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 TACTICAL

The USS Ford’s weapons are an impressive collection of firepower

The Navy is now integrating and preparing weapons systems for its advanced Ford aircraft carrier during a now-underway 12-month period called Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) — one of several key final steps designed to prepare the ship for ocean warfare when the ship deploys in 2022.

While the Ford’s electromagnetic catapult, larger deck space and nuclear power technology are heavily emphasized in public discussion of the ship’s newer technologies, layered ship defenses, are commanding commensurate developmental attention – given the global threat environment.


This includes efforts to build in the latest interceptor missiles and close-range guns, such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Block 2 (ESSM) and the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).

Therefore, alongside the more emphasized items for the PSA, such as the advanced weapons elevator and advanced arresting gear upgrades, preparing ship defenses for deployment will also function as an indispensable element of the Navy’s strategy for the Ford-class.

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

USS Ford

(U.S. Navy photo)

“The scheduled 12-month PSA/SRA will install remaining combat systems, complete deferred work and correct remaining discrepancies identified during sea trials and shakedown,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman told Warrior Maven.

The PSA is intended to build upon lessons learned and adjustments emerging from previous testing.

The ship’s crew has been “conducting post-delivery testing and trial operations that identify construction and design issues. They have been extremely effective in identifying any issues early, which helps us address them prior to returning to the fleet.” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a published Navy statement.

During testing and developmental phases immediately preceding the start of the PSA, the Ford successfully completed fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft integration and compatibility testing, air traffic control center certification and JP-5 fuel system certification, Couch added in the statement.

Demonstrating the ship’s defensive systems was also a vital element of these preparations for the PSA. While carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups, protected by cruisers and destroyers, the platforms are increasingly being viewed as ships in need of their own organic defensive weapons.

This is particularly true in light of the often discussed threats of Chinese DF-21D “carrier killer,” a long range anti-ship guided missile reported to reach ranges greater than 900 miles.

There is much discussion about how the USS Ford’s massively-increased onboard power technology, driven by four 26-megawatt generators, will potentially enable emerging weapons, such as defensive lasers and railguns.

In the near-term, however, the USS Ford will use the PSA to solidify integration of several upgraded ship defense weapons.

“Besides carrying over 75 warplanes, the USS Ford has some serious destructive capability. Engineers and designers included ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), and a Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS,” a report from Engineering.com writes.

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

An RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)

Upgraded Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile

The USS Ford is expected to deploy with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2, or ESSM, a weapon designed to track and destroy incoming enemy supersonic missiles and anti-ship missiles, among other threats.

The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can achieve improved flight or guidance to its target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, Navy and industry ESSM developers told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.

The current ESSM missiles use what’s called a semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2’s “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built onto the missile itself such that it can both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

A shipboard illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [of the missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, the Raytheon officials told Warrior.

The emerging missile has an “active” front end, meaning it can send an electromagnetic signal forward to track a maneuvering target, at times without needing a ship-based illuminator for guidance.

Also, the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface by sea-skimming or diving in onto a target from a higher altitude, Navy officials explained.

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

The MK-15 Phalanx CIWS

Phalanx Close in Weapons System

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.

CWIS fires a 20 mm Vulcan cannon mounted on a swiveling base. An essay in Naval Forces magazine called “CIWS – the Last Ditch Defense,” further specifics that the weapon fires “armor piercing tungsten penetrater rounds with discarding sabots.” CIWS fires a M61A1 Gatling gun out to ranges of 3 km.

Navy officials say the latest CIWS Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

A CIWS overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC),

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer.

The OGB/ELC combine to provide tighter dispersion and increased first hit range, a Navy official added. The Phalanx 1B fires Mk 244 ammunition, using the Enhanced Lethality Cartridge specifically designed to penetrate anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Mk 244 ammunition is engineered with a 48 percent heavier tungsten penetrator and an aluminum nose piece, according to information from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

The Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade is a new digital radar that provides improved detection performance, increased reliability and reduction in sailor man-hours for system maintenance, developers said.

The Baseline 2 upgrade mitigates obsolete components inherent in the existing analog radar by introducing COTS-based (commercial off-the-shelf) signal processing coupled with a new signal source and mixer.

CIWS uses “Ku-band radar featuring closed-loop spotting technology capable of autonomously performing its own search, detect, evaluation, track, engage and kill assessment functions,” the Naval Forces essay writes.

The Baseline 2 radar also provides the Phalanx CIWS with “surface mode,” meaning it adds the ability to track, detect and then destroy threats closer to the surface of the water compared with previous models of the weapon, developers explained.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SOF veteran thinks outside the box for TBI treatment and beyond

Green Beret Travis Wilson is like most members of the Special Operations community. He normally looks at problems and sees two options: find a way around or blow your way through it. The latter worked for Travis downrange, but after multiple IED strikes, enough flashbangs in the face to make even Chuck Norris cringe, and a freefall accident (yeah, seriously, you read that right), Travis, now CEO of Time for a Hero, is taking on a problem that has stopped even the most talented doctors in the world: traumatic brain injury, or TBI.


TBI is often the result of an explosion or crash, both of which are common in the Special Operations community. However, unlike a broken leg or even a gunshot wound, brain injuries just don’t heal like the rest of the body. Even worse, no brain injury is the same, which is what keeps doctors from finding an effective treatment.

As a result, symptoms such as confusion, amnesia, insomnia, and depression can last for months and even years. This is exactly the world Travis found himself in after six deployments and numerous doctors reporting that there was no long term cure for his injuries. So, Travis took matters into his own hands or, more accurately, his own mind.

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

Travis serving as a Green Beret in Afghanistan

(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)

“It just didn’t make sense to me,” Wilson said. “The doctors were saying there is no cure, but having been a medic, I knew the body was resilient and could heal from all kinds of trauma. I knew there had to be a better answer.”

As a combat medic and exercise science major, Travis knew that the body had an uncanny method to fix itself, but he searched for a treatment that could specifically help brain cells repair themselves. That’s when Travis stumbled upon the founder of Time for a Hero and an unlikely, out-of-the-box solution: stem cells.

I know what you’re thinking: Stem cells? The highly politicized, seemingly creepy, and crazy expensive voodoo treatment that relies on cells harvested like something out of The Matrix? Yep, that’s right, except that Travis and the founders found a stem cell treatment that relies upon the host’s own cells and can be applied to multiple injuries, including TBI.

There was only one problem: The treatment was offered out of the country and was exclusive to the super wealthy and celebrities — you don’t think Tom Cruise has really aged backwards, do you?

Even though you may see stem cell “clinics” in the states, the truly innovative “body heal thyself” kind of treatments aren’t currently approved by the FDA, and aren’t covered by most insurance companies.

Even though the treatment costs roughly ,000 per session, access was a problem Travis could overcome. Travis paired with the founder of Time for a Hero to underwrite all costs for SOF veterans to travel to undergo stem cell therapy. The procedure uses the patient’s own stem cells harvested from the adipose tissue using liposuction (a plus if you’ve been out of the gym for a minute) and then injects the cells into the body using an IV therapy and direct injection into multiple joints.

Mesenchymal Stem cells, which are basically cells that haven’t figured out what they want to be when they grow up (much like most of us), travel through the body and, once they reach the brain, attach themselves to regenerate growth in trauma areas. To date, Travis and his team have sponsored over twenty SOF veterans through this remarkable treatment, and the veterans have reported significant improvement in their cognitive and physical wellbeing.

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

Travis undergoing Mesenchymal stem cell treatment

(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)

“We’ve seen some remarkable improvement in overall quality of life and thought processes,” Travis said. “These guys are sleeping again and are thinking more clearly for the first time in a long time. Many of these veterans feel alive again.” But there is an added bonus here that we didn’t expect: anti-inflammation, which Travis thinks can be used on the battlefield.

Travis went on to explain that millions of stem cells flooding the body results in positive anti-inflammatory (think bigger than just motrin) effects that allow the body to heal more rapidly. Travis and his team are starting to explore the idea of stem cell treatment on the battlefield, before years of trauma is left untreated.

“The research and data we are collecting from these SOF veterans during their stem cell treatment could help save lives on future battlefields. As a former combat medic, I know how critical it can be to reduce trauma in the first few minutes of an injury. We have a chance to help the body start to heal almost immediately.”

Travis and the Time for a Hero team are planning to treat many SOF veterans this year and will continue to collect data to support other stem cell programs. Travis and his team have even recently been using an app to monitor cognitive growth after the treatment. “I don’t know if the treatment will make you smarter, but it sure as hell has made things more clear for me.”

“We have hundreds of special ops men — and women — on our waiting list and that list is growing everyday. So we’re out spreading the word, letting people know what we’re doing, and asking for help every chance we get.”

For more information on TBI, or how to sponsor a SOF veteran’s treatment, please visit www.timeforahero.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This WWII battle had ships firing point blank with 16-inch guns

In the Pacific Theater of World War II, many of the battles were either curb-stomp affairs by one side or the other — either because Japan was “running wild” in the early parts of the war, or because America brought its industrial might to bear.


Many historians view Midway as an exception to that one-sided rule since America’s victory is often viewed as a pure luck.

But one engagement where the two sides stood toe-to-toe occurred during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Henderson Field in August, 1942. (US Navy photo)

On the night of Nov. 14, 1942 — less than 48 hours after Rear Adm. Daniel Callaghan had defied the odds to turn back an attempt to bombard Henderson Field — the Japanese made another run for the airfield that was the big prize of the Guadalcanal campaign. They went with the battleship Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers to do the job.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Japanese ships sailing towards Guadalcanal on Nov. 14, 1942. (Japanese photo)

Against this force, Vice Adm. William F. Halsey was scraping the bottom of the barrel. He stripped the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6) of most of her escorts, sending in four destroyers and the fast battleships USS Washington (BB 56) and USS South Dakota (BB 57), under the command of Rear Adm. Willis A. Lee.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
USS Washington (BB 56), shortly after being commissioned. (US Navy photo)

Admiral Lee was an expert on naval gunnery, and according to The Struggle for Guadalcanal, written by naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, “knew more about radar than the radar operators.”

That knowledge would soon be put to the ultimate test.

The Japanese force cut through the American destroyers, sinking two outright, fatally damaging a third, and crippling the fourth. The battleship USS South Dakota then turned and was silhouetted by the burning destroyers. The South Dakota took 26 hits from the Japanese guns, but the Japanese lost track of the Washington, which closed to within 8,500 yards of the Japanese battleship Kirishima.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
USS Washington (BB 56) fires at the Kirishima, Nov. 14, 1942. (US Navy photo)

USS Washington was about to slug it out with a Japanese battleship in a one-on-one fight. Using radar control, the Washington opened fire on Kirishima, and scored as many as 20 hits with her 16-inch guns. The Kirishima was rendered a sinking wreck.

The Japanese tried to even the score with Long Lance torpedoes, but missed.

The Japanese made a very hasty retreat, leaving Kirishima and a destroyer to sink. Their last chance at shutting down Henderson Field for the Allies was gone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s top spy went to North Korea on a secret mission

President Donald Trump has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea early April 2018.

Trump said the two men interacted “very smoothly” and formed a “good relationship.”


The talks are the highest-level meetings between US and North Korean officials since Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met Kim Jong Il in 2000.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted April 18, 2018. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

The meeting was remarkable given that only one year ago North Korean propaganda accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim.

Pompeo’s trip, which reports out April 17, 2018, said happened over the Easter weekend, an apparent conflict with Trump’s announcement, had been kept quiet as the US and North Korea deliberate on how best to coordinate a planned summer meeting between Trump and Kim.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
President Donald Trump
(Photo vy Michael Vadon)

The news of Pompeo’s secret trip comes after South Korea confirmed that its officials were in talks to end the 68-year war on the Korean Peninsula with a peace deal, something to which Trump has given his blessing.

Any peace deal, however, would require Chinese and UN approval as well, since both are signatories to the 1953 armistice that paused, rather than ended, the war between North Korea and South Korea.

Other reports indicate that Trump has a plan to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons by 2020. Experts, however remain deeply skeptical of Kim’s intentions.

Kim turns over a new leaf?

Though North Korea has touted its missile program as being able to hit the US with nuclear payloads, a capability experts believe the country has or is close to obtaining, Kim has recently opened himself up diplomatically like never before, starting with North Korea’s participation in 2018’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

In recent weeks, Kim left North Korea for the first time since he took power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also opened up his country to South Korean pop bands, which he is thought to love. Kim actually attended a K-pop concert where he was reportedly in good humor and made jokes.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping. (Xinhua News)
(Xinhua News)

North Korea strictly controls the media in its country, and citizens caught enjoying South Korean media have been put to death or taken to labor camps.

Do Jong-hwan of South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism told foreign media that K-pop songs being performed in North Korea “could have considerable influence” on the country’s culture, according to NK News.

Experts have told Business Insider that Kim opening his country to the outside media could easily lead to his death, as his government holds power without input from its people and has kept them in meager conditions while South Korea has thrived.

Or is Kim waging a diplomatic offensive?

North Korea has moved toward talks with the US several times before, only to back out — though never under its current leader. Also, no other North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president, as Kim and Trump plan to summer 2018, though that has largely been because US presidents have rejected such meetings or imposed conditions that have not been met.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Kim at a military parade at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.
(KCNA photo)

Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranked North Korean defector, reportedly warned a meeting of the Mulmangcho Foundation organization that Kim was unlikely to deliver in the talks.

According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, he said: “Kim will act during his summits with Seoul and Washington as if he were determined to dismantle nuclear weapons in stages — first declaring dismantlement followed by incapacitating nuclear weapons and denuclearization.”

In Thae’s view, Kim will extract concessions from the US but never truly rid his country of nuclear weapons, given that Kim wrote possession of such weapons into the country’s constitution in 2011.

Despite the moves toward peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, the US and its allies have resolved to maintain what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, which calls for harsh sanctions and a buildup of military forces in the region.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 silver linings of a global pandemic

These are strange times. Life as we know it has constantly been in flux as hourly updates roll in, new laws are enacted, and we draw farther and farther into isolation. It’s been harder than usual to find the light in a dark moment, but there are actually a few good things we can hold onto.


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

A new appreciation for the older generations

The young appear to be spared from the worst of the virus waging war on the world today. Before coronavirus, it’s hard to recall a time where American culture took a long hard look at its aging generations with such love and appreciation. Knowing our last remaining Holocaust survivors, WWII Veterans, Korean and Vietnam soldiers all fall within the “high risk” category has caused many of us to rethink how we care for our elders.

Will we reimagine elderly care from distant centers to family-centered care? It’s certainly something to consider.

We get to take a hard look at consumption

There’s a long list of things we can’t do right now that’s affecting many of our lives and schedules. Yet, when we really think about it…does any of it actually matter? Coming off the high-speed rat race of life, we have all seen just how materialistic our lives are. What truly matters when it’s all on the line? The ones around you, the people you love.

Let us all take this reset to reconfigure life to slow down a few paces. To become centered, perhaps for the first time, around those who we couldn’t live without and to let go of the things that we realized we didn’t need.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fdocuments%2F20182%2F22051%2FThe%2BMilitary%2BParenting%2BCommunity%2BBuilding%2BResilience%2BOne%2BFamily%2Bat%2Ba%2BTime%2F18aafe33-de7d-4693-868d-48c711a39405%3Ft%3D1491233878000&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.militaryonesource.mil&s=49&h=e7106cd51384cee64f4c3b3b511a1d66be9dea6120fbf09cc9bdc3055f9975d7&size=980x&c=2746340053 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fdocuments%252F20182%252F22051%252FThe%252BMilitary%252BParenting%252BCommunity%252BBuilding%252BResilience%252BOne%252BFamily%252Bat%252Ba%252BTime%252F18aafe33-de7d-4693-868d-48c711a39405%253Ft%253D1491233878000%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.militaryonesource.mil%26s%3D49%26h%3De7106cd51384cee64f4c3b3b511a1d66be9dea6120fbf09cc9bdc3055f9975d7%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2746340053%22%7D” expand=1]

We’re all getting to restructure our families

Living life in the fast lane, it becomes easy to look past or completely miss the gaps in our parenting or marital relationships. We’re all pulled in so many directions that we literally do not have the time to do the work. Like it or not, you’re likely taking a long hard look at the product of that life and lucky for you, you have the time to course-correct.

Now is the time to go back to basics, ensuring you have your bases covered. It’s time to address what we can to be on a better and stronger path when life resumes.

Relationships will be stronger for this

With so much uncertainty, and so much free time, it’s likely you’ve thought about who you’re giving your time to, and who in your life you may have neglected a bit. It’s easy in life, especially the military life, to focus solely on life in your current town. Long-distance calls to your former bestie have become less frequent.

Thanks to isolation, there’s absolutely zero reasons for this. It’s time to renew, reconnect and review your friend list.

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

Push the reset button

Self-care is now daily care with all the time life has granted you. With literally nothing else better to do, why not start that next chapter you’ve been waiting for? Do the virtual Yoga retreat. Bake until you become amazing. Try and fail and try again because, after all, who is watching?

Whatever you do during your quarantine time, do it well and come out stronger for it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time India took half of Pakistan to pay for a motorcycle

In 1947, British officer Yahya Khan offered his colleague 1,000 rupees for his spiffy red motorcycle. His colleague, Sam Manekshaw, agreed. But before Khan could pay, he was off to what was going to become Pakistan. The British split its Indian colony, and things on the subcontinent have been pretty tense ever since. To top it all off, Yahya Khan didn’t pay for the motorbike.

But he would, even if it took almost 25 years.


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

Manekshaw (middle) whose mustache game was top notch.

The Partition of India was much more than the splitting of the British Raj into two independent states. It was a catastrophic split that tore apart the country and created millions of refugees, cost millions of lives, and split the armed forces of the country in two, all based on religion. Violence erupted almost immediately between the two groups on such a large scale that much of it has never been forgotten or forgiven. Animosity continued between both sides for decades, and the two have fought war after war because of the myriad issues left unaddressed.

By 1970, Sam Manekshaw was a Field Marshal, the Chief of Staff of India’s Army, and war hero known to the people as “Sam the Brave.” Yahya Khan was a General who fought for Pakistan against India in 1947 and again in 1965. Now he was the president of Pakistan who had taken power using the Pakistani military. East Pakistani refugees were flooding into India because Yahya would not accept the most recent elections, and India’s President, Indira Gandhi, told Manekshaw she wanted Pakistan split into two by force, creating the new country of Bangladesh. Gandhi gave him free rein to do it however he could.

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

Khan would be deposed and die under house arrest after being stripped of his honors during the rest of the decade.

In Pakistan, the ever-present tensions with India were ready to boil over once again. But the Pakistanis didn’t send the Army to India; they sent it into East Pakistan – where the Pakistanis immediately began slaughtering Bengalis in East Pakistan. By 1971 Bengalis in Pakistan declared independence from Pakistan in response. India immediately supported the new country, first vocally, then though training the Bangladeshis, and next with air support. Finally, in 1971, Manekshaw was ready. He had spent much of the year readying and positioning Indian armor, infantry, and air units. On Dec. 3, 1971, he struck.

The Pakistani Navy’s fuel reserves were destroyed. The Indian Air Force hit Pakistan with almost 6,000 sorties in the next two weeks, destroying much of Pakistan’s Air Force on the ground as the Indian Army advanced, capturing some 15,000 square kilometers. Within two weeks, Pakistan folded like a card table. All Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered to India, the genocide ended, and Bangladesh was born.

After the surrender agreement was signed, Manekshaw was said to have remarked:

“Yahya never paid me the 1,000 rupees for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
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Why these Navy cats spent more time at sea than you

Sailors are a superstitious bunch. Cats were said to bring good luck on ships and prevent bad weather. While nobody can prove or discredit myths like that, what cats actually did was successfully catch rodents. In killing diseased-ridden rats, cats helped make for a safer, healthier journey, thus further fueling superstitions.


Historical evidence dates the link between cats and sailors as far back as their domestication in Ancient Egypt and through the Viking golden age — but why? For starters, cats have a natural reaction to barometric pressure changes.

So, if you come to know the habits of an on-board cat very well, once they start to take an unusual liking to shelter, you can intuit a storm is incoming. This, plus the fact that every ship needs a mascot made cats very welcome among sailors.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
That blur in the lower middle is the mascot cat of the USS Pensacola. Because cats took photos in the 1860’s as well as you’d expect them to. (Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)

Ships’ cats were very well taken care of during their service. They would receive rations like any other sailor, were given bunks and living spaces like any other sailor, and they got plenty of love and attention like any other sailor.

Sailors would generally leave the felines alone to hunt any rodents that sneaked aboard while docked. And, during the lonely months at sea, cats were big morale boosters when solemn sailors needed a friend.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Don’t you just hate being woken up for firewatch? (Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)

One of the most well-known naval kitties was Unsinkable Sam of WWII. As the story goes, he survived the sinking of three ships before retiring. He was first aboard the German battleship Bismark as a kitten (originally named Oscar). When it sank in May 1941, he was found adrift by the HMS Cossack, the ship that destroyed the Bismarck.

When the HMS Cossack sank in October 1941, Sam was with the picked up with the surviving crew and taken to Gibraltar and served as the ship’s cat for the HMS Ark Royal, which then sank in November 1941. Because he still had six lives to go, the Royal Navy saw fit to grant him shore duty as mouse-catcher at the Governor General of Gibraltar’s office.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
His likeness is immortalized at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

(Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How women served in the Navy and Marines during WWII

The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942. Like their female counterparts servicing in other branches of the military, the primary function of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to release men for combat duty. The jobs available to them were also very similar. Members served in occupations classified as professional, semi-professional, clerical, skilled trades, services, and sales. While over 200 job categories were made available to members of the Women’s Reserve, over half of members worked in clerical positions. Only Caucasian and Native American Women were accepted into service, the Marine Corps barred African American and Japanese American women from its ranks.


At its height, the Women’s Reserve had recruited more than 17,000 members. As was discussed in Part I, the military used a variety of tactics to recruit female members. Films such as Lady Marines, were used to provide a look at the life of a female military recruit in an effort to make new recruits more comfortable with the process. The film, shot at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, follows a class of recruits from their arrival, to graduation, highlighting their training and job opportunities.

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

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

The United States Navy also recognized the importance of allowing females to serve in their ranks. The United States Naval Reserve (WAVES), was established and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942, the same day the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Women were accepted into the WAVES as commissioned officers as well as at the enlisted level in order to release men for sea duty. They served at 900 shore stations in the United States and included over 85,000 members. While primarily comprised of white women, 74 African-American women were allowed to serve during the program’s existence.

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

The color film, WAVES at Work, highlights the variety of jobs made available to members of the WAVES. Women wanting to serve in the medical, clerical, communication, and culinary fields were able to do so as a member of the WAVES. One of the most interesting jobs highlighted in the film is that of the Air Controlman. Those serving in this capacity would direct planes and ground crews from a control tower at naval air stations.

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

Both films, Lady Marines and WAVES at Work, touch on the values discussed in Part I femininity, benefits of joining the military, and the importance of the work needing done. These films also make it a point to highlight the opportunities made available to women in the military. Female recruits were provided with job training in non-traditional areas, training that was not widely available to their civilian counterparts . You can view both films in their entirety below.

This article originally appeared on The National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want a 100-meter ‘Taser’ for non-lethal fights

The Marine Corps wants the defense industry to design a wireless, non-lethal munition capable of stunning individuals out to 100 meters.

The human electro-muscular incapacitation, or HEMI, munition is intended to be a small-caliber, non-lethal round that can be fired from current conventional small arms, according to a Sept. 24 solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is designed to encourage small business to engage in federal research and development.

Currently, all the services field a version of the Taser International X-26 “Taser,” a pistol that fires a wire-tethered cartridge out to 25 feet to disrupt the body’s electro-muscular system for about five seconds.


The Marine Corps is “seeking innovative technologies to design” a HEMI munition capable of “hitting human targets at an effective range of 100 meters and physically disabling them for at least 30 seconds up to more than three minutes,” the solicitation states.

The projectile would have to be capable of withstanding the force of being fired from weapons chambered in calibers such as 9mm or 12-gauge, according to the solicitation.

“At least four previous DoD-sponsored SBIR efforts have been initiated on this technology area … but none led to the development of an effective HEMI munition that met the [Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program] capability gap,” it says.

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

Gunnery Sgt. Alexander H. Orellana, a non-lethal weapons instructor, fires the X26 Taser into the leg of Pfc. Luis E. CruzLopez with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Kuppers)

If successful, the new technology may not be cheap. The solicitation states that the Marines want a “low-cost” solution described as less than “id=”listicle-2608119323″,000 per round.”

“The prototype design may or may not be single use (i.e., parts of the design could be designed to be reusable),” the solicitation states. “This re-usability would be a design enhancement.”

The closing date for the solicitation is Oct. 24, 2018.

Early prototypes that pass initial testing will be “utilized to build additional (100+) advanced prototypes for a long-range, extended-duration HEMI munition,” according to the solicitation, which did not give a timeline for program completion.

In addition to the Marine Corps, “this developed capability to non-lethally disable/incapacitate individuals at distances in excess of 100 meters is needed to support the joint services, civilian law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Justice, the Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection,” it states.

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

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This collection of graffiti tells the real story of what modern war is like

Wisdom and truth (not to mention humor and satire) is found in the most unlikely places in theater. Here’s a sampling of graffiti that captures some of what it takes to keep your sanity when deployed:


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

War is awful. At least the graffiti keeps a sense of humor. 

NOW: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

OR: Here’s the way-funnier version of what the Marine PFT is really like

MIGHTY HISTORY

This German submarine was looted by American divers

It is always interesting to dive on wrecks. This can include wrecks of sunken warships, which can serve as an eerie glimpse into the past. Some ships, like the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34), are old warships being put to use as artificial reefs.


Others were sent to Davy Jone’s Locker the hard way during the war. One such vessel is the German U-boat U-85. According to U-Boat.net, this sub sank three vessels during its wartime service before it ran into USS Roper (DD 147). The Roper put U-85 on the bottom of the Atlantic. All hands went down with the German sub less than twenty miles off the coast of North Carolina.

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
The German submarine U-52, a Type VIIB U-boat similar to U-85. (British government photo)

The story, though, doesn’t end there. According to Outer Banks Sentinel’s web site, in 2001, divers Jim Bunch, Roger Hunting, and Rich Hunting retrieved the sub’s Enigma machine. The site claimed that Navy divers had attempted a similar objective shortly after the U-boat sank in 1942. The Sentinel noted that the Enigma was worth as much as $200,000, although appraisals supposedly for tax purposes were in the range of $50,000 to $75,000.

A 2003 release by the United States Navy’s Naval Historical Center noted that “the retrieval of the Enigma machine by the private divers was illegal without proper authorization from the German government to do so.” The Navy, the divers, and the German government later arranged for the Engima machine in question to be donated to the Atlantic Graveyard Museum, where it is today.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A collection of enigma machines at the National Cryptologic Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The looting of war graves has become an epidemic in the East Indies, including the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and a number of other allied vessels.

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