A U.S. Navy pilot was shot down after making bombing runs over the tiny island of Chichijima during WWII. He and nine fellow naval aviators had to evade their Japanese enemy. Only one managed to successfully avoid capture — and even then, it was all by luck.
For his book Flyboys, James Bradley tracked down and researched official files and records from war crimes tribunals after the war. The fate of the other eight pilots, as he discovered, was absolutely horrifying.
Bush and his wingmen encountered intense anti-aircraft fire over their targets. Bush’s airplane was hit by flak before catching fire. He dropped his bomb load over the target, but was forced to abandon his Avenger Torpedo Bomber.
Like many prisoners of the Japanese, the captured men were tortured and killed using sharpened bamboo or bayonets. Many were beheaded. Unlike many prisoners of the Japanese, however, four of the Navy pilots were slaughtered by their captors, who then had surgeons cut out their livers and thigh muscles — and then prepare the meat for Japanese officers.
Surgeons removed a four-inch by 12-inch piece of thigh, weighing six pounds. According to those Japanese survivors who were on the island, it was prepared with soy sauce and vegetables, then washed down with hot sake.
The future President Bush was further from the island when he bailed out of his aircraft. Floating in the water for four hours, he was protected from Japanese boats by American planes before being rescued by the USS Finback, a submarine that surfaced right in front of him.
While aboard the Finback, he assisted in the rescue of other downed pilots. He was aboard for a month before returning to his berthing on the USS San Jacinto. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation during his WWII service.
Bush, now 93, is the longest-living ex-President of the United States ever.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the University of Texas at Austin hosted the Mad Scientist Conference at the university on April 24 and 25, 2019. The Mad Scientist Conference brings together military, academia, and private industry experts in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, ethics in future innovation, and the future of space.
This year’s conference focused on disruption and the future operational environment. With the Army’s effort to modernize the force, it is critical for collaboration between the Army and the brightest minds of technological innovation.
Dr. Moriba K. Jah, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, presents at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
“Mad Scientist and Army Future Command are two sides of the same modernization coin,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command. “We need to tap into America’s unique culture of innovation. That’s why we’re here in Austin. AFC is an opportunity for collaboration with the best minds in the world in academia and industry.”
Collaboration today to solve the complex problems of tomorrow’s battlefields requires significant imagination to predict possibilities.
Mr. Robert O. Work, former 32nd Deputy Secretary of Defense and Senior Counselor for Defense and Distinguished Fellow for Defense and National Security, speaks at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 24th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
“The future of warfare will be both familiar and utterly alien,” Richardson said.
With the development of evolving artificial intelligence and robotics, Mad Scientists discussed the applications they have on future warfare.
“When technology is proliferated down to the battlefield, what happens?” asked Robert Work, senior counselor for defense and distinguished senior fellow for defense and national security at the Center for a New American Security. “We’ll inevitably go to more unmanned systems.”
The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering hosts a discussion panel at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at UT’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
While wars today feature manned combat vehicles, the Mad Scientists suggest wars of the future may be fought by drones and AI-controlled machines. Work referenced the Army’s next generation combat vehicle currently in development that has the potential to be optionally manned.
One way future vehicles can operate without a human crew is using AI.
“How do we make autonomous systems behave in a trustworthy fashion?” asked Dr. Maruth Akella, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at UT-Austin.
A primary goal of AI and robotics is full autonomy to perform increasingly complex tasks. The Mad Scientists questioned how to establish ethics and human oversight for automated machines used on complex battlefields where non-combatants, enemy forces and partner forces are intermingled in real-time, dynamic domains.
The discussions examined how much autonomy should autonomous machines have in military operations.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering hosts a discussion panel at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at UT’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
“How much human control do we want or need to have over these autonomous systems?” asked Dr. Paul Zablocky, program manager for the strategic technology office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
To further understand the implications of autonomous machines in the operational environment, the conference speakers discussed how AI learns and how humans are involved in the AI-learning process.
“We need to look at integrated human-in-the-loop systems,” said Dr. Garrett Warnell, a research scientist with Army Research Lab. “When robots are becoming autonomous, they need a lot of human interaction. They slowly depend less and less on humans and become more autonomous.”
If robotics are considered for warfare in the future, Work said we must pursue systems with tele-operated capabilities. Additionally, the panelists strongly emphasized that robotics must be disposable, which opened the conversation to how much these technologies might cost. Work pointed out that China could pass the US in absolute GDP in about 10 years.
Sharon Wood, Dean of University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, speaks at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 24th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army photo)
“The U.S. cannot spend our way back to military dominance,” said Work. “That means that we have to out-think, out-innovate, and out-maneuver our competitors.”
The opportunity to collaborate, out-think and out-innovate is the reason that Army Futures Command was created and based in Austin amongst a variety of tech companies, start- ups, and innovators.
The Army has been looking for a new scout helicopter to replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior for over two decades. Between budget cuts and iffy cancellation decisions, a number of contenders, notably the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, have failed to make the cut. Now, the Army is hoping to get another chance to replace the Kiowa, which retired from U.S. Army service in 2017.
However, it’s looking like Congress may put the kibosh on putting any new birds in the sky.
According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Army’s desire to buy a new recon helicopter is being questioned by some on Capitol Hill. There are concerns surfacing about whether manned helicopters can survive on a modern battlefield full of advanced missiles and self-propelled guns. Currently, the Army is using AH-64 Apaches to fill the gap in reconnaissance capabilities left by the Kiowa’s retirement.
The Army has long planned to find a new scout/utility bird under the Future Vertical Lift program, but now it seems they’re looking to get results faster — and they’ve requested $75 million (couch-cushion money in the DOD budget) to do so. One of the reasons for the rush is that the Apache, as impressive as it is, is not exactly the best choice for recon.
The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired without a replacement — and the scouting mission got handed over to the AH-64 Apache.
Under the Future Vertical Lift program, one of the proposed Joint Multi-Role helicopters, the JMR-Light, is intended to be a scout/light-utility helicopter. One likely contender for that role, Lockheed’s S-97 Raider, has recently been cleared for full flight testing. The helicopter first flew in 2015 and can reach a blistering 220 knots, according to Lockheed Martin.
Although the S-97 is extremely capable, the Army has expressed a desire for a “pure” scout helicopter — Congress, however, citing the concerns mentioned earlier, don’t share that desire.
The AH-64 Apache carries the same rocket pods and Hellfire missiles as the S-97 Raider, but it carries a lot of them.
The Raider is capable of using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75-inch rocket pods and either a 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine gun. The Raider can transport up to six troops and has a range of 323 nautical miles. It can carry the fuel needed for almost three hours of sustained flight time.
The ARH-70 Arapaho didn’t make the cut — one of several efforts to replace the OH-58 that failed,
The Raider is not the only experimental system being considered to fill a gap in recon capabilities. Bell is offering a family of tilt-rotor aircraft, including the V-280 Valor and the V-247 unmanned aerial vehicle. Other companies are also offering prototypes, seeking to get in on a contract that’ll likely be a massive financial windfall.
“Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming, Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming? See their warriors’ pennants streaming, To this battlefield. Men of Cornwall stand ye steady, It cannot be ever said ye For the battle were not ready. Stand and never yield!”
As employees of Morgan Stanley evacuated the South Tower on 9/11, they heard a familiar voice singing to them. Rick Rescorla, their Vice President of Security, was calmly and efficiently guiding them out of the offices and down a stairwell. Moments earlier, a plane had struck the North Tower, and a PA announcement had told workers in the South Tower to remain at their desks.
Rescorla would have none of that.
Grabbing his bullhorn and walkie-talkie, he immediately ushered the employees out. As the employees were going down the stairwell, the building lurched suddenly. The second plane had hit above them, and the building violently shook. As the evacuation started to turn to panic, the voice of Rescorla called out. Remain calm, help each other, be proud of being Americans, we will get through this. Then the singing. The employees took strength in his calm demeanor and followed and helped each other down the tower. By the end of it, almost 2,700 employees made it safely out of the building. Of all of Morgan Stanley’s employees, only six didn’t make it.
Rescorla was one of them.
He was last seen on the 10th floor and like many heroes who perished on that day of days, was headed up the stairs, into the fire to find more people to save. His body was never found.
As Morgan Stanley employees shared their stories about Rick and how calming he was, quite a few talked about the singing. How it was surreal yet calming as if telling them everything would be ok.
As the stories spread, a few men heard about that and were quite familiar with Rick singing. He had sung to them when they were in a life or death situation and it had calmed them down too. It was years earlier on the edge of a mountain in the Ia Drang valley in Vietnam.
Rick Rescorla was born in Cornwall in the United Kingdom in 1939. When he was 16, he signed up to join the British military and ended up fighting against insurgents in Cyprus in the late 1950s. From there, he ended up in Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) as part of the North Rhodesian Police. He met an American named Daniel Hill, who would later become a lifelong friend. Rescorla, by this time, was very much an anti-communist, and Hill had told him that the United States was sending troops to a place called Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism there.
As soon as his contract was up, Rescorla worked to make his way to the U.S. He lived in a hostel and waited for the first chance to enlist in the United States Army. He ended up being selected to Officer Candidate School and, after further training, ended up on the 7th Calvary. The unit had once been led by George Custer into the last stand at Little Bighorn. Rescorla would be under the command of Hal Moore, and would find himself headed into a last stand of his own.
Most of us have seen the movie, We Were Soldiers or read the amazing book the movie was based on.
Rick Rescorla was a platoon leader and was one of many American soldiers who showed their bravery and tenacity on that battlefield. The battle was the first major engagement of the war and Rescorla saw first-hand how bloody it would be.
“There were American and NVA bodies everywhere. My area was where Lt. Geoghegan’s platoon had been. There were several dead NVA around his platoon command post. One dead trooper was locked in contact with a dead NVA, hands around the enemy’s throat. There were two troopers – one black, one Hispanic – linked tight together. It looked like they had died trying to help each other.”
Through the thick of battle, Rescorla was seen moving from position to position, encouraging his men and singing Cornish and Welsh hymns to them. It put them at ease and got them settled down to see their leader keeping his cool. At the end of the battle, Rescorla famously found an old French bugle on the body of a dead North Vietnamese soldier. It was a trophy from the previous war fought in Vietnam between the Vietnamese and French colonialists. A photo of Rescorla moving around the battlefield became one of the enduring images of the Vietnam war.
After the military, Rescorla went into academics for a while, before deciding to get into the world of private security. He ended up becoming the head of security of Dean Whitter, which later would merge into Morgan Stanley. Working out of the World Trade Center, he once brought in his old friend from Rhodesia, now also a security consultant, to give a security analysis of the complex. They both headed down to the underground garage and found an exposed load-bearing beam that might crumble with a powerful enough explosion. They wrote up a report saying the load-bearing beam was too accessible and should be protected. The report was made in 1990. It was ignored. Three years, later Muslim extremists drove a rental truck laden with explosives into the basement of the World Trade Center and targeted that column. Luckily it held, but Rescorla knew they would try again someday….
He implemented major changes at Dean Whitter and later Morgan Stanley to ensure that employees would know what to do in case of a major emergency. He drilled them constantly on evacuation drills and made sure everyone knew where to go if the worst happened. As usually happens, as the years since the bombings passed, people got complacent. Management would throw fits during drills as they view them as unnecessary and a distraction. Rescorla didn’t care. He was certain another attempt would be made and even asked Morgan Stanley to move to a location in New Jersey. He even ventured the next attack would be via a cargo plane laden with explosives.
He was almost right.
On the fateful day as Morgan Stanley employees filed out of the building, they saw a familiar face. With his bullhorn, Rescorla projected calmness as he directed them down the stairwells. As they walked down two by two and maintaining space so they wouldn’t bunch up as they had drilled constantly, they heard the singing.
As he was with his troops in Vietnam, Rick Rescorla was the cool, calm and collected leader in the maelstrom of hell on the fateful September day.
For his bravery, this past year, Rescorla was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizenship Medal by President Donald Trump in a ceremony at the White House.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
Noted astronomer and satellite expert Ralf Vandebergh of Nijswiller, Limburg, Netherlands, spent months searching the skies for one of the Holy Grails of sky spotting, the secretive U.S. Air Force Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. In May 2019, he finally succeeded.
Remarkably, on June 30 and July 2, 2019, that Vandebergh finally captured some rare photos of the secret military spacecraft. Fifty-year veteran space journalist and author of the new book, “Moon Rush: The New Space Race”, Leonard David broke the story about Vandebergh’s sighting and photos on Saturday, July 6, 2019 on LiveScience.com. The photos are now being republished and shared around the world.
Journalist Leonard David quoted astronomer Ralf Vandebergh in his story on LiveScience.com as saying, “When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn’t meet the predicted time and path.” Vandebergh went on to tell Leonard David in his article that, “It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers’ network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2.”
The Air Force’s X-37B began as a test project with NASA in 1999 but was acquired by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004. Most sources list two operational X-37B spacecraft and a single X-37A. The fact that only three exist, their missions and roles are classified and they operate in space makes them incredibly difficult to get photos of, especially when performing an active mission as in Vandebergh’s photos.
Even more remarkably, according to Vandebergh’s photo analysis, he may have actually captured the X-37B with its cargo bay door open, performing some type of experiment or operation.
Vandebergh told reporters, “It is really a small object, even at only 300 kilometers [186 miles] altitude, so don’t expect the detail level of ground-based images of the real space shuttle. We can recognize a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail.”
Vandebergh used a 10-inch F/4,8 aperture Newtonian telescope fitted with an Astrolumina ALccd 5L-11 mono CMOS camera to capture his photos. He tracked his elusive quarry across the sky by hand using a small 6×30 spotting scope to line up his telescope for the photos.
Official USAF photo of X-37B (left) and astronomer Ralf Vandebergh (right).
(USAF and Ralf Vandebergh)
Little is known about the current role of the two X-37Bs and the single X-37A. Most likely the X-37Bs are in some form of “operational test” use with the USAF while the X-37A reportedly remains a combined Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA spacecraft with an equally secretive role.
While most information in the public domain lists both the X-37B and X-37A as “test” vehicles, the X-37B has performed unusually long duration space flights for testing. Remarkably, the current mission being performed by the X-37B in Vandebergh’s photos is designated “Mission OTV-5”. This mission began 670 days ago on September 7, 2017 when it was boosted into orbit on the SpaceX Falcon 9 orbital delivery spacecraft that launched from the NASA facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While little is known about the actual mission of this current X-37B flight, author Leonard David may provide some insights in his report for LiveScience.com where he wrote:
“X-37B missions are carried out under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and mission control for OTV flights is handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This squadron oversees operations of the X-37B and is tagged as the Air Force Space Command’s premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing, gathering information on objects high above Earth and carrying out other intelligence-gathering duties.”
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
This guy didn’t have the most comfortable time in high school. They probably weren’t the star football player or wrestler, but they’ve got an enormous heart. They joined the Corps to prove something to themselves and those around them.
Deep down, we’re all this person.
2. The Marine who wants to make the Corps a career
In the beginning, this Marine doesn’t see himself embarking on any other career path. They are hard chargers who believe in the Corps’ mission down to their very bones.
3. The one who is “testing the waters”
This young stud isn’t sure what he or she wants out of life, they just know that they need to move out of their hometown and see what else is out there. The may find themselves during their service — or they may not.
4. The most in-shape Marine ever
This PT guru is always at the gym or running up 5th Marine Regiment’s First Sergeant’s Hill during their free time. However, they always invite their brothers to join in and continuously motivate everyone to press on.
5. The one who dreams of going to Special Forces
An outstanding, motivated Marine always achieves their goals. Many Marines want to push themselves to find and test their limits. What better way to test your limits than by joining up with MARSOC?
6. The tech genius
This smarty-pants is the one who will surprise you with how intelligent they are outside of work. They might not be able to split an atom or some sh*t, but they might be able to re-hardwire your computer so you can download more porn.
This Marine is the most helpful guy in your platoon… when they’re sober. But, after a few 6-packs, they become the biggest pricks and damn near intolerable. A lot of these Marines end up getting choked out MCMAP-style just to shut them up.
Got an hour or 24? Starting a new show, especially a really good one, can be as exciting as riding a roller coaster, boasts a much lower risk of exposure to COVID-19 and provides days of entertainment rather than minutes.
Dive into these series about the military and government to keep quarantine interesting. While our recommendations include both the classic and the cutting edge, they’ll all keep you entertained and might even teach you something in the process.
Where to watch: Hulu Rating: TV-PG
Ah, the classic. M*A*S*H is one of the most popular television series of the past 30 years, depicting life in a hospital base during the Korean War. Running from its first airing in 1972 to 1983, the series proved to be a quintessential series of the 70s. It’s a sitcom, but an abnormal one; each episode has a completely different tone and discusses a diverse range of topics.
That’s part of what makes M*A*S*H so great — it’s an excellent show to watch with family and everyone is guaranteed plenty of laughs while watching, but it also delves into heavier scenarios. Its flexibility is unmatched in film today. M*A*S*H boasts well-known actors such as Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, David Odgen Stiers and Gary Burghoff and has won several Emmy awards. If you haven’t already enjoyed M*A*S*H, seasons one through 11 are available for viewing on Hulu.
2: Madam Secretary
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-PG
Heartwarming yet surprisingly suspenseful, Madam Secretary made me proud to live under the U.S. government. The family drama depicts fictional Elizabeth McCord, U.S. Secretary of State, as she navigates realistic diplomatic issues in the White House. The series also showcases her homelife as she balances being a working mom and life with her husband Henry McCord, a CIA operative and ethics professor. Tea Leoni plays the lead role of Elizabeth McCord and produced the series as well. The greatest appeal of Madam Secretary is its versatility – it’s easy to watch with family due to its subplot regarding Elizabeth’s home life, and gripping enough to binge by yourself, too. It sounds hard to believe, but take it from someone with an attention span shorter than the average TikTok – you’ll be invested in Elizabeth’s diplomatic dilemmas. Seasons one through 6 are available on Netflix, and additional episodes are on HBO.
3: West Wing
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
West Wing depicts the political excursions of the White House staff and cabinet members of fictional president Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet. This series is similar to Madam Secretary, but can be seen as more of a “political epic.” As the series continues and each member of the staff’s personality is portrayed, the show’s superb writing and thorough characterization shine. Actors Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe and Allison Janney star in the show, and the series boasts 27 Emmy awards. Additionally, TV Guide ranked it the “#7 TV drama of all time.” While President Bartlet is a democrat, the show stands out for its depiction of modern issues from an apolitical perspective, highlighting the nuance behind bipartisan decision making. Not to mention, incredible acting for well-written characters.
4: TURN: Washington’s Spies
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
This one’s a bit more historical. Set in 1778, Washington’s Spies depicts a seemingly ordinary farmer who spies on British Loyalists and soldiers for the blooming American government. This one will appeal to anyone who’s been into Hamilton, which – be honest – is probably more of us than we’d like to admit. It’s got all the good military action combined with the appealing, tried-and-true trope of an undercover spy, topped off with rich history. Parents will enjoy the espionage and historical subplots, while kids will enjoy the rich action. A crowd pleaser all around. Seasons one through four are available on Netflix.
Where to watch: HBO Rating: TV-MA
Veep, considering the profanity, probably isn’t a series to watch with younger audiences, but its satirical take on politics brings a hilarity unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The series depicts the career and personal life of Selina Meyer, the newly elected Vice President of the United States, and her dysfunctional relationship with the president and her staff. Veep is refreshing because political roles – even high up ones – aren’t glorified, as they are in so many other series. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina and the show runs for 65 episodes on HBO.
Where to watch: Hulu, Showtime Rating: TV-MA
Homeland, while portraying American intelligence in a gripping way, is leagues above other shows listed because of its plot. It’s exciting above all else, and stays interesting and fresh as it follows main character Carrie Mathison. Carrie’s inner demons provide conflicts just as tangible as terrorism threats, and while the seasons build up to climactic, explosive endings, Carrie’s character pulls the show eight seasons. Available on Hulu and Showtime, Homeland stars Claire Danes as Carrie as well as Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend, and Maury Sterling.
7: Jack Ryan
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video Rating: TV-MA
Those who fell in love with John Krasinski in The Office will be especially attracted to Jack Ryan – and I don’t just mean the grade school kids who obsess over Jim and Pam. Those of us who have seen Krasinski act in and produce other media know he’s capable of amazing character evolution and series production, and Jack Ryan is no exception. In fact, this show very well may be the best example of his abilities. Season one follows Ryan as he tracks bank activity from Suleiman, an Islamic extremist, and is faced with more action than he ever faced in his intelligence work. Originally released on Amazon Prime in 2018, Jack Ryan quickly became very popular and was later nominated for several Emmy awards. Season two depicts Ryan entangled in Venezuela corruption and political unrest. Jack Ryan should be a go-to when looking for a short action series that’s as eventful as our imagined roller coaster.
8: Band of Brothers
Where to watch: HBO Rating: TV-MA
The 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers reminds me of a mini pack of MM’s. Following “Easy Company,” a battalion during World War II, Band of Brothers dedicates one episode to each central member. The miniseries is historically accurate, and each episode depicts the actual experience of each member, with the narratives engaging enough to compel the viewer to keep watching more. It’s the classic “one more episode!” approach to every show worth binge watching, and realistically, have you ever only eaten a half of a pack of MMs? From the pilot episode, you want to keep going; the tantalizing string of episodes makes up for what it lacks in length by stellar acting, screenwriting and a hell of a plot. Actors include David Frankel, Mikael Salomon, Tom Hanks and David Leland. It’s produced by Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks and won seven Emmy awards.
9: The Spy
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-MA
Ah, another historically accurate miniseries! The Spy portrays the mission of spy Eli Cohen during the often-overlooked six day war between Israel and Syria. Taking place in 1967, the miniseries follows the aforementioned Eli Cohen as he spies on the Syrian government for the Israeli Intelligence Agency (Mossad). Cohen establishes himself among Syria’s elite, and is promoted in the Syrian military. The series is only six episodes, and therefore is a quick watch. Similar to Band of Brothers, The Spy leaves you wanting more after each episode. It’s available on Netflix.
10: The Blacklist
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
The Blacklist depicts the endeavors of ex-crime boss Red Reddington and his requested FBI forensic psychologist partner, Elizabeth Keen, as the duo take down crime lords that Reddington used to work with. Each episode depicts the pursuit of a criminal so cunning and covert they aren’t even known to authorities. Reddington’s assistance in the mission. The Blacklist stands out for its refreshing take on a classic crime trope, and keeps the viewer interested with the clues into the nature of the personal lives of Reddington and Keen. Spanning seven seasons, The Blacklist is easy to binge watch or to fall back onto when tired of other shows. It stars James Spader and Megan Boone and won the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy in 2014.
Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.
And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!
But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.
As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.
Ask the Locals
Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.
Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!
Try Everything Twice
One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.
Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.
Eat All the Foods
Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.
How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.
Don’t Say No
This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.
You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.
Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?
When you think of famous musicians who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces, the mind immediately goes to Elvis Presley — and how could it not? Photos abound of the handsome, young Elvis in a crisp Army uniform. When he arrived at the airport to attend basic training, the airport was mobbed with screaming fans.
Upon being drafted, Elvis Presley entered the United States Army in spring of 1958 and served until spring of 1960, receiving his discharge from the Army Reserve in 1964. At the time of his draft, he was the most well-known entertainer in the Armed Forces, but he didn’t let his fame get in the way of service. Despite being offered a safer, cushier role in the Special Services as more of an entertainer and recruiting tool, Elvis chose instead to serve as a regular soldier.
However, Elvis isn’t the only famed musician to serve their country. Let’s look at eight other musicians you might be surprised to learn served their country in the United States Armed Forces.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name, Ice-T, is one of many young adults who found themselves turning to military service as a way out of a tough situation. Dealing drugs on the streets of Los Angeles to support himself, he knew he needed to turn his life around when his daughter was born.
Marrow enlisted in the Army and served four years in the 25th Infantry Division at the Tropic Lightning Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
During his time in Hawaii, Marrow served as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks. It was during this time that he purchased musical equipment and began work to hone his skills, save money, and prepare to launch a career in music. As Ice-T, Marrow went on to a dynamic career, first as a Grammy Award-winning musician, rapper, and songwriter, then as an actor on television on the hit show Law Order: Special Victims Unit.
American rock legend Jimi Hendrix remains one of the most influential guitarists of all time, despite an incredibly short career of only four years.
Well known for his groundbreaking instrumentalization on electric guitar and his legendary performance at Woodstock, Hendrix entered the military as one of two choices given to him by police after being caught twice in stolen cars: it was prison or the military.
Hendrix enlisted in May 1961 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Kentucky. Hendrix next completed paratrooper training and was given the prestigious Screaming Eagles Award in early 1962.
However, it seems that Hendrix wasn’t well-suited to military service and was given an honorable discharge just six months later. While Hendrix later claimed that he received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle in a parachute jump, he was actually discharged due to “unsuitability” for service.
Johnny Cash receives an award from a Marine sergeant during his performance for military personnel at the naval station.
The Man in Black was first a man in uniform. Johnny Cash, singer, songwriter, and one of the bestselling musicians of all time, had a career that spanned decades, genres, and generations.
Before he was an award-winning musician, Cash served in the United States Air Force. At age 18 and directly after high school, Cash enlisted and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.
He was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the Air Force Security Service in Germany as a Morse code operator, intercepting Soviet transmissions.
His earnings in the military allowed him to buy his first guitar while stationed in Germany and he actually formed his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians, in the Air Force. Upon his discharge, he took advantage of the GI Bill to attend a radio announcing course in Memphis before launching his country music career.
And if it weren’t for his time in Germany, we probably wouldn’t have this version of “I Walk the Line” to contemplate!
Singer, songwriter, and grassroots activist, Willie Nelson is one the most famous voices in country music. He’s well-known for his work supporting American farmers and advocating for the legalization of marijuana through his role as co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
He grew up in Texas during the Great Depression. After tumultuous early years, he moved to Arkansas to live with his grandparents, and he began playing honkytonks to avoid field work.
After he left high school, Nelson enlisted in the Air Force and served for about nine months before receiving a medical discharge due to back issues.
And while he didn’t serve very long, he has stayed passionate about veteran issues throughout his storied career as a singer, songwriter, author, and actor, advocating for increased medical care for veterans and supporting veteran advocacy groups, helping to raise awareness about homelessness among veterans.
Yes, that MC Hammer.
Stanley Burrell, known professionally as MC Hammer, is an American hip-hop recording artist, dancer, and producer who enjoyed tremendous success during the 1980s and ’90s with hits such as “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit to Quit.”
After graduating from high school in Oakland, Burrell took undergraduate classes in communications. Discouraged by his lack of success, he was at a crossroads. He vacillated between considering work as a drug dealer or a job in the military.
He ultimately decided to join the United States Navy for three years, serving as an Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class at the Naval Air Station at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, until his honorable discharge.
Jazz legend John Coltrane was one of the most influential saxophonists and composers of all time. Known for his own recordings (more than 50) and his collaboration with other jazz greats, including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Coltrane died young of liver cancer but leaves behind an exceptional musical legacy.
To avoid being drafted by the Army in 1945 during World War II, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He trained as an apprentice seaman and was sent to Pearl Harbor.
During this time, his musical talents came to light, and he joined the Melody Masters, the base swing band. By the end of his service, he had assumed a leadership role in the band, and it was during this time that he made his first recording with other Navy musicians, playing alto saxophone on jazz standards and bebop tunes.
With a career that has spanned more than six decades, Tony Bennett is the living voice of American pop standards, jazz classics and, more recently, contemporary duets with other legends such as Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. He has earned 19 Grammy awards, two Emmy awards and is a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.
However, before he was Tony Bennett, he was Anthony Benedetto, who was drafted into the United States Army in November 1944 during the final stages of World War II. As a replacement infantryman, he served across France and into Germany, and in March 1945, he joined the front line.
During active combat, Bennett narrowly escaped death several times and he participated in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, where American prisoners of war from the 63rd Division were also freed.
During his service, he also sang with the Army military band under the stage name Joe Bari, and played with many musicians who went on to have post-war music careers. Once discharged, Bennett studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill.
George Strait with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker at the 2005 San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo, before Schoomaker swore in a new group of Army recruits in front of rodeo fans.
Country music singer, songwriter, and producer, George Strait, AKA the “King of Country,” is considered by many to be one of the most popular and influential country music artists of all time. George Strait is famed for his neo-traditionalist style, his cowboy look and 60 No. 1 Billboard country music hits.
In 1971, Strait eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma, then joined the United States Army. He was enlisted in the Army from 1971 to 1975 and was stationed in part in Hawaii. While there, he launched what would become a lifelong career, singing with the Army-sponsored band called Rambling Country.
Strait’s commitment to the men and women of the Armed Forces has continued throughout his illustrious career. He even served as the spokesman for the Wrangler National Patriot program, which raises awareness and funds for American wounded and fallen military veterans and their families.
Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.
During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.
Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.
“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
Chester Nez during World War II
Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.
Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.
A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign
In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.
Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.
The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms wereassigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.
In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).
Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001
All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”
The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”
In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)
After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.
Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.
A Chinese navy warship armed with what looks like a mounted electromagnetic railgun has apparently set sail, possibly for testing in the open ocean.
The Type 072II Yuting-class tank landing ship Haiyang Shan and its weapon were spotted along the Yangtze River at the Wuchang Shipyard in Wuhan in 2018.
The latest photos of the test-bed ship, which appeared on social media a few days ago, show the ship toting the suspected railgun as the vessel roamed the high seas, Task Purpose reported.
Chinese media outlets, such as the state-affiliated Global Times, said in March 2018 — nearly two months after the first pictures of what was dubbed the “Yangtze River Monster” showed up online — that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is “making notable achievements on advanced weapons, including sea tests of electromagnetic railguns.”
China is expected to field warship-mounted electromagnetic railguns with the ability to fire high-speed projectiles at targets up to 124 miles away by 2025, CNBC reported in June 2018, citing US defense sources with direct knowledge of the latest military intelligence reports on China’s new naval weapon.
China’s railgun was first seen in 2011 and first tested three years later, according to CNBC. The Chinese military is believed to have successfully mounted the weapon on a navy warship for the first time toward the end of 2017, when sea trials were suspected to have first started.
While conventional guns rely on gunpowder to propel projectiles forward, railguns use electromagnetic energy to hurl projectiles at targets downrange at hypervelocity, roughly 1.6 miles per second, making these weapons desirable next-generation combat systems.
Railguns require significant amounts of power, among other challenging demands. Whether or not China has managed to overcome these developmental issues remains to be seen.
THE REAL NIGHTMARE ??China’s Railgun Has Reportedly Gone to Sea
China appears to be making progress as it moves toward mounting railguns on combat-ready warships, such as the new Type 055 stealth destroyers, rather than test bed ships like the Haiyang Shan.The US military, on the other hand, has yet to put the powerful gun on a naval vessel, even though railgun development began over a decade ago.
It is, however, unclear which country is leading the charge on this new technology, as very little is publicly known about China’s railgun or its testing process. In the US, there is speculation that the Zumwalt-class destroyers could eventually feature railguns, which could be an alternative to the Advanced Gun System guns that the Navy might end up scrapping.
The destroyer is “going to be a candidate for any advanced weapon system that we develop,” Vice Admiral William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services sea-power subcommittee in November 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.
The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.
Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .
As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”
Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)
But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”
Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .
One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.
In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.