MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Dam Busters crippled Germany

One of the most legendary successes of the Royal Air Force in World War II was a bombing raid that was written off for decades as a largely symbolic victory, but was actually a technically challenging operation that choked Nazi industry in 1943 and helped ensure that German factories couldn’t produce the materiel necessary to win.


A Lancaster bomber with the special Upkeep bomb bay and bomb used in Operation Chastise in May, 1943.

(Royal Air Force)

The Dam Busters Raid, officially known as Operation Chastise, was the result of a series of bombing raids that hit target after target in the Ruhr region of Germany, but failed to significantly slow German industrial output. Planners needed a way to cripple German industry, and large-scale bombing wasn’t getting the job done.

So, they presented an alternative: Instead of attacking individual factories and areas, they’d wipe out an entire productive region with the destruction of key infrastructure. Some of the best and most obvious targets were the dams in the Ruhr region.

The dams fulfilled a few key roles. They channeled water to where it was needed, provided hydroelectric power, and kept thousands of acres of farmland protected for regular cultivation.

Workers construct tanks in factories in Germany during World War II. Factories like this one, and the factories that fed them raw materials, were targeted during Operation Chastise, the “Dam Busters Raid.”

Destroying the dam would wreak worse havoc, allowing flood waters to damage dozens of factories essential for everything from coke production to tank assembly as well as additional farmland. The raid would tip the scales of 1943 and 1944 — provided they could figure out how to pull it off.

And figuring it out would prove tough. This was before England’s “earthquake” bombs, so the weapons available at the outset of the raid were basically just normal gravity bombs. But hitting a narrow dam with a bomb is challenging, and even a direct hit on the top of the dam would be unlikely to actually cause any sort of breach.

It would take multiple strikes, potentially dozens, in almost the exact same spot to really break a dam from the top.

An inert, practice bouncing bomb skips along the water in this video still from training drops by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. The bomb is one of the “Upkeep” munitions, the barrel-form of the weapon aimed at destroying German dams.

(Imperial War Museums)

But if the bomb could strike the dam, that would be much different. A bomb strike against the air-exposed side of the dam could heavily damage it, and a bomb in the right spot on the water side of the dam would cause the whole thing to shatter under the combined pressure of the blast and the water.

So, Britain went shopping for options, and they found a weapon under development by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who wanted to create a better bomb for taking out destroyers.

His thought was fairly simple: A bomb with the right shape and spin could skip across the water until it struck a ship. Then, the spin would drive the bomb underwater as it basically rolled itself down the outside of the ship. It would explode under the waterline with a payload much larger than a torpedo, dooming the ship. These became known as the “Bouncing Bombs.”

One of the flight crews from the Dam Busters Raid pose in July 1943. Their successful attack made the brand new 617 Squadron world-famous overnight and crippled German infrastructure.

(Royal Air Force)

His weapon was adapted slightly for Operation Chastise. The original “High Ball” design, basically a sphere, evolved into the “Upkeep” bomb, a more barrel-shaped weapon.

The British created an all-new squadron to conduct the mission, the 617. Pilots from across the Western Allies, including U.S., British Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi personnel, were assigned. The plan was for a low-level, nighttime raid targeting three dams in the valley. The squadron began intense training with the special bombs.

The most successful method they found was flying 60 feet above the water at 232 mph ground speed. While this gave the greatest chances of success and minimized the likelihood that surprised, tired anti-aircraft crews would get a shot at them, it also made for spectacularly dangerous and tricky flying.

The dam at Edertalsperre in Germany after the Dam Buster raid. The hole in the dam was estimated to be 230 feet wide and 72 feet high.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

At 9:28 p.m. on May 16, 1943, the 133 men took off in 19 bombers aimed at three separate and challenging targets. They flew in three waves and successfully breached two of the dams while damaging the third.

The next morning, the attacks were reported in Germany and England. Germany tried to downplay the results, and Britain played up the success. For a generation, the exact results were in controversy. Even British historians would claim that the attack was over-hyped.

But, newer research has revealed that the raid really was a stunning success, one that was quickly known in the region as the “Mohne Catastrophe.” Germany lost 400,000 tonnes worth of coal production in the month of May and had to divert thousands of forced laborers from the coast of Normandy and other sites to repair the damages.

The English King George VI inspects the airmen of the 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, on May 27, 1943, after their widly successful mission.

(Royal Air Force)

The workers had to repair the physical dam before the fall rains or risk the region running low on water and electricity — even after the dam was repaired. They had to repair 100 damaged factories, not counting the 12 factories completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of farmland, necessary to feed the armies on the march, were ruined.

And, all of this came while the German army was desperately trying to stave off Soviet advances and just a year before the Normandy landings, increasing the chances of success there.

In other words, the mission was a stunning success. But it didn’t come without cost. Two bombers were lost on their way to the target. One struck the water’s surface and another hit electrical wires. Eight bombers were shot down.

53 Allied personnel were killed and another three captured.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way a Cuban defector rescued his family

In 1991, a lone Russian-built MiG-21 approached the Florida coast from Cuba. The plane began “wagging” its wings, a recognized signal for friendly intent. The pilot was Orestes Lorenzo, and he was bringing the MiG to the United States in an attempt to defect from Cuba. The only problem was his wife and kids were still in Cuba.

Not for long.


If you want it done right…

That’s the thing about fighter pilots – no one will accuse them of being timid. Lorenzo was no different. He did fly a 40-year-old MiG straight at the coastline of the world’s lone superpower. In fact, Lorenzo was so daring, he wasn’t even in the Cuban Air Force when he took the jet. He told American officials he’d “borrowed” it to make the flight. Lorenzo didn’t even speak a word of English, he just yearned for freedom.

While he was in Cuba’s Air Force, he learned to fly in the Soviet Union and was deployed to fly air missions in Angola. After a second tour of duty in the Soviet Union, he and his family moved to an air base far from the Cuban capital of Havana. They found themselves unhappy with their situation, facing poverty, repression, and a government more concerned with itself than its people. Lorenzo and his wife hatched a plan to escape with their children, but it was only Lorenzo who landed at Naval Air Station Key West that day in 1991.

That’s where his daring comes in. Lorenzo was whisked away to Washington, where he was (presumably) debriefed, and received his asylum paperwork, as well as visas for his wife and two sons. All was almost set to go as planned, except now the Cuban government wouldn’t authorize his wife and children to leave the island nation. Orestes Lorenzo didn’t just accept his station in life like Castro wanted him to, and he sure as hell wasn’t about to accept this. Lorenzo launched a PR campaign that culminated in President George H.W. Bush giving a speech directed at Cuba, imploring Cuba to let his family go, all to no avail.

Castro refused, so the fighter pilot took matters into his own hands.

Spoiler alert: fighter pilots are brave.

Lorenzo raised ,000 to purchase a 1961 Cessna 310, a small, simple civilian aircraft. He even took lessons to learn to fly the Cessna like an expert. He got word to his family that they should be in a certain spot they all knew well, wearing orange t-shirts. At 5:07 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1992, Lorenzo took off from the Florida Keys in his 30-year-old Cessna and flew just 100 feet above the ocean.

Flying up above a set of cliffs on Cuba’s coastline, some 160 miles from Havana, he pulled up and saw three bright orange t-shirts waiting for him by the side of a road. He landed the plane, got his family inside, and took off again, headed for Marathon in the Florida Keys. Two hours later he and his family were safe.

The Lorenzo family lands in Marathon.

The U.S. returned the MiG to Cuba, and the Lorenzo family settled in Florida, starting a concrete business. Very few Cuban pilots were able to defect to the United States during the entire Cold War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ways Marines are like ancient Spartans

Born in a bar, raised on an island, honed on the rifle range, refined in combat, there is no better friend, no worse enemy than a United States Marine. After 242 years of adapting and overcoming, evolved the most elite organization of barrel-chested freedom fighters the world has ever witnessed.


It is said that there are only a select few who will ever truly understand the U.S. Marine Corps: the Marines themselves and their enemy. Well, there may be one more group: Spartans. Sparta was a city-state of ancient Greece, best known for producing a warrior class that has become the gold standard of the subject. Notorious for their training styles and battlefield effectiveness, Spartans earned their reputation.

After exploring a little further, one can appreciate why Marines are often referred to as “America’s Spartans.”

1. Beauty Standards/Fat Shaming

Spartan soldiers had strict diets because they were focused on remaining physically fit – as both a point of pride and to avoid beatings. Every ten days, young men had to stand naked in public so their bodies could be inspected. Those who failed to meet standards of physical fitness were censured and/or beaten, and anyone who was overweight was ridiculed in public or banished.

The USMC is renowned for the look of its Marines, showcasing the high fitness standards in posters and commercials, but it doesn’t stop there. Consistent uniform inspections as well as physical fitness tests complete with a height and weight standard keep them that way.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stephen D. Himes)

If a Marine is found to be outside these height and weight standards, his body mass index will be measured shirtless with a tape measurer. If the leatherneck fails this, he will be visually inspected by the commanding officer, who will then determine whether the Marine is within regulations. If not, the Marine will be assigned to a Body Composition Plan controlling his/her diet and exercise routine until fit again.

In basic training, we call these recruits Fat Bodies because “your feelings do not matter.”

2. Fighting Tooth and Nail

During the famous Battle of Thermopylae, the events of which were depicted in the film 300, Spartan soldiers continued to fight despite losing their weapons, resorting to using their nails and teeth in an attempt to bite and scratch their way to victory.

Marines are well-documented warriors with plenty of hand-to-hand combat on the books. Most notable perhaps was in Okinawa during World War II where E-tools were turned 90 degrees and unleashed on the brave Japanese soldiers who soon died for the emperor.

3. Colors

Spartans sported the Crimson tunic; Crimson (red) represents Spartan pride in their women. In 1925 gold and scarlet became the official colors of the Marine Corps. While there is no direct representation for the colors, this Marine likes to think scarlet red represents blood and blood, as every Devil Dog knows, makes the grass grow.

Sgt. Tim Hughes Holding the American Flag, and PFC Bobby McPherson holding the Marine Corps Battle Colors in 1972.

4. Low Reg Haircuts

Spartans were famous for having very long hair. The Spartans viewed long hair as the symbol of a free man. Marines have a strong and ferociously enforced standard regarding hair length. Only those with very special permission can even dream to grow their hair to any length that could ever be considered “long.”

Before-and after photos of Nicholas Karnaze, a Marine Corps veteran and the founder and CEO of beard care company stubble ‘stache, show off his killer haircut and civilian beard. (Task Purpose)

Any Marine with actual long hair EAS’d years before, therefore long hair represents a free man in the Corps as well.

5. Two Kings

Sparta had two kings from two different ruling dynasties. Their explanation was that during the fifth generation after the demi-god Heracles, from whom legend claimed all Spartan kings descended, twin sons were born which formed the bloodline for the two royal houses, Agiad and Eurypontid. The two rulers would share the duties of king.

The USMC has a Commandant and a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and while they do not share the same authority, they do both lead in respective ways.

Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald L. Green, watch recruits go through the crucible at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Oct. 16, 2015. Neller and Green watched the recruits go through one of the toughest parts of their recruit training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)

The conversations about who the best warrior class is, much like the fights, always end with U.S. Marines and Spartans as the winners, and that is just what they are, winners. When being the best is a lifestyle, victory becomes ancillary. Spartans have secured their legacy but Marines are still writing theirs, and if history is an indicator, those legacies will be similar as well.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how air crews learned to navigate in World War II

These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.

But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.


Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.

Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.

This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.

(USAF)

During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.

Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQrGbz1dczY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can military spouses be buried in veterans cemeteries?

You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?

Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.

As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.


Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the Army. As such, it has rules that are a bit different than National Veterans Cemeteries, which are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The cemetery is also running out of space for new burials.

Arlington National Cemetery.

Therefore, burials and inurnments, the placing of cremated remains in a large wall, are limited to specific groups. Currently, burial at Arlington National Cemetery is open to:

  • Members who died on active duty and their immediate family
  • Retirees and their immediate family
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart or Silver Star and above, as well as their immediate family
  • Any honorably discharged prisoner of war who died after Nov. 30, 1993, and their immediate family

Veterans and their dependents as well as some retired reservists are eligible for inurnment in the cemetery.

The cemetery will furnish a headstone/marker for both the veteran and dependents.

National veterans cemeteries

These cemeteries are run by the VA. There are currently 136 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Locate a VA cemetery near you.

Burial is available to any veteran with an other-than-dishonorable discharge, as well as their dependents. The VA will furnish a headstone/marker for the veteran and dependent.

VA National Cemeteries

State veterans cemeteries

Many states have their own veterans cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to VA national cemeteries, but may include residency requirements.

Most states provide free burial and a headstone for the veteran; many charge a fee less than id=”listicle-2636201112″,000 for eligible dependents.

State veterans cemeteries

Other cemeteries

The VA may provide a free headstone or marker for all eligible veterans buried at any cemetery worldwide; however, it doesn’t pay the cost of placing the marker. Some states will reimburse this cost.

Dependents aren’t eligible for this benefit; however, some states may provide a headstone to dependents.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate passes $740 billion defense policy bill with troop pay raise

U.S. troops are all but guaranteed a 3% pay raise next year under legislation that passed the Senate Thursday.

The Senate passed its version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. The $740 billion bill contains numerous personnel initiatives, including the second consecutive 3% pay raise for service members, and hazardous duty pay for troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.


If signed into the law, the legislation would also make changes designed to standardize the military services’ Exceptional Family Member Programs, improve housing for military families and halt a planned reduction of teachers within Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

The measure also includes incentive pay to retain military health officers, increases funding for child care facilities, adds money for research on industrial chemicals used in firefighting foam and packaging and expands the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.

“The NDAA gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking Democrat, called the bill an “important step” toward wise investment for the future.

“Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner,” he said.

The bill would create a commission to study removing Confederate names from Defense Department assets within three years — a measure that will need to be sorted out when the House and Senate meet to develop the final version of the bill that will go to President Donald Trump for a signature.

The House bill would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.

Trump has threatened to veto any measure to remove the name of Confederate leaders from Army installations. On Tuesday, the White House released a statement listing the items Trump finds objectionable in the House’s bill, saying it is “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.”

Other items that pertain to personnel policy in the bill include:

  • Mandating that DoD develop and field body armor that properly fits female soldiers
  • Providing additional ways for service members to report sexual assault
  • Requiring DoD to better track and respond to incidents of child abuse on military installations.

The vote was 86-14. The two chambers will next name a committee of members to develop a compromise bill. The House approved its version of the fiscal 2021 authorization bill Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the Air Force hazing ritual that just got two commanders fired

A few airmen walk into a room, positioning themselves between you and the exit. As the “new guy” in the squadron, you likely know exactly what’s about to happen. You have to outsmart or elude them to avoid getting bound up and immobilized by rolls of duct tape.

Welcome to the tradition of “rolling-up,” or “roll-ups,” a practice that is often viewed as a game or initiation ritual in the U.S. Air Force.

But there are always those who take it too far.


Col. Benjamin Bishop, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, relieved Lt. Col. Robb Fiechtner, 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Lt. Col. Joshua Cates, 5th Air Support Operations Squadron, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, from their posts after a command-directed investigation revealed that both squadrons were engaging in the hazing practice of “roll-ups,” said Capt. Kay Magdalena Nissen, spokeswoman for the 354th Fighter Wing.

U.S. Air Force airmen from the 354th Fighter Wing, change the name on the flagship jet during the 354th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony July 6, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Isaac Johnson)

While there were no complaints or reports made by victims of the hazing, the investigation showed that “roll-ups” — or binding airmen’s hands and feet, and sometimes their entire bodies, with tape — was prevalent in those units, Nissen said in an email.

It “appear[s] to be a known hazing ritual within the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community,” she said.

A TACP airman familiar with the tradition who spoke with Military.com said it’s not all bad, though.

“It has not been the means of humiliating or harming someone; it’s [supposed to be] the opposite,” the airman said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press in an official capacity, he said he’s been in the community for eight years, but could not explain where the tradition came from or how long it has been in practice.

The TACP said he has been rolled up a few times, most often on his birthday by someone calling him into an office for what he thought was a formal meeting or ambushing him in a hallway. He said the point was to try to outwit his fellow airmen, much like a game. The consequence of losing: having his body bound with tape and immobilized, then carried off by airmen to be placed at locations around base for goofy photo ops before being set free.

“When I came into the community, it was just there,” he said, adding, “I’ve been in more than one unit and have had more than one birthday.”

Hazing crackdown

In 2018, the Pentagon released a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members.

The policy reaffirmed that the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.

Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron jump out of a C-17 Globemaster III Oct. 21, 2014, during a training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)

In line with the Defense Department, the Air Force has a zero-tolerance hazing policy.

“The Air Force does not condone hazing in any form,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said April 3, 2019. “We expect our airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect.”

The TACP said he agrees with the Defense Department’s policy.

“Hazing is as much about what the particulars of the event were and the creation of a feeling of being hazed,” the TACP said.

It’s why “rolling-up” shouldn’t be standard across the Air Force, even if its original intention was meant to be playful, he said.

“It’s not something we need to continue because it’s not a professionalized practice,” he said. “We should go do … things that are productive and constructive that doesn’t potentially create the hazing issues.”

The TACP explained the concept behind the tradition.

When done right, the goal is never to pose a risk to a fellow airman who will work — and potentially fight — alongside you, he said.

“The intention of this is not to inflict pain,” he said. “Think of it like ‘capture the flag,’ or ‘Can you subdue a combative person without causing them harm?'”

In a sport like rugby, for example, “one minute [there’s contact] but, by the end of the game, you’re hanging out and you’re friends,” he said. “If you’re not laughing while you’re being rolled up, you’re doing it wrong.”

It has also been a way to vent pent-up energy for troops in a high-stress career field, the TACP said.

“When you take a whole group of very aggressive, Type-A people whose purpose is to go do violence unto others, the way you show affection, it gets shifted by the culture — we don’t necessarily go around and give each other hugs, although we do that too,” he said.

He added, “It’s both an outlet [to let] out steam … and for people to bond together” in what has become a “normalized way.”

“Rolling-up” hasn’t only been spotted in the Air Force. Videos and photos on social media that have quickly become memes have shown soldiers duct-taped to their cots, or bound with tape and left outside.

Last Day Hazing

www.youtube.com

Some of those videos have shown the practice going too far, though, and not only within the special operations community. One source familiar with the tradition told Military.com it has been observed in other Air Force career fields, including nuclear operations and aircraft maintenance.

For example, airmen were shown in a 2005 YouTube video smearing chocolate syrup on a bound airman, then dusting him with powdered sugar before dousing him with a garbage pail of dirty water. The incident apparently happened at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The airman who spoke with Military.com said roll-up events sometimes happen out of sheer boredom while troops are killing time. And it’s easy to cross a line and have things get out of control.

“It’s counterproductive to everything we do: It doesn’t make an airman want to stay in the Air Force, it doesn’t make airmen want to go do their job. It’s beyond the right and wrong of morality, and it’s just bad for the mission,” the TACP said.

He continued, “That’s the problem with the normalization of it. It becomes that [time] could be spent in a much more productive way.”

He suggested developing a new tradition that fosters bonding and supports readiness, rather than one with the earmarks of hazing.

“There needs to be a competitive spirit” for stress to be relieved, the TACP said. “So replace it with [something] that’s tied to a real-world mission.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Communist Czechs had one recipe book to cook from

Communists can be a pretty domineering bunch, to put it lightly. The centrally-planned economy (apparently) required attention to every last detail, right down to what people cooked for dinner – and how much. When the Soviet Union began to dominate what people did, read, watched, and said to one another, it even began to dominate what Czechs ate at every meal.

The best way to do this was to ensure every Czech had the same cookbook and was afraid to deviate from the central plan. That cookbook was called normovacka, or “The Book of Standards.”


If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, comrade, nothing will.

Prague has a long history of being one of Europe’s best places to eat. One of the centers of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire, the highest of Europe’s high society visited and dined in Prague at some point in their illustrious, decadent, capitalist lives. But life under Soviet domination changed all that. Soon, the gem of gastronomical Europe became a place where oranges were the stuff of dreams, and bananas were a Christmas present (if you were lucky).

The Soviet Union had a carefully planned economic system that relied on predicting the needs of the populace while managing strict production quotas. Needless to say, it rarely worked like it was supposed to. In the early days of the USSR, food shortages were widespread, and famines killed millions. Czechs fared better than some other Soviet Republics, but still, food choices and supplies were very limited.

Vegetables? Who needs em?

In order to keep the demands of the Czechoslovakian Soviet Socialist Republic within the measurable and predictable guidelines the Soviet economy needed, the USSR gave the people one book from which to choose 845 different recipes. Any deviation was strictly forbidden, and the recipe dictated where to get the ingredients as well as how to serve them. Portion sizes were listed by hundreds of people, meaning that you were supposed to feed a lot of people with these recipes.

In some ways, the cookbook was ahead of its time, listing calorie counts by portion as well as its nutritional values. But now the cuisine of the once-shining star of European culinary delights was reduced to cookie-cutter homogeneity. Everywhere anyone went in Communist Czechoslovakia, they could count on each dish being served the same way in the same manner, in restaurants or at home. People could afford to go to state-run eateries and restaurants, but they would still be getting a meal from the Book of Standards.

Just like everyone else.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

A situation that started with students protesting the government evolved into a failed coup d’etat and, consequently, the decimation of a once-thriving tourism industry. Protesters, feeling powerless in the face of violence, turned to the dark side for help, accepting aid from narco-terrorists sponsored by oligarchs.

The Sandinista Government, also known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), is a revolutionary ideology and organization that was created on July 19, 1961, to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. From an outside perspective, it looks like the government has come full circle in becoming what it was created to destroy.

U.S. Sanctions have influenced the Sandinista Government to change their strategy in restoring law and order to what was once known as the “safest country in Latin America.” Disregarding warnings from the embassy, I boarded a plane leaving the U.S. to Nicaragua to see it for myself.


No sh*t, there I was…

Did someone say, “communism?”

A History of Distrust

Historically, Nicaragua and the United States have not have an outstanding relationship due several political scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair. Long story short: We sold weapons to Iran through Israel in order to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages. The funds from the weapons sale were going to benefit the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization that opposed the Sandinistas. Needless to say, they weren’t so thrilled about it.

Today, the people of Nicaragua don’t treat U.S. citizens negatively because of our nations’ histories, but they do harbor a general distrust of American diplomats and government officials — this is especially true among the top brass.

It is important to note these specific examples of the past because there are similar accusations heading our way once again.

Not your best pitch, Don.

The Reason for the Sanctions

In Nicaragua, a country that has served as a physical barrier in our ongoing War On Drugs in Central America, was developing all the telltale signs of an impending coup.

Local police responded with extreme force against what they believed was a new arm of the criminal underground created to overthrow the government. Their aggressive pushback was interpreted by outside news outlets as a wanton wave of human rights violations. The ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach backfired — as it tends to.

The United States responded by implementing sanctions on the government and corporations, withdrew vehicles donated to the Police, and the U.S. embassy closed its doors and ceased routine operations until further notice.

I assure you, we’re open.

(RuddyWrites)

The Effect of Sanctions in August, 2018

Jacinto Saurez, the International Secretary of the FSLN, told the Havana Times of a conspiracy theory of a U.S.-sponsored coup. Oldtimers were quick to believe this because of our nations’ turbulent recent history.

Meanwhile, the United States is Nicaragua’s top investor with nearly a billion dollars invested in 2017, producing a return of 6%. Meanwhile, the rest of Central and South America was generating declining returns for U.S. investors. A law ratified in 2000 allowed foreign investors to retain 100% of their capital and the current Government has offered generous tax incentives in the areas of exports, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

As capitalists, we would never take a metaphorical cow producing milk behind a barn and shoot it, so the idea of a U.S. coup doesn’t hold water against facts.

The harsh reality is, sadly, that Nicaragua killed that cow themselves. The entire economy is reliant on the United States but old revolutionaries in power, blinded by pride, resent that the U.S. is essential to the country’s stability. The old, stubborn leadership resents any foreign influence — even if it is beneficial.

Taxes? No habla ingles.

(RuddyWrites)

U.S. sanctions aimed towards the Sandinista government have hit the tourism industry hard and they’ve hit the private sector even harder, yet the upper class has felt nothing. Investors have almost completely pulled out of the country and major corporations tied to the government have fired half their staff.

Mom-and-pop shops are running at max capacity to fill the void left behind by the departure of major department stores, restaurants, and franchises. Larger businesses have to raise their prices to keep up with taxes that the smaller businesses dodge. In short, we’re seeing a great dying of big business but an exploding entrepreneur market.

Small businesses are unaffected by the sanctions because they do not report their income. Hell, most small businesses down here don’t even have the proper licenses to operate legally.

The moment the new national strategy was implemented.

Intur ​

According to the Institute of Nicaraguan Tourism (Intur), U.S. tourism makes up a 24% market share in the country. A new national strategy has been implemented to try and regain American confidence and ensure visitors’ safety. They have increased police presence day and night, all barricades have been removed, and criminals have either been arrested or have fled the country. Regardless, I would highly recommend against traveling here without a guide or prior experience until the political situation improves.

Despite safety precautions, there are more ‘demonstrations’ planned for the near future that pose a security risk. It is unknown if the anti-government forces are going to return en masse.

A deflationary trend has developed for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO) from 32.24 to 31.70 (at the time of writing). This may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s actually a pretty severe drop. The exchange rate is currently id=”listicle-2598140554″ USD to C.70 and, though the jump in U.S. buying power is good news for us, it has had devastating consequences for the local population.

Adam Hayes of Investopedia does a great job of explaining it:

“Deflation typically occurs in and after periods of economic crisis. When an economy experiences a severe recession or depression, economic output slows as demand for consumption and investment drop.

This leads to an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin holding onto liquid money reserves to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand.”

Normally, Nicaraguans are paid in U.S. dollars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The employees prefer to be paid this way because the dollar is less volatile. Corporations are lobbying for a new law that changes the payout to workers to Cordobas instead of dollars because of deflation. So, now that the local currency has deflated, the prices on everything have gone up. Unfortunately, corporations want to pay people “technically” the same amount — but by that logic, when the economy recovers, they’re “technically” paying people less.

These colors don’t run.

(RuddyWrites)

Americans living in Nicaragua

So, what’s the situation like for Americans in the country?

Many foreigners have left, but one thing is for certain among Americans who have remained: They will not be intimidated. Surprisingly, the Americans give no f*cks. They have stockpiled supplies, ammo, and alcohol. Those who have property out in the countryside have opted to weather the storm away from the cities. Those living within the cities have installed electric fences, cameras, and are even flying personal drones when things get hairy.

Nicaragua may be dangerous at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s no Afghanistan. Fortunes are made in times of chaos and it’s a buyers market. Right now, residential and commercial properties are practically being given away.

Americans aren’t turning tail. When I attended a bullfighting competition in the city of Juigalpa, a city saturated with Sandinista loyalists, I took a picture of this warrior:

MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s rhetoric on Kim Jong Un does a complete 180

President Donald Trump on April 24, 2018, again praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying Kim was “very honorable” and “very open” ahead of a planned meeting between the two leaders that could come as soon as May 2018.

“Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump told reporters amid a White House visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the North Koreans wanted such a meeting “as soon as possible.”


Trump has signaled an eagerness to meet and conduct diplomacy with Kim, despite spending much of 2017 threatening to annihilate North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations.

Since the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and sweeping rounds of US-led sanctions after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim has also apparently opened up to diplomacy.

Kim unexpectedly went to Beijing in March 2018, to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April 2018.

North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un andu00a0Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump has also agreed to meet with Kim — announced in March 2018, by South Korean officials visiting the US — though it appears he did so without first consulting his secretary of state at the time, Rex Tillerson.

Trump said in 2017, that he’d be “honored” to talk to Kim — something he now looks likely to achieve.

Trump has also expressed admiration for Kim’s leadership of North Korea, though human-rights groups have accused the government of numerous violations, including running prison camps that have been likened to Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Europe.

Trump said of Kim in January 2016: “You’ve got to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden… he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss.”

In an interview with Reuters in 2017, Trump again noted Kim’s youth when he became leader.

“Say what you want, but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Trump said.

Trump is set to become the first sitting US president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader. Meanwhile, Kim has appeared to make a set of stunning concessions and cave to US demands of denuclearization already.

But experts Business Insider has talked to have noted that North Korea has previously entered into and backed out of talks with the US and said it now may be working to gain relief from sanctions as its economy falters.

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

Articles

This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump has called North Korea a “brutal regime,” and many in his administration think that America should do something about it.


But that wouldn’t be as easy as sneaking a sniper into Pyongyang and taking a shot at North Korea’s top leader during a parade. There are too many variables to consider.

The tight security surrounding Kim Jong-un and the fanatical devotion of his followers are serious obstacles that must be taken seriously. All phases of this operation must be carefully thought out if North Korea is to be liberated.

Yet, Kim Jong-un has a very elaborate yacht on the east coast near Wonsan that he’s very proud of.

If SEAL Team 6 could board the ship in the shroud of night, terminating the despot might be possible. Security would be tight, but disabling vessels is no new task for our boys.

The U.S. has toppled brutal dictators and terrorists before. As the Inch’on Landing took inspiration from Normandy; we can compare this and learn from previous operations.

This is only a thought experiment using history as a guideline.

Preparation – Operation Mongoose (Cuba)

President John F. Kennedy briefed on Operation Mongoose

After the Bay of Pigs incident, the Central Intelligence Agency began a psychological warfare campaign against Cuba. The idea behind this was to create distrust between the Cuban people and the government. The goal was to spark an internal revolt within Cuba.

The CIA authorized sabotage acts against refineries and power plants to shatter its economy. This part wouldn’t be necessary in North Korea since sanctions have already crippled that country.

If there’s any possibility for action in North Korea, there needs to be distrust of Kim Jong-un — a crack in an idol seen as a god.

North Koreans have very restricted television channels for those who are allowed to watch. This would be a logical starting point. Record atrocities. Film the labor camps. Show how little the government truly cares for its people. And end with clips of South Koreans willing to embrace the long lost family.

SEAL Team 6 would infiltrate a broadcasting station and play these tapes. If you could get that message to the people, it will help shine light on the lies told to them.

Assassination – Operation Neptune Spear (Pakistan)

President Barack Obama receives an update on Operation Neptune Spear in the Situation Room

On May 1st 2011, the US conducted the daring raid against the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden.  SEAL Team 6 and CIA operators stormed his safe house outside Abbottabad, Pakistan. This well organized and prepared mission is the epitome of “tactical precision.”

On the eastern coast of North Korea sits Kim Jong-un’s mansion — filled to the brim with amenities fit for a 33-year-old dictator. The compound is more of a private amusement park with rides, water slides, and his beloved yachts. He uses it to throw lavish parties for close friends and high ranking party officials.

With the location right on the beach, there is no better location for SEAL Team 6 to infiltrate from.

Fallout – Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Barry (DDG 52), launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

In March 2011, NATO authorized all necessary measures to insure the safety of civilians during the Libyan Civil War. President Obama stressed that there would be no US troops sent there to fight, so NATO launched a combined 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles to support anti-Gaddafi forces.

Even after Gaddafi’s capture and execution, his loyalists still remained active. The country remained in political unrest. Political scientist Riadh Sidaoui said of the mayhem that “Gaddafi has created a great void for his exercise of power. There is no institution, no army, no electoral tradition in the country.”

Three years later, a second Libyan Civil War began.

If the US were to succeed after an assassination, there would have to be a swift reunification of Korea. South Koreans, generally, do not see North Koreans as a threat. The older generation still sees them as family that has broken apart. Party loyalty would need to break to prevent further uprisings.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Veterans team up in zombie comedy ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

Marine veteran Adam Driver and Navy veteran Sturgill Simpson are joined by a host of stars in director Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die,” out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Jarmusch is an arthouse director best known for underground hits like “Mystery Train,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Broken Flowers” and the recent vampire satire “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Actors love working with him, and he’s managed to also cast Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, Iggy Pop, teen star Selena Gomez and up-and-comer Austin Butler (who shined this summer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and will next play Army veteran Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic).


That’s a lot of star power for an incredibly dry and low-key comedy about how small-town cops deal with a zombie invasion. The script beats its jokes into the ground, and how funny you find the movie is 100% dependent on how much you like that kind of humor.

YouTube

www.youtube.com

There’s no one better than Driver to deliver a deadpan joke, and he’s hilarious as the dim deputy who works for Murray’s police chief. Not much happens in Centerville (“A Nice Place to Live,” promises the sign on the edge of town) and Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson has obviously had plenty of time to read up on the particulars of zombie invasions.

Driver previously worked with Jarmusch on “Paterson,” a character study about a New Jersey bus driver. It focused on the small details of his life and is a celebration of working-class life. It’s slow but beautiful. And it’s the best performance of Driver’s career to date. (You can stream it if you’ve got Amazon Prime.)

The former Marine is having a huge year. He was Oscar-nominated for his outstanding performance in Spike Lee’s 2018 movie “BlackKklansman.” Driver is again on Oscar watch lists as he stars in “The Report,” an upcoming film in which his character leads an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Finally, he repeats his role as Kylo Ren in this December’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the long-promised end to the original nine-movie Star Wars saga.

Sturgill Simpson – The Dead Don’t Die [Official Video]

www.youtube.com

Simpson wrote and recorded the theme song for “The Dead Don’t Die.” It’s a hard-core honky-tonk country song, and it’s constantly playing in the background during the movie, either on the radio or from a bootleg CD purchased from the town’s comic book shop. One of the movie’s running jokes is that one of the characters mentions the song and artist every time it’s heard in the movie. “Sturgill Simpson’s ‘The Dead Don’t Die'” is most definitely the phrase heard most often in the movie. Simpson also appears briefly as a guitar-dragging zombie.

Ironically, “The Dead Don’t Die” sounds like the throwback country hit that fans of his breakthrough 2014 album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” have long wanted to hear. Simpson won a Grammy for Best Country Album and was nominated for Best Album with the 2016 followup “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

SOUND & FURY (OFFICIAL TRAILER)

www.youtube.com

Simspon resumes his music career this Friday with the release of “Sound Fury,” an unapologetic rock album that leaves country music behind, possibly for good. A huge weekend profile in The New York Times suggests that Simpson became disillusioned with Nashville and unhappy with his own country material.

He served in Japan during his Navy stint and developed a love for the country’s manga (comics) and anime (animated films). He completed “Sound Fury” a couple of years ago and decided that he wanted anime films to go along with each song. Simpson enlisted top Japanese artists and sold the finished film to Netflix, where it will premiere Sept. 27, 2019, alongside the LP’s release.

Simpson is obviously both a restless soul and an ornery cuss. Will his country music fans follow him down this new path? It’s a huge and daring risk, one that doesn’t really have a parallel in country, rock, RB or pop music history.

He also filmed a part in the satirical action movie “The Hunt,” which was also scheduled for theatrical release this weekend before the studio freaked out about recent mass shootings and pulled the movie from release. Will we ever see “The Hunt”? It seems likely that it’ll go straight to home video sometime next year, after everyone forgets the controversy.

Sept. 27, 2019’s still a big day for Sturgill with the album and Netflix film. In the meantime, fans of his earlier music should check out “The Dead Don’t Die” to hear those sweet country western sounds that made him famous.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.