How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Morris “Moe” Berg’s dying words — “How did the Mets do today?” — were on brand for the 70-year-old New York native who enjoyed a 15-year career in Major League Baseball before America entered World War II.

Sports columnist John Kieran called Berg “The Professor” on account of his reputation as an Ivy League-educated linguist and lawyer, a mentor and coach to younger MLB players, and a newspaper-devouring raconteur who earned fanfare as a repeat contestant on the NBC radio quiz show “Information Please.”

His 1972 New York Times obituary eulogized, first and foremost, the “catcher in majors who spoke 10 languages.”


But the brainy 6-foot-1-inch bullpen catcher with an unspectacular batting average had another career entirely: He was a World War II secret agent who gathered intelligence on three continents for the US government.

“We often think about athletes just playing ball and going in for records. But Moe, Ted Williams twice, Joe DiMaggio — they went off and risked their lives and their careers to serve,” said filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who illuminates Berg’s life and legacy in her 2019 documentary, “ The Spy Behind Home Plate.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Washington Senator Joe Kuhel (left) with Moe Berg (right).

(Alchetron)

Berg’s particular line of work during the war — he ultimately served as a spy for the Manhattan Project while working for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA — further differentiated him. Who else would sit in the dugout talking about whether Mussolini would win or not?” Kempner said.

As the surviving members of the Greatest Generation dwindle and tensions rise among 21st-century nuclear-armed powers, Kempner emphasizes the need to learn about veterans and remember their contributions and sacrifices.

“It’s important to know who our unknown heroes are and what they did,” she said.

Here’s a window into Berg’s life and transition from multilingual ballplayer to World War II nuclear spy.

He was the son of immigrants.

Moe Berg was born in Harlem in 1902. He was the third child of Bernard Berg and Rose Taschker, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, who came to the US seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom.

The Bergs moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bernard opened a pharmacy. Education was paramount, and Bernard in particular expected his kids to pursue one of three professions: lawyer, doctor, or teacher.

From his early days, Moe had a rocket arm and a photographic memory.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Moe Berg’s passport.

As a 7-year-old, he played baseball on a church team using the pseudonym “Runt Wolfe.” He excelled on the field and in the classroom, initially studying at New York University. He transferred to Princeton University, where he was a star on the baseball team and in the modern languages department.

The popular, idiosyncratic scholar-athlete turned down an offer to join one of Princeton’s exclusive eating clubs, purportedly after being told that while he’d be more than welcome, he shouldn’t think of bringing other Jews around.

He spent off-seasons studying law at Columbia University and traveling the world.

After Berg graduated college, the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the New York Giants were interested in recruiting him, in part because they thought he’d help draw the city’s relatively large Jewish population.

He joined the Robins and played in the minor leagues. His technical skills and lack of offensive power inspired the phrase “good field, no hit.” He went on to play for the Chicago White Sox.

At the time, major leaguers worked in the spring and summer and were off the rest of the year. Berg used his baseball earnings to travel. He studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne in Paris and wrote of how much he enjoyed French “wine, women, and song.”

Largely to appease his father, Berg also enrolled at Columbia Law School and arrived late to spring training while finishing his first year. The following year, the White Sox owner denied Berg’s request to arrive late again, so Berg arranged to leave school early and make up his courses. He’d go on to pass the bar and join the firm Satterlee and Canfield.

But baseball was his priority and ultimately how he made his living throughout the 1930s. He said he would rather be a baseball player than a Supreme Court justice.

He became a catcher by accident.

In 1927, White Sox catcher turned manager Ray Schalk, in a pinch during a game, called out to the bench asking if anyone could catch. Berg tried to volunteer the player next to him. But Schalk thought Berg, a shortstop, was volunteering and put him in without being corrected.

“If it doesn’t turn out well, please send the body to Newark,” Berg reportedly told his teammates. He took to catching. He and his second baseman communicated about the opposing team’s base runners in Latin.

If the runner trying to steal understood Latin, Berg said they’d switch to Sanskrit.

He made two trips to Japan “for baseball” in the 1930s, capturing panoramic footage of Tokyo that is believed to have been used to plan the 1942 Doolittle Raid, the US’s first bombing raid on Japan in World War II.

With Japan already at war with China, the Japanese government was becoming increasingly militarized. (Japan and China clashed from 1931 to 1932 and again between 1937 and 1945.) Meanwhile, Japanese citizens were growing interested in America’s favorite pastime.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Two Japanese naval vessels, left foreground, at Yokosuka Naval Base near Yokohama, directly in the path of bombs from Maj. Gen. James Doolittle’s raiders, April 18, 1942.

(Library of Congress)

In 1932, Berg was among a group of major leaguers sent to Tokyo to coach Japanese college players in hitting, base-stealing, and other skills. When the tour ended and Ted Lyons and Lefty O’Doul returned home, Berg stayed, traveling around Asia by himself.

He ended his trip in Berlin, and he saw firsthand the beginning of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, along with then-Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s fascist influence on the Nazi movement.

Back in the US, Berg played on the Washington Senators, frequenting embassy parties in DC, before being dropped and picked up by the Cleveland Indians.

In 1934, the Soviet Union briefly invaded China, and with tensions rising in the Pacific, the US sent an all-star roster of American League players on a tour of Japan to compete against Japanese teams in a friendly 18-game series.

The players would also serve as goodwill ambassadors, as the All-American Japan Tour was an attempt to bolster Japanese-American relations through a shared interest in baseball.

While Berg had set a league record for catching 117 games straight without an error, he didn’t have the same hall-of-famer status as other recruits, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averil, and Lefty Gomez. But he had been to Japan before, and when catcher Rick Ferrell dropped off the All-Americans roster just before the tour, Berg readily accepted the invitation.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Moe Berg, second from the left in the first row, with other members of the “All Americans” on a visit Nagoya Castle during a free day on the 1934 exhibition.

(CIA Museum)

He studied Japanese on the deck of the ship during the three-week journey across the Pacific. Upon arriving, Babe Ruth heard Berg greet a fan in Japanese. Ruth said he thought Berg claimed not to know Japanese. Berg said that he hadn’t a few weeks before.

“Shhh.”

Berg traveled with a 16 mm Bell and Howell movie camera, seemingly undeterred by leaflets distributed by police warning people not to make maps or capture images, which the Japanese feared could be used against them in war.

He also carried an official letter of introduction from US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

On one occasion, Berg peeled off from his teammates and went to the roof of a Tokyo hospital, then the city’s tallest building. He wore a Japanese kimono and slippers, and he had flowers and an alibi that he was visiting an ambassador’s daughter who’d just had a baby.

But he threw out the flowers and ended up on the roof, where he shot a panorama of the Tokyo skyline, including the harbor and industrial centers. The US would later use the shots as reconnaissance footage to inform wartime military strategy and plan bombing raids.

How Berg delivered the footage to the US government remains murky. He was known for answering questions about his government work by putting his finger to his lips and saying, “shhh.”

When pressed on how he’d left the hospital with the movie camera, he supposedly responded, “What made you think I had anything in my kimono other than my big pecs and biceps?”

During World War II, he retired his Red Sox uniform to work for the government.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,300 Americans and catapulted the US into World War II. Millions of Americans joined up. Before Berg’s father died in January 1942, he asked his sons, “Why aren’t you contributing to this war?”

Berg left the Red Sox to work for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a government agency President Franklin Roosevelt founded to counter Axis propaganda in Latin America.

In February 1942, Berg made a radio broadcast addressing the people of Japan, in Japanese, asking for peace; he identified himself as “a friend of the Japanese people” and urged listeners to avoid “a war you cannot win.”

That summer, his work took him to Central and South America, ostensibly as an goodwill ambassador distributing baseball gear. He fed reports on the political situation to his boss, Inter-American Affairs Coordinator Nelson Rockefeller.

The OSS tapped him as a nuclear spy who carried out acts of espionage and sabotage to thwart Hitler’s nuclear program.

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt recognized the importance of strong foreign intelligence to the Allied war effort. In 1942, he signed an executive order forming the OSS, a clandestine espionage and sabotage agency directed by Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan.

Donovan, a Republican, was Roosevelt’s Columbia Law classmate and a World War I general turned Wall Street lawyer. As the founding father of America’s CIA forerunner, Donovan recruited a diverse cast of military and civilian personnel whom he fondly regarded as his “Glorious Amateurs.”

At its peak in 1944, the OSS employed some 13,000 men and women, with personnel stationed across the world, working not only as field agents but also as codebreakers, researchers, mapmakers, psychologists, scientists, and propagandists who carried out special operations and information warfare.

Berg was recruited to the OSS in 1943.

With his unusual aptitude, agility, language skills, and information-gathering experience, Berg became the OSS agent that Donovan designated to support the government’s top-secret initiative to develop its first nuclear weapons, codenamed the Manhattan Project.

It was an undertaking so covert that Roosevelt supposedly didn’t even tell then-Vice President Harry Truman about it.

Leading researchers and scientists, including Albert Einstein, briefed Berg, teaching him what they hoped would be sufficient background on atomic energy and their adversaries’ efforts so Berg could collect vital information and assets from occupied Europe.

In 1944, Berg moved throughout war-ravaged Italy to track down important Italian scientists and documents in danger of falling into Hitler’s hands.

“I see Moe is still catching very well,” Roosevelt said after learning Berg had located and extracted Italy’s foremost expert in aerodynamics, Antonio Ferri.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Berg in a photo published upon his release from the Red Sox on Jan. 14, 1942.

(CIA Museum)

Ferri had destroyed lab equipment that could help the Axis and gone into hiding in the mountains with a crate of scientific documents. He raised a resistance circuit carrying out guerilla operations to thwart the Axis and enable Allied air drops. Berg and Ferri connected and began parsing and translating the scientific documents.

With special permission from Roosevelt, Ferri entered the US with a suitcase and the crate of documents and was escorted to the nation’s leading aeronautics research center, in Langley, Virginia.

As Manhattan Project scientists raced to develop the atomic bombs that America would drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, its leaders remained concerned with where Hitler stood with any similar efforts.

If the Axis powers were making progress, it would likely involve German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize winner who remained in Germany during the war.

In December 1944, Berg was sent to neutral Switzerland for a conference at the University of Zurich with a pistol, a cyanide tablet, and a false identity as a Swiss physics student. His mission was to attend an intimate lecture that Heisenberg was giving at the conference.

If Heisenberg mentioned working on a nuclear bomb, Berg was to stand up and shoot Heisenberg point blank, with the understanding that this would also mean being killed himself.

Between the German language and the deeply technical physics terminology, Berg left the lecture unsure of what Heisenberg knew. He ended up complimenting Heisenberg on his talk and later insisting on escorting him to his hotel.

In the resulting report, which was read by Roosevelt, Berg determined that Heisenberg had low confidence in the German effort and that Hitler was at least two years behind the Manhattan Project.

Berg died in Belleville, New Jersey, in 1972 at the age of 70, after a fall at his home.

In 2018, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to OSS personnel. The presentation of Congress’s highest civilian honor marked the first collective recognition of the OSS, which President Harry Truman disbanded in 1945.

Truman formed the CIA in 1947 from the old OSS headquarters. While Donovan was not employed by America’s post-war intelligence organization, many of his “Glorious Amateurs” were, and four would go on to hold the agency’s top post.

A bronze statue of Donovan — and an OSS book of honor naming the 116 OSS members who were killed during World War II — are on display in the lobby of the CIA’s current headquarters in Langley.

Berg declined the Medal of Freedom in 1946. He never married or had children. He led a nomadic existence, traveling and, in his later years, living with his sister, Ethel, in New Jersey.

Ethel Berg accepted his Medal of Honor after his death and donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York, where it is on display, along with his catcher’s mitt and passport.

Ethel took Berg’s ashes to Israel, but to this day, no one knows where his remains are buried.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘The Black Widow’ might reboot the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel officially announced its massive upcoming slate that will kick off phase 4 of the MCU starting with “The Black Widow” solo movie coming to theaters May 1, 2020. Black Widow finally getting her own movie should come as no surprise, as the superspy is one of the OG Avengers and is played by Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest actresses in the world.

However, there is one big potential problem: Black Widow is, for lack of a better word, dead, as she sacrificed herself to help the other Avengers get a hold of the Soul Stone. Obviously, this means that “The Black Widow” will be an origin story set in the past but it also begs the question: could “Black Widow” being the first movie in phase 4 mean that the MCU is finally ready to embrace the multiverse?


Confused? Well, it’s possible that “The Black Widow” could just be a standalone origin film but given the interconnectivity of the MCU, that feels unlikely. “Captain Marvel,” the last movie before “Endgame,” took place in the 90s but it still managed to connect itself to the larger narrative (“Captain America” did the same thing). This makes it feel highly unlikely that “Black Widow” will be a stand-alone story that marks the end of Johansson’s time with Marvel, especially considering the fact that it has been chosen as the movie to start the post-Iron Man and Captain America era of the MCU.

This is where the multiverse comes into play because it could potentially allow the titular secret agent to find her way back into the story while also finally opening up the MCU to other universes. The MCU has been hinting at the multiverse theory for a long time, most recently via Mysterio in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but so far, it has only dipped its toes into the complex tapestry of parallel realities.

The multiverse theory makes even more sense when you look down the rest of the phase 4 schedule, as a lot of the upcoming shows and movies seem to suggest the possibility of alternative universes, as they are packed with dead members of the MCU. Loki, who died in “Infinity War,” will be getting his own show in 2021, while Vision, who was murdered by Thanos, is set to have a major role in “WandaVision,” another show set to air on Disney+.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(Disney/Marvel)

Is Marvel just getting really into prequels? Maybe (although Vision and Wanda don’t meet until Ultron so that doesn’t really make sense) but how would that explain “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” At this point, Marvel is basically winking at comic book fans with its seeming embrace of the multiverse.

So when “Black Widow” hits theaters next year, don’t be surprised if its a badass espionage flick that also sets the foundation of the Avengers diving deep into the wonderfully weird world of the multiverse. This would open it up to infinite possibilities, including rebooting storylines and bringing back characters who are currently dead.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The B-36: The plane ‘so good it never dropped a bomb in anger’

There was a plane designed during World War II and completed just after cessation of hostilities that served for 13 years but was never called upon to fly an operational mission: the B-36. According to some, this is a sign that it was so successful at deterrence that no foreign adversary wanted to tussle with it. But it’s not that clear cut.


The first B-36A sits next to a B-50 SuperFortress at Carswell Air Force Base, New Mexico.
(U.S. Air Force)

The B-36 Peacemaker was massive, weighing in at 278,000 pounds without bombs or fuel, but could tip the scales at 410,000 pounds when it had its 86,000 pounds of bombs and a full fuel load. And those 86,000 pounds of bombs could be made up of conventional or nuclear weapons.

The design phase for the aircraft began in 1941 when American leaders asked for a plane that could take off in the states, fly into Germany and bomb Berlin, and then fly back home. But the first B-36 prototype rolled out of a hangar six days after the Japanese forces surrendered, ending World War II. Its maiden flight didn’t take place until August 8, 1946, almost a year after the end of the war.

The final design had a wing span of 230 feet and featured six engines and propellers. These propellers were mounted on the back of the wing, pushing the aircraft through the sky instead of pulling it. At that point in history, it was one of the largest planes to ever fly.

The U.S. built 384 of them and the plane ushered in the era of strategic bombing deterrence, the idea that you could threaten an enemy with such wholesale destruction that they would instead opt to just not fight you. And, while it can’t be directly tied to this one aircraft, the B-36 did fly over a period of tense peace. It never once dropped a bomb in anger, possibly because it could carry large nuclear bombs and it could fly from Maine to Leningrad and back without refueling.

But it did drop bombs — both in training exercises and on accident. In February, 1950, a B-36 crew was forced to jettison their nuclear bomb near British Columbia after flames were sighted in three of their engines. There is a chance that the weapon was a dumb bomb used for practice runs, but it was unarmed either way.

In 1957, a B-36 crew accidentally dropped their Mark 17 nuclear bomb near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conventional explosives in the weapon did explode, but the nuclear material, thankfully, did not.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
The NB-36 with a nuclear reactor onboard flies near a B-50 bomber. The NB-36 was a testbed plane created to one-day fly using nuclear power, but it used conventional fuel for all of its 47 flights.
(U.S. Air Force)

But the craziest part of the B-36’s career with nuclear material arguably came during planned experiments rather than an accident in flight. In 1942, one of the Manhattan Program scientists spitballed the idea of a nuclear-powered aircraft, one with a nuclear reactor instead of huge gas tanks.

Over the following 16 years, the Army and then the Air Force devoted increasing amounts of time and money to studying and then experimenting with the concept. In 1951, they selected the B-36 Peacemaker, the only aircraft large enough to hold the test reactor and the necessary cockpit modifications to protect the crew.

One B-36 was modified into the NB-36, the nuclear-powered bomber. While it flew 47 test flights and had a powered reactor for most of them, it only ever flew using conventional fuel as scientists and engineers studied how the reactor worked in flight. Advances in conventional aircraft design made a nuclear-powered bomber largely irrelevant, and the program was shelved in 1958.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A YRF-84F fighter in flight with its parent B-36 Peacemaker.
(U.S. Air Force)

The bomber was big enough and strong enough to take part in the short-lived “parasitic fighter” concept wherein a massive bomber could take a fighter escort with it into combat.

The larger plane would head towards its target and, if it was spotted by enemy radar or fighters, would release a fighter from its belly. The fighter pilot would engage the enemy forces, breaking them up or destroying them before returning to its parent bomber.

The B-36 would then receive the fighter into its belly again and continue toward the target. The advent of mid-air refueling made the concept obsolete, and it also ended the necessity of larger bombers with larger fuel tanks like the B-36. After all, a smaller bomber with more conservative tanks could take off, top up on fuel just outside of the enemy air defense ring, and then pierce the airspace.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A B-47B takes off using rockets to assist in generating the necessary thrust.
(U.S. Air Force)

So, the B-36 had a long and fairly storied career without once going on an operational mission against an enemy force. It gets a lot of credit for that, but it’s not actually the only aircraft to carry that distinction. The B-47 Stratojet and the B-58 Hustler were jet-powered aircraft with a similar mission to the piston-powered B-36.

They were all designed to fly from U.S. bases, drop big bomb loads, and then fly home. They were all nuclear-capable and they all went their entire careers without dropping a bomb on an enemy — but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean that they were or weren’t successful bombers.

While their strategic deterrence mission was important, they were unsuitable for a conventional bombing mission because they all had handling or speed issues that made leaders worried they would be too susceptible to being shot down. So, it’s not really that they were too good to need to drop bombs, it’s that they were too specialized for a specific deterrence to complete the operational missions.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off during exercise Trojan Footprint at RAF Fairford, England, June 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

The modern B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers, on the other hand, have both served as nuclear-deterrent bombers but had the handling, speed, and stealth necessary to survive while dropping bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In fact, the U.S. will likely turn to these modern successors to the B-36 in case of war with China, Russia or North Korean, not for their nuclear payloads but for their value at dropping conventional bombs (the B-1 has been modified to remove its nuclear capability to comply with treaties).

So, toast the success of the B-36 and its peers — but don’t forget the modern bombers that rose above the forebears.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is getting drones that fit in your pocket

Pocket-size drones are on their way to US Army soldiers, offering a better view of the battlefield and giving them a lethal edge over enemies.

The Army has awarded FLIR Systems a $39.6 million contract to provide Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones — next-level technology that could be a total game changer for US troops in the field — the company said in a recent press release.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

FLIR Black Hornet PRS.

(FLIR Systems)

The Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System

Measuring just 6.6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these “nano unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems” are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.

These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability day or night at a distance of up to 1.24 miles, covering ground at a max speed of 20 feet per second.

The “nearly silent” combat systems can provide constant covert coverage of the battlefield for almost a half hour, transmitting both live video and high-definition photographs back to the operator.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

FLIR Black Hornet PRS.

(FLIR Systems)

A life-saving tool for troops

FLIR said the drone’s ability to covertly detect and identify threats will save the lives of troops in combat.

Introducing the FLIR Black Hornet 3

www.youtube.com

The Army is looking at a number of technologies that will allow soldiers to spot and even fire on enemies without putting themselves in harm’s way, such as night vision goggles connected to an integrated weapons sight that allows troops to shoot from the hip and around corners with accuracy.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

FLIR Black Hornet PRS monitor.

(FLIR Systems)

On its way to troops

The new drones “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task and Purpose.

The drones will first be delivered to a single brigade combat team, but they will later be sent to platoons across the various brigade combat teams.

Deliveries will start early 2019 FLIR said in its recent press statement.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy is leaving a carrier strike group at sea to keep sailors from catching the coronavirus

A US Navy carrier strike group has wrapped up its latest deployment, but it isn’t coming home just yet due to concerns about to the coronavirus.

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group recently completed a nearly five-month deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. At one point during the deployment, the USS Harry S. Truman conducted operations alongside the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in a message to Iran.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

The Navy announced in a statement Monday that the CSG will remain at sea in the Western Atlantic for the time being rather than return to its homeport of Norfolk, Va. The service says it will evaluate the situation and update sailors and their families on its plans again in three weeks.

“The ship is entering a period in which it needs to be ready to respond and deploy at any time,” 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis said. “Normally we can do that pierside, but in the face of COVID-19, we need to protect our most valuable asset, our people, by keeping the ship out to sea.”

The decision to leave the CSG at sea comes as the Navy battles a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific. Nearly 600 sailors aboard that ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, and on Monday, one sailor who had been hospitalized and placed in an intensive care unit died.

The sailor who died of coronavirus complications had been found unresponsive in isolation immediately prior to hospitalization. CPR was administered by fellow sailors and medical personnel.

Rather than return to port, the Harry S. Truman CSG will conduct sustainment underway.

“After completing a successful deployment we would love nothing more than to be reunited with our friends and families,” Carrier Strike Group 8 Commander Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle said in a statement.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

“We recognize that these are unique circumstances and the responsible thing to do is to ensure we are able to answer our nation’s call while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors,” he added. “We thank you for your continued love and support as we remain focused on this important mission.”

The Harry S. Truman CSG’s latest deployment got off to an unusual start. As the Truman dealt with an electrical malfunction, the other ships of the carrier strike group deployed in September without the carrier, forming a surface action group. The Truman deployed in November after repairs were completed.

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

Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Five Finger Death Punch Videographer Nick Siemens.

Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.

“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”

Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.

“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”

Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.

Articles

Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Messerschmidt Bf 109. (Photo: Kogo CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A look at the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, carrying a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.

Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.

Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe.— At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.

Articles

How this one-armed Union soldier became ‘The Bravest Among the Brave’

Philip Kearny would have been better suited serving as a knight on a medieval battlefield than fighting in the age of gunpowder. Although he received an inheritance of around one million dollars in 1836, Kearny abandoned comfy civilian life and joined the army in search of glory.


Kearny savored war and was universally recognized for his reckless and heroic deeds, winning the French Cross of the Legion of Honor on two separate occasions. The loss of an arm in battle did not slow him down one bit, and, until his untimely death, his mere presence on the battlefield inspired the men under his command to phenomenal feats.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Philip Kearny, Union Soldier.

Born into a wealthy family in 1815, Philip showed the first signs of his attributed rash behavior as a youth, terrifying his father with his wild horse riding stunts. While in college, his grandfather pleaded with the rambunctious boy to pursue a religious vocation.

Kearny wanted no part of this pious lifestyle, yearning instead for glory on the battlefield. He entered the U.S. Army in March of 1837 as a dragoon with the rank of lieutenant.

In 1839, he was permitted to travel “on special duty” to France to study cavalry tactics in Saumur. He accompanied the Duke of Orleans to North Africa as an aide-de-camp. The American lieutenant impressed his French allies, one account noting that, “I have often seen him charging the Arabs with his sword in one hand, his pistol in the other, and his reins in his teeth.”

For his gallantry and fortitude during these operations, the American was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor — he had to decline it due to holding rank in the U.S. Army.

He returned to the United States in the fall of 1840, and led a cavalry company during the U.S.-Mexican War. At the Battle of Churubusco, Kearny led a hell-for-leather charge to pursue retreating Mexican soldiers outside of Mexico City, spurring his horse over the enemy’s ramparts. Kearny’s men were forced to fall back when they overextended the pursuit.

A well-directed round of Mexican grapeshot crushed the bone of Kearny’s left arm between his shoulder and elbow. His gory figure managed to escape back to friendly lines, collapsing from the loss of blood and sheer exhaustion.

Also read: These 12 facts might give you a new perspective on the Civil War

Franklin Pierce, future president of the United States, then serving as a general, held Kearny’s head still as a surgeon amputated his mangled left arm. He was shipped back home to recover, received promotion, but sat out the remainder of the war. The pinned up left sleeve of his uniform became his trademark for the remainder of his military career.

Bored with uneventful frontier duty, Kearny resigned from the army in 1851. In 1859, he offered his services to Emperor Napoleon III. The one-armed American fought at the Battle of Solferino “in every charge that took place,” clenching the bridle of his horse in his teeth and wielding his sabre with his remaining arm.

For his gallantry, he was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor for the second time, which he accepted.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
The tomb of Philip Kearny at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo via wiki user Jtesla16)

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he received an appointment as a brigadier general of volunteers in July of 1861. At the Battle of Chantilly in September of 1862, the noble soldier’s life came to an abrupt end. He stumbled into a Confederate picket line and was shot and instantly killed when he attempted to flee.

His luckless death was a shock to men on both sides of the conflict. The next day, in a show of respect, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Kearny’s body back to Union lines under a flag of truce. Upon receiving word of Kearny’s death, his old superior, Gen. Winfield Scott, exclaimed in a letter, “I look upon his fall, in the present great crisis of the war, as a national calamity [his own italics].”

Today a towering bronze statue of “the bravest among the brave” stands guard over the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s mysterious explosion caused by Putin’s doomsday missile

US intelligence suspects that a mysterious and deadly explosion in early August 2019 was caused by Russia’s efforts to recover its new nuclear-powered cruise missile after another unsuccessful test, CNBC reports, adding another twist in the saga of what exactly happened at the Nyonoksa weapons testing range.

An explosion that killed at least five people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby towns on Aug. 8, 2019, has been linked to Russia’s development of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new doomsday weapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. While the prevailing theory was that the blast was caused by a failed test, US intelligence has a slightly different explanation.

“This was not a new launch of the weapon, instead it was a recovery mission to salvage a lost missile from a previous test,” a source with direct knowledge of the latest intel reports told CNBC. Russia was reportedly salvaging the weapon from the ocean floor at the time of the incident.


“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which led to the radiation leak,” said another source. This is not the first time Russia has had to go fishing for its nuclear-powered cruise missile, but this appears to be the first time a recovery effort has exploded.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

A still image said to show Russia’s Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.

(YouTube/Russian Defence Ministry)

Using nuclear reactors to fuel missiles or airplanes has proven to be a “hazardous” technology that’s probably unnecessary, a leading defense expert told Insider.

Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details, sparking concerns of a cover-up.

The death toll has risen from two to five and could potentially be higher. Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging radiation leaks. Local authorities ordered an evacuation but then mysteriously cancelled it. Nuclear monitoring stations nearby unexpectedly went offline due to technical problems. And the system that triggered the explosion has been described as everything but the nuclear-powered cruise missile Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted would be unstoppable last year.

“This is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” Putin said recently, adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”

Russian data on the brief radiation spike in Severodvinsk, which state authorities finally decided to release, indicated that a nuclear reactor was involved, experts said. Russia, which has a history of covering up nuclear disasters, has yet to acknowledge that this was a nuclear accident despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.

A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.


“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.

The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.

The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.

The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.

China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 very good boys and girls who are military heroes

Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.

Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.

Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.


In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.

Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.

Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Stubby the dog.

(Purple Heart Foundation)

1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.

Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.

While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.

According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.

Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.

Stubby died in 1926, and his coat is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Military Times reported.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.

(US Army Signal Corps)

2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.

Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.

The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.

Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.

Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.

After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.

The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.

He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Chips was honored with a Silver Star and was nominated for a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart, The Washington Post Reported.

He returned home a hero in 1945 and died the following year.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

4. A German Shepherd named Nemo protected his handler during the Vietnam War.

The US Air Force bought Nemo, a German Shepherd in 1964 as part of a Vietnam War guard dog program, according to Ton Son Nhut Air Base’s website.

He was put through training, partnered with Airman 2nd Class Robert Throneburg, and sent to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam, to be a guard dog with the 377th Air Police Squadron.

During an attack in 1966, Tan Son Nut Air Base was hit by a mortar attack by the Viet Cong.

It was Nemo’s job to find any intruders who infiltrated the base, and, upon finding a group hiding near the perimeter, he attacked with Throneburg close behind.

Throneburg and Nemo were injured in the incident, but Nemo was credited with his handler’s survival.

Nemo was later sent home as a war hero, and he worked as a recruitment dog in his retirement.

He died in 1972.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Dustin Lee and Lex in Iraq.

(Photo by L. Rich)

5. Lex, who served as a bomb-sniffing dog in Fallujah, Iraq, and was given an honorary Purple Heart.

Lex, a German Shepherd, was a bomb-sniffing dog in Fallujah, Iraq.

When a mortar attack hit in 2007, Lex was left injured and his handler, Marine Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee, 20, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lex recovered from his wounds at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart in 2008.

Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.

“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”

Lex died in 2012.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.

6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.

Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.

According to the Military Times, Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was trained to stand guard, control crowds, sniff for bombs, and look for booby traps.

During the mission to take down bin Laden in 2011, Cairo was part of a perimeter team, according to an account of the raid from the New Yorker.

Plans reportedly called for Cairo to search for false walls and hidden doors if the al-Qaida leader couldn’t be found.

Former President Barack Obama met the dog when meeting with SEALS who were part of the mission.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Heroic US Marine dog Lucca.

(Photo by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante)

7. Lucca completed more than 400 missions and rooted out more than three dozen explosive devices.

Lucca, a half-German shepherd, half-Belgian Malinois, helped find nearly 40 explosive devices while working as a bomb detector in Afghanistan.

Both German shepherds and Belgian Malinois are known for being extremely smart, aggressive, and loyal.

Lucca served in the military for six years, completing more than 400 missions with no human casualties, according to the Huffington Post.

She lost her leg in a roadside IED explosion in 2012 while she was off-leash, the Military Times reported.

Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.

Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.

“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”

She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Wonderful dog, Conan.

(White House photo)

8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.

A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.

President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.

The dog’s name was unknown for days, but Trump later tweeted that the dog’s name was Conan.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said at a news conference that Conan was “slightly wounded” during the mission to take down al-Baghdadi.

Trump had said a day earlier that US forces found al-Baghdadi in Syria hiding in a tunnel with three of his children.

Trump said that while at least one military dog pursued him, al-Baghdadi activated an explosive vest, killing himself and his children.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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General Petraeus returned to duty days after being shot in the chest with an M-16

There are a lot of reasons for soldiers to visit sick call. Sure, there are a lot of skaters among the ranks of U.S. troops, but most of the military is looking to stay away from doctors and stay in the fight — especially while deployed. No officer exemplifies this more than Gen. David Petraeus, who was shot in the chest due to a negligent discharge.

The doctors were not thrilled at the prospect of letting then-Lt. Col. Petraeus walk out of the hospital. Just days before, the colonel was participating in a live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, KY when a soldier under his command tripped. The fall caused the soldier to fire his M-16 rifle, hitting Petraeus in the chest.

Of course, Lt. Col. Petraeus survived.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

“Ooh, good attempt, Private Dipsh*t. If you had tried that at the range, you might have a sharpshooter badge.”

I remember standing for a moment and then going down to my knees and slumping to the ground,” said Petraeus. “The next I recall was being worried about the effect on the unit and delaying training. So I instructed the leaders to just prop me up against a tree with a canteen.”

Then, like a true soldier, he instructed medics not to cut off his load-bearing equipment because it took him so long to get it together and put it on. Medics then tended to his wound just like it says in the Soldier’s Manual. They then airlifted him to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where doctors were forced to tend to his wounds without anesthesia. He was later rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for more care. 

Despite having been shot, Petraeus couldn’t just languish in the hospital for months at a time. He was the commander of the Iron Rakkasans, not the Wet Paper Bag Rakkasans. He may not look like it at first glance, but the decorated Army officer is tough as nails and is willing to prove it. That’s exactly how he was able to leave the hospital soon after.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

“Come at me, son. My life has its own Konami Code.”

The surgeon that operated on David Petraeus that day in Nashville would later go on to work with Petraeus as a General. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist helped save the young officer’s life and later took testimony from the general on how he intended to train Iraqi troops.

Before that, however, Lt. Col. Petraeus needed to get out of the hospital. To prove to his civilian doctors that he was fine and ready for duty, Petraeus did 50 pushups without resting – just days after being shot by a 5.56 round in the chest from 40 meters and then undergoing surgery to repair the damage.

(It) feels like a combination of the most enormous blow imaginable and being hit in the back with a massive hammer from the force of bullet exiting the body,” Petraeus told The Leaf-Chronicle.I was very fortunate that the bullet did not sever an artery… I was also very fortunate that the bullet hit over the ‘A’ in ‘Petraeus’ rather than the ‘A’ in ‘U.S. Army.’

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 pilot describes A-10 as ‘Chewbacca with chainsaw arms’

The desert screams by below. The clouds scream by above. Both stretch on into the horizon. It’s deceptively calm in the cockpit. There’s a constant, seemingly discordant stream of chatter coming through his helmet. The digital screens in front of him, along with images projected onto his visor, provide enough information to save lives and take a few as well. In the sky ahead are more than 60 advanced enemy aircraft, flown by some of the best fighter pilots in the world. They are hunting — looking to kill him and his wingmen. He just graduated pilot training. Welcome to Red Flag.


“I haven’t been flying that long. There are things that stand out in my career. My first solo flight, my first F-35 flight and my first Red Flag mission. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those things,” said 1st Lt. Landon Moores, a 388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, F-35A Lightning II pilot.

Moores is one of a handful of young F-35A pilots who recently graduated their initial training and are currently deployed to Nellis Air Force Base as part of exercise Red-Flag 19-1. Now they are being battle-tested.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“Going from F-35 training a little over a month ago to a large force exercise with dozens of aircraft in the sky is pretty crazy,” Moores said. “For the initial part of the first mission, I was just kind of sitting there listening. I was nervous. I was excited. Then the training kicked in.”

Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier combat training exercise where units from across the Department of Defense join with allied nations in a “blue force” to combat a “red force” in a variety of challenging scenarios over three weeks.

“For us, the biggest difference between this Red Flag and our first with the F-35A two years ago is that we have a lot of pilots on their first assignment,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th FS commander. “Putting them alongside more experienced wingmen is what Red Flag was designed for.”

Combat training has changed dramatically over the years, Morris said.

“When I was a young pilot in the F-16, I had a couple of responsibilities in the cockpit. One, don’t lose sight of my flight lead. Two, keep track of a bunch of green blips on a small screen in front of me, and correlate the blips to what someone is telling me on the radio,” Morris said. “Now, we’re flying miles apart and interpreting and sharing information the jets gather, building a threat and target picture. We’re asking way more of young wingmen, but we’re able to do that because of their training and the capabilities of the jet.”

Capt. James Rosenau flew the A-10 in four previous Red Flags, but he’s brand new to flying the F-35. He graduated from the transition course in December 2018.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron prepare for launch at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“I loved the A-10 and its mission. It’s like a flying tank. Like Chewbacca with chainsaw arms. A very raw flying experience,” Rosenau said. “Obviously the F-35 is completely different. It’s more like a precision tool. After seeing the F-35 go up against the near-peer threats replicated here at Nellis (AFB), I’m a big believer.”

The two aircraft are similar in one way. They do very specific things other aircraft aren’t asked to do.

“In the A-10, I liked being the guy who was called upon to directly support troops on the ground. To bring that fight to the enemy,” Rosenau said. “Now I like being the guy who can support legacy fighters when they may be struggling to get into a target area because of the threat level. We have more freedom to operate. We have this big radar that can sniff out threats. We can gather all of that and pass it along or potentially take out those threats ourselves.”

The threat level is high at Red Flag. From the skill and size of the aggressor forces in the air to the complexity and diversity of the surface to air threats, there is a real sense of the ‘fog and friction’ of war. The adversary force also uses space and cyber warfare to take out or limit technology that modern warfighters rely on. Cutting through the clutter is a strength of the F-35A.

“One of the jet’s greatest assets is to see things that others can’t, take all the information it’s gathering from the sensors and present them to the pilot,” Moores said. “One of our biggest jobs is learning how to process and prioritize that. For the more experienced pilots it seems like it is second nature. … If we don’t, it’s not like we’re getting killed (in the F-35), but we could be doing more killing.”

The pilots say seeing the F-35A’s capabilities being put to use as part of a larger force has been invaluable.

“When we mission plan with other units, it’s not always about kicking down the door,” Rosenau said. “It may be about looking at what the enemy is presenting and ‘thinking skinny.’ With the F-35, we can think through a mission and choose how we want to attack it to make everyone more survivable.”

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