his mother from the phone center at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark E. Bradley)

Not hearing from your family back home

Back in the day, the art of letter-writing was a troop’s only avenue of communication with family and friends back home. Those letters could take weeks to be delivered.

Today, we still have a mail service up and running, but we also have this thing called “the internet” — ever hear of it? — that can keep deployed troops in the loop. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines today also have access to phones through the USO and, sometimes, satellite phones to connect them with home in a matter of seconds.

Frequent weapon jams during a firefight

Those of us who’ve fired a weapon or two in our lives may have experienced a jam at some point. Even those of us who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan rarely experience weapons malfunctions while sending rounds downrange because modern weapons are so well-manufactured and well-maintained.

It hasn’t always been this way. Ask any Vietnam veteran and they’ll tell you that their weapons would jam “just by looking at them.” We can’t imagine anything worse than losing your primary weapon when fighting the enemy on their home turf.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Staff Sgt. Bryan Robbins calls in for mortars during a live-fire exercise.

(Photo by Cpl. Jonathan Wright)

Communication issues between troops

Today, calling a service member from another platoon or company is as easy as picking up the comms gear headset and requesting someone’s call sign.

Although troops have had verbal communication systems in place for decades, they weren’t nearly as mobile or readily available as they are today. Back then, the radioman was in charge of carrying the proper equipment and usually stuck closely to their superior to make sure they maintained quick access. If that unit’s radio was down, replacing it wasn’t as easy as going to Radio Shack and buying another.

Today, many key members of the infantry platoon carry vital gear, making communication easy as f*ck. If a radio goes down, you can have it replaced in a few hours.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 weirdest names for military operations in history

While researching another story, I came across a recent exercise designed to steel NATO for battling Russian subs. The war game was named for a ferret-like creature that subsists on insects and worms.

Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Nothing like a small mammal to drive terror into an adversary’s heart.

How do military leaders come up with these? In the case of the US, military commands are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two word names. Such as Agile Diver. The rules forbid “commercial trademarks,” “anything offensive to good taste,” or that are similar in spelling to a code word.

They also set aside words for certain commands. “Cheese,” for example, is only to be used by the chief of naval operation’s office. Ditto “rabbit.”

(Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically warned about “frivolous” words, saying no one would want to tell a grieving mother her son died in an operation named “Bunnyhug.”)

Here’s a totally objective guide to the worst-named military operations and exercises of all time.


What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Bold Alligator is a large-scale amphibious exercise that showcases naval forces like the US Marines.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

1. Exercise Bold Alligator

Alligators are cold-blooded and pretty low energy most of the time.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Ferrets make great pets.

(Photo by Alfredo Gutiérrez)

2. Operation Black Ferret

Ferrets are small, furry mammals that have been domesticated. The wild ones are known to dance a gig to hypnotize their prey, according to Mental Floss.

Operation Black Ferret was a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Mermaid performer Paisley Easton.

(Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)

3. Operation Mermaid Dawn

In addition to not finding ferrets frightening — setting aside “The Big Lebowski” scene where a ferret scares the Dude in a bathtub — I don’t especially find the prospect of mermaids at dawn threatening.

Rebels named their 2011 assault on Tripoli, according to this excellent overview of military naming by Mental Floss.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

This was the name for a 2005 mission to seize weapons and propaganda before a referendum on the Iraqi constitution.

(US Army)

4. Operation Flea Flicker

Got an itch?

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

(Photo by Ricky Kharawala)

5. Operation Cajun Mousetrap III

What about the mousetrap makes it Cajun? And did this mousetrap work better the 3rd time around?

This was the name of a nighttime raid on Samarra, Iraq in 2004.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The saxophones of the US Air Force’s jazz ensemble.

(Airman 1st Class Jalene Brooks/US Air Force)

6. Exercise Steadfast Jazz

This is one jazz set that just doesn’t quit!

Fully 6,000 troops in NATO’s ready-response force participated in this ludicrously named 2013 exercise.

Hat tip to Business Insider’s Pentagon Correspondent Ryan Pickrell for the suggestion.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The mongoose’s connection with this massive NATO naval exercise remains unclear to the author.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

7. Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Notably, NATO also has an Exercise Dynamic Manta.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

(Photo by Jan Kahánek)

8. Operation Therapist


How does it make you feel?

The was the name of a 2005 Army mission in Tikrit, Iraq.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

A US war game had a name pretty similar to a Nirvana hit.

Notable mentions.

These operations and exercises almost made the cut.

Gringo-Goucho: Aircraft carrier exercises involving the US and Argentine navies. The term “gringo” occasionally has a pejorative meaning for English-speaking Americans.

Team Spirit: A joint US-South Korea training that ended in 1993, and that keeps reminding me of Nirvana’s 1991 hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Operation Desert Snowplough: Reportedly a name for a Danish operation during the Iraq War.

Operation Frequent Wind: The evacuation of civilians from Saigon in 1975.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Clooney literally uses spy satellites to keep tabs on warlords

In 2010, after a trip to South Sudan, George Clooney and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast had a revelation: they could monitor warlord activity via satellite and take action to help save lives.

Within a year, they had launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which “combines commercial satellite imagery, academic analysis, and advocacy to promote human rights in Sudan and South Sudan and serve as an early warning system for impending crisis.”

Since 1956, military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated war-torn Sudan. Two civil wars mark the country’s recent history, and though South Sudan became independent in July 2011, Sudan and South Sudan remain in a conflict resulting in a humanitarian crisis that affects more than one million people.

Though violence between government forces has lessened, inter-tribal violence continues — which is where Clooney and his partners step in.


George Clooney Witnesses War Crimes in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains

www.youtube.com

WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

The project works like this: DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. Experts at DigitalGlobe work with the Enough Project to analyze imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook.
Activist John Prendergast

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In 2012, Clooney returned to South Sudan to meet with survivors, policy-makers, and militants.

“The worst-case scenario is rapidly unfolding: political and personal disputes are escalating into an all-out civil war in which certain ethnic groups are increasingly targeted by the others’ forces and the rebels take over the oilfields,” wrote Clooney and Prendergast for The Daily Beast.

But Clooney maintains that there is an opportunity for the international community to help the South Sudanese leaders prevent Sudan from becoming the next Syria.

Which is where the Satellite Sentinel Project comes in. The Enough Project gathers HUMINT (Human Intelligence) on the ground, provides field reports and policy analysis, and coordinates the communications strategy to sound the alarm.

Meanwhile, DigitalGlobe’s constellation of satellites capture imagery of Sudan and South Sudan, allowing for analytic support, identification of mass graves, evidence of forced displacement, and early warning against attacks.

The Satellite Sentinel Project is a clear example of how anyone can help get involved to help defend those who need it most.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.

Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.


What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.

March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.

In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.

The response was encouraging.

During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.

There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”

Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.

“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.

Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.

“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”

In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.

“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.

Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.

Individuals can find a list of living recipients here, and pick those they’d like to write.

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A classroom of students showing their cards for the MOH recipients.

On or before March 15, send letters to:

Medal of Honor Mail Call
ATTN: (Your Recipient’s Name)
2400 Boston Street, Ste 102
Baltimore, MD 21224

Stange reminds letter writers to include their mailing address as the recipients may write back.

Janine can be found on her website, at @TheAnthemGirl on Twitter, and at NationalAnthemGirl on Facebook.

Articles

This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

To oust a dictator as terrible as Liberia’s Charles Taylor, some warlords committed even more heinous crimes. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence in the UK after being convicted of 11 war crimes in the Hague in 2013.


Joshua Milton Blahyi went by a different name when he controlled the streets of Liberia’s capital of Monrovia during its 14-year civil war. Going into urban combat wearing nothing but sneakers and a crazed look, he earned the title “General Butt Naked.”

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Warlords in the streets of Liberia from 1989-2003 were given names based in popular culture. It spawned such nicknames as “General Bin Laden” and “General Rambo.”

While “General Butt Naked” may sound laughable as a nom de guerre, the warlord’s methods were anything but funny. Of the 250,000-some Liberians killed in the conflict, Blahyi estimates he is responsible for at least 20,000.

The crimes he freely admits to don’t stop there. He recruited children to act as his street enforcers, teaching them that killings and mutilations were all part of a game. And so they would also fight naked in the streets of Monrovia. Blahyi himself was a teenager when the conflict broke out.

Anecdotal evidence of the atrocities committed by “General Butt Naked” is numerous and graphic.

When Taylor was finally ousted in 2003, the man once known as “General Butt Naked” began a new life as a pastor. These days, when he isn’t preaching, he visits the families of his victims and begs for forgiveness — complete forgiveness. He doesn’t want lip service; he wants the biblical forgiveness that comes from the victim’s heart.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Those victims don’t want any part of it. Only 19 of the 76 families he has visited heard him out. The remainder goes about as well as one might expect.

Blahyi built a mansion where he houses former child soldiers. It’s a place where he says he teaches them skills like farming and bricklaying. According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, he also feeds them.

At least one former soldier will attest to the work of Blahyi’s NGO, “Journeys Against Violence.” Luke Barren told Reuters that he earned his job as a mason because of Blahyi’s effort. Other say Blahyi’s whole enterprise is a farce combined with a cash grab.

The former warlord walks free where Taylor is imprisoned because of jurisdictional rules in The Hague. The court can only prosecute war crimes committed after its founding in 2002. There was never a special tribunal for prosecuting war crimes in Liberia, as there was from Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Golf made my friend a better Marine

We all know that Marines win our nation’s battles, and their discipline under pressure is a matter of life or death. However, and as weird as it may seem, there is a lot that the driving range and the fairway can teach us about winning battles. I know because I recently joined my friend Marine Major Ben Ortiz and his fellow golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang, for a round at the Desert Winds golf course on Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms.


What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Major Ben Ortiz or, ‘Bennie Boy’ as I call him, have known each other since our first days at the Naval Academy. I already know what you’re thinking… of course, two Academy grads and officers are golfers. But literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Golf was never supposed to be part of either of our lives.

“Seriously, dude? You play golf, now?” I ask a little sarcastically as Bennie and I walk to the clubhouse.

Bennie is a Mustang (an officer who was enlisted first), and he grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago where even the mention of golf could get you ridiculed for life or worse. After joining the Marines he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he’s been a kind of intelligence officer that grunts love and terrorists hate. So when he asked me to play golf with him, I immediately started to question his mental state.

“Dude, you have no idea. Golf has made me a better Marine. More focused…lethal.” Bennie smiles as he justifies why we are on a golf course at 0730.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Major Ortiz tees off with focus

As we approach the clubhouse, I meet a squad of Marines who have been recruited to play with us this morning, but we are also joined by a true golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang. Erik is a bit of an anomaly himself. He never picked up a club until his thirties, and now he travels the world for his series Adventures In Golf. At first, I am a little wary that Erik, who looks a little like he just rolled out of bed, can compete with the Marines on their home turf. But after watching Erik tee off with a nearly 350-yard drive down the center of the first hole, I realize that I am not only watching a true golfer but a sniper.

As Bennie, Erik, and I walk the desert course we begin to chat about the game and the Marine Corps. At each hole, I realize the golfers are fighting the terrain, the weather and even their own subconscious, an enemy more elusive than the adversaries Bennie and other Marines face abroad. As we near the end of the course, Bennie begins to explain his theory a little more.

“Intel is all about collecting and analyzing information and then turning it into something useful for the Grunts. A lot of people think that bad intel is a result of bad information, but there is a second and even more important component, the analyst. If I am distracted or unfocused, I can be the weak link. Golf, and the battle on each hole, has taught me about mental and physical discipline.”

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Major Ortiz (4th from left) and Erik Lang (center) after a round of golf.

Erik smiles and nods in agreement. He knows the mental strength it takes to master the club. After a quick competition on the driving range, which Erik (the sniper) wins, we sit down in the chow hall for an After Action of the morning’s performance. Bennie has changed out of his golf clothes and into cammies, and Erik begins to explain to us how Tiger Woods inspired him to pick up a club.

“Not everyone is perfect in golf,” Erik starts. “He’s human, he’s obviously made mistakes, but if you watch carefully you can see how he processes the course and the ball with each shot.”

Erik’s got a point. Now, I am pretty sure that when Tiger Woods stepped onto the 18th green, poised to win the 2019 Masters, there was almost nothing going through his mind other than the basics of putting. In the seconds before Tiger’s final stroke, there was no time for self-doubt, fear or even distractions from the thousands standing around him and the millions watching all across the globe. With one quick putt, Tiger was back on top of the world and his pure calmness, poise, and discipline under such pressure is something we all can admire, especially Marines like me.

But unlike Tiger, Marines must use these same attributes for something much bigger than a green jacket. Now, I begin to see what both Bennie and Erik are stressing to me. Golf is a sport of discipline and focus which can extend beyond the course and onto the most stressful battlefields abroad.

Bennie now speaks to the group before we roll out for the day.

“I hope that other Marines will realize that the course is much more than a game. It’s about training too.”

I think Bennie’s onto something that both Erik Lang and Tiger Woods already know: maybe we can all be better Marines if we spend a little time on the course.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Major Ortiz (left) and the Author (right) after our round of golf. Bennie’s war face is the same from Quantico.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian attack helo was supposed to be the deadliest in the USSR

Sharks have a reputation for being fearsome, man-eating killers — you can thank 1975’s Jaws for that. The shark, in nature, claims dominion over the seas, but its ferocious countenance has been painted on planes since the American Volunteer Group (also known as the “Flying Tigers”) put it on noses of their P-40s.

Russia has its own aeronautical shark, and it’s one of two attack helicopters the Soviet Union was developing in the 1980s to supplement — if not actually replace — the famous Mi-24 Hind. That helicopter is the Kamov Ka-50 Hokum, a single-purpose gunship.


The Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a very unique helicopter. Like the vast majority of other Kamov designs, it uses contra-rotating main rotors. Most of Kamov’s helicopters have been used by the Soviet Navy — and were passed on to the Russian Navy once the USSR collapsed. Mil helicopters, like the Mi-24 Hind and the Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip, have historically gone to the Soviet Army (and, afterward, the Russian Army).

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

Kamov’s primary customer was the Soviet — and later the Russian — Navy. They’ve delivered a high-performance attack helicopter.

(Photo by Dimitri Pichugin)

While in development, the Hokum was competing with the Mi-28 Havoc. In fact, the Russian Army first selected the Hokum, but later settled on the Havoc. The end of the Cold War delayed the programs, but now both helicopters are being procured.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

This three-view graphic shows off some of the Hokum’s unique features: The main rotors and the lack of a tail rotor, for instance.

(U.S. Army)

The Hokum has a number of other unique features. It is a single-seat helicopter, while most other attack helicopters require a crew of two. It has an ejection seat for the pilot, which is commonly found on fixed-wing vessels, but not on rotary-wing aircraft.

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

A look at some of the weapons the Ka-50 can pack. Not easily seen: the same 30mm cannon on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle is mounted on this helicopter.

(Photo by Tomasz Szulc)

The Hokum has a top speed of 193 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 393 miles. It can carry AT-16 missiles, rocket pods, gun pods, and even bombs, and it packs the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2 does.

Currently, Russia has 32 of these lethal helicopters in service. Learn more about this airborne “Black Shark” in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWr6vVTE1Ug

www.youtube.com