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

The latest MOH Recipient’s citation is immortalized as a graphic novel

“Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.

Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.


The mission which was a joint operation between the United States Special Forces and the Kurdish Special Forces was chaotic from the start. Usually when it comes to military awards, we read the citation and might get a book later which goes into more detail. Sometimes, as in the case of Black Hawk Down, we get a movie. But the United States Army decided to give us an amazing visual on the mission via graphic illustrations.

That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.

On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.

Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.

There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.

The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.

Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.

Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.

Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.

Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.

Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.

He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.

By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.

He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.

He had to make sure no one was left behind.

Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”

70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s everything that went down at the Korean peace talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018, in a historic summit that observers have viewed with both trepidation and optimism.

April 27, 2018’s summit is the latest development in a fast-moving march toward diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, following what had been a tumultuous year for the region.


Shaking hands in front of a crowd of journalists and photographers, Kim and Moon made history as they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of North Korea and South Korea in 11 years.

Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

Kim and Moon paused for photographs at the concrete steps of the military demarcation line before making their way into South Korea’s portion of the demilitarized zone. It marked the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean leader crossed the border into the South.

The two also stepped across the border into North Korean territory after Moon asked Kim when he would “be able to cross over,” to which Kim replied, “Then shall we cross over now?”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Arriving at the Peace House, a conference building in South Korea’s part of the border village of Panmunjom that will host the talks, Kim signed a guest book, writing: “A new history starts now, an age of peace, from the starting point of history.”

Amid a flurry of camera flashes in the Peace House, the two leaders gave brief statements and exchanged pleasantries, while Kim called for “frank” discussions.

“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere, and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Moon echoed the sentiment.

“The moment [Kim] crossed the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, according to Yonhap News.

Later in the day, the two leaders planted a commemorative pine tree, using soil and water from mountains and rivers in their respective countries, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

In a joint statement in the afternoon, Moon and Kim agreed to achieve “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work toward officially ending the Korean War with a peace treaty; the war is technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice agreement.

“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the joint statement said.

Though the statement was broadly worded, it outlined some plans to address lingering issues between the two nations, including the reunification of families divided during the Korean War and a goal to end the antagonizing propaganda broadcasts at the border.

How the two Koreas got here

The journey to the Peace House has been fraught with uncertainty, particularly after heightened provocations from North Korea in 2017.

In addition to firing at least 23 missiles in 2017, North Korea put the progress of its nuclear weapons program on full display, testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb in September 2017.

But amid North Korea’s ratcheting up its missile program, US President Donald Trump displayed no qualms about lobbing equally provocative rhetoric back at the North, threatening “fire and fury” and dropping less-than-subtle hints about retaliation from Washington should Pyongyang hit a US target with one of its missiles.

The back-and-forth stoked fears that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula might be inevitable.

And at the beginning of 2018, it looked as though Kim was ready to keep the action going. He said in an address on New Year’s Day: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Moon (center, in the gray suit) talks with Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, and Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, in Seoul in February 2018.
(Government of South Korea photo)

The North warms up to its neighbors and the US

The aggressive posture didn’t last.

Kim soon dispatched an envoy of North Korean athletes and performers to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018. His sister also attended and met with Moon during the festivities, delivering a message that helped pave the way for April 2018’s summit.

North Korea’s conciliatory tone has extended beyond its southern neighbor. Following a meeting between South Korean and North Korean intelligence officials in Pyongyang, South Korea delivered a message to the US from Kim: He would like to meet with Trump.

Trump accepted the request, and preparations for a meeting have been underway. Trump, who would be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader, said the gathering with Kim could happen as early as May 2018, though the location has not been announced.

In a statement after Moon and Kim’s initial meeting, the White House called the summit in South Korea “historic.”

“We wish the Korean people well,” the White House said. “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting.”

In March 2018, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, marking Kim’s first meeting with a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Moon and Kim’s meeting has critical implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea had already made some concessions ahead of the summit, including a declaration that it would stop missile and nuclear tests and drop its previous demands for US troops to withdraw from the peninsula.

Among some symbolic gestures, such as formally ending the Korean War, one of Moon’s priorities will be to reach a consensus on denuclearization.

“It’s going to take a lot of time and negotiation to see how flexible North Korea will be on this question,” Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs, told Business Insider.

“That should be something to probe for after the summit rather than the summit itself. There’s many more meetings, many more talks, to find out common ground and see where there can be flexibility.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Super Bowl commercial hit it out of the park

If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”


www.youtube.com

Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.

The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.

Others said the video didn’t line up with Johnny Cash’s politics or beliefs although Cash was always ambiguous about where he stood on the political spectrum.

Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.

Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.

Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:

“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”

“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.

The moving lyrics of the song:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

Articles

This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

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

He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

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

He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

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

The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump declares he’ll be Putin’s worst enemy if talks fail

President Donald Trump distanced himself from allegations that he was cozying up to Russia and said if President Vladimir Putin crossed the line, he would Putin’s “worst enemy.”

“If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had,” Trump said in an interview with CNBC anchor Joe Kernen on Thursday. “The worst he’s ever had.”

Trump made his comments three days after his summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where he was criticized for holding reservations against US intelligence reports and failed to condemn Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

After returning to Washington the next day, Trump walked back his comments and said he misspoke after a
wave of Republican lawmakers voiced their concern.

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

Articles

How Rangers ‘left their mark’ on the Italians at Sened Station

In early 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion, known as Darby’s Rangers, was still relatively unknown and rather untested. All of that was about to change.


The Rangers had been formed less than a year before at the insistence of Gen. George Marshall. Marshall believed that the Americans needed a commando unit and ordered Major Orlando Darby to make it happen. On June 19, 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was activated from “volunteers not adverse to dangerous action.”

Though over 2,000 men had volunteered, only 575 officers and enlisted men were accepted into the battalion. The British Commandos then trained these men at their training facility at Achnacarry, Scotland.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
William Darby. (U.S. Army photo)

Less than six months after their formation, the Rangers spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa by taking out Vichy French artillery batteries at Arzew, Algeria. In a quick but decisive move, the Rangers captured the guns and some 60 prisoners.

After helping secure the port facilities and a nearby town, the Rangers were withdrawn from action. They began an intense training period, focusing on forced marches and night fighting. Both would prove useful in the near future.

With the rapid advance of Allied forces across North Africa, and commanders unsure of what to do with a specialized raiding force like the Rangers, they were not involved in the ongoing combat.

That changed in February when the Rangers were called upon to conduct raids against Axis forces to gather intelligence and weaken enemy morale.

Darby devised a plan to attack the Italians at Sened Station.

Trucked to within 20 miles of their objective the Rangers set off in total darkness. The Rangers set a blistering pace and stealthily covered some fourteen miles before taking shelter among the rocks for the day.

Word was passed around for that night’s mission — the Rangers would leave their mark.

“They’ve got to know that they’ve been worked over by Rangers,” Capt. Roy Murray said. “Every man is to use his bayonet as much as he can. Those are our orders.”

While his men concealed themselves among rocks and brush, Darby and his executive officer, Major Herman Dammer, conducted a leaders’ reconnaissance of the Italian outpost.

With the final plan set, the Rangers prepared to move out as the sun set. Faces were blackened and anything that jingled or rattled was secured to ensure silence. Helmets had been traded for wool caps the night before.

Once the moon set, the Rangers began their movement toward the objective.

The raiding force consisted of three line companies and a detachment of 81mm mortars. They moved out three companies abreast, toward positions within 500 yards of the outpost.

Darby was able to track the movement of his men by an ingenious method. Using red-lensed flashlights covered with a shroud mounted on the pack of a few men, he was able to see when his units were in position. This also ensured that no man wondered off course.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Rangers train on the terrain of the 8 November assault at Arzew (U.S. Army Photograph)

When all was ready, Darby sent forward the order to fix bayonets and move out.

Slowly, silently, the Rangers crept toward the unsuspecting Italian garrison.

Some amount of noise must have made it to the Italians at their posts because they became suspicious. With the Rangers still some 200 yards out, Italian machine guns opened fire. In the pitch black, their fire was wild and inaccurate. The Rangers held their fire and continued to creep forward.

As the Rangers made it to within 50 yards of the wire, the Italian’s fire became too close for comfort. Italian sentries called out into the night, “Qui va la? Qui va la?” (“Who goes there?”)

All at once the Americans responded. The Rangers leapt up and charged across the short distance to the Italian perimeter. American Tommy Guns riddled the outpost as riflemen tossed hand grenades and stormed across the Italian defenses with their bayonets.

One Ranger, Cpl. James Altieri, stumbled into a trench and right on top of an Italian soldier. In the brief struggle, Altieri dispatched the man by stabbing him in the stomach. It was his first hand-to-hand kill. He immediately vomited before continuing the fight.

Altieri later described the fighting by saying, “We worked them over furiously, giving no quarter.”

As the Rangers cleared the outpost, the 81mm mortars pounded the Italian positions and cut off their retreat.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. (Dept. of Defense photo)

In just 20 minutes, the Rangers were victorious. The Rangers had killed some 75 Italians and captured eleven more from the elite 10th Bersaglieri Regiment. The Italian artillery and machine guns were destroyed in place.

The victory had cost the Rangers one man and another 20 wounded.

As Darby conferred with the assault commanders and consolidated his position, he could hear the distant rumble of tracked vehicles — German armor. This was expected; the raid had been intended to draw out the Germans to help commanders determine their strength. But it also meant it was time for the Rangers to get out of Dodge.

Also read: 8 more awesome nicknames that enemies gave the U.S. military

Retracing their steps, the Rangers set out on a forced march back to the French outpost with their prisoners in tow.

The sudden ferocity with which the Rangers struck earned them the nickname “the Black Death” among the Italians.

The daring raid also garnered Darby and eleven other Rangers a Silver Star for gallantry.

Darby and the Rangers would see more intense combat in North Africa before spearheading assaults into Sicily and Italy.

Their success convinced the Army to stand up four more Ranger battalions in the European theatre.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

A man who lost his wife in Iran’s January 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet says he fled the country after being pressured by authorities for criticizing the way the government handled the tragedy.


Javad Soleimani’s wife, Elnaz Nabiyi, was among 176 people killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) missile attack against the civilian airliner.

He says he was summoned by Iranian intelligence agents for “insulting” state officials.

“I decided to leave the country as soon as possible because I wasn’t the person to go to their office and apologize for my criticism, so I decided to leave Iran immediately and be the voice of the victims and their families,” Soleimani said in a January 30 interview with Canada’s CBC News Network.

Soleimani, a postgraduate student at the Alberta School of Business in Canada, says Iranian authorities also interfered in his wife’s funeral to prevent potential protests.

“They didn’t let us have our own funeral. They controlled everything because they were afraid of any protest against the government,” Soleimani said, adding that his family tolerated the pressure “because our first priority was to bury my wife.”

The IRGC admitted three days after the tragedy that it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, saying the incident was the result of a “human mistake.” Iran says an investigation has been launched and that arrests have been made.

But so far, no official has resigned over the tragedy — which occurred just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq as retaliation for the January 3 assassination of the IRGC’s Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. air strike.

Tehran’s admission after three days of persistent denials spawned protests in the Iranian capital and other cities, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Javad Soleimani says senior officials, including Khamenei, should be held responsible for the crash. He says many Iranians were upset that Khamenei did not personally apologize for the loss of innocent lives.

“When you kill someone intentionally or unintentionally, the first thing to do is to say, ‘I apologize.’ But [Khamenei] didn’t say it, and he made people in Iran angry and more upset,” Soleimani told CBC News.

He says he also was upset that Iranian authorities referred to his wife as a “martyr.”

“They said the victims are martyrs and they wrote down congratulations,” he complained. “It was terrible.”

Alireza Ghandchi, whose wife, daughter, and son were killed in the plane crash, said those responsible should face justice.

“We would not accept it if [authorities] find an individual and say he mistakenly pushed the button” in order to end the case, Ghandchi said in a January 10 interview with the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

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

persian.iranhumanrights.org

“It’s my right to know [who was responsible] and ask for them to be put on trial,” Ghandchi said.

Ghandchi said regime agents were present at his family’s funeral at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery.

He said authorities have neither pressured his family nor provided any support.

“The government didn’t give us any support, except for using the term ‘martyr’ and creating somewhat better conditions for us during the burial. That is all,” he said.

Ghandchi said the term “martyr,” which is used in Iran to describe soldiers killed during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, should not be used when referring to the victims of the plane downing.

“The term martyr is used for people who are [killed] in a war in conditions when there’s an enemy. But it’s not correct to use it when referring to my children, who were returning [to Canada] from their trip,” he said.

Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the plane crash, said officials at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport harassed the relatives of victims when they left Iran to attend memorial services in Canada.

“Let the family members leave to attend the funerals with ease. It is none of your business if Canada has easily issued entry visas within hours for the relatives,” Esmaeilion said on Facebook on January 27.

Esmaeilion did not provide more details about why he thinks relatives of the victims are being harassed.

Other reports suggest some relatives of victims were told by authorities not to speak to Farsi-language media based outside the country but were encouraged to speak to Iran’s tightly controlled media.

“They said, ‘Come and talk to our own media, not to the anti-regime media,'” one mother who lost her son in the tragedy told the news site Iranwire.com on January 15.

“I said, ‘You want me to say that it was America’s fault? You will never hear me whitewash [this for] you’.”

Khamenei on January 17 accused Iran’s “enemies” of using the Ukrainian airline tragedy to question the Islamic republic and the IRGC, which he said “maintained the security” of Iran.

In his first public remarks about the incident, Khamenei said on January 17 that the downing of the Ukrainian plane was a “bitter accident” that “burned through our heart.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier was so daring even his captured enemies patted him on the back

There are a handful of men in military history that could accurately be described as a “one man army.” You may never have heard of Lawrence Dominic “Fats” McCarthy, but you’ll remember his story after hearing the end of it. An orphan who enlisted to fight World War I for Australian forces, he would leave the war having survived its most intense fighting and wearing the Victoria Cross – the United Kingdom’s highest award for valor in combat.


Dominic McCarthy was hard to miss. He was a large man, with a few extra pounds that earned him the nickname “Fats.” But that never held him back as a soldier. By the time he arrived to fight the ill-fated Battle of Gallipoli, he was already wearing the stripes of a Lance Corporal. Despite falling ill, he would survive Gallipoli as one of the last men of his battalion to depart the fighting.

By the time he arrived at the fighting near France’s Madame Wood, he had been promoted to corporal, then sergeant major, then second lieutenant, and now, after recovering from a wound, lieutenant – a lieutenant that was about to go down in military history with “perhaps the most effective feat of individual fighting in the history of the Australian Imperial Forces.”

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

The fighting at Madame Wood may not be as infamous as the fight for Gallipoli or the similarly-named Belleau Wood, but it was just as intense and – at times – treacherous. The hazards in the fighting weren’t just in no man’s land. The English trenches themselves were muddy and full of twisted metal and refuse. Fats was ready to move his men forward toward the German lines, but the units to his left were being held up by stiff enemy resistance. He decided to do something about it.

He grabbed a sergeant and took off for the German position, moving so fast (especially for a man his size), he was able to deftly avoid the incoming German machine gun bullets. He arrived at the enemy machine gun nest well before his battle buddies, eliminated it, and moved on to the trench before the other Aussies even hit the first position.

He entered the enemy trench with just his service rifle as the sergeant, now wounded, caught up to him. The two men swept through the enemy, picking up their grenades and turning the explosive on them. The two Aussies knocked out three machine gun emplacements while inflicting heavy casualties as they moved. McCarthy then shot two more officers and used his captured grenades against another enemy position, bombing it until the Germans waved a blood-soaked white flag.

McCarthy captured more than 1,500 feet of German trench almost singlehandedly. He also knocked five machine guns out of the war, killed 22 Germans, and captured more than 50 others. The enemy troops were so impressed, the battalion historian recorded that “the prisoners closed in on him from all sides … and patted him on the back!”

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

For his efforts, he was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V himself at Buckingham Palace. The British press dubbed McCarthy the “Super VC,” but the big man demurred when given that moniker, saying he believed there was a VC inside every soldier.

He survived the war, being repatriated to England after coming down with the Spanish Flu that affected millions of others around the world, surviving until the ripe old age of 83.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will spend $500 million training to fight underground

U.S. Army leaders say the next war will be fought in mega-cities, but the service has embarked on an ambitious effort to prepare most of its combat brigades to fight, not inside, but beneath them.

Late 2017, the Army launched an accelerated effort that funnels some $572 million into training and equipping 26 of its 31 active combat brigades to fight in large-scale subterranean facilities that exist beneath dense urban areas around the world.

For this new type of warfare, infantry units will need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, breach heavy obstacles, and attack enemy forces in underground mazes ranging from confined corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as complete darkness, bad air, and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas that challenge standard Army communications equipment.


Senior leaders have mentioned small parts of the effort in public speeches, but Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Maneuver Center of Excellence — the organization leading the subterranean effort — have been reluctant to discuss the scale of the endeavor.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(U.S. Army photo by John Lytle)

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘ok, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter, so let’s brush it up a little bit.”

Left unmentioned were the recent studies the Army has undertaken to shore up this effort. The Army completed a four-month review in 2017 of its outdated approach to underground combat, and published a new training manual dedicated to this environment.

“This training circular is published to provide urgently needed guidance to plan and execute training for units operating in subterranean environments, according to TC 3-20.50 “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments,” published in November 2017. “Though prepared through an ‘urgent’ development process, it is authorized for immediate implementation.”

A New Priority

The Army has always been aware that it might have to clear and secure underground facilities such as sewers and subway systems beneath densely-populated cities. In the past, tactics and procedures were covered in manuals on urban combat such as FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman’s Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas,” dated 1993.

Before the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission for taking large, underground military complexes was given to tier-one special operations units such as Army Delta Force and the Navy‘s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

But the Pentagon’s new focus on preparing to fight peer militaries such as North Korea, Russia and China changed all that.

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

An assessment last year estimates that there are about 10,000 large-scale underground military facilities around the world that are intended to serve as subterranean cities, an Army source, who is not cleared to talk to the press, told Military.com.

The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group — an outfit often tasked with looking ahead to identify future threats — told U.S. military leaders that special operations forces will not be able to deal with the subterranean problem alone and that large numbers of conventional forces must be trained and equipped to fight underground, the source said.

The endeavor became an urgent priority because more than 4,800 of these underground facilities are located in North Korea, the source said.

Relations now seem to be warming between Washington and Pyongyang after the recent meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But in addition to its underground nuclear missile facilities, North Korea has the capability to move thousands of troops through deep tunnels beneath the border into South Korea, according to the Army’s new subterranean manual.

“North Korea could accommodate the transfer of 30,000 heavily armed troops per hour,” the manual states. “North Korea had planned to construct five southern exits and the tunnel was designed for both conventional warfare and guerrilla infiltration. Among other things, North Korea built a regimental airbase into a granite mountain.”

For its part, Russia inherited a vast underground facilities program from the Soviet Union, designed to ensure the survival of government leadership and military command and control in wartime, the manual states. Underground bunkers, tunnels, secret subway lines, and other facilities still beneath Moscow, other major Russian cities, and the sites of major military commands.

More recently, U.S. and coalition forces operating in Iraq and Syria have had to deal with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operating in tunnel systems.

Learning to Fight Underground

To prepare combat units, the Army has activated mobile teams to train the leadership of 26 brigade combat teams on how prepare units for underground warfare and plan and execute large-scale combat operations in the subterranean environment.

So far, the effort has trained five BCTs based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Camp Casey, Korea; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Army trainers have a January deadline to finish training 21 more BCTs located at bases including Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Richardson, Alaska, the source said.

The 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado is next in line for the training.

Army officials confirmed to Military.com that there is an approved plan to dedicate $572 million to the effort. That works out to $22 million for each BCT, according to an Army spokeswoman who did not want to be named for this article. The Army did not say where the money is coming from or when it will be given to units.

Army leaders launched the subterranean effort in 2017, tasking the AWG with developing a training program. The unit spent October-January at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, units will need to fight in this environment.

“Everything that you can do above ground, you can do below ground; there are just tactics and techniques that are particular,” the source said, adding that tactics used in a subterranean space are much like those used in clearing buildings.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(U.S. Army photo by Erick Warren)

“The principles are exactly the same, but now do it without light, now do it in a confined space … now try to breach a door using a thermal cutting torch when you don’t have air.”

Three training teams focus on heavy breaching, TTPs and planning and a third to train the brigade leadership on intelligence priorities and how to prepare for brigade-size operations in subterranean facilities.

“The whole brigade will be learning the operation,” the source said.

Army combat units train in mock-up towns known as military operations in urban terrain, or MOUT, sites. These training centers often have sewers to deal with rain water, but are too small to use for realistic training, the source said.

The Defense Department has a half-dozen locations that feature subterranean networks. They’re located at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Story, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana; Tunnel Warfare Center, China Lake, California and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, according to the new subterranean training manual.

Rather sending infrastructure to these locations, units will build specially designed, modular subterranean trainers, created by the AWG in 2014. The completed maze-like structure is fashioned from 15 to 20 shipping containers, or conexes, and sits above ground.

Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about these new training structures at the Association of the United States Army’s LANPAC 2018 symposium in Hawaii.

“I was just at the Asymmetric Warfare Group recently; they had built a model subterranean training center that now the Army is in the process of exporting to the combat training centers and home stations,” Townsend said.

“I was thinking to myself before I went and saw it, ‘how are we going to be able to afford to build all these underground training facilities?’ Well, they took me into one that wasn’t underground at all. It actually looked like you went underground at the entrance, but the facility was actually built above ground.But you couldn’t tell that once you went inside of it.”

Shipping containers are commonplace around the Army, so units won’t have to buy special materials to build the trainers, Hedrick said.

“Every post has old, empty conexes … and those are easily used to simulate working underground,” Hedrick said.

Specialized Equipment

Training is only part of the subterranean operations effort. A good portion of the $22 million going to each BCT will be needed buy special equipment so combat units can operate safety underground.

“You can’t go more than one floor deep underground without losing comms with everybody who is up on the surface,” Townsend said. “Our capabilities need some work.”

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

The Army is looking at the handheld MPU-5 smart radio, made by Persistent Systems LLC, which features a new technology and relies on a “mobile ad hoc network” that will allow units to talk to each other and to the surface as well.

“It sends out a signal that combines with the one next to it, and the one next to it … it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” the source said.

Off the shelf, MPU-5s coast approximately $10,000 each.

Toxic air, or a drop in oxygen, are other challenges soldiers will be likely to face operating deep underground. The Army is evaluating off-the-shelf self-contained breathing equipment for units to purchase.

“Protective masks without a self-contained breathing apparatus provide no protection against the absence of oxygen,” the subterranean manual states. “Having breathing apparatus equipment available is the primary protection element against the absence of oxygen, in the presence of hazardous gases, or in the event of a cave-in.”

Soldiers can find themselves exposed to smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane natural gas underground, according to the manual.

Breathing gear is expensive; some apparatus cost as much as $13,000 apiece, the source said.

Underground tunnels and facilities are often lighted, but when the lights go out, soldiers will be in total darkness. The Army announced in February 2018 that it has money in its fiscal 2019 budget to buy dual-tubed, binocular-style night vision goggles to give soldiers greater depth perception than offered by the current single-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and AN/PVS 14s.

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle B uses a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the PVS-14 along with a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display. The Army is considering equipping units trained in subterranean ops with ENVG Bs, the source said.

Units will also need special, hand-carried ballistic shields, at least two per squad, since tunnels provide little to no cover from enemy fire.

Weapon suppressors are useful to cut down on noise that’s significantly amplified in confined spaces, the manual states.

Some of the heavy equipment such as torches and large power saws needed for breaching are available in brigade engineer units, Hedrick said.

“We definitely did put some effort into trying to identify a list of normal equipment that may not work and what equipment that we might have to look at procuring,” Hedrick said.

Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for new American Security, was skeptical about the scale of the program.

Dempsey, a former Army infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, told Military.com that such training “wasn’t relevant” to fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He questions spending such a large amount of money training and equipping so many of the Army’s combat brigades in a type of combat that they might never need.

“I can totally understand taking every brigade in Korea, Alaska, some of the Hawaii units — any units on tap for first response for something going on in Korea,” said Dempsey, who served in the combat units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.

“Conceptually I don’t knock it. The only reason I would question it is if it comes with a giant bill and new buys of a bunch of specialized gear. … It’s a whole new business line for folks whose business tapered off after Afghanistan.”

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

Articles

A cut-rate Gaston taught U.S. infantry how to kill tanks

The U.S. Army made a lot of training videos for World War II. Think of them as the PowerPoints of yesteryear. And when it was time to teach infantry to fight tanks, the Army hired an actor that looks suspiciously like the character Gaston and then filmed him drinking beer in a hunting lodge.


How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Seriously, even the lights hanging from the ceiling are similar. He’s one dentally-challenged sidekick away from being this guy…

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(Screenshot: YouTube/Theano Sakalidou)

Considering the fact that the new Beauty and the Beast revealed that Gaston was a veteran, it’s starting to look like Disney based their character on an old War Department training film.

But while Gaston is known for being an idiot, the staff sergeant in the training film knows his stuff. He’s a tanker who takes a little time out to teach infantryman how best to destroy armor.

He starts with how small arms can be used to force tankers to “button up,” diving into their hatches. Once the tanks are buttoned, they can be completely blinded by rounds hitting the view slits and periscopes:

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Then, it’s time for grenadiers to try and shoot the crew through the armor with anti-tank rifle grenades:

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

But if the tanks make it past the grenadiers, the rest of the riflemen can throw Molotov Cocktails at the fleeing armor:

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

All of these were real weapons and tactics in the fight against German armor, and Gaston helped make it happen.

You can see the whole clip — and learn how to destroy Axis tanks — below:

Articles

The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.

The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
XB-35. (USAF photo)

Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.

The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
YB-49 takes off. (USAF photo)

The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.

There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Photo by U.S. Air Force

Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.

Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US uranium imports may threaten national security

The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18, 2018, and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.


“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,” Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize U.S. security.

He pledged a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of the matter.

The United States imported id=”listicle-2588064431″.4 billion worth of enriched uranium in 2017, along with 0 million in uranium ores and id=”listicle-2588064431″.8 billion in uranium compounds and alloys, according to Commerce Department data.

In addition to being used in nuclear weapons, uranium fuels about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is used to power nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation, according to the Energy Department.

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

Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

Former Soviet republics provided more than one-third: Kazakhstan 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent. About 10 percent came from four African countries.

Washington outraged major U.S. trading partners, including Canada, China, and the European Union, by citing national security concerns as justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Those tariffs, which hit Russia’s steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against U.S. agriculture and other goods, alarming many U.S. businesses and lawmakers.

The announcement that Washington is now targeting uranium comes after the Commerce Department said it was investigating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cars and auto parts imported every year to determine whether that undermines U.S. national security.

The probe of uranium imports is in response to petitions for an investigation filed in January 2018 by two U.S. mining companies: Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. They called for a quota that reserves 25 percent of U.S. demand for domestic production.

“Increasing levels of state-subsidized nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace U.S. uranium production,” the mining companies said in their petition.

“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” they said.

According to the Energy Department, as uranium prices tumbled to just over per pound between 2009 and 2015, employment in the U.S. uranium sector fell more than 60 percent, to just over 600 workers.

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

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