Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal - We Are The Mighty
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Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

No one has ever claimed that life aboard a U.S. Navy ship was luxurious. Even on the most advanced warships on the planet life can still be cramped. Though today amenities are much improved, the sailors patrolling the oceans in World War II had a much different life than their modern counterparts.


For one thing, the submarines of World War II were much smaller. Though only about 60 feet shorter than a modern submarine, the Gato and Balao-class submarines the U.S. Navy operated in World War II had a displacement of only about one third that of modern Virginia class submarines.

In that small space, the submariners — some 60 to 80 in all — had to store themselves, their gear, and provisions for 75 days.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Real World War II galley attire: T-shirt and apron over dungarees. This June 1945 snapshot is of George Sacco, a cook and baker in USS Cod (SS 224). (Courtesy of the USS Cod Submarine Memorial)

Each crewmember had only about one cubic foot of personal storage space aboard the sub. Each crewmember also had a bunk, scattered throughout the many compartments of the boat, including in the torpedo rooms. As many as 14 men crammed into the forward torpedo room along with 16 torpedoes.

A submarine of that size simply could not fit all of the necessary provisions for a long war patrol in the appropriate spaces. To accommodate, the crew stashed boxes of food and other things anywhere they would fit — the showers, the engine room, even on the deck until there was space inside to fit it all.

Also read: 27 incredible photos of life aboard a U.S. submarine

There was one upside though. Because of the dangerous and grueling nature of submarine duty, the Navy did its best to ensure that submariners got the best food the Navy had to offer. They also found room to install an ice cream freezer as a small luxury for the crew.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time or space to enjoy that food. Most of the time the men were lucky to get ten minutes to eat as the boat’s three “shifts” all had to pass through the tiny galley in a short amount of time.

The serving of food was often times also dictated by restrictions on the submarines movements. Submarines were under strict orders not to surface during the day when they were within 500 miles of a Japanese airfield in order to avoid aerial observation and attack. In the early days of the war in the Pacific this meant just about everywhere as the Japanese were in control of vast swaths of territory and ocean.

This meant that the submarines stayed submerged during the day and only surfaced at night. In order to compensate, many crews flipped their schedules doing their normal daily routines at night. The crews called this “going into reversa.” This allowed the crew to take advantage of the time the sub was on the surface.

This was important because once the submarine dove after running its diesel engines for hours, the boat would quickly heat up. The engine room temperature could soar to over 100 degrees before spreading throughout the sub. Combine that with the 80 men working and breathing and the air inside could quickly become foul.

The men knew the air was getting bad when they had trouble lighting their cigarettes due to the lack of oxygen (oh the irony).

To make matters worse, there was little water available for bathing and on long patrols most men only showered about every ten days or so. Laundry was out of the question. Because of these conditions submarines developed a unique smell – a combination of diesel fuel, sweat, cigarettes, hydraulic fluid, cooking, and sewage.

On older submarines, the World War I-era S-boats — often referred to as pigboats — the conditions were even worse. Without proper ventilation, the odors were even stronger. This also led to mold and mildew throughout the boat as well as rather large cockroaches that the crews could never quite seem to eradicate.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
The USS Grayback was one of the WWII submarines lost to enemy action during the war. (Photo: National Archives

If the conditions themselves weren’t bad enough, the crews then had to sail their boats into hostile waters, often alone, to attack the enemy.

Submarines often targeted shipping boats, but sometimes would find themselves tangling with enemy surface vessels. Once a sub was spotted, the enemy ships would move in for the kill with depth charges.

Of the 263 submarines that made war patrols in World War II, 41 of them were lost to enemy action while another eleven were lost to accidents or other reasons. This was nearly one out of every five submarines, making the job of submariner one of the most dangerous of the war.

A further danger the submarines faced was being the target of their own torpedoes. Due to issues with the early Mk. 14 torpedo that was used, it had a tendency to make a circular run and come back to strike the sub that fired it. At least one submarine, the USS Tang, was sunk this way.

Despite the dangers, American submarines performed admirably. In the Pacific, American crews sank almost 1,400 Japanese ships of different types, totaling more than 5.5 million tons.

They also rescued 504 downed airmen from the sea. Submarines also evacuated key individuals from danger areas, including the U.S. High Commissioner and President Quezon from the Philippines.

History: That time a surfacing Russian sub slammed into an American spy submarine

On special missions, submarines landed reconnaissance parties on enemy shores, and in a few cases used their 5″ deck guns to bombard enemy positions.

The bravery of the submarines was well-known in World War II. Presidential Unit Citations were awarded 36 times to submarine crews. Seven submarine skippers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at sea.

American submariners in World War II set a tradition of duty and bravery that is carried on by American submarine crews today.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA wants to know if your alcohol habits are healthy

A new study finds that consuming alcoholic beverages daily — even at low levels that meet U.S. guidelines for safe drinking — appears to be “detrimental” to health.

The researchers found that downing one to two drinks at least four days per week was linked to a 20 percent increase in the risk of premature death, compared with drinking three times a week or less. The finding was consistent across the group of more than 400,000 people studied. They ranged in age from 18 to 85, and many were veterans.


Dr. Sarah Hartz, a psychiatrist at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, led the study. It appeared in November 2018 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research. She’s not too surprised by the findings, noting that two large international studies published this year reached similar conclusions.

“There has been mounting evidence that finds light drinking isn’t good for your health,” says Hartz, who is also an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

(Photo by Alan Levine)

Study considered a range of demographic factors

The study results don’t necessarily prove cause and effect. People who tend to drink more may indeed end up having shorter lives — but not necessarily because of more alcohol consumption. It could be, for example, that those people have harder lives all around, with more stress, which takes a toll on health and longevity. But the researchers did control for a range of demographic factors and health diagnoses to try to tease out the direct effects of alcohol.

Another limitation of the study is that it relied on in-person self-reports of alcohol use. Researchers believe this method may lead to under-reporting, compared with anonymous surveys.

But relative to some past studies that found health benefits from light-to-moderate drinking, the new study looked at a much larger population. This allowed Hartz’s team to better distinguish between groups of drinkers, in terms of quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption.

“We’re seeing things that we didn’t before because we have access to such large data sets,” she says. “In the past, we couldn’t distinguish between these drinking amounts. The larger the data set, the more statistical power you have and the easier it is to make conclusions.”

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

(Photo by Heather Hammond)

94,000 VA outpatient records part of study

The researchers reviewed two data sets of self-reported alcohol use and mortality follow-up. One set included more than 340,000 people from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The other contained nearly 94,000 VA outpatient medical records. Health and survival were tracked between seven and 10 years.

According to the findings, people who drank four or more times a week, even when limiting it to only a drink or two, had about a 20 percent greater risk of dying during the study period.

As part of the study, Hartz and her team specifically evaluated deaths due to heart disease and cancer. For heart disease, they found a benefit to drinking, specifically that one to two drinks per day about four days a week seemed to protect against death from heart disease. But drinking every day eliminated those benefits. In terms of death from cancer, any drinking was “detrimental,” she says.

Current CDC guidelines call for alcohol to be used “in moderation — up to two drinks a day for men and up to one drink a day for women.” The guidelines don’t recommend that people who do not drink should start doing so for any reason.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan killed an Army infantryman

A soldier killed in an apparent insider attack on July 7, 2018, was part of one of the newly created security force assistance brigades tasked with advising Afghan troops.

Cpl. Joseph Maciel, 20, of South Gate, California, was killed in Tarin Kowt district, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan in the apparent attack, Army officials said July 8, 2018. Two other soldiers who have not been identified were wounded in the same incident.


Maciel, an infantryman, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Benning, Georgia, and was deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, officials said.

According to officials with the 3rd Infantry Division, Maciel had been in the Army for two years and had served in Afghanistan since February 2018.

His awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal, officials said.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Afghanistan Campaign Medal

“Cpl. Maciel was an excellent soldier beloved by his teammates and dedicated to our mission. He will be greatly missed by the entire Black Lion family. Our prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time,” Lt. Col. David Conner, Maciel’s battalion commander, said in a statement.

In the last two years, the Army has been designing and training a handful of SFABs to take over advise-assist missions, training partner forces throughout the globe.

1st SFAB, the first of the units to deploy, arrived in Afghanistan in early 2018.

The circumstances of the apparent insider attack have not been disclosed. Pentagon officials say the deadly incident remains under investigation.

Just days ago, a Pentagon report indicated that 1st SFAB was making progress in Afghanistan and increasing the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces the soldiers advised.

Insider attacks, in which a member of the ANSF turns on a U.S. service member, have claimed American lives every year since 2008. This appears to be the first deadly insider attack in 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A sixth grade history project exonerated the captain of the USS Indianapolis

In 1945, the USS Indianapolis completed its top secret mission of delivering atomic bomb components to Tinian Island in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The heavy cruiser was sunk on its way to join a task force near Okinawa. Of the ship’s 1195 crewmembers, only 316 survived the sinking and the subsequent time adrift at sea in the middle of nowhere. Among the survivors was the captain of the Indianapolis, Charles B. McVay III.


McVay would be charged with negligence in the loss of the ship. Even though he was restored to active duty after his court-martial and retired a rear admiral, the guilt of the loss haunted him for the rest of his life. He committed suicide with his Navy revolver on his own front lawn with a toy sailor in his hand.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Even he doubted his own innocence.

McVay did everything he could in the wake of the torpedoing of the Indianapolis. He sounded the alarm, giving the order to abandon ship and was one of the last men off. Many of the survivors of the sinking publicly stated he was not to blame for its loss. But this wasn’t enough for the family members of the ship’s crew, who hounded McVay year after year, blaming him for the loss of their sons.

The Navy was partly to blame. They didn’t warn Indianapolis that the submarine I-58 was operating along the area of the ship’s course to Okinawa. They also didn’t warn the ship to zigzag in its pattern to evade enemy submarines. When the Indianapolis radioed a distress signal, it was picked up by three Navy stations, who ignored the call because one was drunk, the other had a commander who didn’t want to be disturbed, and the last thought it was a trap.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

One of the survivors of the Indianapolis during his rescue.

Three and a half days later, the survivors were rescued from the open water, suffering from salt water poisoning, exposure, hypothermia, and the largest case of shark attacks ever recorded. It was truly a horrifying scene. The horror is what led to McVay’s court martial, one of very few commanders to face such a trial concerning the loss of a ship. Even though the Japanese commander of I-58, the man who actually destroyed the Indianapolis, told the U.S. Navy that standard Navy evasion techniques would not have worked – Indianapolis was doomed from the get-go. Even that didn’t satisfy McVay’s critics.

It wasn’t until sixth-grader Hunter Scott began a history project in school about the sinking of the Indianapolis. He poured through official Navy documents until he found the evidence he needed to conclusively prove that McVay wasn’t responsible for the loss of his ship. His project caught the attention of then-Congressman Joe Scarborough and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who helped pass a Congressional resolution exonerating McVay. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Lieutenant Hunter Scott with a survivor of the Indianapolis.

Hunter Scott, the onetime sixth-grader and eternal friend to the crew of the Indianapolis, is now a naval aviator. He attended the University of North Carolina on a Navy ROTC scholarship and joined active duty in 2007. He even spoke at the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Articles

EA releases combat stats for ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ and the results are amazing

In November 2015, Electronic Arts Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (aka EA DICE) released their first Star Wars Battlefront game since Disney purchased the franchise. In less than a month, the action shooter picked up an impressive set of gameplay statistics that were released in an infographic, describing the characters, kill counts, and tactics players use in the game.


The stats give good insights around how to win. The first and most obvious one: Don’t try to replicate tactics seen in the film. You are not a Jedi; the Force is not strong with you.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Because a tow cable is not the way to take out a walking tank. Try that sh*t on a real battlefield, see how far it gets you.

 

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
For the record, we predicted this one. Who puts blinders on a fighter??

 

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
We nailed this one too. Maybe camouflage would make it easier to not get hit by rocks.

And it seems getting in a vehicle isn’t a good way to last longer. Or maybe it is. It’s definitely more fun.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Maybe avoid flying those TIE fighters.

There is definitely a choice vehicle.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Admittedly, we were wrong about that one.

See the full infographic on EA’s Star Wars Battlefront page.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The worst cyber attack in DoD history came from a USB drive found in a parking lot

The media dubbed it “The Worm that Ate the Pentagon” and it was the most serious breach of the Pentagon’s classified computer systems. In November 2008, the Army caught a worm called Agent.btz crawling through the Defense Department’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network – the classified SIPRNet – as well as the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System used by the U.S. government’s top intel agencies.

No one knows if any information was taken or who its creator was. All they know is it took 14 months to eradicate.


The worst breach of U.S. military computers in history begins in 2008, in a parking lot at a U.S. military installation in the Middle East. A flash drive infected with a virus called “agent.btz” was inserted into a DoD computer network and quickly spread throughout the U.S. military’s classified and unclassified networks. Data – anything on these networks – could now be transferred to other servers under the control of agent.btz’s creator. The worst part is that no one knew it was there, what it might have sent, and to who the information went.

Once in place, the malicious code began to “beacon” out to its creator, letting whoever created it know that it was in place and ready for further instructions. That’s the only way analysts from the NSA’s Advanced Networks Operations team noticed it was there. At the height of the Global War on Terror, the Pentagon’s defense intelligence networks had been compromised.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

“Go over to that village and get the wifi password. My USB drive isn’t working.”

The NSA and DoD quickly determined the cause of the infection, and banned thumb drives as a response. They then collected thousands of thumb drives from officers and other troops in the field, finding they were all infected with the worm as well. Reports of new infections to the network didn’t slow down until well into 2009. In an operation called “Buckshot Yankee,” the Defense Department led an all-out assault on the worm. The effort was so intense and deliberate that it led to the creation of the 11th military unified command – The U.S. Cyber Command.

Pentagon officials blame Russian agents for the virus, but individuals who worked on Buckshot Yankee dismiss that assertion, saying that the worm, though potentially destructive, ended up being “relatively benign.” Still, others assert that Russian intelligence agencies have used code similar to agent.btz before. Even with the concerted effort against the worm, Pentagon officials couldn’t answer the simplest of questions. How many computers were affected? How many drives were infected? Where was the virus’ patient zero?

No one knew. To this day, no one knows for sure.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

The Air Force’s “silent service.”

In the end, it taught the Defense Department an important lesson. It was much more vulnerable to a small threat, even a cyber threat, than it should have been. Now the DoD claims it is better-equipped to detect such threats and infections, and to respond to them. The policy shift took the responsibility of protecting classified and unclassified Defense networks out of the hands of the local IT troops (or contractors) and put it in the hands of senior commanders.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 21 edition)

Here’s what happening in and around the military world right now:


Now: Which US President was the greatest military leader? 

Military Life

Enlisting in 2021? Here’s how to choose the right branch for you

If you’re considering joining the military, congratulations! Military life comes with amazing benefits and a lifelong community, but experience from branch to branch varies widely. While you should research any branch you’re considering thoroughly before enlisting, this guide can give you an overview of what to expect from each one.

Who should join the Navy? 

A U.S. Navy commander talks with a Soviet navy captain second rank as they walk along the pier past the Soviet guided missile destroyer Boyevay. Three ships of the Soviet Pacific Fleet are in San Diego for a five-day goodwill visit.

If you like life on the water, the Navy is a safe bet. After basic training, you’ll have to choose from a list of “rates,” or jobs. You can go into engineering, weaponry, medical, construction and numerous other fields, each with specific jobs called “ratings.” You can also train to become a Navy SEAL, but be warned; only a handful of those who begin training succeed. 

There are plenty of other ratings, though, like being a Navy Diver or an Intelligence Specialist. If those are too intimidating, someone also has to handle the laundry and cooking. We’re not joking. Some ratings aren’t quite as thrilling, like being the Ship’s Serviceman or Aviation Maintenance Admin.

Pros: 

  • Best base locations because they’re always on the coast
  • Chances to explore the world
  • Less rigorous physical training than the Army or the Marines
  • The opportunity to become a Navy SEAL if you want a (massive) challenge
  • The food tends to be pretty good compared to other branches
  • Interesting jobs that can become excellent post-military careers

Cons: 

  • Basic training can be freezing cold
  • Being at sea is part of the job, sometimes for months at a time
  • No privacy and cramped quarters
  • No internet access

Who should join the Army?

An Army Sergeant walking across Route Green. The army is one of the most popular branches.
US Army (USA) Sergeant (SGT) Michael Taylor, Foxtrot Company (F Co), 1-68th Combined Arms Battalion (CAB), 4th Infantry Division (ID), walks across Route Green while his troops remain on alert near a Traffic Control Point (TCP) area in Narwan, Iraq (IRQ), during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

As the oldest branch of the military, the Army is one of the most popular branches to join. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, however. Basic training in the Army is incredibly tough, second only to that of the Marines. During Basic Combat Training, you undergo a grueling 10 weeks of training. During that time, your physical fitness is put to the test. You’ll also learn basic marksmanship, tactical foot marches, field training exercises, and Army values. You’ll have to suffer through gas chamber training, too- and it’s not fun. (But don’t worry, it won’t kill you!) 

You’ll also have to pick a MOS, or Military Occupation Code. There are tons to choose from, but you probably won’t qualify for them all. Your score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, will determine what your options are. Still, there are so many to choose from that you’re bound to find something that interests you. 

Pros:

  • Stationed on a base, not on a ship
  • Amazing benefits, including housing benefits if you’re married and live off base
  • Opportunities to learn trades
  • Like the Navy, travel is a part of the job
  • Over 150 MOS’s to chose from

Cons

  • Plenty of jobs aren’t the most exciting. 
  • You don’t have a choice about where you’re stationed.
  • Physical training gets intense. 
  • You’ll have to get used to waking up crazy early. 

Who should join the Air Force?

US Air Force (USAF) Major (MAJ) Mike Hernandez climbs out of his Lockheed Martin built F/A-22 Raptor fighter after flying a training mission at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV).

If you’re looking for a military job that’s more similar to civilian work, the Air Force is probably your best bet. It’s very well-funded, and it works more like a corporation than a combat unit. Basic training is significantly easier than it is in other branches, because high levels of fitness aren’t as important. You still need to be in decent shape, but the eight and a half weeks of training are more about drills and learning Air Force standards than combat training. You’ll still learn basic rifle skills and undergo explosives training, and train for deployment.

Sounds cool, right? Yes, with a caveat. Lots of people go into the Air Force with hopes of becoming a pilot, but there are just over 1,000 pilot slots open each year. About half of those are reserved for Air Force Academy grads, and another third are set aside for ROTC members. If you want to become a pilot, signing up for the Air Force isn’t your safest bet. Check out the Air National Guard instead.

The options in the Air Force are still appealing, as long as you’re not deadset on flying. You can become a drone pilot, an air traffic controller or a cyber warfare expert; the later of which open up amazing civilian job opportunities after retirement from the military.

Pros:

  • Easiest basic training
  • Great on-base housing options
  • Better quality of life than most other branches
  • Interesting jobs that can transition to lucrative careers later on
  • You may have the opportunity to become a pilot
  • If you’re not a pilot, you’ll probably never see combat

Cons:

  • More stringent requirements to get in than those of other branches
  • Other branches tend to turn their noses up at the Air Force
  • Some jobs require insanely long hours
  • It’s actually pretty hard to land a pilot slot

Who should join the Marines? 

US Marines shaking hands. The Marine Corp is one of the most physically demanding branches
United States Marine Corps (USMC), Corporal (CPL) James J. Huntsman, a team leader with the first platoon, Company “E” Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) graduates from Corporal’s Course aboard the USS TORTUGA (LSD-46) Dock Landing ship.

If you want to see combat, join the Marines. If you don’t, steer clear. The Marines work both on land and at sea to defend Navy bases and participate in Naval campaigns. Because Marines are usually on the front lines when deployed, boot camp is extremely rigorous. If you can’t deal with getting yelled at, don’t sign up. Marine boot camp takes place in three phases, which include everything from intense training and martial arts to rifle skills and swim training. 

Marine jobs are organized by MOS’, just like other branches, but many people sign up specifically to be an infantryman. Being in the infantry means participating in foreign conflicts right off the bat. Other options that lead to more opportunities upon retirement include dog handling, cryptologic digital network technology, and counterintelligence. 

Pros:

  • The Marines are considered the best of the best. They’re highly respected, and jokingly say they’re actually a department of the Navy: the men’s department. 
  • Marines are usually the first line of defense when a war takes place. 
  • The uniforms are amazing. 
  • After being in the Marines, you’ll be in amazing shape.

Cons:

  • There isn’t as much variety when it comes to job opportunities 
  • Promotions take longer than in other branches
  • The standards for uniform and appearance are stringent.
  • The quality of life tends to be lower than that of some other branches.

Who should join the Coast Guard?

Members of the coast guard performing a rescue
Members of a United States Coast Guard (USCG) help Special Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) aboard the cutter USCG MUSTANG (WPB-310) during maritime operations in the Port of Valdez, Alaska, in support of exercise Northern Edge 2002.

If your biggest goal for your future military career is to save lives, join the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is responsible for search and rescue missions, but that’s far from all they do. They intercept drug trafficking ships, inspect container ships, work on environmental protection, escort civilian ships with risky cargo, and lots more. Basic training takes eight weeks. During that time, you’ll have to meet physical fitness standards, plus practice specialized water training, firefighting, and marksmanship. When you graduate, you have a solid chance of being guaranteed a base location, which is a big plus. 

Most people join the Coast Guard because they want to be Aviation Survival Technicians, aka rescue swimmers. Being a gunners mate is another popular job, but there are plenty of less adventurous options, too. If you don’t mind sitting around keeping watch, operations specialists do that a few days a week for up to 12 hours at a time. Not the most exciting, but much less risky, too.

Pros:

  • You won’t be deployed abroad, and deployments are often shorter
  • You’ll get to live near the sea, with a lower likelihood of living on a ship for months on end
  • You have a chance at choosing your base
  • It’s a smaller branch, so you’ll be able to get to know people really well

Cons:

  • It’s tougher to get in because it’s such a small branch.
  • Quarters on board are often cramped
  • Certain Coast Guard jobs are surprisingly dangerous

At the end of the day, choosing the right branch all comes down to you.

These descriptions are only guidelines. If more than one branch intrigues you, dig deeper. Learn more about day to day life in any branches of interest. If you’re really serious, you can speak with a recruiter as well, or connect with veterans to understand exactly what you’re signing up for. 

Consider your long-term goals as well. Where do you want to be in 10 years? An engineer or pilot will have many more job opportunities after service than someone in the infantry. Enlisting isn’t your only option, either! You could become an officer instead, which is a totally different ballgame. 

This isn’t a decision to make on a whim, so take your time to figure out the perfect branch for you. You won’t regret it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New photos show Russian military buildup on NATO’s doorstep

Russia is upgrading and modernizing four military installations in a strategic area on NATO’s doorstep, satellite images obtained by CNN suggest.

Increased Russian military activity has been spotted in Kaliningrad, a disconnected Russian territory situated between Poland and the Baltic states. The Russians have been carrying out major renovation work at what is believed to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, Hans M. Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists concluded in an analysis of satellite images in June 2018.

Russian operations in the area appear to have dramatically expanded in recent months.


Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

(FAS)

Work continues at the apparent nuclear storage site identified earlier, and another 40 new bunkers, each with the potential to serve as military storage facilities, are under construction near Primorsk, a large port on the Baltic Sea. Upgrades to the Chkalovsk air base, including a new railway and improved aircraft landing system, and the Chernyakhovsk base, home to a Russian missile brigade, are underway, CNN reported Oct. 17, 2018.

The nuclear-capable Iskander missile was delivered to the Chernyakhovsk base in February 2018. This troubling delivery is recognized as one of the more serious signs of Russian militarization in the Baltics.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Russian Iskander missiles on the 9P78-1 Transporter erector launcher.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

“If they want to challenge us, we will challenge them,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, told CNN without specifically commenting on the satellite images. “We’re not going to be intimidated by those systems that are out there.”

Reports of a possible Russian military buildup in Kaliningrad come just ahead of a massive NATO military exercise involving tens of thousands of troops from more than two dozen countries.

The upcoming Trident Juncture exercises, scheduled to begin in late October 2018, will include 45,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships, and 150 aircraft from 31 countries training side by side in and around Norway. The joint drills, Article 5 collective defense exercises, will include land, air, and amphibious forces training to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state.

The Russians have been invited to observe the exercises, which are designed to send a message to Moscow.

“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” Foggo explained to press at the Pentagon in October 2018. “They are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”

Tensions are running high between Russia and NATO, and Kaliningrad is a potential fault line for regional conflict.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Back to the basics: SEAL teams invest in underwater operations

After decades of sustained land operations, the Navy SEAL Teams are pivoting back to their underwater roots. The acquisition of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11 has marked this strategic shift.

SEAL Delivery Vehicles are used to clandestinely transport SEAL operators closer to a target. Naval Special Warfare currently uses the venerable SDV Mark 8.


But the Mark 11 is an improvement to the old design. The new mini-submarine comes with better navigational abilities and increased payload capacity. The new vehicle also weighs 4,000 pounds more and is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 6 inches wider.

SDVs are wet submarines, meaning that water flows in the vehicle. The SEAL operators have to have underwater breathing apparatuses and wetsuits to survive. They are cumbersome and taxing on the operators, but they get the job done. Naval Special Warfare, however, is looking to add dry submarines to its fleet of midget subs – what you would think of a submarine — in the near future.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

The new SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Mark 11 during navigation training in the Pacific Ocean (US Navy).

Last October, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Teledyne Brown Engineering a 8 million contract for the ten Mark 11s. The company has delivered five midget subs already, the last one in June. The remaining five are to be spaced out between Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022.

Currently, the Mark 11 is undergoing operational testing. Of particular importance is the landmark test of deploying and recovering a Mark 11 from a submarine.

Expediting the date of initial operational capability is the fact that both the Mark 8s and Mark 11s utilize the same Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) platform. DDS are attached to a submarine and carry the SDVs closer to the target.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is loaded aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700). A Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) equipped submarine is attached to the submarine’s rear escape trunk to provide a dry environment for Navy Seals to prepare for special warfare exercises or operations. DDS is the primary supporting craft for the SDV (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen).

The improved SDV capabilities of Naval Special Warfare are in response to the National Defense Strategy, which has marked the shift from counterinsurgency operations to near-peer warfare and categorized Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. national security. China, in particular, seems to be the main focus of that drive for a potent and well-maintained SDV capability.

“After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested,” had said Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare in a discussion about the future of his force.

To begin with, there is China’s pugnacious and expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy, moreover, seems to be going through an arms race reminiscent of the Dreadnaught race between the United Kingdom and Germany that adumbrated the First World War. It can field more than 700 ships in the case of a conflict.

“We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force,” had added RADM Green.

Last year, Naval Special Warfare Command decided to reactivate SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2) as the committed East Coast SDV unit after 11 years, further signaling its commitment to return its underwater special operations roots. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1) is responsible for the West Coast.

Here’s an interesting fact about the SDV Teams: Master Chief Kirby Horrell – the last Vietnam era Navy SEAL to retire from active duty after an astounding 47 years in uniform – went through the three-month-long SDV school at the age of 56 (he was promoted to Master Chief while in the course). Training dives in SDV school and the SDV Teams are no joke. Some last eight hours or even more.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

Could a nuclear war with Russia start in the Black Sea?

An incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in February now has new context. The dustup involved multiple Russian aircraft making close passes over the Porter that the United States Navy described as “unsafe and unprofessional” at the time. The aircraft involved were Su-24 Fencers and an Il-38 May.


According to a report from Reuters, the Russian defense ministry has declared that any United States Navy patrol in the Black Sea is a potential threat to Russia. The reason, they claim, is that they cannot tell what missiles are loaded aboard the U.S. ships.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) stands watch in the Indian Ocean during a 2007 deployment. (US Navy photo)

How credible is this claim? To start, let’s look at the Porter’s weapons suite. It carries a single five-inch gun, it is equipped with two Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 324mm torpedoes, and two Mk 41 vertical launch systems (one with 29 cells, the other with 61).

It is this last system that warrants a closer look. The Mk 41 can carry RIM-66 Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, RIM-174 Standard SM-6 surface-to-air missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RUM-139 Vertical-Launched ASROCs, and BGM-109 Tomahawks. The Tomahawks are probably what the Russian defense ministry is citing as their excuse for the close encounter.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Flt I Burke class destroyer shoots a Harpoon missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Tomahawk comes in several varieties. Perhaps the most well-known are the TLAM-C and TLAM-D versions, largely because they have been the most used. According to Designation-Systems.net, the Block III version of the Tomahawk has a 750-pound high-explosive warhead and a range of 870 nautical miles.

The new Tactical Tomahawk, known as the BGM-109E, has a range of 900 nautical miles, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In other words, from the Black Sea, Tomahawks could reach out and at a minimum, roll back Russian air defenses in time of war. There used to be a nuclear version of the Tomahawk, but according to a 2013 report by the Federation of American Scientists, the BGM-109A TLAM-N was retired after the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

So, really, a patrol by the United States Navy is not a threat to Russia, in and of itself. And the Navy’s patrols in the Black Sea won’t touch off a nuclear war – unless the Russians launch their nuclear-tipped anti-ship missiles first.

Articles

How being a woman in the North Korean military is basically a living hell

North Korea’s awful record of human rights violations may place it as the worst regime in the world in how it treats its people, but first-hand tales of the abuses rarely slip the secretive country’s borders.


While oppression in North Korea knows no bounds, a video from South Korean Digitalsoju TV shows how the regime can be especially horrific in its treatment of women.

In the video, women defectors who formerly served in North Korea’s military sit down with a South Korean host in a military-themed restaurant famous for its chicken. The cultural divide between the two Korean women becomes palpable when the North Korean points to mock ammunition decorating the restaurant, and the South Korean says she recognizes them from comics.

“Aww, you’re so adorable,” the North Korean replied.

(Digitalsoju TV | YouTube)The defector explained that all North Korean women must serve in the military for six years, and all men must serve for 11. During that time, she said she was fed three spoonfuls of rice at mealtimes.

Unsurprisingly, malnutrition is widespread across all sectors of North Korea. And despite North Korea being a communist country, the defector still said that even within the military, people badly want money and withhold or steal each other’s state-issued goods, like military uniforms.

The defector said that in North Korea, women are taught that they’re not as smart, important, or as strong as men.

A second defector said that the officers in charge of uniform and ration distribution would often leverage their position to coerce sex from female soldiers. “Higher-ranked officers sleeping around is quite common,” said the second woman.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

But the first defector had a much more personal story.

“I was in the early stages of malnutrition… I weighed just around 81 pounds and was about 5’2,” said the defector. Her Body Mass Index, though not a perfect indicator of health, works out to about 15, where a healthy body is considered to have a BMI of about 19-25.

“The major general was this man who was around 45 years old and I was only 18 years old at the time,” she said. “But he tried to force himself on me.”

“So one day he tells everyone else to leave except for me. Then he abruptly tells me to take off all my clothes,” she said. The officer told her he was inspecting her for malnutrition, possibly to send her off to a hospital where undernourished soldiers are treated.

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak.

“So since I didn’t have much of a choice, I thought, well, it’s the Major General. Surely there’s a good reason for this. I never could have imagined he’d try something,” she said. But the Major General asks her to remove her underwear and “then out of nowhere, he comes at me,” she said.

The Major General then proceeded to beat her while she loudly screamed, so he covered her mouth. She said he hit her so hard in the left ear, that blood came out of her right ear. She said the beating was so severe her teeth were loose afterwards.

“How do you think this is going to make me look?” the Major General asked her after the beating. He then instructs her to get dressed and tell no one what happened or he would “make [her] life a living hell.”

Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal
Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak.

“There wasn’t really anyone I could tell or report this too,” she said. “Many other women have gone through something similar.

“I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive, but if Korea ever gets reunified, I’m going to find him and even if I can’t make him feel ten times the pain I felt, I want to at least smack him on the right side of his face the same way he did to me,” she said.

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