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 TRENDING

No one in Iran cares about Trump’s threatening tweets

Iranians on July 23, 2018, shrugged off the possibility that a bellicose exchange of words between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart could escalate into military conflict, but expressed growing concern America’s stepped-up sanctions could damage their fragile economy.

In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on July 22, 2018, that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences.


This was after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked earlier in the day that “America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Trump tweeted: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

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

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Within hours, Iran’s state-owned news agency IRNA dismissed the tweet, describing it as a “passive reaction” to Rouhani’s remarks.

On Tehran streets, residents took the exchange in stride.

“Both America and Iran have threatened one another in different ways for several years,” shrugged Mohsen Taheri, a 58-year-old publisher.

A headline on a local newspaper quoted Rouhani as saying: “Mr. Trump, do not play with the lion’s tail.”

Prominent Iranian political analyst Seed Leilaz downplayed the war of words, saying it was in his opinion “the storm before the calm.”

Leilaz told The Associated Press he was not “worried about the remarks and tweets,” and that “neither Iran, nor any other country is interested in escalating tensions in the region.”

Citing harsh words the United States and North Korea had exchanged before the high-profile summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Leilaz said Trump and Kim got “closer” despite the warring words.

Trump’s eruption on Twitter came after a week of heavy controversy about Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 election, following the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, the tweet was reverberating across the Mideast.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the U.S. president’s “strong stance” after years in which the Iranian “regime was pampered by world powers.”

In early 2018 Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions, as well as threatening penalties for companies from other countries that continue to do business with Iran.

With the economic pressure, Trump said in early July 2018 that “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”

Iran has rejected talks with the U.S., and Rouhani has accused the U.S. of stoking an “economic war.”

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Rouhani also suggested Iran could immediately ramp up its production of uranium in response to U.S. pressure. Potentially that would escalate the very situation the nuclear deal sought to avoid — an Iran with a stockpile of enriched uranium that could lead to making atomic bombs.

Trump’s tweet suggested he has little patience with the trading of hostile messages with Iran, using exceptionally strong language and writing the all-capitalized tweet.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!,” he wrote.

Another Tehran resident, Mehdi Naderi, fretted that the U.S. measures and his own government’s policies are damaging the lives of the average Iranian.

“America is threatening the Iranian people with its sanctions and our government is doing the same with its incompetence and mismanagement,” said the self-employed 35-year-old.

Trump has a history of firing off heated tweets that seem to quickly escalate long-standing disputes with leaders of nations at odds with the U.S.

In the case of North Korea, the public war of words cooled quickly and gradually led to the high profile summit and denuclearization talks. There has been little tangible progress in a global push to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons program since the historic Trump-Kim summit on June 12, 2018.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang for follow-up talks in early July 2018, but the two sides showed conflicting accounts of the talks. North’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of making “gangster-like” demands for its unilateral disarmament.

Some experts say Kim is using diplomacy as a way to win outside concessions and weaken U.S.-led international sanctions.

Many in Iran have expressed frustration that Trump has seemed willing to engage with North Korea, which has openly boasted of producing nuclear weapons, but not Iran, which signed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Since Trump pulled out of the deal, other nations involved — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China as well as the European Union — have reaffirmed their support for the deal and have been working to try and keep Iran on board.

“Iran is angry since Trump responded to Tehran’s engagement diplomacy by pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal,” Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told the AP.

He added, however, the war of words between the two presidents was to be expected, since official diplomatic relations between the two countries have been frozen for decades.

“They express themselves through speeches since diplomatic channels are closed,” said Falahatpisheh who heads the influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy.

On July 22, 2018, in California, Pompeo was strongly critical of Iran, calling its religious leaders “hypocritical holy men” who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer.

In the speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Pompeo castigated Iran’s political, judicial and military leaders, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has “heartlessly repressed its own people’s human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms.”

He said despite poor treatment by their leaders, “the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses,” Pompeo said.

“And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either.”

Lester reported from Washington. Associated Press writers David Rising in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

This article was written by Will Lester and Nasser Karimi from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Massive Russian wargames signal worries about NATO

The Russian military is getting ready for what is said to be an “unprecedented” military exercise, but as thousands of men and machines gather in Russia’s east, leaders in Moscow may be increasingly concerned about what’s going on in the West.

Early August 2018, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called the upcoming Vostok-2018, or East-2018, exercises “the largest preparatory action for the armed forces since Zapad-81,” referring to a Soviet military exercise in 1981 involving about 100,000 to 150,000 troops, according to a CIA estimate at the time.


Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the Vostok-2018 exercise, scheduled for Sept. 11-15, 2018, will have some similarities to Zapad-81 but involve vastly more personnel.

“In some ways, they resemble the Zapad-81 drills but in other ways they are, perhaps, even larger,” Shoigu said, according to Russian state-owned media outlet Tass.

“Over 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 servicemen at almost all the training ranges of the Central and Eastern Military Districts and, naturally, the Pacific and Northern Fleets and the Airborne Force will be fully employed.”

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

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The Russian military has already begun evaluating its forces’ combat readiness and logistical support with “snap inspections” that involve special drills and are done under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Just imagine that 36,000 pieces of military hardware are simultaneously in motion: these are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all this is, naturally, checked in conditions close to a combat environment,” Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, according to Tass.

Russia has invited military attaches from NATO countries to observe the upcoming exercises — an offer that a NATO spokesman told Reuters was under consideration.

Russia conducted another large-scale exercise, Zapad-17, or West-17, in September 2017. About 70,000 personnel took part in that — though only about 13,000 of them were part of the main event that took place in Belarus and western Russia. (The number of troops involved became a point of contention between Russia and NATO.)

Russian forces will not be the only ones taking part this time around. Chinese and Mongolian units will also take part, with Beijing reportedly sending more than 3,000 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 pieces of other military hardware.

Chinese participation in Russian military exercises “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Aug, 28, 2018, according to Tass.

‘It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time’

Peskov was asked if the expense of the Vostok-18 exercise was necessary at a time when Russia’s economy is struggling and demands for more social spending are rising.

“The social security network and the pension system are a constant element of state policy and a very important component,” Peskov responded, according to Tass. “But the country’s defense capability in the current international situation, which is frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly for our country, is justified, needed and has no alternative.”

Russia has consistently condemned Western military activity and NATO maneuvers as provocative, but Peskov’s reply may hint at a growing unease in Moscow, which is still uncertain about President Donald Trump as it watches the defense alliance deploy an array of units to its eastern flank.

Trump has signaled a conciliatory stance toward Russia and hostility toward NATO, but those attitudes haven’t translated significantly into US or NATO policy.

“We don’t like the picture we are seeing,” Vladimir Frolov, an independent political analyst in Moscow, told Defense News.

“NATO is getting serious about its combat capabilities and readiness levels. Trump may trash NATO and his European allies,” he said, “but it is the capabilities that matter, and those have been growing under Trump.”

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

President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, July 16, 2018.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

NATO members have been boosting their defense spending and working to build military readiness — moves stoked recently by the combination of uncertainty about Trump and concern about assertive Russian action, like the incursion in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO troops, including US forces, are practicing tactics that have been little used since the Cold War. A number of former Soviet republics have embraced the West. NATO units have forward deployed to the alliance’s eastern flank, and Poland has even offered to pay to host a permanent US military presence.

Some European countries are also debating augmenting their own militaries and defense sectors. Germany, long averse to a large military footprint, is looking to recruit more troops, and some there have restarted debate about whether Berlin should seek its own nuclear-weapons capability.

Moscow has long used confrontation with the West to bolster its domestic political standing, and many leaders in the West have come to identify Russia as a main geopolitical foe — a dynamic that is likely to perpetuate tensions.

Early 2018 Russian officials called military exercises involving NATO and Ukrainian personnel “an attempt to once again provoke tension in southeastern Ukraine and in the entire Black Sea region” and said “countries … constantly accusing Russia of threatening regional stability shall be held responsible for possible negative consequences.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White told Reuters that countries have a right to conduct military exercises, “but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner.”

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” White added. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Anything close to the maximum structural speed for a jet is usually just for the glossy brochure—99.9% of the time we don’t come close to reaching it. There was one time, though, that I pushed the F-16 as fast as it could go.

I was stationed in Korea and there was a jet coming out of maintenance; the engine had been swapped out and they needed a pilot to make sure it was airworthy. It was a clean jet—none of the typical missiles, bombs, targeting pod, external fuel tanks were loaded. It was a stripped down hot-rod capable of it’s theoretical maximum speed.

When we fly, we usually go out as a formation to work on tactics; every drop of fuel is used to get ready for combat. This mission, however, called for me to launch as a single-ship and test the engine at multiple altitudes and power settings. The final check called for a max speed run.


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

Justin “Hasard” Lee in the cockpit of an F-16 (Sandboxx)

I took off, entered the airspace, and quickly started the profile. Topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of internal fuel; never enough with the monster engine behind me burning up to 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour. I knocked out the various tasks in about 15 minutes and then was ready for the max speed run.

I was at 25,000 feet when I pushed the throttle forward, rotated it past the detent and engaged full afterburner—I would have 5 minutes of useable fuel at this setting. I could feel each of the 5-stages lighting off, pushing me forward. I accelerated to Mach 1—the speed of sound that Chuck Yeager famously broke in his Bell X-1—and started a climb. A few seconds later 35,000 feet went by as I maintained my speed. Soon I was at 45,000 feet and started to shallow my climb to arrive at the 50,000 foot service ceiling. This was as high as I could go, not because the jet couldn’t go higher, but because if the cockpit depressurized, I would black out within seconds.

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

(U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Don Taggart)

Looking out at 50,000 feet, the sky was now a few shades darker. I could start to see the curvature of the earth. To my right was the entire Korean peninsula—green with a thin layer of haze over it. To my left, a few clouds over the Yellow Sea separating me from mainland China.

As I maintained my altitude, the jet started to accelerate. At 1.4 Mach, with only about 2 minutes of fuel left, I bunted over and started a dive to help with the acceleration. In my heads-up-display 1.5 Mach ticked by, backed up by an old mach indicator slowly spinning in my instrument console.

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

Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

At 1.6 Mach, the jet started to shake. I was expecting it—the F-16 has a flight region around that airspeed that causes the wings to flutter. Still, this jet had a lot of hours on the airframe, and if anything were to fail, the breakup would be catastrophic. Similarly, ejecting at that speed would be well outside the design envelop—the air resistance at Mach 1.6 is about 300 times what a car experiences at highway speeds. A few pilots have tried, only to break nearly every bone in their body.

So now, the option was slow down until the vibration stopped, or push though until it smoothed out on the other side. I was running low on fuel, so I elected to increase my dive so I could accelerate faster. Slowly 1.7 Mach ticked by, next 1.8, and then at 1.9, everything smoothed out. I was now traveling 1,500 mph over the Yellow Sea. The cockpit started feeling warm so I took my hand off the throttle and put it about a foot away from the canopy and could feel the heat radiating through my glove, similar to sticking your hand in an oven.

At this point I was entering the thicker air at 35,000 feet which was preventing the Mach from going any higher. I was also nearly out of fuel, so I pulled the throttle out of afterburner and into military-powerthe highest non-afterburner power setting. Despite a significant amount of thrust still coming from the engine, the drag at 1.9 Mach caused the jet to rapidly decelerate, pushing me forward until my shoulder-harness straps locked. It took over 50 miles for the jet to slow down below the mach.

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

Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

Taking a jet to 1.9 mach isn’t any sort of record; in fact, some aircraft have gone twice as fast. It is an interesting feeling, though, to be at the limit of what an iconic aircraft like the F-16 can give you. Thousands of incredible engineers, who I never had the chance to meet, designed the plane and you are now realizing the potential of what they built. The heat and vibration, coupled with being outside the ejection envelope, let you know the margin of safety is less than it normally is.

I’ve since moved on to the F-35 which correctly prioritizes stealth, sensor fusion, and networking over top speed, so that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever go. It was a visceral experience that was a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s—where the primary metrics a plane was judged by how high and fast it could go.

Make sure to check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

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


popular

5 civilian products that actually earn the title of ‘military grade’

Too often does a company rate their product as military-grade as a way of marketing it to the public. The term screams, “this product is so tough, it could be used by the military!” But, as anyone who has served more than five seconds can tell you, in reality, “military grade” is often used as a joke to describe something made by the lowest bidder.


If a truck commercial has the words “military grade” all over it, that doesn’t mean the truck is rolling onto the battlefield. It could mean simply that it uses 6000 series aluminum — the same aluminum used in military equipment, like radio mounts.

This one goes out to all of the real military-grade products. The ones the military seems content to fill every supply room with.

Related: 8 genius military uses for civilian products

1. Green record book

Every NCO will have at least four of these scattered about and, yet, they’ll rarely fill out all 192-pages. Sometimes, you’ll find them with nice, elaborate covers that also hold pens and cue-cards, but most are just labeled with the date on the spine.

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
You can also tell if it belongs to Staff Duty by the amount of drawings in it. (Image via Marine Corps Memes)

 

2. Skilcraft “U.S. Government” pens

On Amazon, you can pick up a box of 96 cheapo pens for $13.10. Or, for $9.90, you can get a box of your very own Skilcraft pens, labeled “U.S. Government.”

But seriously, these pens will work anywhere.* On anything.* Forever.* Chances are, the pen you “tactically acquired” from your battle buddy probably has more time in service than both of you.

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
*Probably. Or at least that’s what it seems like.

 

3. Pine-Sol

No matter how many times it happens, people will always screw up and pour more than a cap full of Pine-Sol into the mop bucket. When it’s used as intended, it’s kind of pleasant actually. When it’s used by a Private who was told to mop the halls, they’re sure to pour enough to trigger some sort of alarm.

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Pine-Sol: The official scent of Sand Hill at Fort Benning. (Image via Flickr)

 

4. Duct tape

Fun fact: Duct tape was created by an ordance-factory worker and mother of two Navy sailors, Vesta Stoudt, as a sealant for ammo boxes. As it turns out, it could be used for damn near everything.

If it can’t be fixed with duct tape (and maybe with a spray of WD-40), it’s beyond repair.

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
So there’s no need to side-eye the doc for using it, crybaby. (Image via Flickr)

 

5. Cotton Swabs

The unit just got back from the range and everyone is feeling great from a solid day shooting. The last thing to worry about is cleaning your rifle.

Thirty minutes later, every troop has a mountain-sized pile of carbon-filled, bent-up cotton swabs. Even if you use an entire box of cotton swabs, the rifle isn’t clean enough. Even after you’ve used all of the cotton swabs that supply has, the rifle isn’t clean enough. Even if you send one person to the PX to buy out their entire stock of cotton swabs, the rifle isn’t clean enough.

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Whoever holds the government contract on providing cotton swabs has got to be rolling on dough. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Three decades later: Was the Gulf War worth it?

Twenty-nine years ago, on Jan. 16, 1991, the United States led the massive offensive coalition Operation Desert Storm, during the Persian Gulf War. The forces of this coalition were made up of 32 different countries, all combining efforts to stop and remove Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait the year prior.


There were over 900,000 coalition troops; 540,000 of them were American.

The U.S. began its invasion with air attacks that would decimate Iraq’s air defenses, taking out communications, weapons and oil refineries. Then, a covert and classified bombing mission began, known as Operation Senior Surprise. Its airmen were known as the Secret Squirrels.

Seven B-52G Stratofortresses took off from Barksdale Air Force Base in La., flying around 14,000 round-trip miles to launch 35 missiles at strategic locations in Iraq. They would require air refueling over the Atlantic, but all made it home safely. At the time, it was a world record for the longest bombing mission.

The world watched live on TV with CNN broadcasting around-the-clock coverage. General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell would go on to become household names in America as citizens watched the war unfold in real-time.

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

The battle would intensify when the massive U.S. led ground offense began. Troops on foot would begin the “100-hour ground battle” on Feb. 24, 1991. This attack would lead to a liberated Kuwait in just under four days.

On Feb. 28, 1991, a cease-fire was officially declared, and Iraq pledged to honor future peace terms. One of the terms was that Saddam Hussein would get rid of all weapons of mass destruction. He would go on to refuse weapons inspectors admittance.

The Gulf War was a test in American diplomacy, with President Bush remembering the lessons of the Cold War. The war was backed by public and congressional support when that diplomacy failed. President Bush appeared to struggle greatly over going to war, even writing a letter to his children on New Year’s Eve of 1990 about the decision. It would go on to become the end of this kind of warfare and the beginning of a new era.

The United States lost 382 troops in the Gulf War, and the Department of Defense estimated that it cost the United States billion dollars. The costs to those who served during the conflict were far greater.

Troops returning from the gulf war began getting sick; 250,000 of them.

The illness was called Gulf War Syndrome. A very wide range of chronic symptoms have been reported, including cognitive problems, respiratory disorders, muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, rashes and digestive problems. The troops were exposed to dangerous pesticides, and the pills given to them to protect against nerve agents would be proven to be part of the cause.

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

The intent of the United States getting involved in the middle east conflict was to prevent Saddam Hussein from gaining control of Kuwait’s oil, which would have led him to having 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves. This would have greatly impacted not just the United States, but many other countries who depend on oil for their way of life. However, it led to the U.S. becoming even more entangled in foreign politics, which would lead to more war, not less.

The Gulf War didn’t prevent the uprisings in Iraq, and we would end up right back there a decade later, losing another 6,967 troops as of 2019. This time we would attack without congressional approval and the support of the other surrounding Arab nations. We would not have the U.N. Resolution in our pocket or local support.

Nineteen years later, we are still at war. The lessons in the Persian Gulf War seem to have been forgotten. Twenty-nine years after the cease-fire was declared, it begs the question – was it worth it?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Lockheed’s new laser-guided bomb lives up to its name

Laser-guided bombs have been a mainstay of the United States military for almost 50 years, but they’re not without their downsides. Yes, they provide great accuracy, but you need to keep the target painted for maximum effect and bad weather makes laser-guidance less reliable.

Additionally, many laser-guided bombs currently in use, like the Paveway II, have a relatively short range and must be used at high altitude, meaning the plane can’t hide from radar. With improved defense systems out there, like the Russian Pantsir, keeping a target painted at close range may spell disaster for a pilot.


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

The GBU-12, like other Paveway II systems, has relatively short range — not a good thing when advanced air defense systems can reach out and touch a plane.

(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

The Paveway III system was designed to address those shortcomings. It has a longer range and can be used from lower altitudes, but the United States only bought the GBU-24, which is based off 2,000-pound bombs like the Mark 84 and BLU-109. They make a big bang, but as we’ve learned, a big bang isn’t always the best solution.

So, to bridge that gap in capabilities, Lockheed has developed Paragon, which is based off the GBU-12, a 500-pound bomb. Paragon essentially takes a laser-guided bomb and adds a combination of an internal navigation systems and global positioning system guidance, extending range and allowing for more flexibility in how a plane approaches its target.

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

Lockheed-Martin’s New Paragon direct attack bomb

(Lockheed-Martin)

The Paragon has a larger “launch acceptable region” than many legacy systems. This is, in essence, the area of the sky above a target within which a pilot can drop the munition and hit their target. Older laser-guided bombs have a narrow acceptable region, making it easier to predict a plane’s approach path and fire off defense systems. The Paragon, which is capable of hitting targets on land or sea, allows for more dynamic approaches.

Of course, Paragon is also easy to integrate into the stuff professionals think about: Logistics. It uses the same test gear as JDAMs and laser-guided bombs. Integration costs, therefore, are minimized, and it is a good way to improve operational flexibility on a budget. The Paragon may prove to be a paragon of lethality.

Articles

These Combat Tracker teams were America’s secret weapon in Vietnam

As American forces became embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam it was quickly apparent to commanders that they were fighting a war for which they were not prepared.


The guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult to counter, especially for conventional forces. Luckily, our allies, the British, had already developed a tactic that they had used to great effect in Malaya.

Facing a communist insurgency of their own, but with limited resources, the British had developed specialized teams to track the enemy through the jungle and destroy them. This tactic was so effective the British would employ it against insurgencies all across the empire.

Knowing the French tactics had been insufficient, and not wanting to meet the same fate, Gen. Westmoreland sent observers to the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaya to see if the tactics could be adopted by American forces.

Impressed by what they saw the Americans made a deal for the British to train fourteen teams, to be known as Combat Tracker Teams, at the British Jungle Warfare School. Due to British neutrality, the soldiers to be trained traveled on official government passports and used only British gear while in training so as to maintain secrecy and low-visibility.

The basic organization of the Combat Tracker Teams consisted of two to four sections of five-men. The section was composed of a team leader, a visual tracker, a cover man, a radio operator, and a dog handler with a well-trained Labrador retriever. Not typical for combat operations the Labs were highly-effective in Vietnam. They were effective trackers, quiet in the field, and, most importantly, due to their even-temperament could more easily change handlers – a prized-quality for an army rotating men out of country, but often heart-breaking for their handlers.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Australian soldiers helped Americans train for combat tracking tactics in Vietnam. (Photo Bryan Campbell via Flickr)

The teams were in for intense training once they arrived in Malaya. For the dog handlers training was three months long, for everyone else it was two months. The cadre consisted of British and New Zealand SAS as well as Gurkhas, who usually played the enemy to add to the realism. Wash out rates were high.

The initial address to the trainees was often quite shocking to them. They were told the problem with the American army was that it was more focused on rank than knowledge. And that by the time they were done, they would feel more at home in the jungle than the North Vietnamese themselves.

After surviving the grueling training, the first teams returned to Vietnam in 1967 to be assigned to combat units. The team assigned to the 101st Airborne Division was told they must go through the division’s finishing school before they would be allowed in the field. Part-way through the first day it became obvious to the cadre that the trackers knew more than they could possibly teach them and they were passed through the course on the spot.

According to their group’s website, once in country, the Combat Tracker Teams were to “reestablish contact with the ‘elusive enemy’; reconnaissance of an area for possible enemy activities; and locate lost or missing friendly personnel.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Americans in Vietnam adopted a tactic used by the British for decades during their insurgent wars throughout the empire. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Once the troops hit the ground, they knew why their trainers had pushed them so hard – keeping up with a dog in the jungle while staying absolutely silent, as well as being alert and constantly ready for action is very hard work.

But that work paid off for the Americans. It was common to hear from the grunts about how the enemy could just “melt back into the jungle.” And that was where the trackers came in. Pushing out well ahead of the line infantry units no detail was too small for either the visual tracker or the working dog to pick up.

John Dupla, a combat tracker with the 1st Cavalry Division, said “we were taught to develop a sixth sense, utilizing methods Native American scouts used, such as looking for broken twigs and turned over leaves and rocks.”

Depending on the conditions and situation either the visual tracker or the dog handler and his lab would lead the team. Always right behind him was the cover man. Since the point person’s attention was focused on searching for trails and clues the cover man became his lookout, providing protection.

Although the unit’s mission was often not to directly engage the enemy, sometimes it was unavoidable. As one combat tracker related “if you got into something, you shot your way out.” Ideally, the trackers would locate the enemy and call the infantry behind them into the fight.

However, as the Viet Cong became aware of the effectiveness of the trackers they sought ways to counter them. Retreating groups would often send a contingent off in a different direction to draw the trackers away from the main force and into an ambush. One Combat Tracker Team lost their visual tracker and cover man to enemy snipers in this manner.

In a further effort to disrupt the trackers, and a sure sign of their effectiveness, the North Vietnamese put out bounties on their heads. The fear they struck in the enemy gave the trackers great pride.

Despite their effectiveness many American commanders simply did not understand how to properly employ the trackers. Their small size and the secrecy of their training meant few in the infantry understood how they operated. They were sometimes thought of as scouts and to simply walk point for a larger formation.

The program was disbanded in 1971 as American drew down forces in Vietnam. The trackers were broken up and folded into their parent infantry units. Veiled in secrecy and lacking the notoriety of Special Forces the legacy of the Combat Tracker Teams quietly faded away.

There is no doubt though that the Combat Tracker Teams were effective, saved lives, and made life much harder for the enemy.

popular

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Whether you love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that Vikings are insanely cool. The Viking era lasted from about 793  – 1066 AD, and the lore surrounding these ancient people is fascinating. Not all of the stereotypes about Vikings are accurate, however. Keep reading to find out which Viking myths are real, and which are pop culture embellishments. 

Myth #1: Vikings wore those goofy horned helmets.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

viking helmet
Replica Viking helmet, “The Vikings Begin” exhibit, Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington, U.S. Photo by Joe Mabel

No one is entirely sure how this rumor became so securely cemented in our portrayal of vikings, but the classic horned Viking helmet wasn’t actually a thing. While earlier Norsemen did wear horned helmets for cultural ceremonies, the Viking era was decidedly horned-hat-free. They did have helmets for combat, just not with horns. 

Myth #2: They were basically pirates.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction…mostly

Technically speaking word Viking is derived from a Scandinavian term, “viking”, which does mean pirate. The meaning behind it, however, is totally different from the modern definition of piracy. Then, it meant a person who explored the high seas. Going “a Viking” was more a verb than a title, and it meant far more than mindless theft and violence. 

Myth #3: Vikings were uncivilized brutes.

Fact or Fiction: Total fiction

Yet again, pop culture did Vikings dirty- literally. Modern representations often portray Vikings as filthy, ruthless war machines. While they were remarkable warriors, they were actually among the more civilized peoples of their era. They were shockingly focused on personal hygiene. A number of items like combs, razors, and tweezers have been found at Viking sites. They also bathed weekly or more, which was exceptional compared to most Europeans at the time. 

They were ahead of the equality curve, too. While girls did get married at a disturbingly young age, they had considerably more freedom than women from other cultures. Aside from thralls, or slaves, Viking women had the right to request divorces, reclaim their dowries, and inherit property. 

Myth #4: They wrote using ancient runes.

Fact or Fiction: Fact

Vikings had their very own alphabet. If you’ve ever watched “The Lord of the Rings” movie series, the runes from the movie are surprisingly similar to real Viking runes. The Vikings recorded historical events into large rocks, which later became known as rune stones. These stones helped tell modern historians much of what we now know about ancient Scandinavian culture.

Myth #5: They were ruthless warriors.

Fact or Fiction: A little of both

Vikings weren’t peaceful, but they weren’t senseless killers either. Their reputation to be killing machines began after a raid on the monks of Lindisfarne. The monks there were killed or captured, the church pillaged, and the library burned. This was the start of the Viking migration from Scandinavia, and it gave them a harsh reputation of being a crude people with no respect for religion or knowledge.

They didn’t do much to dispel that assumption. They conducted raids on countless cities, monasteries and coastal villages. Still, there were two plausible reasons for their plundering habits. 

Firstly, they were NOT devoid of culture or religion; they just weren’t Christian, and they were frequently persecuted for it. Forced baptism and other unfortunate practices led to tension between pagan Vikings and their Christian neighbors. Secondly, the harsh winter conditions of their homeland made it difficult for them to survive without the “help” of towns with more plentiful resources. 

They didn’t always destroy towns, however. After initial raids, Vikings often imposed a tax called Danegeld on their victims. Towns could avoid further attacks by paying up, providing a slightly less dark means of survival for the Vikings.

Myth #6: Vikings were a formal group.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Vikings weren’t actually a formal nation. The term Viking covers all the Scandinavian peoples who engaged in overseas exploration and warfare. Vikings were composed of tribes from what is now Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The tribes didn’t live in harmony, either. When they weren’t fighting other nations, they were fighting each other.

Myth #7: Vikings were all about war. 

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

This really comes down to your definition of Viking, honestly. If you mean Viking explorers then sure, they spent a lot of time in battle. If you’re just talking about ancient Scandinavians during the Viking era, then you’d be dead wrong. Most of the people of the era were farmers, not fighters. While their aggressive counterparts razed villages, they raised livestock and grew oats and barley for the winter months. 

They also liked to have fun. They developed early skis, similar to those invented in Russia at a similar time. It became an efficient way to get around their icy homeland, and they enjoyed it so much that they worshipped a skiing god named Ullr.

Myth #8: Viking ships were next-level.

Viking ship
A Viking ship at a museum in Oslo, Norway. Image by Larry Lamsa

Fact or Fiction: Definitely fact

As much as Vikings were known for destruction, they had a great deal to contribute as well. For over 1000 years, the Norse honed the craft of ship-building. They made a wide range of vessels, and they’re responsible for inventing the keel. The keel made boats faster and more stable, which allowed the Vikings to travel longer, faster, and farther across the Atlantic than any before them.

Their most famous ships featured a series of oars and a large, red, woolen sail. They were also strikingly beautiful. Ship-crafting was an art to the Vikings. Their vessels boasted finely carved dragon heads for good luck. 

Myth #9: People were born into the Viking life.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Referring back to number six and seven, being a Viking was less a nationality than a career choice. Young Scandinavians could choose to become farmers, or they could choose to become Vikings. The only reason you hear more about Norse Vikings than Norse farmers is pretty simple; decapitating people is way more thrilling to read about than herding sheep. 

Myth #10: They buried their dead at sea.

Fact or Fiction: Mostly fiction.

While the visual of sending a lost loved one out to sea, shooting a flaming arrow into the ship, and watching it burn into a final sunset, is dramatic as hell, it’s not very realistic. Most Viking burials were much less elaborate. Norsemen were often buried in large burial mounds with their prized possessions or cremated in ceremonial pyres. Some of the mounds were made in the shape of a ship, however, to represent their safe journey to the afterlife. 

Can’t get enough of Viking lore? Read about one of the most feared Vikings of all time here.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This trainee just earned a perfect ACFT score

Spc. Benjamin Ritchie came to Fort Jackson with the same hope as many others — to start his Army career on the right path by excelling at Basic Combat Training.

On Oct. 21, 2019, he became the first Basic Combat Training trainee to record a perfect score of 600 points on the Army’s new physical fitness test.

Ritchie maxed all six events on Army Combat Fitness Test, making him the third soldier in the Army to earn a perfect score. The San Antonio native, is assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the “River Raiders.”


The battalion is one of two on Fort Jackson participating in the Army’s ‘field test’ where trainees take the ACFT during the ninth week of training.

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

Spc. Benjamin Ritchie, a trainee with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment conducts the sprint drag event as Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera watches.

(US Army photo)

Ritchie, an 09S — Officer Candidate, said what ultimately brought him success was his personal dedication to physical fitness and the consistent guidance and support of his unit leadership.

“We didn’t do anything special,” Ritchie said about his preparations. “I trusted my drill sergeants and did my best.”

Ritchie was unable to max his initial diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test, the soon to be legacy fitness test. For the following nine weeks, he performed regularly scheduled physical readiness training according to the BCT program of instruction and ate the regular meals provided by the dining facility and by the end of basic training, he was able to max both the APFT and ACFT.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Delgado, a senior drill sergeant in Ritchie’s company, said the training was the same as every other cycle.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, observes Spc. Benjamin Ritchie conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test event.

(US Army photo)

“There were no special fitness coaches, diets, or focused ACFT workouts,” Delgado said. “Hard work and motivation — that’s our ‘special sauce.’ Once you get the trainees to buy-in to what you’re doing, they will achieve whatever you put in front of them.”

The company and battalion focused on creating an environment for the trainees to excel. They placed pull-up bars in easily accessible locations; encouraged trainees to conduct physical training in their free time; planned time to familiarize trainees with the ACFT in the evenings; and encouraged friendly, peer-to-peer competition.

The results speak for themselves as Ritchie maxed the test while two other trainees in the battalion scored above 590.

Lt. Col. Randall Wenner, 3-60th commander, said he is excited about the new direction of the ACFT and the work the battalion has put into its implementation.

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

Brig. Gen. Milford H. ‘Beags’ Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah C. Gan, pose with Spc. Benjamin Ritchie from 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment after his graduation.

(US Army photo)

“There are naysayers out there about the new test, specifically due to injury,” he said. “We have tested over 2,800 trainees with zero injuries. Ritchie’s performance along with the performance of other trainees also sends a message — excellence in the ACFT is attainable for everyone. The Army needs adaptable soldiers. A fit soldier is an adaptable soldier.”

“We proved that when we asked trainees, who have been focusing on the APFT for graduation, to take the ACFT in week nine,” he added. “Focusing on fitness gives soldiers the tools to excel, regardless of the test.”

Ritchie, Co. A., 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, and Fort Jackson have shown proper training and motivation produce outstanding results.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian destroyer sails into the line of fire during shooting drills

During a US and Ukrainian-led multinational maritime exercise, a Russian destroyer created a “dangerous situation” by sailing into an area restricted for live-fire drills, the Ukrainian Navy said in an statement.

On July 10, 2019, the Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy purposefully sailed into an area reserved for naval gunfire exercises, part of the latest iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, the Ukrainian Navy said in a Facebook post.


“The Russian Federation once again showed its true face and provoked an emergency situation in the Black Sea, ignoring international maritime law,” the post explains, according to a translation by Ukrainian media.

The Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy attempted to communicate with the Russian ship, but the latter is said to have feigned communication problems.

The Russian military, which has been conducting drills in the same area, says that the Ukrainian Navy is lying.

“The Ukrainian Navy’s claim that the Black Sea Fleet’s Smetlivy patrol vessel has allegedly entered a closed zone where Sea Breeze-2019 drills are held is not true,” Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said in a statement carried by Russian media. “Smetlivy acts in strict compliance with the international law.”

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

Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy.

A US Navy spokesman told Defense One that the Russian ship was present but declined to offer any specific details on the incident. “The presence of the Russian ship had no impact to the exercise yesterday and all evolutions were conducted as scheduled,” Lt. Bobby Dixon, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, told the outlet.

He added, without elaborating, that “it can be ill-advised to enter an area given the safety hazard identified in a Notice to Mariners.”

The 19th iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze began on July 1, 2019, and will conclude July 19, 2019. The drills involved around 3,000 troops, as well as 32 ships and 24 aircraft, from 19 different countries and focused on a variety of training areas, including maritime interdiction operations, air defense, amphibious warfare, and more.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only off-duty NYPD officer killed on 9/11 was hours from retiring

It’s usually awesome when life imitates art – especially when that art form is an action movie. The good guys usually overcome big odds and the bad guys usually get put away. But cop life doesn’t work out like that sometimes. In the movies, when a cop is just days away from retirement, the audience knows he may not make it. But real life isn’t supposed to be like that.

Unfortunately for NYPD officer John William Perry, the morning he turned in his retirement papers was Sept. 11, 2001. And he wasn’t about to miss his calling that day.


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

John Perry was not your average New York cop. A graduate of NYU Law School, he had an immigration law practice before he ever went to the police academy. He was a linguist who spoke Spanish, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese, among others. Not bad for anyone, let alone a kid who grew up in Brooklyn with a learning disability. He even joined the New York State Guard and worked as a social worker for troubled kids.

He was a jack of all trades, beloved by all. He even took a few roles as an extra in NY-based television and film.

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

He was appointed to the NYPD in 1993 and was assigned to the 40th Precinct, in the Bronx borough of New York. The morning of September 11, he was off-duty, filing his retirement papers at 1 Police Plaza. In his next career, he wanted to be a medical malpractice lawyer. That’s when someone told him about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Instead of leaving his badge, he picked it back up.

He dashed the few blocks to the scene and immediately began assisting other first responders with the rescue operation. Perry was last seen helping a woman out of the South Tower when it fell just before 10 a.m. that day.

“Apparently John was too slow carrying this woman,” said Arnold Wachtel, Perry’s close friend. “But knowing John, he would never leave that lady unattended. That was just like him to help people.”

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

Some 72 law enforcement officers and 343 FDNY firemen were killed in the 9/11 attacks that morning. John William Perry was the only off-duty NYPD officer who died in the attack. An estimated 25,000 people were saved by those who rushed to their aid, leaving only 2,800 civilians to die at the World Trade Center site. President George W. Bush awarded those killed in the attack the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor. Perry was also posthumously awarded the New York City Police Department’s Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This 40-year-old carrier will be a lethal weapon for years to come

If there’s one ship that is iconic of the United States Navy’s dominance of the ocean, it is the Nimitz-class supercarrier. These vessels, the first of which entered service in 1975, are yuge (to use the parlance of the present commander-in-chief). They’re also quite fast and have plenty of endurance, thanks to the use of nuclear reactors.

Their primary weapon isn’t a gun or a missile — it’s up to 90 aircraft. When the Nimitz first set sail, the F-14 Tomcat was the top-of-the-line fighter. Today, a mix of F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are carried on board, and many Nimitz-class ships will operate F-35 Lightnings in the years to come.


The Nimitz-class carriers just missed the Vietnam War. Its participation in the failed 1980 hostage rescue mission in Iran was the class’s baptism by fire. The Nimitz also starred in the 1980 action-adventure film, The Final Countdown, in which it was sent back in time to just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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

USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the first of ten ships of its class,

(US Navy)

In 1981, the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) took part in freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra. During these exercises, Libya got a little bold and sent two Su-22 Fitters out to sea to pick a fight with two Tomcats and lost. Throughout the Cold War, Nimitz-class ships helped hold the line against all potential threats.

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

A F/A-18 Hornet is launched from the carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75).

(US Navy)

In 1990, the Eisenhower was one of two carriers that responded to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. While the Eisenhower did not launch combat missions, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) did. The Nimitz-class remained in production even as the post-Cold War saw America’s carrier force shrink from 15 to 11. The Eisenhower was also used to help move an Army brigade for a potential invasion of Haiti in 1994.

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

Not only does the United States have more aircraft carriers than any other country, they have the most powerful, dwarfing vessels like HMS Illustrious.

(US Navy)

Since then, Nimitz-class carriers have taken part in operations over Iraq, the Balkans, and as part of the Global War on Terror. The United States built ten of these ships. These seafaring behemoths displace over 100,000 tons, have a top speed of over 30 knots, and have a crew and air wing that totals over 5,800 personnel.

Learn more about one of these massive vessels that serve as both a crucial component and symbol of American naval power in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZDCb5Zloj4

www.youtube.com

Note: Contrary to the video title, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) is the seventh carrier of the Nimitz class.

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