The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1947, Ernest Brace thought he was going to be a simple radio technician in a calmer, postwar world. None of those things happened. He was sent to flight school for the Corps instead and was sent to Korea, where he became a dive bomber. After flying more than 100 missions, he left the military for the civilian sector, only to be shot down while running arms – over Vietnam.

He would be held captive in Hanoi for almost eight years, making him the longest-held American POW in the entire war.


The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Adm. Noel Gayler, right, greeted Ernest Brace in March 1973 on his release as a prisoner of war.

By the time he earned his flight wings as a mustang military officer, the United States was committed to the war in Korea. Marine Attack Squadron 121 and Ernest Brace were sent there to fight in 1952. Brace would be there for almost the rest of the war. He flew more than 100 fighter missions over Korea in that time, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for taking incredible surface fire while raiding a power plant. He crashed into the Sea of Japan, but was rescued by the Navy.

Having enlisted at age 15, Brace was only 22 when his time in Korea ended. He was sent stateside in Maryland to train when he abruptly ended his own military career. He was accused of trying to fake his own death by crashing a trainer aircraft into a cornfield. Brace allegedly wanted his wife to collect his life insurance payout. When his flight uniform and other articles were found, he turned himself in. He was soon court-martialed and out of the military. But good men the military could trust were hard to find in the middle of the Cold War, so Ernest Brace wasn’t grounded for long.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Brace after returning from captivity in Vietnam.

Brace began flying planes for Bird Son, a company that supported government operations in Thailand, as well as USAID operations in the region. Most importantly, Bird was a contract operator for the Central Intelligence Agency at the time. In May 1965, Brace was the pilot of a PC-6 Porter civilian aircraft that took small arms fire while on the ground in Laos. Unable to take off, he was captured by the Pathet Lao and handed over to the North Vietnamese. After being tortured and held in stress positions for years on end, he finally found himself in the notorious Hanoi Hilton prison. He had attempted escape numerous times but was recaptured every time. After attempting suicide, Brace was sent to Hanoi with the other high-value POWs. His neighbor in the cells got him through by teaching him the POWs’ tap code.

Though he never saw his neighbor’s face, they were crucial to each others’ sanity and survival. It wasn’t until the two men met after their release in May 1973 that Ernest Brace met Lt. Cmdr. John McCain face-to-face for the first time. Their first meeting was at the White House.

Also: The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Just desserts for a man whose service to his country never ended.

During his captivity, Brace’s wife had accepted that he was dead and had since remarried. So when he met a nurse in San Diego Naval Medical Center and fell in love, he could marry her after his recovery. They were married the rest of his life and had three kids of their own. Brace lived to the age of 83, dying in 2014.

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5 problems Space Marines deal with

The Space Marines of Warhammer 40,000 are some of the most beloved, fictionalized versions of our beloved, real-life Marine Corps. Whether it’s the hyper-masculinity or the gratuitous violence dispensed against the Chaos-worshiping heretics, WH40K’s Space Marines are a logical place to start when imagining how our Marines might fare 37,982 years from now.


That being said, it’s easy to see the bright side of dropping onto a planet bringing nothing but a Storm Bolter and unbridled fury against the enemies of mankind. No one ever imagines the all of the bullsh*t details that would inevitably happen in the Adeptus Astartes.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Just because you were perfectly fit at 18 years old doesn’t mean you can charge into battle perfectly fine at 87.
(Games Workshop)

Physical Training

Keeping your Emperor-like body in peak condition takes plenty of work. After all, that 350+ lbs armor isn’t going to carry itself.

It’s kind of understood that Space Marines undergo rigorous training before they earn their futuristic equivalent of The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor — which is an organ from one the Emperor’s clones. As much of an edge as that would give a Space Marine over their purely human counterparts, they still need to do an insane amount of sustainment training.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
“And remember, if you or your battle buddy feels like committing heresy, my office is always available.”
(Games Workshop)

Safety Briefs

Space Marines are also supposedly hyper-intelligent warriors who are bred for battle. It can be assumed they wouldn’t be grilled on the exact means of how they’re going to fight. Thankfully, they wouldn’t deal with “pre-drop” safety briefs.

What they would deal with is countless classes on why they shouldn’t desert or turn to chaos. Even if they’re the most devout Chaplain, they’d have to hear the same PowerPoint slide on why heresy is bad every weekend.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
If you’re going to model yourself after intergalactic vikings, you have to drink like intergalactic vikings.
(Games Workshop)

 

Alcohol-related incidents

Remember those Emperor-cloned organs we mentioned? Apparently, one is implanted to purify any toxins from Space Marines’ system. For it to work, a Space Marine must manually activate their liver. This would come in handy because, apparently, the alcohol in the Warhammer Universe is insanely strong.

One could only imagine the parties that are thrown in a Space Marine barracks after a glorious battle…

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Don’t even get me started on how much of a pain in the ass it would be to clean out all the xeno blood from a chainsword.
(Games Workshop)

 

Weapons maintenance

No matter what kind of future tech you’re using, if you’re constantly training with weapons, you’re going to have to clean them.

No matter how much the Space Marine cleanses, purges, and kills with their weapon, they still run the risk of hurting themselves (a one-in-six chance, to be precise) if they don’t keep things clean.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Go ahead: Guess which one is the officer. Take as much time as you need.
(Games Workshop)

Morale is entirely based off a unit’s leader

It doesn’t matter how devout a Space Marine is, how many battles they’ve fought, or how many comrades they lost, Space Marines still run the chance of defecting every turn fight because of low morale.

The only way to counter this is to have a good leader. But, since Space Marines leaders have never heard the term “sniper check,” it’s easy to pick them off and ruin a squad.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Macedonia poised to join NATO if it changes its name

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance is “ready to welcome” Macedonia as its 30th member once Skopje finalizes an agreement with Athens to change the former Yugoslav republic’s name.

Stoltenberg was speaking on a Sept. 6, 2018, during a visit to Macedonia aimed at expressing support for the “yes” campaign in a national referendum set for Sept. 30, 2018.

“NATO’s door is open, but only the people of this country can decide to walk through it. So, your future is in your hands. We wait for you in NATO,” he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.


The Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers signed a deal on June 17, 2018, to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia — North Macedonia for short — and resolve a 27-year dispute between Skopje and Athens.

Macedonian lawmakers later voted in favor of the bill to ratify the agreement, which paves the way for talks on Macedonian membership in both NATO and the European Union.

But hurdles remain for the deal to come into effect, including the support of Macedonian voters in the upcoming referendum.

‘Taking this country forward’

Western leaders have also backed Zaev’s “yes” campaign ahead of the referendum, in which Macedonians will be asked, “Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?”

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to visit Skopje on Sept. 7, 2018, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the following day.

In Skopje, Stoltenberg also congratulated Zaev on Macedonia’s reforms.

“I congratulate you on the progress you made, taking this country forward,” the NATO chief said. “The economy is peaking up and the reforms are being implemented, including on the rule of law, security and intelligence, and the defense sector.”

He also called on the Macedonian prime minister to continue with reforms, saying, “This will make you safer, stronger, and even better able to work side by side with NATO allies.”

The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Neighboring Greece has objected to the name Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims on the northern Greek region with the same name.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Featured image: Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in october 2017, at a UN meeting about sustainable development.

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

Articles

The ‘Big Red One’ led the fight from WWI to Iraq

The 1st Infantry Division is the oldest continuously active division in the U.S. Army and has served since 1917. During that time, it has often claimed the first honors of different American wars — everything from firing the first American shell against Germany of World War I to breaking through the berm into Iraq in 1991.


In the past 100 years, it has served in almost every American war. The Big Red One was kept in Europe to prevent a Soviet attack during the Korean War, but fought in both world wars, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the Iraq and Afghan Wars.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Soldiers with the 1st Division, U.S. First Army, ride on a tank, during their advance on the town of Schopen, Belgium. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

The unit was created in May 1917 when Maj. Gen. John Pershing received orders to take four infantry regiments and an artillery regiment to France. Pershing assumed that this meant he was to take a division, and he organized the force as the First Expeditionary Division which was later changed to the First Division. The unit included an additional artillery regiment.

When it sailed to France, the First Division fulfilled America’s promise to help bring Imperial Germany to its knees. They trained quickly in trench warfare side-by-side with their French counterparts and then took over a sector of the frontlines.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Soldiers of the New York National Guard march through the streets of New York city in 1917. The First Expeditionary Division launched from New York and led the way for U.S. forces headed to France in World War I. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

While in France, the First Division fired the first American shell in the ground war against Germany on Oct. 23, 1917, and suffered the first American casualty of the ground war only two days later.

(The USS Cassin had fired the first shells of the war and suffered the first casualty on Oct. 15, 1917, in battle with the German U-61 submarine.)

The doughboys of the First Division led the first American offensive of the war at Cantigny and fought on through Soissons, the St. Mihiel Salient, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. In the Argonne, the division fought through eight German divisions despite suffering more than 7,600 casualties.

As World War I drew to a close, the division was authorized its “Big Red One” shoulder patch that it still wears to this day.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Army 1st Infantry Division troops land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent)

For World War II, the division was re-designated the 1st Infantry Division and sent to Africa as part of Operation Torch. America’s first major offensive in the war, Torch helped bring about the Allied victory in North Africa and cut off Axis oil supplies headed into Europe.

Big Red One soldiers pushed on, taking part in Operation Husky on Sicily and Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings at Normandy. That means that the 1st Infantry Division took part in two of the larger amphibious operations of the war, Husky and Torch, and the largest amphibious assault in history, Overlord.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division move up in Germany during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army Technician 3rd Class Jack Kitzerow)

In the Normandy landings, the Big Red One was assigned to take Omaha Beach where a combination of bad water and worse terrain made the initial invasion plan untenable. Instead of fighting through the five roads leaving the beach, the men were forced to scale 100-ft. tall cliffs and attack German defenses from the rear.

The division fought its way west with the rest of the invasion force, taking Normandy’s hedgerows after weeks of bitter fighting and then making it into Germany just in time for the massive counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. They fought their way back into Germany after the Bulge and liberated two German concentration camps.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
A U.S. Army soldier with the 1st Infantry Division prepares his anti-aircraft gun during World War II. The six swastikas indicate six enemy planes killed. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

While the division did not deploy to Korea, it was called on for a number of near misses during the cold War, with units sent to Florida to support the potential invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis and to Berlin to prevent a Soviet invasion of West Berlin.

In July 1965, Big Red One’s second brigade became the first element of any infantry division to arrive in Vietnam. It fought a number of engagements over the next few years, working in early 1966 to capture supplies before an anticipated enemy offensive and capturing a massive weapons stockpile that April, removing 350 firearms and over 300,000 rounds of ammunition from Vietnamese arsenals.

In 1968, the Division helped protect key U.S. positions during the Tet Offensive but tragically lost its commanding general, Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware, when his aircraft was shot down in September.

During Desert Storm, the Big Red One was the spearhead into Iraq. On Feb. 24, 1991, it broke through Iraq’s defensive berm, attacked the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, and took 2,500 prisoners before allowing other coalition units to pass it. It pressed on and took out a Republican Guard division and other units.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Army 1st Infantry Division soldiers watch for enemy activity in Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)

It engaged at least 11 enemy divisions and captured more than 11,400 prisoners of war — over twice as many as any other division — before the war ended on Feb. 28.

After serving with other units in the Balkans and Kosovo, the Big Red One was once again sent to full-spectrum combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan where its forces served in task forces across both countries. Their largest contributions came in Iraq were 1st Inf. Div. soldiers helped secure the Sunni Triangle.

Interested in 1st Infantry Division History? A military museum at Cantigny Park, a public space dedicated to education and recreation by a 1st Infantry Division veteran, is looking for a Historic Vehicle Programs Manager who will oversee the First Division Museum’s fleet of tanks, personnel carriers, and other vehicles from American military history.

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree or higher in history or a related field and a good understanding of U.S. military history as well as experience in the maintenance and operation of historic military vehicles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 everyday items with surprising military applications

Necessity is the mother of invention, but combat forces troops to get creative. When your life is on the line, you do whatever it takes to get the job done. Over the years, troops have found some surprising applications on the battlefield for simple everyday items. Here are some of the best.

1. Super Glue

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Thanks to inventions like helicopters and Super Glue, wounded troops in Vietnam had a better chance of survival than in WWII (U.S. Army photo)

Yes, the stuff that you use to fix broken pottery and then get all over your fingers had a military use. In fact, it was a live saving application. While developing a plastic gunsight and an aircraft canopy in the 1940s and 1950s, Harry Coover invented a new super strong and quick-drying adhesive. Realizing the potential medical application of his new invention, he submitted it to the FDA for approval. Although it was disapproved for use on human tissue because it caused skin irritation, the military sent Super Glue to the Vietnam. Applied with a spray bottle, medics would use Super Glue to close open wounds and stop bleeding in the field. This gave many troops the valuable time needed to be MEDEVACed to a field hospital for proper treatment. Later, Super Glue’s formula was reworked to be used specifically on human tissue.

2. Grease pencil

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Modern MH-6 Little Birds have more advanced targeting systems (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The grease pencil has plenty of uses in the military. Its ability to write on glass make it ideal for air traffic controllers, especially on aircraft carriers. However, the pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment used the grease pencil as a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. When the OH-6 Cayuse was adapted into the MH-6 Little Bird for Special Operations use, the Army added two M134 7.62x51mm mini-guns and two 2.75-inch rocket pods to the helicopter. However, the pilots had no way of aiming their weapons. To create a reference, they would fly a few practice gun runs to see exactly where their fire was landing in relation to their windscreen. Afterwards, they would mark the spot with a little “X” in grease pencil and use it as a gun sight. Despite its crudity, the grease pencil gun sight worked remarkably well. Sgt. Raleigh Cash, a member of Task Force Ranger during the Battle of Mogadishu remembers the accuracy of the Little Birds. “These guys hit exactly where you told them to,” Cash recalled, “using nothing but a little X on the windscreen.”

3. Cricket

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Lt. Winters (Damian Lewis) uses his cricket to challenge an unknown group of men (HBO)

Thanks to Band of Brothers and Jurassic World, most people are probably familiar with this one. The cricket, or clicker, was originally designed in the 1920s as a timekeeping device for orchestra and band leaders. The simplicity of the clicking metal device meant that it was soon adopted as a children’s toy. However, during Operation Overlord, the cricket served a much more serious role than music or playtime. On D-Day, the 101st Airborne challenge and password was “flash-thunder”. If a paratrooper came across an unknown individual in the dark, they would whisper “flash” just loud enough for the person to hear. If they responded with “thunder”, it was another paratrooper and all was good. Otherwise, it was assumed that they were a German. The Screaming Eagles also used a nonverbal challenge and password. Using their crickets, paratroopers would make one click as a challenge. The appropriate response to identify yourself as a fellow trooper was two clicks with your own cricket. The simple cricket has also been used to train animals and has become iconic thanks to its depiction on screen.

4. Silly String

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Use it for crafts, parties, or room clearing (Wham-O)

A favorite of children and vandals alike, the aerosol plastic string in a can found its way to the battlefield during the war in Iraq. Especially in the early days of the war, U.S. troops were heavily impeded by IEDs. Enemy fighters would rig up crude explosives with simple tripwires that made house-to-house fighting extremely difficult and dangerous. Adapting to this threat, troops discovered that Silly String could be used to identify tripwires that were otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The plastic stream can be shot 10 to 12 feet across a room and is light enough to not set off any potential triggers. If the string falls to the ground, no tripwires. If the string hangs in the air, you know there’s something there. Upon hearing about this application from her son, one Army mom organized a drive to send 80,000 cans of the stuff to Iraq in 2007.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s newest spacecraft is ready to launch

NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, 2019, for the launch of the company’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight, which will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station. The launch, as well as other activities leading up to the launch, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.


The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station at approximately 5:55 a.m. Sunday, March 3, 2019.

This will be the first uncrewed flight test of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

A SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight test also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight, which will fly NASA astronauts to the space station, is targeted to launch in July 2019.

Following each flight, NASA will review performance data to ensure each upcoming mission is as safe as possible. After completion of all test flights, NASA will continue its review of the systems and flight data for certification ahead of the start of regular crewed flights to the space station.

Full Demo-1 coverage is as follows. All times are EST:

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019:

  • (no earlier than) 6 p.m. – Post-flight readiness review briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
    • Astronaut Office representative

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019:

  • TBD – Pre-launch briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Saturday, March 2, 2019:

  • 2 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for the 2:48 a.m. liftoff
  • 5 a.m. – Post-launch news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, NASA launch manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Sunday, March 3, 2019:

  • 3:30 a.m. – Rendezvous and docking coverage
  • 8:45 a.m. – Hatch opening coverage
  • 10:30 a.m. – Station crew welcoming ceremony

Friday, March 8, 2019:

  • 12:15 a.m. – Hatch closing coverage begins
  • 2:30 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – Deorbit and landing coverage
  • TBD – Post-landing briefing on NASA TV, location TBD, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • International Space Station Program representative
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov.

For more information on event coverage, got to:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This helicopter is the predecessor of the stealth Black Hawk from the bin Laden raid

Ever since the first details were released about a stealth helicopter being used and crashing during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, the internet aviation community has been awash with great interest and speculation about the aircraft. Recently, an image of what looks to be a forerunner for the stealth Black Hawk used in the raid surfaced online.

The internet community was quick to perform a visual autopsy on the image and scrutinize it for telling details that might reveal hidden secrets about the enigmatic project. One highly respected and anonymous contributor shared as many explicit details, the type that can only come from firsthand knowledge, as they could without breaching an NDA.


According to this source, the aircraft pictured is a YEH-60A at Edwards Air Force Base in 1989 or 1990. The helicopter is allegedly sporting a “Direction Finding Enhancement Kit”, of which a half dozen were produced. The kit reportedly also featured additional components like tail modifications that do not appear in the picture. This is consistent with the fact that the tail rotor of the crashed Black Hawk from the OBL raid was heavily modified and resembled the tail rotor of the canceled RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

The tail rotor of the wreckage left behind from the raid (Public Domain)

The anonymous source goes on to detail that those involved in the program nicknamed the aircraft the “Black Blackhawk.” In keeping with its spectral name, the test team took a picture with the helicopter which the source had double exposed with them in and out of the photo. “We all looked like ghosts. This would be a real head-turner on the contest table,” the source said.

At the same time that the “Black Blackhawk” was being tested at Edwards, the Lockheed YF-22 was being tested out of a hangar not too far away. The helicopter can reportedly be seen in some photos of the YF-22 flight test operations. Allegedly, the Lockheed engineers were bewildered when they first saw the YEH-60A with its kit.

At one point, despite the secretive test site, the helicopter’s test pilots had to take off one hour before sunrise and arrive back at Edwards one hour after sunset so that the aircraft would not be observed. Even this was a loosened restriction since the aircraft allegedly had to fly exclusively at night when it first began testing.

While the modern MH-60L Direct Action Penetrators flown by the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are not pictured with any sort of stealth kit, the wreckage of the OBL raid helicopter and the release of this image are proof that the technology is out there and has been for some time.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

A 160th SOAR MH-60L DAP (US Army)

MIGHTY HISTORY

U.S. serviceman helped liberate Nazi concentration camp

For nearly four decades, Al Ungerleider dedicated his life to serving his country. He was an infantry officer who saw active combat in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

Ungerleider experienced a lot during his years in the military, including a landing amid the chaos on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. But nothing stirred his emotions like what crossed before his eyes in the waning days of World War II. At the time, U.S., Soviet and British forces were liberating Nazi concentration camps in Europe as Germany was close to surrendering, bringing to life the horrors of Adolph Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jewish people. The liberators saw emaciated corpses piled on top of each other and skeletal camp survivors, and they could smell the stench of death.


The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Al Ungerleider (second row, farthest left, kneeling) landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day commanding Company L of the Third Battalion of the 115th Regiment of the 29th Division. This photo shows other commanders in the Third Battalion.

Army 1st Lt. Ungerleider, who died in 2011 at age 89, commanded Company I of the Third Battalion of the 115th Regiment, which separated into advance parties to scout routes and bivouac areas in central Germany. Ungerleider’s party came upon the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, the center of a vast network of forced labor camps in the Harz Mountain region. Prisoners at Dora-Mittlebau constructed large factories for the V-2 missile program and other experimental weapons.

Upon entering the camp 75 years ago on April 11, 1945, Ungerleider witnessed a level of cruelty that is “burned into my brain and my soul like nothing else in my life,” he said in a 1993 interview. “My men and I smashed through the gates and witnessed the site of dead bodies, of human beings in the worst state of degradation. There was absolute horror in what we saw. Then we asked, `What can we do to help?'”

`Literally starving to death’

Ungerleider, who was Jewish, spoke Yiddish to the survivors in the camp and grouped them together to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer to mourn the dead. Prior to the liberation, the Nazis had evacuated most of the prisoners at Dora-Mittlebau to the Bergen-Belsen camp in northern Germany to hide them from allied forces. Thus, only a few hundred prisoners remained at the camp, which once held as many as 12,000 by the time the Americans arrived.

“He and his unit were totally unprepared for what they found because they had no knowledge of the concentration camps,” said Ungerleider’s son, Neil Ungerleider. “The survivors were literally starving to death.”

Neil Ungerleider explained that his father spoke with German citizens who lived in the nearby towns and villages and who claimed ignorance of the atrocities. He said to them, `Go back and bring these people food,'” Neil Ungerleider said. “He threatened to imprison them if they didn’t do it, but they did. They brought them food.”

The Americans appeared to encounter minimal resistance as they scoured the camp. At one point, Al Ungerleider and Army Pfc. Billy Melander went to a building and found 10 crematorium ovens with the doors closed. Edward Burke, the captain of a tank destroyer battalion that accompanied Ungerleider’s unit in the assault on the camp, provided an account of what happened next:

Ungerleider told Billy to bring his M1 Rifle ready to fire as he opened the doors,” Burke once said. “Doors one, two, three and four were empty. Ungerleider said as he approached door five he felt a tingle all through his body. As he opened the door, there was a German trooper with a Luger pistol aimed at them. Fortunately, Billy was faster on the trigger, and he pumped eight shots into the German as fast as he could pull the trigger.”

Nightmares from what he witnessed

Like Al Ungerleider and his unit, many Americans were unaware of the German atrocities toward the Jews. Nearly 6 million Jewish people were murdered in Nazi concentration camps from 1939 to 1945 in what is known as the Holocaust.

Neil Ungerleider said his father experienced nightmares as a result of what he witnessed at Dora-Mittlebau. “This one traumatic event stuck with him for the rest of his life. He was able to cope very well with his war experiences, except for this one thing.”

Nearly a year before liberating the camp, Al Ungerleider led 50 men from the 115th Regiment ashore at Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944. They were in the second wave of U.S. troops who hit the beach in the Normandy invasion along the northern coast of France. The invasion changed the course of the war by leading to the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Germany’s control. “Being in the second wave, he didn’t experience the kind of slaughter that those who went in first did,” Neil Ungerleider said, “which doesn’t make it any less dangerous or any less heroic in terms of what he and his men did. But he did have close calls during the war.”

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Al Ungerleider earned three Bronze Stars for his military service.

`He was a patriot’

Al Ungerleider was not wounded during the landing. But he suffered injuries not long after from shrapnel in France. The first wound to his arm wasn’t that serious. He was treated at a hospital in France before returning to combat. A wound to the leg was more serious. He was evacuated to England for treatment and returned to battle.

On June 6, 1994, the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, Ungerleider was chosen to escort President Clinton for a wreath laying at the iconic site. Ten years later, he was one of 100 American Veterans who returned to Omaha Beach for the 60th anniversary. They received the French Legion of Honor, the oldest and highest honor in France.

In his distinguished military career, Ungerleider also commanded military bases in Korea and Vietnam. He was a three-time recipient of the Bronze Star, which is awarded to members of the military for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Over the years, Ungerleider remained modest about his recognition and service to his country. “He was a patriot who loved his country and did his duty,” Neil Ungerleider said. “After Pearl Harbor, my father enlisted because, as he put it, `We were all going. No one ever thought not to go.’ In his mind, he was doing nothing beyond what everyone else was doing. He never thought of himself as unique or special. The value he instilled in his children was this: Work hard, do your best and be modest about what you achieve. I cannot think of a better description of how he lived his life.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Texas Revolutionary was the original ‘Maverick’

In the later days of 1835, Samuel Maverick and his two friends were held on house arrest in what would one day be called San Antonio, Texas. The Texas Revolution was in full swing and the local Mexican military commander, Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos, didn’t trust the former Americans one bit, holding them prisoner in their own homes. They still somehow managed to inform the incoming Texian army about Mexican movements in the city. On the first day of December, Cos finally allowed the men to leave.

The first thing they did was join the Texian forces and lead an attack on the town.


By the time Maverick and his friends reached the Texians, the army was ready to retreat. Instead, the men offered to lead a series of attacks against their former city. After rousing a few hundred volunteers to join them, they headed back to San Antonio de Bexar. Four days after being forced out of the city, the men were leading attacks against its garrison commander, Gen. Cos. Maverick guided Col. Ben Milam’s troops into the city, while Maverick’s friend John Smith led the other detachment.

Milam was killed minutes into the fighting and Maverick was forced to lead the rest of the men into the streets and the house-to-house fighting that followed their entrance into the city. For five days, the revolutionaries fought Mexican government regulars in fierce urban combat. The Mexicans would surrender on the sixth day.

Since Milam had fallen early in the fighting, Maverick took his place at the surrender ceremony. He stayed around the San Antonio area, eventually joining the defenders of the Alamo. While in garrison at the famed citadel, Maverick was elected as one of two San Antonio delegates to the Texas Independence Convention. Maverick would not be able to leave the Alamo until March 2, 1836, because it was surrounded by Mexican troops. When he finally got away, the garrison commander, William Travis, begged him to ask the convention for reinforcements.

They would, of course, be too late. The day a special session of the convention was to be held was also the day of the Battle of the Alamo. All of the fort’s defenders were then dead. Maverick signed the Texas Declaration of Independence the next day.

He left Texas briefly to get married and have a baby, but soon returned to a state still considered to be in rebellion by the Mexican government. He became the Mayor of San Antonio and joined the city militia to fight off Comanche raids. But raids weren’t the biggest threat to San Antonio. Mexico was still bent on recovering its lost land. Eventually, the Mexican Army arrived outside San Antonio. The Anglo citizens of the city mustered a defense but were captured and forcibly marched back to Mexico. Despite being in prison, Maverick was still elected to the Texas Congress. He was released by Mexico the same day as his daughter’s birthday, after refusing repeatedly to publicly back Mexico’s claim to Texas. He served in the Texas legislature even after annexation by the United States – but none of this is how the word “Maverick” came to have its accepted meaning.

Maverick refused to brand his cattle because he was against the pain it caused the animals. He cared very little for his herd of cattle which was given to him as payment for a debt in lieu of cash. He transferred the care of the herd to a family in another part of Texas. It’s said that stragglers from Maverick’s herd were often found roaming. The unbranded cows were known as “mavericks” and often returned.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The French Foreign Legion in World War II was filled with Nazis

The French Foreign Legion is one of France’s elite fighting forces, filled with men who are ready and willing to do extreme violence on France’s behalf. When 1930s Germany started looking at its neighbors with greedy eyes, it knew that it had to do something about the Legion.

Germany saw its opportunity in the large number of Legion noncommissioned officers who were German by birth. The Nazis hatched a plan to send droves of men to the Legion. These men would then convince German noncommissioned officers to betray the Legion. The spies would also collect lists of Jewish legionnaires and other groups targeted by the Third Reich for extermination.

Somewhere around 80 percent of French Foreign Legion NCOs were German, so this was no idle threat. The Legion quickly caught on to the Nazis’ plan and began screening German recruits carefully.

 

Still, many Nazi agents got in before the heightened scrutiny began. Legion leaders, knowing they were compromised, began sending suspect Legionnaires to low-risk postings like road construction. At the same time, Legionnaires who might be targeted by the Nazis were sent to far-flung outposts in North Africa.

 

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
Free French Foreign Legionnaires attack an enemy strongpoint in Africa in 1942. Photo: Public domain

The level of German sympathies in the Legion was bad enough that France debated whether or not to deploy Legion units from their headquarters in Algeria to France ahead of the possible German invasion. They settled on recruiting new Legionnaires from anti-Nazi populations, such as political refugees from Germany and French reservists, and brought loyal Legionnaires from North Africa to train them.

Nine new regiments were raised but most lacked the standards and experience of the true French Foreign Legion. Most of these units were sent to the front before the Germans invaded and they fought bitterly to resist the blitzkrieg when it was launched. When war broke out, the Legion also took the preventative measure of arresting German Legionnaires suspected of being Nazi spies.

The Legion has a long and proud history of fighting well past when other units would have surrendered, and the Legion units fighting in France upheld that tradition. Most continued fighting even after taking losses of 75 percent or more, only ceasing when ordered by their commanders after the Armistice was signed.

The 11th Foreign Infantry Regiment, knowing it would likely be wiped out, even burned its colors to prevent their capture before launching a series of delaying actions to buy other units time to retreat.

After the Armistice was signed, Germany demanded that their spies be allowed to leave the Legion. The true Legionnaires were happy to see them go.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years
French Foreign Legionnaires assigned to Indochina pose under a plane wing. Photo: Public Domain

Those spies took lists of people considered “undesirable” with them, and the Legion quickly had to make false papers to protect them from arrest by the Nazis. Many were shipped under new names to remote outposts where the Nazis were unlikely to look for them.

Unfortunately, about 2,000 men were found out by the Nazis. Most were sent to a new German unit, the 361st Motorised Infantry Regiment, and forced to fight for Germany.

At the same time, Legion units split into three groups. Some of the newer units, filled with recruits who had joined “for the duration of the war,” were disbanded. Others joined the Free French Forces under Gen. Charles de Gaulle and continued to resist the Germans. A few units, mostly those in areas already controlled by the Germans, joined the Vichy French forces and fought against the allies.

In one battle in Syria, this actually resulted in men from the Free French Foreign Legion fighting those from the Vichy French Legion. Following the Legion’s mantra, “The Legion is our Fatherland,” the treated prisoners and wounded from the opposing Legion with special care.

Ultimately, the Free French Foreign Legion won and continued supporting the Allies well into the invasion of Germany.

MIGHTY SPORTS

March Madness will be ‘fan free’ due to COVID-19

One of the best parts of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is the cheer of the crowds. The eruptions of joy, the cries of despair, the yelling at the referees, the prayers to the heavens and the cursing at how much money you lost adds to the atmosphere that we call March Madness.

This year, however, the only sounds you will hear might be the squeaking of sneakers, the yelling of a coach and the whistles of the refs.


March Madness is going to be awesome this year! (Via @lucas_hepp)pic.twitter.com/hQpeXOxEt4

twitter.com

Today, the President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert released a statement saying that both the Men’s and Women’s Tournaments would be played without crowds. The reason is the continued spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, throughout the United States. As of this writing there were currently 1,200 people that have been affected in over 41 states, with health officials worried that the virus’ spread will get worse. Thirty one Americans have died so far, and there are hopes that containment and quarantines will keep the death toll down.

Because of the spread of the virus, the NCAA decided that it was best to keep large crowds away from arenas in order keep people safe. However, they are still holding the games with only players, coaches and essential personnel present. While the reduced number of people would mitigate a larger spread, players and coaches traveling from destination to destination still might be at risk of infection.

As far as families of coaches and players, the NCAA will allow limited family to attend games. This will probably include parents, spouses, significant others and kids. One can assume other than referees, there will also be scorekeepers, facility operations personnel, TV and radio broadcast crews among others.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

live.staticflickr.com

The United States has already seen several cancellations or postponements from Coachella being pushed back until October, SXSW being canceled in Austin and even the venerable Houston Rodeo being shut down.

But the NCAA Tournaments which generate over a billion dollars yearly for schools, conferences, television stations, corporate sponsors and anyone that’s not a player is the biggest event so far impacted by the coronavirus.

The NCAA did have a COVID-19 advisory panel which was monitoring the situation and keeping up to date with the spread of the virus as well as preventive measures taking place around the world.

The move by Italian officials to play Serie-A (Italy’s top soccer league) behind closed doors definitely had to play a big part in this decision. Similar moves have been taking place in the Europa tournament. Here in the United States, as conference tournaments started to be played (some teams’ way to get into the Big Dance), the Ivy league canceled their tournament outright citing fears of spreading the disease.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

upload.wikimedia.org

upload.wikimedia.org

Referring to the advisory panel, Emmert said that, “Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

The fallout of this decision is sure to send shockwaves throughout the sports community.

As we speak, baseball is in the middle of spring training with Opening Day set for the end of March. NBA and NHL teams are making pushes to the playoffs and are involved in many make or break games. While the NFL is on draft mode, the XFL’s successful first year might take a elbow drop. And depending on how long the virus lingers there is a chance (albeit small) it could have an affect on the Olympics.

From the business side of sports, the impact alone of the NCAA’s decision will be far reaching. Hopefully, the virus is contained soon and the impact on businesses won’t be as bad as many fear. However, it does show us that TV, not attendance is the new factor in how successful sports organizations are. The fact that they will still hold the tournament and televise it without crowds shows the power that TV rights deals have on the sports. We’re just thankful we’ll have something to watch if we’re quarantined.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Castles moats didn’t contain alligators, but one has bears

John A. asks: Are there any real examples of medieval castles having alligators in the moat to keep out intruders?

A common image in pop-culture is that of a castle moat filled to the brim with water and hungry crocodiles. So did anyone ever actually do this?

The short answer is that it doesn’t appear so. That said, while there’s no known documented instance of crocodiles intentionally being put into moats, we do know of at least one castle that had (and has, in fact) a moat full of bears…


Before we get to that and why crocodiles in moats are probably not the best idea in the world, or at least not a very efficient use of resources if your concern was really defense of a fortress, we should address the fact that the common image most people have in their heads of a moat isn’t exactly representative of what historical moats usually looked like.

To begin with, moats have been around seemingly as long as humans have had need of protecting a structure or area, with documented instances of them appearing everywhere from Ancient Egypt to slightly more modern times around certain Native American settlements. And, of course, there are countless examples of moats being used throughout European history. In many cases, however, these moats were little more than empty pits dug around a particular piece of land or property- water filled moats were something of a rarity.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Bodiam Castle, a 14th-century castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England.

(WyrdLight.com, CC BY-SA)

You see, unless a natural source of water was around, maintaining an artificial moat filled with water required a lot of resources to avoid the whole thing just turning into a stinking cesspool of algae and biting bugs, as is wont to happen in standing water. As with artificial ponds constructed on certain wealthy individuals’ estates, these would have to be regularly drained and cleaned, then filled back up to keep things from becoming putrid.

Of course, if one had a natural flowing water source nearby, some of these problems could be avoided. But, in the end, it turns out a water filled moat isn’t actually that much more effective than an empty one at accomplishing the goal of protecting a fortress.

And as for putting crocodiles (or alligators) in them, introducing such animals to a region, beyond being quite expensive if not their native habitat, is also potentially dangerous if the animals got out. Again, all this while not really making the act of conquering a fortress that much more difficult- so little payoff for the extra cost of maintaining crocodiles.

Unsurprisingly from this, outside of a legend we’ll get to shortly, there doesn’t appear to be any known documented cases of anyone intentionally putting crocodiles or alligators into their water filled moats.

It should also be mentioned here that while at first glance it would appear that the key purpose of a moat is to defend against soldiers attacking at the walls, they were often actually constructed with the idea of stopping soldiers under the ground. You see, a technique favoured since ancient times for breaching cities, fortresses and fortified positions was to simply dig tunnels below any walls surrounding the position and then intentionally let them collapse, bringing part of the wall above that section tumbling down. Eventually this was accomplished by use of explosives like gunpowder, but before this a more simple method was to cart a bunch of tinder into the tunnel at the appropriate point and set the whole thing ablaze. The idea here was, after all your diggers were out, to destroy the support beams used to keep the tunnel from collapsing while digging. If all went as planned, both the tunnel and the wall above it would then collapse.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

North view of the fortress of Buhen in Ancient Egypt.

To get around this very effective form of breaching fortifications, moats would be dug as deeply as possible around the fortification, sometimes until diggers reached bedrock. If a natural source of water was around, surrounding the fortress with water was a potential additional benefit over the dry pit at stopping such tunneling.

Either way, beyond making tunneling more difficult (or practically impossible), dry and wet moats, of course, helped dissuade above ground attacks as well thanks to moats being quite good at limiting an enemy’s use of siege weaponry. In particular, devices such as battering rams are rendered almost entirely useless in the presence of a large moat. Though the later advent of weapons such as trebuchets made moats less effective overall, they still proved to be formidable barrier capable of kneecapping a direct assault on a castle’s walls.

All this said, it wasn’t as if proud moat owners didn’t put anything in them. There are plenty of ways to beef up moat defences without the need for water and crocodiles. Pretty much anything that slows an enemy’s advance works well. And, better year, anything that is so daunting it deters an attack at all.

In fact, archaeological surveys of moats have found evidence of things like stinging bushes having once grown throughout some moats. Whether these were intentionally planted on the part of the moat owners or just a byproduct of having a patch of land they left unattended for years at a time isn’t entirely clear. But it doesn’t seem too farfetched to think this may have been intentional in some cases. As you might imagine, wading through stinging or thorny plants while arrows and rocks and the like are raining down at you from above wasn’t exactly tops on people’s lists of things to do.

As for moats that were filled with water, while filling them with crocodiles or alligators wasn’t seemingly something anyone did, some savvy castle owners did fill them with fish giving them a nice private fishery. (As mentioned, artificial ponds built for this purpose were also sometimes a thing for the ultra-wealthy, functioning both as a status symbol, given maintaining such was incredibly expensive, and a great source of food year round).

Moving back to the dry bed moats, when not just leaving them as a simple dug pit or planting things meant to slow enemy troops, it does appear at least in some rare instances fortress owners would put dangerous animals in them, though seemingly, again, more as a status symbol than actually being particularly effective at deterring enemy troops.

Most famously, at Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic there exists something that is most aptly described as a “bear moat”, located between the castle’s first and second courtyard. When exactly this practice started and exactly why has been lost to history, with the earliest known documented reference to the bear moat going back to 1707.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

(Flickr photo by Soren Wolf)

Whether designed to serve as a stark warning to potential intruders, a status symbol, or both, the castle’s grizzliest residents were tended to by a designated bearkeeper until around the early 19th century when the practice ceased. This changed again in 1857 when the castle’s then resident noble, Karl zu Schwarzenberg, acquired a pair of bears from nearby Transylvania intent on reviving the tradition. From that moment onward, outside of a brief lapse in the late 19th century, the castle’s moat has almost always contained at least one bear.

Today the bears are most definitely completely for show, and each year bear-themed celebrations are held at Christmas and on the bears’ birthdays during which children bring the bears presents.

If bears aren’t you thing, Wilhelm V, the Prince Regent of Bavaria, in the late 16th century supposedly kept both lions and a leopard in the moat of Trausnitz Castle while he lived there. However, again, it appears that Prince Wilhelm kept the animals more for show and fun than he did for defence. Beyond dangerous creatures, his moat also contained pheasants and a rabbit run.

Moving back to crocodiles being put in moats, the earliest reference to something like this (though seemingly just a legend), appears to be the legend of the Coccodrillo di Castelnuovo.

This story is recounted by the 19th and 20th century historian and politician Benedetto Croce in his “Neapolitan Stories and Legends“:

In that castle, there was a moat under the level of the sea, dark, humid, where the prisoners, who they want to more strictly castigate, were usually put. When, all of a sudden, they started to notice with astonishment that, from there, the prisoners disappeared. Did they escape? How? Put a tighter surveillance and a new guest inside there, one day they saw, unexpected and terrifying scene, from a hole hidden in the moat, a monster, a crocodile entering and, with its jaws, it grasped for the legs the prisoner, and dragged him to the sea to eat him.

Rather than kill the creature, the guards decided to make the fearsome creature an “executor of justice”, sending prisoners condemned to death to meet their end in its toothy maw. Exactly where the crocodile came from and when this supposedly happened depends on which version of the legend you consult, though our favourite version suggests that Queen Joanna II smuggled it over to Naples from Egypt sometime in the 15th century with the sole intention of feeding her many, many lovers to it.

A consistent element in most versions of the legend is that the beast bit off more than it could chew when it tried to eat a leg of a giant horse, ultimately choking on it.

Of course, this is generally thought to be nothing more than a legend, with no evidence that it actually occurred or even exactly when. At least the story does show that the idea of a crocodile in a moat isn’t just something found in modern pop culture.

Bonus Facts:

  • Moats are starting to make a bit of a comeback in modern times, such as used to protect certain embassies from car bombings. There’s also a concrete moat around the parts of Catawba Nuclear Station that isn’t bordered by a lake, again for the purposes of protecting against car bombings and the like.
  • On the note of poky plants planted in moats, there are variations of a popular Scottish legend that have the thistle playing a key role in foiling the attack of an invading force. In one such version of the legend, a nighttime raid on Slains castle in modern day Aberdeenshire was foiled when sneaking Norsemen stepped on the thistles and cried out in pain, alerting the guards that a surprise attack was eminent. It is sometimes further stated that this is how The Most Noble and Most Ancient Order of the Thistle of Scotland was established and how the national flower of Scotland was chosen. Of course, there isn’t any documented evidence that exists to support the various versions of this legend.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the Space Force actually aimed at restraining China?

When Vice President Mike Pence on Aug. 9, 2018, set forth the US’s vision for the future of space exploration and combat, he took a not-so-subtle shot at China, signaling a coming space race between the world’s two biggest powers.

First, Pence brought up a 2007 episode in which China shot down one of its own satellites as a “highly provocative demonstration of China’s growing capability to militarize space” (though the US has satellite-killing missiles too).


But the real dig at China that hints at the future of space conflict came in a more subtle fashion.

“While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law,” Pence said. “So as we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America’s commitment to freedom into this new frontier.”

Pence also mentioned Russia, but one of the “other” nations at the top of Pence’s mind is China, where space exploration has boomed and Beijing has already started talking about celestial bodies as if they’re a birthright.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

(NASA photo)

Here’s Ye Peijian, the head of the Chinese lunar-exploration program, 2017:

“The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island. If we don’t go there now even though we’re capable of doing so, then we will be blamed by our descendants. If others go there, then they will take over, and you won’t be able to go even if you want to. This is reason enough.”

Ye’s mention of the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese also claim and contest, and of Huangyan Island, which the Philippines also claim and contest, recall Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea.

China unilaterally, and in violation of international law, claims 90% of the South China Sea, a resource-rich shipping lane and maritime chokepoint. China has heavily militarized artificial islands it built there at tremendous cost to the environment. If Beijing locked down the South China Sea, it could consolidate much of Asia’s lifeblood under the de facto control of its authoritarian government.

Space works in much of the same way.

“What appears at first a featureless void is in fact a rich vista of gravitational mountains and valleys, oceans and rivers of resources and energy alternately dispersed and concentrated, broadly strewn danger zones of deadly radiation, and precisely placed peculiarities of astrodynamics,” Everett Dolman, a professor of comparative military studies at the US Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College, wrote in his book on astropolitics, as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has highlighted.

In other words, the pushes and pulls of gravity cause space to work much like the sea. While it lacks physical terrain, it has its own kind of chokepoints, high ground, runways, and thoroughfares.

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

Xichang Satellite Center, China.

‘Totally at war with China’

As China ramps up its space program, it stands accused of stealing technology from the US on a massive scale. The space race of the 1960s proved that countries with the strongest industrial base and manufacturing excel in space. China has done everything in its power to match the US in those areas.

“Make no mistake about it that we are — we are totally at war with China right now,” said Jim Phillips, the CEO and chairman of the nanotechnology firm NanoMech, as Brietbart notes. “It’s not a war of bombs. It’s a war of cyberwarfare, and it’s also a war of GDP and jobs. And the one that has the most GDP and the jobs is going to be the clear winner.”

Phillips said nanotechnology, which could aid in manufacturing the advanced materials seen as vital for future space travel, will determine the next space race’s winner. He accused China of aggressively stealing nanotech secrets.

“At that point, China will have the new world,” he said. “America will no longer have a disproportionate financial advantage that gives it the moral, economic and the leadership authority it has now. When this happens, America loses; the world changes. Everything changes.” China, he said, “won’t have to use its military.”

But the US, for now, appears unwilling to let China have its way in either the South China Sea or space.

“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” Trump said in June. “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

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

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