Tommy Macpherson was known to his enemies as the “Kilted Killer.” The Scotsman fought with the British 11 Commando during World War II, roaming the countryside with French Resistance fighters and causing so much havoc and damage that the Nazis put a 300,000 Franc bounty on his head.
No one ever collected.
Especially not any Nazis.
Imperial War Museum
For a guy with a huge bounty on his head, you’d have never known it to look at Macpherson. He dressed in the same tartan kilt he would have worn back home in Edinburgh as he did killing Nazis in Operation Jedburgh. But just getting to Europe for the operation was a slog of its own. Macpherson was captured during a raid on Erwin Rommel’s headquarters near Tobruk in 1941. He spent years making no fewer than seven escape attempts from POW camps across Italy, Germany, and occupied Poland. He was finally successful in 1943, escaping to England via Sweden. He immediately rejoined his commando unit, just in time for Operation Jedburgh.
The Jedburgh operators were going to parachute into occupied Europe and embark on a stream of sabotage and guerrilla attacks against the Nazi occupiers. Macpherson, knowing he would have to use the full force of his personality to take command of the resistance fighters, the Maquis, he chose to wear a full highland battle dress, including his Cameron tartan kilt. It worked.
Hell yeah it did.
(Imperial War Museum)
Macpherson and his squad immediately began cutting a path of destruction across The Netherlands, destroying bridges and killing or capturing any German troops and officers who came through that path. It was said that Macpherson and company managed to successfully conduct some kind of operation every day he was deployed in Western Europe. But his crowning achievement came in France in the days following the D-Day invasions, stopping the Das Reich Panzer Division in its tracks.
Coming from the Eastern Front, this SS Panzer division was particularly brutal. When Macpherson saw them for the first time, he saw at least 15,000 men and 200 tanks and other armored vehicles that he had to knock out of the war before they pushed the Allies back into the sea.
Russland, Appell der SS-Division “Das Reich”
(German War Archives)
Using plastic explosives, grenades dangling from trees, and one anti-tank mine, the British commando, and his Maquis unit managed to slow the Panzers down to a crawl. They chopped down trees at night, used hit and run attacks with their sten guns, and placed booby traps everywhere, anything they could to keep the Panzers away from the Allied landing for as long as possible. The effort worked, and it took the SS two weeks to cover what should have taken three days.
His biggest achievement came without firing a shot, however. He had to keep another Panzer division, some 23,000 men strong, from taking a vital bridge in the Loire Valley. He somehow managed a parlay with the opposing commander, meeting the command deep inside German-held territory. He told the Germans he could call on the RAF to destroy his entire column – which he couldn’t do.
“My job was to convince the general that I had a brigade, tanks and artillery waiting on the other side of the river,” Macpherson later said. “In truth, the only thing I could whistle up was Dixie, but he had no way of knowing that.”
Macpherson was just 23 years old negotiating the surrender of a Panzer division.
The German looked at the young man in full highland battle dress and offered his surrender on the condition they could carry sidearms until they were met by the U.S. 83rd Infantry. Macpherson agreed, almost singlehandedly knocking an entire tank division out of the war, securing the Loire Bridgehead. He survived the war and continued his service in the British military. He died in 2014.
North Korea appears to be working on a new submarine capable of firing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, according to information gathered by South Korea’s military.
Kim Hack-yong, a South Korean lawmaker who until recently was head of the legislature’s defense committee, told The Wall Street Journal that North Korea appeared to working on the sub at the port of Sinpo on the country’s east coast.
An aide to Kim said South Korean intelligence had noticed workers and materials moving at the port, where work on the sub appeared to be taking place at an indoor facility. Kim, whose term as the defense-committee chief recently ended, is a member of the conservative party that has been wary of talks with North Korea.
US military intelligence noticed similar activity at the port late 2017, detecting what appeared to be construction on a new diesel-electric submarine at the Sinpo shipyard, The Diplomat reported in October 2017, citing a US government source.
US intelligence estimates at that time gave the sub a submerged displacement of 2,000 tons and a beam of 36 feet, making it the largest ship built for the North Korean navy.
The Journal report comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Pyongyang on July 6, 2018, where he is likely to push North Korea for more solid commitments regarding denuclearization. While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump pledged at their mid-June 2018 summit in Singapore to “work toward” denuclearization, no specific agreement was reached.
An underwater test-firing of a submarine ballistic missile shown in an undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on April 24, 2016.
The US made some concessions to Pyongyang at that summit, including halting Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major US-South Korea military exercise scheduled for August 2018. But evidence has emerged suggesting North Korea has not abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
Five US officials told NBC News that North Korea has increased its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
While missile and nuclear tests have halted, one official said, “there’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production.”
Many of those subs are thought to be obsolete, but that fleet includes one Gorae-class ballistic-missile sub, which was outfitted with a new missile-launch tube in summer 2017, according to The Diplomat. (South Korea is reportedly looking to buy six US-made P-8 Poseidons, one of the world’s most advanced sub-hunting aircraft.)
A Hwasong-12 long-range strategic ballistic rocket test-launched on May 15, 2017.
The sub under construction at Sinpo may be a successor to that Gorae-class boat, advancing a program that US officials consider a threat because it could allow North Korea to achieve greater surprise for a nuclear strike.
“It’s too early to say if the North Koreans have defaulted on the Singapore agreement to denuclearize,” Yang Uk, chief defense analyst at Seoul-based private think thank the Korea Defense and Security Forum, told The Journal.
“But earlier satellite images have already shown enough evidence proving North Korea has not abandoned its SLBM program,” he added, referring to submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement on Sept. 4 saying that its new Koalitsiya-SV howitzer, which Moscow claims shoots farther than any western gun, will be ready for service by 2020.
While Russia is well known for making outlandish claims about its military hardware, the new 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV, by all accounts, may live up to the hype.
First unveiled in 2015, the Koalitsiya-SV, also known as “Coalition-SV,” is a 152mm self-propelled gun that can reportedly fire up to 15-20 rounds a minute, according to The National Interest.
This range of automation is far superior to western guns, like the US M109 Paladin, which fires 6 rounds a minute.
The Coalition-SVs high level of automation also allows it to be operated by a two or three-man crew, while the Paladin requires six.
The Koalitsiya-SV can reportedly fire rounds up to 43 miles, much farther than the Paladin at 18 miles and Great Britain’s AS90 Braveheart at 24 miles.
It’s also capable of firing a variety of rounds, like standard and rocket-assisted, high-explosive, fragmentation projectiles, cluster projectiles, and jammer projectiles, according to military-today.com. These projectiles, however, unlike Russia’s new long-range precision-guided shell, have firing ranges of less than 43 miles.
Given Moscow’s budgetary problems, we’ll have to wait and see if the Coalition-SV is mass produced.
In any event, the “introduction of … the Koalitsiya-SV [is] a significant boost to the Russian Ground Forces’ artillery forces,” Dave Majumdar wrote in The National Interest in June.
A team of skydivers funded by Canon experienced the world’s ultimate Slip ‘N Slide: One that goes out of a C-130 in flight and then picks up on the ground, with both ends covered in hilarious pool toys, like rainbow unicorns. The gap is the middle is a fall of at least a couple of thousand feet — yes, with parachutes.
Warning: This video is amazing! Our latest project takes jumping out of a plane to the next level. Check out how we teamed up with talented videographer Devin Super Tramp and Canon to create the world's longest slip & slide out of our C-130 Hercules aircraft. For more details, please visit us at https://internationalairresponse.com/
The C-130 was supposed to be a stopgap during the Korean War, a rushed design to give the Army the capability to put paratroopers and other soldiers on a plane, fly it a medium distance, and land it on the short airstrips available in the mountains and jungle.
But the thing defied every expectation and proved itself capable of operating everywhere from the Himalayas to aircraft carriers. The U.S. uses it for jobs from firefighting to airborne command and control to bombing (yeah, the C-130 can drop bombs). Lockheed Martin has made over 2,500 of them in 70 variants for militaries across the globe.
But it’s still most often used for moving cargo and troops. Turns out, however, that it’s also pretty good for allowing skydivers to do some sweet tricks. Canon wanted to advertise their new line of mirrorless cameras and, apparently, they decided the best way to do so was to teach the C-130 new tricks.
The resulting video is pretty great, and will almost certainly make a bunch of jumpmasters start wondering what they could get away with in flight. (Hint: There’s probably a reason the skydivers didn’t use a military C-130. The Air Force probably won’t like this idea.)
2020 marks the 79th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. While it’s been nearly eight decades since the attacks, December 7, 1941, as noted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is “a date that will live in infamy,” and is never far from these historical landmarks.
Be sure to bookmark these stops on your next trip to Oahu, Hawaii:
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Pearl Harbor National Memorial is an obvious first stop for history enthusiasts. Open daily from 7AM – 5PM (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day), the grounds house a visitor’s center, museum and bookstore. It is also the access point for the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.
The USS Arizona Memorial, arguably Pearl Harbor’s most recognizable landmark, features a full program for guests that includes a 23-minute documentary film and a Navy-operated shuttle boat ride out to the memorial.
To note: Due to COVID restrictions, part of the USS Arizona Memorial program has been modified to exclude use of the theater.
The USS Bowfin was launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and is a fleet attack submarine that fought in the Pacific during WWII. She was nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”.
To note: The cost of the tickets includes a bus ride to Ford Island, however there is also a parking lot for guests who choose to drive over.
Driving across the bridge to Ford Island is a bit like stepping back into the 1940s, where historical homes, landmarks, and even bullet strafing, can still be seen.
Here you’ll find:
The USS Missouri, also known as “Mighty Mo”, was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and was the site of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, officially ending WWII. The ship offers two daily tours, but is open daily for self-led tours.
To note: The Battleship Missouri Memorial is currently closed due to COVID restrictions, but you can take a virtual tour here.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum allows guests to explore historical aircraft housed in two hangars on Ford Island. General admission covers access to more than fifty aircraft and all exhibits with free guided audio (available in multiple languages).
Ford Island’s 4-mile loop trail offers insight into lesser-known historical moments, which include plaques for clarification. Along this trail, accessible with base access onto Ford Island, guests can see bullet strafing, the CPO neighborhood that sat adjacent to the attack zone, the original Bachelor Officers Quarters and buildings, and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials.
Located adjacent to Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field served as the principal airfield and bomber base in 1941. From the National Park Service on the morning of December 7th:
“At Hickam Field, Japanese Zero fighters and Val dive-bombers strafed and bombed the fight line and hangars, concentrating on the B-17 bombers. The 12 U.S. B-17s arrived unarmed and low on fuel during the attack. Most succeeded in landing at Hickam where they were attacked on the ground. The second wave of the Japanese attack struck Hickam at 8:40am and by 9:45 the attack was over. Nearly half of the airplanes at Hickam Field had been destroyed or severely damaged. The hangars, the Hawaiian Air Depot, several base facilities–the fire station, the chapel and the guardhouse–had been hit. The big barracks had been repeatedly strafed and bombed and a portion of the building was on fire. Thirty-five men were killed when a bomb hit the mess hall during breakfast. Hickam’s casualties totaled 121 men killed, 274 wounded and 37 missing.”
Residents who lived on Hickam Field at the time of the attacks recall blackouts on the base and hearing bullets bounce off the roof. Today, Hickam is home to the headquarters of the Pacific Air Force and features many of the buildings that were standing in 1941.
Wheeler Army Airfield
Exiting Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, hop on H2 North toward Wahiawa, where Wheeler Army Airfield is located. Wheeler Field was a primary target for the Japanese in 1941, as they hoped to prevent planes from getting airborne. While many of hte planes that were parked at Wheeler were destroyed in the attacks, twelve pilots managed to get P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk aircrafts off the ground and engaged Japanese pilots. After WWII, Wheeler Army Airfield became a National Historic Landmark for the role it played during the war.
Today, the airfield is accessible with valid military identification and features restored buildings and planes as they would have looked the day of the attacks.
Two F/A-18 Super Hornets tore past an air traffic control tower at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada June 2109 during filming for the “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to the classic 1980s fighter jet flick.
Kyle Fleming, who captured the spectacular flyby on video, told The Aviationist that it was necessary to recreate the iconic “buzz the tower” scene from the first “Top Gun” film.
Here’s the scene from the 1986 film starring Tom Cruise, who will reappear in the sequel.
A public affairs spokesman for NAS Fallon confirmed to Business Insider that Paramount Pictures was out at the air base from June 10 through June 28, 2019, filming air operations using both in-jet and external cameras.
The spokesman explained that while he say what they were doing, he couldn’t detail how the footage would be used in the film. Paramount Pictures media relations division could not be reached for comment.
Production of the new film started in 2018.
The sequel scheduled for release summer 2020 will see Cruise again play the role of hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, now a Navy captain who is expected to be mentoring a new class of pilots, including the son of his deceased naval flight officer Lt. j.g. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you think of a meteor, your mind likely points to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Well, if we’re being technical, that was actually a meteorite, but the details aren’t important. The fact is, that giant, extinction-bringing boulder came from seemingly nowhere and took out the dinosaurs — who had no idea what hit them.
The British have developed a new, beyond-visual-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile, appropriately named Meteor. It, too, is a bolt that comes from out of the blue to wipe something out of existence. It may be much smaller than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but for the aircraft it targets, well, it’s just as final.
The Meteor is actually the latest in a long line of British missiles designed for air-to-air combat.
The United Kingdom developed an improved Sparrow called Sky Flash.
Believe it or not, Britain’s use of the American-made AIM-9 Sidewinder in the Falklands was a rare event. The Brits had actually developed a number of air-to-air missiles on their own. For example, the Red Top and Firestreak missiles were used on fighters, like the de Havilland Sea Vixen and the English Electric Lightning. The British also made an improved version of the AIM-7 Sparrow, called the Sky Flash.
The British also developed the AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), which the United States had planned on buying until the end of the Cold War. The British acquired the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) from the United States, but soon realized that they needed more range. So, they added a ramjet engine to the AMRAAM and the Meteor was born.
The Meteor and Spear combine to give the F-35 long-range punch with an itty-bitty radar cross section.
The new Meteor makes for a perfect complement to the MBDA Spear, allowing British F-35s to hit targets dozens of miles away while maintaining a very small radar cross section. An official handout showed that F-35s can carry eight Spear missiles, two Meteors, and two ASRAAMs.
The Meteor has entered service with the Swedish Air Force, and will also operate on the Rafale and the Eurofigther Typhoon. Japan is reportedly teaming up with the UK for to create a new version of this system.
And so the British tradition of developing lethal missiles continues!
After the British defeat at Yorktown in 1781, the Revolutionary War started to die down and peace talks began between Great Britain and America. The attention of the Continental Army shifted from battle to pay. Many soldiers fought without pay, but were promised backpay by Congress after the war. However, with the dissolution of the Army on the horizon and no news of financial restitution in sight, many began to question the promise they were made.
In 1780, Congress promised Continental Army officers a lifetime pension of half of their pay following their discharge. However, in 1782, the pay was stopped as a cost-saving measure and promised as future backpay. These issues of owed money became a common topic in the Continental Army’s main camp at Newburgh, New York. The camp sat on the Hudson River north of New York City where British activity could be monitored as the war wound down.
Though small groups of soldiers wrote to Congress to express their concern with the pay issue, no action was taken and no response was given. Instead, General Henry Knox organized enough officers to draft a letter to Congress that couldn’t be ignored. The letter, which was delivered to Congress in December 1782, expressed the concerns that many soldiers had over their lack of pay and threatened that, “any further experiments on their [the Continental Army’s] patience may have fatal effects.”
As ever, Congress was divided on the matter. The national treasury was depleted by the war and Congress lacked the power to draw funds from the states. A tax proposal was struck down for fear that it could be used by Congress to raise funds for itself. The members of congress continued to deliberate, but could not reach an agreeable solution.
By February 1783, rumors began to circulate that a preliminary peace agreement had been reached in Paris. This, of course, meant that the dissolution of the Army had grown that much closer. Alexander Hamilton wrote to Washington urging him to, “take the direction of them [the disgruntled army].” Washington was stuck between a rock and a hard place. While he sympathized with his unpaid soldiers and officers, he also sympathized with the impossible situation of Congress. However, he refused to use the military to threaten the government. Still, more rumors circulated throughout the Newburgh camp that the majority of the army would refuse to disband until it was paid.
On the morning of March 10, an unsigned letter began to circulate the camp calling for the army to send Congress an ultimatum. Simultaneously, another anonymous letter was put out calling for a meeting of all field officers the next day at 11 AM. Washington responded with the issuance of a general order on the morning of March 11 in which he called the anonymous letters “disorderly” and “irregular.” He also called for his own meeting of officers on the 15th. However, he detailed that the meeting would be presided over by the senior officer present and requested a report of the meeting, implying that he would not attend. The next morning, another anonymous letter circulated claiming that Washington’s call for the meeting was a sign of support for the conspirators.
On the evening of March 15, General Horatio Gates opened the meeting as the senior officer present. To everyone’s surprise, Washington himself entered the building just afterwards. He asked to address the officers and Gates, stunned by the appearance of their Commander in Chief, relinquished the floor. However, the surprise of the other officers quickly dissipated and returned to anger over their lack of pay. Washington noted how they did not display the respect or deference that they had shown him in the past.
Washington delivered a short but passionate speech, now known as the Newburgh Address, in which he called for patience. He asked his officers to oppose anyone “who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.” Afterwards, he pulled out a letter from a member of Congress to read to the officers. However, Washington simply gazed upon the letter and fumbled with it. Then, he pulled out a new pair of glasses and said, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”
In the 18th century, glasses were far less common than they are today, and the levels of healthcare and life expectancy were similarly lower. For Washington to produce his glasses before his officers, most of whom had never seen him with spectacles, was an admittance of age and weariness. This great hero of the American Revolution that they had followed for years reduced himself to an old man before their eyes. Washington’s display of vulnerability brought many of the officers to tears. Their gripes over pay were eclipsed by Washington’s own sacrifices and the conspiracy of a coup dissolved as he read the letter from behind his glasses.
After Washington read the letter, he departed. General Knox and other officers immediately drafted resolutions affirming their loyalty. Knox and Colonel John Brooks were then appointed to a committee to draft a suitable resolution. All but one officer in the assembly approved of the resolution which expressed an “unshaken confidence” in Congress and a “disdain” and “abhorrence” for the anonymous letters previously published.
Meanwhile, Washington delivered the anonymous letters to Congress which James Madison called “alarming intelligence”. A final agreement was reached for five years of full pay rather than the lifetime pension. Government bonds were issued and, though many were wary of their value, were redeemed in full by the new government in 1790. Congressional financier Robert Morris issued $800,000 worth of personal notes to soldiers upon the disbanding of the Continental Army in 1783.
The Newburgh Conspiracy validated Washington’s position on civilian control of the military. His show of humility before his officers allowed cooler heads to prevail and demonstrated the efficacy of the republic he was trying to, and did, create.
These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble’s 28th anniversary in space.
The colorful visible-light image at left reveals a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This dust-and-gas landscape is being sculpted by powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds unleashed by a monster young star. Located at the center of the photo, the star, known as Herschel 36, is about 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. This hefty star is 32 times more massive than our Sun and 40,000 degrees Kelvin. Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star’s standards, only 1 million years old.
The blistering radiation and powerful stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) are pushing dust away in curtain-like sheets. As the monster star throws off its natal cocoon of material, it is suppressing star formation around it.
However, at the dark edges of this dynamic bubble-shaped ecosystem, stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. Dark, elephant-like “trunks” of material represent dense pieces of the cocoon that are resistant to erosion by the searing ultraviolet light and serve as incubators for fledgling stars.
The star-filled image at right, taken by Hubble in near-infrared light, reveals a very different view of the Lagoon Nebula compared to its visible-light portrait. Making infrared observations of the cosmos allows astronomers to penetrate vast clouds of gas and dust to uncover hidden gems. Hubble’s view offers a sneak peek at the dramatic vistas NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will provide.
If you watch a movie and see troops lighting up a cigarette, you’ll probably notice that Zippo in their hand. Search-and-destroy missions in the Vietnam War were often referred to as “Zippo missions.” There’s simply no denying the fact that American troops have long had an intimate relationship with Zippos.
Troops are always searching for reliable gear as, oftentimes, the stuff we’re issued is absolute trash. That’s where Zippos come in. They’re reliable and compact, two criteria that “military-grade” items tend not to satisfy. But it’s not just that they work well — they’ve had a long history with troops.
Zippos during WWII were primarily used to light cigarettes. Vietnam, however, was another story.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The American Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1930s, but when World War II started, the company ceased all production for consumer markets altogether and instead manufactured lighters exclusively for troops being sent to war. Millions of them were carried by troops and, no matter what, they knew they could rely on their trusty, metal lighter to spark their cigarette during a long day of ass-kicking.
Some units who performed these Zippo missions were referred to as “Zippo Squads.”
Zippos took on a different function during the Vietnam War. Aside from reliably lighting cigarettes, they were used to light flamethrower tanks when the built-in, electrical igniter didn’t work. They were also used as mirrors to shave, to heat up popcorn, and the list goes on.
In fact, Zippos became synonymous with Vietnam War operations as troops would raze villages with lighters on seek-and-destroy missions. But Zippos weren’t just for burning things down — they actually became a kind of cultural timepiece.
Some of the best pieces of military history.
(Photo by Joe Haupt)
In Vietnam, troops began engraving designs onto the sides of the hardy, metal lighters as a way to pass the time. By looking at those engravings, we’ve been able to glean some insight into the mindset of troops from the era. It might have been just an idle habit at the time, but such historical artifacts are invaluable for future generations.
The practice of engraving Zippos is one that carries over to modern-day service members. It may not be as popular as it once was, but troops all over still use the iconic lighter to spark up cigarettes or even burn frayed paracord.
Regardless, one thing is for sure — Zippos remain one of the most iconic pieces of unofficial military gear.
The U.S. had laid a lot of plans for late World War II. After the fall of Italy and then Germany, America wanted to finally crush the empire of Japan and get final payback for Pearl Harbor. Luckily for the infantrymen and other troops slated to die against a determined Japanese defense, the empire surrendered after two atomic bombs and Russia deploying troops. Here’s what the U.S. Army had planned in case that didn’t happen.
U.S. plans for the invasion of Kyushu in Operation Olympic, the first phase of the planned invasion of Japan.
The assault on Japan was expected to take 18 months, starting with an intense blockade and air bombardment of Japan. Basically, stop Japan from pulling any more men and equipment back to the main islands and bomb the sh-t out of all equipment and forces already there.
While America had already captured or isolated many of the Japanese troops in the Pacific, there was the ongoing problem of Japanese forces in China that could slip back to Japan if the blockade wasn’t firmly in place for months ahead of the invasion.
It was hoped that the blockade and bombardment would weaken the defenses on Kyushu Island, the southernmost of the main islands and the first target. This assault was Operation Olympic, the first phase of Downfall. The Army wanted to land on Kyushu with soldiers and Marines from the Philippines, the Nansei Islands, and others. A total of 14 divisions were scheduled to take the beaches and push north.
This was slated to take months starting in November 1945. Wartime realities would push the date to December 1, and there was pressure to push it even further amid concerns that the blockade needed more time.
U.S. plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands via two amphibious landings, one at Kyushu Island and one at Honshu.
But that invasion through Kyushu was just phase one, a way of preparing for a second, larger invasion through the Tokyo Plain on Honshu Island, the largest island in Japan and the home of the capital. This was Operation Coronet, and it was thought to require 25 divisions just for the initial assaults, not counting the Air Force’s Pacific divisions held in reserve for additional bombardment and resupply.
The tentative date of March 1 was set for the Coronet invasion, but some officers pushed for a later date as soon as March 1 was announced. They wanted to delay the invasions to allow for a much larger air and sea bombardment as well as all sorts of preparatory operations. This group wanted to hit multiple points on the Chinese coast, in Korea, the Tsushima Strait, and other places.
Worst case scenario, this would’ve made the invasion of Japan much easier, though it would have used a lot of valuable resources. Best case scenario, it might have so crippled the Japanese war machine that it couldn’t hold its territory, allowing America to force a surrender without an invasion.
But these preparations would have required a massive supply of troops and machines, and that would have necessarily delayed Operation Downfall. Worse, the operations in China could have entangled America into the civil war there, preventing them from invading Japan for months or years.
An Army graphic showing the organization of forces for Coronet, the invasion of Kyushu Island.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, voted for the full invasion of Japan as soon as logistically feasible. For him, this was the third proposed course of action, and he said:
I am of the opinion that the ground, naval, air, and logistic resources in the Pacific are adequate to carry out Course III. The Japanese Fleet has been reduced to practical impotency. The Japanese Air Force has been reduced to a line of action which involves uncoordinated, suicidal attacks against our forces, employing all types of planes, including trainers. Its attrition is heavy and its power for sustained action is diminishing rapidly. Those conditions will be accentuated after the establishment of our air forces in the Ryukyus. With the increase in the tempo of very long range attacks, the enemy’s ability to provide replacement planes will diminish and the Japanese potentiality will decline at an increasing rate. It is believed that the development of air bases in the Ryukyus will, in conjunction with carrier-based planes, give us sufficient air power to support landings on Kyushu and that the establishment of our air forces there will ensure complete air supremacy over Honshu. Logistic considerations present the most difficult problem.
Nimitz agreed, and the two top commanders began to assemble their forces for the largest amphibious assault ever planned. They relied on all troops, ships, and heavy equipment in the Pacific as well as a steady flow of troops from Europe after the victory there.
And, if the fighting continued past June 1946, they would need to pull an additional four divisions per month from the U.S.
Japan, for its part, dragged its feet in preparing to counter a ground invasion. Even as late as March 1945, there had been little planning and troop buildup for the defense, but Japan finally addressed it. By July 1945, they had 30 line divisions, 2 armored divisions, 23 coastal defense divisions, and another 33 brigades of various types.
The Japanese plans for troop deployment to throwback or slow an American invasion of the home islands in 1945.
Those 39 U.S. divisions for Olympic and Coronet are suddenly looking like they’ll struggle, right? Like they could take heavy losses and would require those reinforcements from Europe and America?
Luckily, Japan decided to surrender instead. There are some arguments about whether this was predominantly because of the Russian invasion of Japanese islands to Japan’s north or if it was because of the atom bombs that America dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but either way it allowed America to shelve Operation Downfall and execute Blacklist instead, the plan for the peaceful, unopposed occupation of Japan.
Imagine Adolf Hitler’s top Nazi commando – a Waffen SS officer who helped implement Germany’s “Final Solution” – walking among the trees and photos of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.
It so happens that the same SS officer, Otto Skorzeny, was there in 1962 and was recruited to help Israel’s famed intelligence agency take out his former compatriots.
Skorzeny was an accomplished SS officer. His daring raid to rescue ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini earned him the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award Nazi Germany could bestow. After D-Day, he led other commandos into Allied lines wearing American uniforms to capture U.S. weapons and attack from the rear. The Allies dubbed him the “most dangerous man in Europe” for his daring raids and wild schemes.
Though he literally escaped a trial at Nuremberg after the war, the Allies still believed he had a hand in exterminating the Jewish population of Europe.
In an exhaustively-researched March 2016 article, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman talked to ex-Mossad agents who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity. They confirmed Skorzeny’s recruitment by the Jewish state’s intelligence agency, Mossad. How one of Adolph Hitler’s top Nazis became an agent of justice for the Jewish people is a story born more from self-preservation than redemption.
In the early 1960s, Mossad was attempting to prevent former Nazi rocket scientists from working on Egyptian defense projects. At the time, the two countries were mortal enemies and Egypt was still nursing its wounded pride from its defeat by Israel in 1948. The Israelis feared the technology from the program would be used to attack Israel. So they set out to stop foreign scientists from cooperating with the Arabs.
The Israelis used intimidation where possible. When that didn’t work, Mossad resorted to more extraordinary measures. Assassinations were common. But to kill these former Nazis, Israeli agents had to get close to them. They needed an inside man. That’s where Skorzeny came in.
When Mossad initially approached Skorzeny, he thought they were coming to kill him, figuring he was at the top of Israel’s assassination list. Israeli agents had just captured, tried, and hanged notorious Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann, violating Argentinian sovereignty to whisk the war criminal away for trial in Israel. Skorzeny agreed to help Mossad on the condition that legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal remove Skorzeny from his list of war criminals – Skorzeny called the deal his “life insurance.”
He went to Israel accompanied by his Jewish handlers and met with top Mossad officials. This is where the Israelis walked him through Yad Vashem. No one trusted the Nazi, but his genuine interest in his “life insurance” meant Mossad could count on him. He immediately set to work compiling a list of German scientists, front companies, and addresses that were known to be assisting the Egyptians.
Skorzeny intimidated or killed a number of former Nazi scientists working with Egypt. He even sent mail bombs to Egyptian factories and laboratories working on the rocket program. Neither Skorzeny nor Mossad ever admitted to working together. His biography mentions none of it. Only now will Mossad agents admit to Haaretz that the deal was struck.
The Nazi commando was never assassinated and died of cancer in 1975. At both of his funerals, one in Spain and the other in his native Austria, former Nazi soldiers and friends gave his remains and military medals the Nazi salute.
Within the confines of U.S. Air Force ranges there are things that exist nowhere else in the world.
Vast expanses of natural habitat containing unique plants and animals, archaeological sites and artifacts of Paleolithic Native Americans and cultures past, are contained in these, sometimes misunderstood, restricted spaces.
In fact, U.S. Air Force ranges support conservation efforts which strive to expand beyond man-made borders to increase numbers of threatened and endangered species to a healthy and sustainable population.
“I think the public has the perception that the training range is a bombing range in that we obliterate the entire range but that is a very large misconception,” said Anna Johnson, Nellis Air Force Base Natural Resource manager. “The target areas are a very small portion of the range and those target areas have remained the same for decades … going into the future the target areas are not supposed to change at all.”
These ranges, which are utilized for a wide variety of military training and or testing, try to strike a balance between responsible land stewardship and mission accomplishment.
A very small area of the range is used for missions and targets while the surrounding area is left virtually untouched.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
According to Johnson, ranges require a lot of land area because of the distance and speed at which aircraft travel and for safety buffer zones during weapons employment.
Roads, targets and infrastructure account for less than 10 percent of the Nellis Test and Training Range landscape and the rest of the 2.9 million acres has been undeveloped and untouched. In fact, the only litter of note found on the range, according to Johnson, comes in the form of mylar balloons which travel extremely long distances.
The same can be said for ranges across the U.S. including Avon Park Air Force Range, which covers 106,000 acres, in Central Florida.
“Plain and simple, if we as the Air Force don’t take care of this property we’re going to lose the ability to use it,” said Mr. Buck MacLaughlin, APAFR range manager. “This is natural real estate and this is land we have been entrusted with to be able to do our training.”
That trust is granted by the American people and backed by U.S. federal regulations.
“The stewardship of the land is a responsibility that falls upon the Department of Defense and by proxy the Air Force, through the Sikes Act, where essentially we are mandated to partner with conservation organizations,” said Col. Chris Zuhkle, NTTR commander.
“In this case [with the NTTR] it’s the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife that make sure that we meet not only our mission needs but also that we do everything in our power to meet the conservation requirements and sustainment for those lands.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over 300 federally listed species live on Defense Department land. Range environmental management offices must always be mindful they’re falling within the guidelines of the endangered species act to keep the best interest of the mission and environment on their radar. Avon Park has 12 endangered species, which are spread throughout the entire range area. The large habitat poses some unique challenges when it comes to mission planning.
‘I hear people call this place, the last bit of wild Florida or real Florida. You know, it’s pretty cool’ said Aline Morrow, a Fish Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, assigned to Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“If we are putting undue impact on these threatened and endangered species, and really not even just the threatened and endangered ones, all the natural species in Central Florida that make this range their home, if we’re not balancing the requirements between taking care of those species and doing the military mission the military mission is going to get curtailed,” said MacLaughlin.
“That costs money in terms of fuel, it costs money in terms of manpower and more importantly the units that need this training, those men and women who are going to go in harm’s way, they don’t get the ability to practice their craft if we’re not doing that other part.
According to Brent Bonner, APAFR environmental flight chief, the wildlife management piece takes a lot of moving parts to ensure mission accomplishment.
As part of the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan species are constantly monitored so range operations knows their location and status, especially during critical times, such as nesting season for endangered birds, to help protect future generations of these rare creatures.
Aline Morrow, a USFWS biologist who works closely with the environmental flight, helps survey and track animals, such as the Florida Bonneted Bat, which some consider to be the most endangered bat in North America. She says the first natural roost of the bat was found on an impact area of Avon Park in 2014.
Once a roost is found, it’s marked and mission planners know to buffer a certain area around the roost so as not to disturb the bats.
“It’s just 110 percent support from everybody who’s out here,” exclaimed Morrow. “They’re [the Air Force] always asking us, ‘what are you doing?’ and they get just as excited as we do when, for example, just a couple weeks ago, we had a sighting of a Florida Panther and the commander sent an email out with the pictures to everybody. Now everyone has the picture as their background on their laptop … I never felt like someone from the Air Force sees us as a regulator, they see us as a partner. We’re there to help you guys [the Air Force] see your mission as much as ours.”
While most of the efforts focus on managing the landscapes inhabited by wildlife to ensure they are able to thrive, it’s just a piece of the bigger picture.
Tabatha Romero, BLM Wild Horse and Burro specialist, knows first-hand how important management practices are.
She says people have an idealized version of how these horses are and the animals should just be left alone, but they don’t see the harm caused when the horses are overpopulated and they overgraze or run out of water and mothers have foals that can’t nurse because they can’t produce milk.
“With the NTTR it goes to show how sound our management practices can be,” said Romero. “When we are allowed to use the tools available to us and conduct comprehensive environmental management programs we have healthy horses on healthy ranges and that’s the ultimate goal of our program.”
Sound management practices are essential to ensuring the mission is accomplished, but with ranges providing pristine landscapes and safe havens for several endangered species it can sometimes become the only place these plants and animals live. In order to protect these species, and more effectively accomplish training, ranges have started looking at growing conservation efforts outside their physical boundaries.
Range borders protect against development leaving a majority of the range land as a safety buffer zone and therefore untouched. This pristine habitat (right) sometimes ends where the range fences end leaving the outside land (left) open for development or public usage.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
According to MacLaughlin, it all started with the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program. This program works with willing landowners that border ranges, and partners with conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, using federal money to purchase conservation easements.
“This is a real estate negotiation with a landowner that comes to the table and says ‘I want to protect my property’,” stressed MacLaughlin.
The REPI program presented potential for conservation efforts and education to expand in a big way, but sometimes there were unforeseen issues.
Agencies such as the Department of Interior or Department of Agriculture may be trying to accomplish the same thing on the same lands but due to existing laws, where federal money could not be used from one account to the other, the efforts may be halted.
This is where the Sentinel Landscape Program, which APAFR was declared an official Sentinel Landscape in 2016, came in that allowed multiple agencies to leverage each other’s programs and focus on combined efforts.
“It’s a direct sustainment of the mission,” said Bonner. “As we increase the species on our property and they’re decreased off property they become more valuable to the public … we want to make sure we don’t get in a situation where we are the only people with Red Cockaded Woodpeckers – that will impact our mission. So, we want to go outside the fence on those conservation efforts, protecting those species.”
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered species thriving on the Avon Park Air Force Range. About the size of a cardinal, the RCW calls the longleaf pines located on the range home. Marked and protected by the range mangers. The goal of the range is to expand the RCW habitat off the range and increase the population.
(U.S. Air Force courtesy Photo)
While the natural resource management team is focused on current issues, facing threatened and endangered species, they are also looking at preserving the past. Many Air Force ranges are homes to thousands of years of cultural history which could potentially be lost forever if it weren’t housed in the safety of the range’s fences.
When a base or range requires building a new structure or beginning a new mission, it’s much more complicated than just planning for operations and making it happen.
Surveys and studies are done to ensure the space isn’t on ground that contains a culturally significant site, meaning it contains vital information such as relevant tools, or qualifying traces of history, that are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
A map of the cultural dig sites on the Nevada Test and Training Range.
(Nellis Cultural Resource Office)
According to Kathy Couturier, APAFR cultural resource manager, she helps determine the Area of Potential Effect for a particular site and what the mission impacts will be on the site.
She then provides guidance or alternative solutions to operating around those sites and runs the plans up to the State Historic Preservation Office for review and approval. This process ensures that time, money, and resources are utilized in the best way possible to effectively accomplish the mission while still ensuring eligible sites remain protected.
Federal laws, regulations, and procedures, such as determining the APE, have been put in place to ensure these sites are preserved and treated with respect so as to not repeat the mistakes of the past when significant cultural resources were destroyed as highways and cities were built on top of potentially significant cultural sites.
Environmental teams across the nation’s ranges such as the NTTR, which has sites dating back 10,000 years and works closely with 17 Native American tribes, try to ensure that cultural ownership of the land is not lost.
“These tribes are very intact in their language, they still speak it fluently, they teach it in their schools to their children,” says Kish LaPierre, NAFB cultural resource manager. “They have amazing oral history so we work very closely with them and they give us information to help us protect the prehistoric and ethno historic sites.”
LaPierre says the conditions around the NTTR are perfect for the preservation of artifacts. There are several sites where, often times, there are baskets sitting still full of seeds and tools laying around as if the inhabitants just left and were planning to come back but they didn’t.
While cultural sites on public lands are sometimes vandalized (left), sites on ranges remain pristine (right) due to limited access.
(Bureau of Land Management) (Nellis Cultural Resource Office)
“We have almost 3 million acres of land and it is virtually untouched,” said LaPierre. “The NTTR has been blocked off from the public since 1940 so it’s a huge prehistoric time capsule – it’s like a living museum.”
Understanding and mitigating the impact of how land use can have long lasting and far-reaching effects is on the forefront of the Air Force’s environmental programs.
Range teams across the country take great care when executing their mission to make sure they are not only following federal laws but also taking a vested interest in the lands they have been granted the ability to use so the past and present are preserved for future generations.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.