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

youtu.be

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.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 of the ugliest planes that ever flew after World War II

Historically, there have been some beautiful aircraft. Not only have these sophisticated marvels of technology dominated the skies, they’ve looked very elegant doing so. Some aircraft, however, weren’t so lucky. We’re talking about planes that fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

And before you call us shallow, we’re not just talking about looks — ugliness is more than skin-deep. Whether it’s a horrendous aesthetic, poor combat performance, or vastly unmet potential, these six fugly birds never had a chance at beauty.

To be brutally honest, if these planes were people, they’d likely end up being incels for one reason or another. So, let’s get to making some of the ugliest planes to take to the skies since World War II feel very, very bad about themselves.


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

Look at that big radar under the Avro Shackleton. Did the designers draw inspiration from a bullfrog?

(USAF photo by SSgt. Jose Lopez)

Avro Shackleton AEW.2

This was an airborne radar plane — but it doesn’t have the elegance of the E-3 Sentry. No, this is a slow, lumbering plane with a big bubble under its nose that makes it look like a bullfrog. It was supposed to be replaced by a version of the Nimrod maritime patrol plane, but that didn’t work out. Eventually, the Brits dumped this hideous plane in favor of E-3s.

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

The plane designer who came up with this one certainly had a major mental malfunction.

(US Navy)

De Haviland Vampire

This early British fighter should be a lesson to designers: What once worked with props, aesthetically, may not work with jets. The twin-boom arrangement that worked for the two Allison propeller-driven engines just doesn’t make sense for a single jet engine. This Vampire probably should have lived up to its name and stayed out of the light of day.

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

This English Electric Lightning is being hauled away by a Sikorsky HH-53C. When it was flyable, it wasn’t much prettier.

(USAF photo by MSgt. Samual A. Hotton)

English Electric Lightning

First off, the designers at English Electric got the engine arrangement sideways. They put one on top of the other. This beast first flew in 1954 and the RAF kept it around until 1988, but this plane only saw action with the Royal Saudi Air Force in 1970 during a border war with South Yemen. The only thing this plane had going for it was speed.

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

The prettiest thing about the F-4 Phantom is its combat record. On the looks front, it looks like a flying brick — a brick that needs two engines to get airborne.

(USAF)

McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom

When it comes to performance, this classic plane is hard to beat, but in terms of looks, the nickname “Double Ugly” is very apt. The folks who probably found the Phantom the ugliest were those who had to face it in combat. Many MiGs met their end at the hands of this plane.

But let’s be honest, while this plane’s combat record is a thing of beauty, from the outside, it was an eyesore.

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

Saab 21

This plane couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a prop plane or a jet plane. It first flew in 1943 and its career ended in 1954. The plane served with Sweden, but never really took off in the export market. If you can’t even decide on the propulsion system, what chance do you have of making the plane look remotely presentable?

What really sucks about this plane is that it had potential — which was wasted completely.

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

One of the low-lights of the F7U Cutlass’s career: This ramp strike didn’t just kill the pilot, it killed three other sailors.

(US Navy)

Vought F7U Cutlass

This plane didn’t look very good. The thing is, its looks were the least of its problems. It was very hard to fly — over a quarter of them were lost to accidents. It didn’t even make it eight years from first flight to retirement.

Here’s the ugliest part: 25 pilots died during this flying abomination’s far-too-long career.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is extraordinary

Since its founding in 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle has been held every year with the exception of the three year period between 1939 and 1941; the rally did not take place due to gas rationing in support of the war effort overseas. However, the rally returned in 1942 and has been held every year since.

Here are 5 reasons why Sturgis is nothing short of extraordinary.


1. Persistence

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is no exception to Sturgis’ longstanding run. On June 16, the mayor of Sturgis announced that the city council had decided to move forward with the 80th Sturgis motorcycle rally. During a Facebook broadcast, he outlined that the rally will include, “modifications that provide for the health and safety of our visitors, and our residents and our town.” Ten days/nights of riding, food and music will take place in Sturgis, South Dakota from August 7-16.

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

A ride during the 2019 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

2. Attendance

Historically, attendance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has averaged around 500,000 people. Official attendance peaked in 2015 at 739,000 for the rally’s 75th anniversary. Billed as the largest motorcycle rally in the world, people come from all across the country to be a part of Sturgis’ famed rally. Many riders make it a family event, towing their motorcycles behind a camper and riding the last few miles into town. Others transport their rides via shipping companies and arrive by plane. In 2005, when the official attendance was 525,250 people, the rally’s director estimated that fewer than half the attendees actually rode there, a testament to just how many people came from far and wide to experience Sturgis.

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

Rally Headquarters features vendors, rally registration, and city info booths (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

3. Fundraising

With so many people descending on the small town every year, the city of Sturgis capitalizes on the rally which makes up 95 percent of its annual revenue. In 2011, the city earned nearly 0,000 from the sale of event guides and sponsorships alone. On average, the rally brings in over 0 million to the state of South Dakota annually. While the Lakota Indian tribe has protested the large amount of alcohol distributed at the rally so close to the sacred Bear Butte religious site, they have also acknowledged the importance of the revenue that the rally brings into the region and the tribes.

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

(Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

4. Entertainment

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is not just a bunch of bikers standing by their bikes in parking lots. Rather, the rally originally focused on motorcycle races and stunts. In 1961, the rally introduced the Hill Climb and Motocross races. Other forms of motorcycle entertainment included intentional board wall crashes and ramp jumps. Over the years, the rally was extended in length from a three day event to its current 10 day length. Entertainment and attractions also expanded to include vendors and live music. The first concert at the Sturgis Rally featured the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Other big names have followed like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Montgomery Gentry, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osbourne and Willie Nelson. This year, notable bands scheduled to perform include 38 Special, Quiet Riot and Night Ranger.

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

Panels of the memorial (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)

5. Veteran recognition

Regularly attended by veterans, especially Vietnam Vets, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes great pride in recognizing the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces. In 2019, the Sturgis Rally held a Military Appreciation Day presented by the VFW. Activities included a reception to honor a local veteran, entertainment and a flyover by a B-1 Lancer bomber. For 2020, the Sturgis Rally will feature the Remembering Our Fallen photographic war memorial. Highlighting service members killed during the War on Terror, Remembering Our Fallen is designed to travel and includes both military and personal photos.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Space Force could conduct an airborne assault on the moon

Look, we all hope that Space Rangers will be elite, Buzz Lightyear-types but with tattoos and lethal weapons instead of stickers and blinking lights. But if they’re going to be Buzzes, they have to learn to fall with style. And in the U.S. military, that means airborne school.


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

I will not apologize. This entire article exists because this meme stopped me in my tracks.

(Facebook/Do You Even Jump?)

But being airborne is going to be hard for the Space Force since, you know, there’s almost no air on the Moon’s surface. It has about 1 trillionth the air molecules per volume that the Earth does.

“But Logan!” You say, interrupting me and randomly guessing my name because you definitely did not read the byline before scrolling to here. “There’s also no gravity on the moon! So what does it matter?”

Well, the moon does have gravity, enough to accelerate a human at 1.62 meters per second squared. If a Space Ranger jumped from a Space C-130 at 800 feet, their parachute would do approximately jack plus sh-t. But the force of gravity would pull them to the moon’s surface at a final speed of 92.22 feet per second. That’s like falling from a 13-story building on Earth.

M551 Sheridan Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES)

www.youtube.com

But we still have to kill the Moon communists! Right?

Right.

We’re not suffering those bastards to live. So we have to get the Space Rangers there somehow. So, here’s a radical counter-proposal: Screw jumping out of the plane, we’re going to rocket out of it a bare 60 feet from the surface. And the rockets aren’t pointed at the moon’s surface; they’re pointed at the Space C-130, hereafter known as the Space-130.

Remember those old videos of LAPES, the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System? Tanks were deployed from C-130s with just three parachutes. The plane flew so low to the ground that a parachute wasn’t needed to stop its fall. The parachutes were there to pull the tank out of the plane.

So instead of dropping Space Rangers out of a plane with jetpacks to slow them down vertically, we’re going to shoot them out the back of the Space-130 in capsules holding 13 Rangers each. The rockets would fire horizontally to stop the capsule’s forward movement immediately after it separated from the Space-130.

At 60 feet from the ground, the capsule would fall to the surface in less than five seconds and would hit with the same force of it falling from 10 feet on the Earth. Screw parachutes, the Rangers would be safe sitting on a nice pillow. And they would already be massed in squads of 13 to use their space weapons against the moon communists.

But the Space Rangers all still have to complete Airborne School at Fort Benning and conduct five normal jumps anyway. We’ll call it leadership training or something.

Intel

5 things about getting shot you probably didn’t know (even if you’ve been shot)

Some people go skydiving or do other extreme sports to get their adrenaline fix. Troops, on the other hand, get into gunfights. Celebrated war correspondent, Sebastian Junger nails this phenomenon in his 2014 Ted talk about why soldiers miss war.


Related: How to survive a gunfight (according to a drunk Green Beret)

While thrilling, the downside to any gunfight is getting shot. This video reveals five random facts about gunshot wounds you probably didn’t know. (For instance, did you know that women are more likely to survive than men? What does that do to your “women in combat” matrix?)

Watch:

Video: WatchMojo.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

California once used children to fight a war on squirrels

The year is 1918, and American troops are facing the Germans in deadly trench warfare on the Western Front. That isn’t the only place war has taken hold, the Great War is raging all over the world, and California is no different. There, along the far, far Western front, California state horticulturist George H. Hecke called up California’s most precious natural resource: children.

Their enemy was a pest unlike any other the state had ever seen, and Hecke decided their time had come. The squirrels had to go.


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

The new children’s crusade called for a seven-day operation whereby California schoolchildren would attack the vicious squirrel army (often depicted wearing the pointed “Hun” helmet worn by the German army at the time). When the students weren’t creating passive killing fields by spreading rodent poisons where squirrels were known to gather food the kiddos were encouraged to form “a company of soldiers in your class or in your school” to go out and meet the enemy head-on, hitting the furry huns where they lived. “Squirrel Week” was on.

“All the killing devices of modern warfare will be used in the effort to annihilate the squirrel army, including gas,” wrote the Lompoc Journal. “Don’t wait to be drafted.”

The U.S. government made every effort to link the anti-squirrel effort to the war effort, referring to the California Ground Squirrel as “the Kaiser’s aides” while showing the squirrels decked out in enemy uniforms, wearing the Iron Cross. The government even distributed recipes for barley coated with the deadly poison strychnine.

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

The state had a point. Otospermophilus Beecheyi, also known as the California Ground Squirrel, was not only a pest to farms and stored food, but was also known to carry certain diseases, such as bubonic plague. More importantly, the rodent ate nearly 0 million in crops and stored food in California (using today’s dollar values), food which could otherwise go to the doughboys fighting the World War raging in Europe. Children were even asked to bring in squirrel tails to school to show off their confirmed kills.

The schoolchildren did not disappoint. In all, More than 104,000 squirrels met their furry maker during Squirrel Week 1918 – but that was just one battle. The war raged on as long as the War in Europe raged on. California children continued killing the squirrels for a long time after Squirrel Week. The effort did not have lasting consequences for the squirrels at large, however. Today the California Ground Squirrel’s conservation status is the lowest at “least concern.”

Least concern, or lulling us into a false sense of security before counter-attacking? You decide.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A guy who travels the US to mow lawns for veterans has a new Christmas mission

Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He’s already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He’s on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He’s the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.

He’s showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he’s doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.


He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn’t limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.

As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He’ll even do what he calls a “mow by,” completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren’t home.

Of course, it’s better if they’re home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he’ll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.

Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.

A small act of kindness grew into all this,” he says. “You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way.”

After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.

I show kids the importance of giving back to their community,” Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. “At first they didn’t like it… but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life.

They didn’t know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.

He challenged himself again with the task of mowing “50 Yards in 50 States.” In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He’s not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.

And now he finds himself with a different challenge.

In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area’s homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.

He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.

Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.

Every day is tough when you’re homeless, but it’s terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally,” Smith said. “If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing.

To make donations, visit Hopefortheholidaystour.com. To follow Rodney and hear stories from those he meets, visit him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban attacks kill 26 in Afghanistan

Taliban militants have stormed security posts in western Afghanistan, killing 21 police officers and pro-government militia members, officials said on Jan. 7, 2019.

The attacks occurred late on Jan. 6, 2019, at checkpoints in two different parts of Badghis Province, which borders the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, provincial officials said.

Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said 14 police officers and seven members of pro-government militias were killed, while nine were wounded.


Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the Badghis provincial governor, said at least 15 Taliban militants were killed and 10 wounded in the fighting.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said in a statement that militants killed 34 members of the security forces and pro-government militias and seized many weapons and ammunition.

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

Afghan Border Police at Islam Qala in western Herat Province.

Meanwhile, a roadside bombing has killed five civilians and wounded seven in the country’s eastern Paktika Province, an Afghan official said on Jan. 7, 2019.

Nawroz Ishaq, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the attack occurred in the Jani Khail district.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but provincial official Mohammad Rasoul Adel blamed the Taliban, saying the group had left the bomb in a village square.

Taliban representatives and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet this month to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces and a possible cease-fire.

Officials from the warring sides have met at least three times in recent months to try to agree on a way to end the 17-year war.

The Taliban says it is fighting to oust the Western-backed government and restore strict Islamic law.

The United States and its allies say they want to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international Islamist militants plotting attacks in the West.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

Venezuela’s government has been in a state of constant unrest as opposition leaders, especially Juan Guaidó, have accused Nicolás Maduro of rigging elections, mismanaging the government, and causing the starvation of the Venezuelan people. Now, Guaidó has emerged from hiding and is attempting to rally military and civilian support in an apparent uprising.


There’s a lot at stake, and the result of this uprising will determine the state of great power competition in America’s backyard. People on both sides are already dying from gunfire and vehicle charges from government forces.

As most journalists take this time to report on the minute-by-minute developments (the AFP news agency has a lot of quick facts and quotes as the situation develops, CNN International is posting amazing photos, and the overall Twitter stream has a mix of everything), we thought we would take a moment to remind everyone what the stakes are, here.

Venezuela is a socialist country, but, more accurately, it’s a dictatorship with a socialist system. That means that the government has direct control of significant parts of the economy, and that the government is controlled by one person. Right now, that’s Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has used short-term strategies to hop from one crisis to another since taking power.

Maduro and Guaidó have clashed for more than a year about whether or not Maduro rigged elections in his own favor. And the clashes between their supporters have become increasingly violent, but Maduro has always held the advantage because the military was largely on his side. But today, Guaidó appeared in a video saying that he has military support and is using it to trigger an uprising.

This is tragic for the Venezuelan people. Regardless of who wins, the violence will likely result in the deaths of at least dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds more. But it will also decide the balance of power in Venezuela, and Maduro and Guaidó have very different international backers.

Guaidó has the support of the U.S., U.K., and other Western powers. But Maduro is one of Vladimir Putin’s most important allies in the Western hemisphere.

That’s not because Russia and Venezuela are especially close. They’re not. But Venezuela, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Maduro, has historically been a socialist thorn in America’s side. And Putin knows that he needs friends in this hemisphere if he ever wants to directly pressure Washington like Stalin was able to during the Cold War.

He has few natural allies in this hemisphere, especially as Fidel Castro has died and Raúl Castro has grown old in Cuba. Raúl has stepped down as president and is 87.

Putin showed his support for Maduro last year by deploying two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela and sending heavy investments of Russian money into the Venezuelan oil industry. That second action is larger than it sounds: Russia and Venezuela are both heavy oil exporters that need the money to fuel their economies. Russian money that supports Venezuelan oil sales necessarily cuts into Russian profits.

But the foreign policy stakes were too high in Venezuela for Putin to ignore. Russia wants influence in the west, and Venezuela is one of its few toeholds. As then-U.S. Southern Command Commanding General John Kelly said in 2015:

Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President [Vladimir] Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War-tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Those actions in Venezuela have not always produced great fruit, but Venezuela is a resource-rich country that’s leadership leans towards Putin.

Meanwhile, America has historically supported true democracies, preferably capitalist ones, in South America for obvious reasons. A capitalist democracy would necessarily share more values with the U.S. than Venezuela did under Chavez or Maduro. And the Trump administration has signaled its support for the April 30 uprising. Not a big surprise since Vice President Michael Pence also recorded a video in January supporting Venezuelan opposition and Guaidó.

And, for what it’s worth, those Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela have the range to bomb any point in the U.S. without refueling including Alaska and Hawaii. (But, if they’re landing in Venezuela on the same tank of gas, they would be unable to hit much of Idaho, Nevada, or California.)

So this coup in Venezuela will decide the balance of power in America’s backyard. Russia has already said that Putin has met with his top generals to discuss the situation, though there is no sign yet of the large military deployments they sent to Syria to prop up his boy there.

While all of us should care about the crisis because of the real human suffering under Maduro, who are now caught in the crossfire, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is strictly a foreign problem. The effects of the uprising attempt will be felt here.

Articles

This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.


The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.

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

Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.

The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.

The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.

Related Video:

Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.

Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.

Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 75 years, D-Day veteran is reunited with his long-lost French love

An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.

K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.

“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”


Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.

After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.

75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love

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Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.

“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.

“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.

The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.

“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.

“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.

“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.

While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time infantry captured a Nazi train filled with lingerie

In August 1944, the successes of D-Day were in the rear-view mirror and American troops were engaged in the long slog to Berlin. One group of American soldiers got a surprise when, while chasing German soldiers east, they captured a military train only to find that sections of it were filled with lingerie, perfume, and other treats.


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

(Chris Tingom, CC BY 2.0)

After Allied troops took the beachheads at D-Day, there were optimistic predictions that they could take Berlin by Christmas. But it wasn’t to be. It took weeks just to fight through the hedgerows of Normandy, and Germany stiffened its resistance everywhere possible.

Free French forces, resistance members, and British and American units maneuvered east, trying to keep as much pressure on German troops as they could.

As the line shifted east, German troops would burn supplies they were abandoning, but tried to keep vehicles, especially tanks, in good working order, so they could use them to kill American and other Allied soldiers. So the attackers quickly learned to seize as much as they could whenever possible.

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

German armored troops roll through Denmark in April 1940.

(Danish Ministry of Defence)

As June ground into July and then August, the push east accelerated. Paris was liberated and, on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a parade into the city.

About that time, the 3rd Armored Division was pushing to Soissons, a city 55 miles northeast of Paris. German soldiers pulling back were using railroads to quickly move equipment but, according to a story in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldiers, one unit had overestimated how long it had to load onto the train and get going.

When U.S. troops arrived, they saw a train preparing to roll out with tanks and armored vehicles loaded onto it. Every armored vehicle that escaped would need to be killed in eastern France, Belgium, or Germany. The train had to be stopped.

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

U.S. troops fire their machine gun during battle in Aachen, Germany.

(U.S. Army)

U.S. tanks and half-tracks opened fire as machine gunners and mortarmen rushed into position. Most of their rounds were bouncing off the German armor, but the sheer volume of fire was keeping German drivers and crew out of their vehicles, allowing American troops to keep the upper hand.

Most of the Germans who stayed to fight were killed or captured, and those who escaped into the woods were rounded up by the French resistance. The Germans had dallied too long, and now the train belonged to the U.S. troops.

When they began assessing their find, they were surprised to find little ammunition, medical supplies, or food, all materiel that they needed. Instead, the Germans had loaded the train with candy, women’s lingerie, and lipstick.

It appeared that the German soldiers had raided French shops and, when it came time to run, had prioritized gifts for girlfriends and family over packing or destroying their own supplies, getting a faster exit to save the vehicles, or even just absconding with their lives and arms.

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

A woman writes a message on a U.S. tank in Belgium

(U.S. Army)

Their mistake was U.S. gain. The 3rd Armored took the vehicles, other U.S. troops seized millions of pounds of beef, grain, flour, coal, and more. Many items were given to the French public to alleviate shortages caused by Nazi occupation, but other items were pressed into the war effort to keep American troops moving.

Ambrose doesn’t reveal what happened to the love train’s more romantic contents, but it’s likely that some of it made it back to the states in reverse care packages, but most of it probably stayed right there in France, consumed by the people lucky enough to get their hands on it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Small, birdlike drones will provide eyes in the sky for the Army

The Army has plans to purchase 61 Black Hornet III small unmanned aerial systems, or SUASs, which are designed to provide reconnaissance support at squad level.

By the third quarter of 2019, 57 of those systems will be fielded to a yet-unidentified Infantry brigade combat team, said Capt. WaiWah Ellison, the assistant program manager for Soldier Borne Sensors, part of Program Executive Office Soldier.

Ellison spoke during the “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” demonstration on May 24, 2018, at the Pentagon.

The Black Hornet III can fly a distance of up to two kilometers and remain aloft for 25 minutes, she said.

The system takes color photographs and videos and can do so simultaneously, she noted. The system is also equipped with thermal imaging, which gives it night vision capability.

Most importantly, the Black Hornet III weighs less than two ounces. With soldiers carrying so much gear, reducing their load is a top priority for everything PEO soldier produces. Hauling around too much weight results in fatigue and reduces the ability of soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield when dismounted, Ellison explained.

The Black Hornet III comes with a docking station, where the batteries are charged, and with a monitor, which is about the size of a tablet computer, she said. The SUAS, docking station and monitor have a combined weight of less than three pounds. While the Black Hornet III is aloft, another battery can be charged and ready when it returns.



Wireless commands and data sent between the soldier and Black Hornet III are encrypted, Ellison said, to ensure the system is not susceptible to being hacked.


What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack
A Prox Dynamics’ PD-100 Black Hornet.
(photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)

The Black Hornet III is not designed for long-term surveillance. Instead, it is designed to give soldiers a quick look at what’s ahead of them, over a hill, or on the other side of a building or wall, she explained.


After laboratory testing in early January 2018, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center in Massachusetts, the Black Hornet III was put through its paces at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, beginning in late January. The “fly-off” gave soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a chance to evaluate it in tactical conditions, she said.

It takes roughly 16 hours to train a soldier on how to pilot and maintain the Black Hornet III, she said, adding that operating it is fairly intuitive.

To fly it, you hold it in your hand and rotate it 90 degrees one way then 90 degrees the other way, Ellison explained. That wakes it up and gets the rotor spinning. You also turn on the monitor and it acquires a GPS signal. The entire operation from turning everything on to flight is a bit over a minute.

During the fly-off, Ellison said soldier feedback was positive. Soldiers liked the system’s reliability, saying it went where they wanted it to go and did not lose control sequences that were transmitted to it.

Don Sheehan, Integrated Product Team Lead for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems at Naval Air Systems Command, said the Navy had observers at Fort A.P. Hill during testing, as Marines and Special Operations operators are interested in the capabilities of the Black Hornet III and are likely to purchase a number of them.

Sheehan noted that the Black Hornet III is so quiet that during testing, one soldier was unaware that one of them was flying a few feet behind him.

Besides being stealthy, the Black Hornet III in its grey paint, is practically invisible in the forest or jungles and even if seen, could easily be mistaken for a small bird or large insect, he said.

Ellison noted that Black Hornet III is by no means the only model of SUAS that the Army is interested in.

More testing of the Black Hornet III and other types of SUAS from different vendors will take place in October 2018, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, by soldiers from 7th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she said.

There will be a number of industry days coming up where vendors can tout their own SUAS prototypes. She encouraged interested vendors to visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on industry opportunities.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

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