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

Russia is trying to get an edge on NATO as it stokes Ukraine

A confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea in November 2018 ended with Ukraine’s ships seized and its sailors jailed.

It was the first direct clash between Moscow and Kiev in years, and it stoked tensions that have been elevated for years, especially after Russia intervened in Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean Peninsula and then backed separatist movements along Ukraine’s eastern border.

The Nov. 25, 2018 clash took place in the Kerch Strait, which divides Crimea and mainland Russia and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Photos show Russia appears to have struck one of the Ukrainian ships with a heavy weapon, such as a 30mm gun or missile.


Since claiming Crimea, Russia has taken a more aggressive stance toward the Sea of Azov, declaring invalid a 2003 agreement in which Moscow and Kiev agreed to share the body of water.

In 2015, Russia began construction of a bridge over the Kerch Strait. The sea is already the world’s shallowest, no deeper than 50 feet, and the height of the bridge further restricted the size of ships that could pass through.

Russia has also interfered with Ukrainian shipping in the area and at times closed the strait completely — all of which is particularly challenging for Ukraine, which has major ports on the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine and Russia have both pursued a military buildup in the area, but Russia has more forces and their activity has been more substantial.

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

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross, background, conducts an underway exercise with the Ukrainian navy.

Moscow’s moves in the Black Sea region are of a piece of with what it’s been doing throughout Eastern Europe amid heightened tensions with NATO.

‘An arc of A2/AD’

Since 2014, Russia has “built up tremendous amounts of capability” in Crimea, said Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical-analysis firm Stratfor.

Russian forces in the area now amount to about 30,000 troops and more than 100 combat aircraft, up from dozens that were in the area prior to the takeover, Lamrani said. (In May 2018, 17 Russian planes swarmed a British warship sailing just 30 miles from Crimea.)

“They have now three battalions of S-400s, plus other air-defense systems, like the S-300 [and the] Buk M2,” Lamrani said. Another division of S-400 missiles is on its way to Crimea, where it will be the fourth on duty, according to Russian state media.

“They installed a number of coastal missile-defense batteries” firing weapons like Bastion and Bal cruise missiles, which can strike land and sea targets, Lamrani said. Russian state media also said this week that more Bal and other anti-ship missiles were headed to the Crimean city of Kerch, which overlooks the strait of the same name.

“They have some Iskander missiles they rotate through the area, lots of new artillery systems, lots of new armor,” Lamrani added, referring to Russian short-range, nuclear-capable cruise missiles. “They didn’t really have main battle tanks there before 2014. Now they do.”

Russia sees Crimea as a stronghold from which to pressure Ukraine and assert control over a broader swath of the Black Sea, Lamrani said.

Weapons like the S-400 and coastal-defense systems can be employed as a part of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, strategy, and their presence in Crimea and elsewhere along Russia’s eastern frontiers has garnered attention from NATO.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

The S-400, considered Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, is also deployed in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The S-300, which is older but still highly capable, has been deployed in the region, including in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, which borders the Black Sea.

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Hodges added, “but the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

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

Russia S-400 air-defense systems in Syria.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Russian moves around the Black Sea were particularly worrisome, Hodges said, comparing the seizure of Crimea and subsequent territorial claims in the Black Sea to China’s claims and island construction in the South China Sea.

Some of the NATO members bordering the sea, like Romania and Bulgaria, don’t have a major naval presence there, but Turkey would likely prevent Russia from having free reign in the sea.

With the vantage point provided by Crimea, Russian combat aircraft and land-based weapons systems like the S-400 and Bal missiles can extend their reach hundreds of miles into and over the Black Sea.

“They can effectively support their navy with an umbrella defense of surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship missile systems that can keep NATO away in case of any threat,” Lamrani said.

A2/AD systems could provide similar defense in a place like Kaliningrad, which has Russia’s only year-round, ice-free Baltic Sea port and is close to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. In western Syria, where Russian S-400 systems have already been deployed, US-led coalition forces have worked hard to avoid Russian airspace.

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

Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) flagship HMS Duncan, arrives to the harbor in Constanta, Romania, Feb. 2, 2018.

(NATO / CPO FRA C.Valverde)

‘Alive to these challenges’

Russian forces are outstripped by NATO as a whole, and an all-out Russian attack on another country is considered unlikely.

But concern has grown that Russian A2/AD in areas like eastern Syria or the Baltic and Black seas could create layered defensive bubbles and limit NATO’s freedom of movement — especially in an engagement below the threshold of war.

In the decades since the Cold War, NATO members also shifted their attention away from a potential conflict with a peer or near-peer foe, focusing instead on smaller-scale operations like counterterrorism. (The US and others have started to reverse this shift.)

“There’s been decline in … investments rather in this type of warfare, as NATO attention has shifted to other priorities,” Lamrani said of A2/AD.

But, he noted, Russia has pursued the mismatch to compensate for a weakness.

“Russia is stronger than NATO in air defenses and stronger than NATO in land-based anti-ship missile systems, as well as anti-missile systems in general,” Lamrani said. “That came out of Russia trying to mitigate its disadvantages in other areas. For instance, NATO naval forces are much stronger than Russia, and NATO air power as a whole is much stronger than Russia.”

Advanced stealth platforms, like the US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are seen as potential counters to A2/AD systems. And other assets, like the Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, could help thwart them.

But it’s not clear those resources are available in the numbers needed to do so, nor is it likely such an engagement could be conducted without heavy losses.

Nevertheless, while Russia may find an advantage within the specific area of A2/AD, Lamrani said, “that doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been developing its own capabilities in other areas [and it] doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been thinking about this type of stuff.”

“Let’s just say the alliance is alive to these challenges, and it … will be prepared to use all the different things that would be required,” Hodges said in early November, without elaborating. “This is not something … the alliance has not looked at very closely.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why do we put our military community at risk with on-base quarantines?

In our small town of Pacific Grove, Calif., an email alerted us that our community would be “hosting” 24 Grand Princess cruise passengers who display mild symptoms of COVID-19. The other California “hosts” are military installations, Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., and Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.


A press release sent out by the governor’s office tells residents, “We have an opportunity to provide an example of a compassionate humanitarian response,” but omits specific measures being taken to quarantine the passengers and protect the community, which is known for having an elderly population. The town jokes that people move here to die or multiply, with many young residents coming for the excellent schools and the elderly for the moderate climate and breathtaking Monterey coastline.

Why then was this elderly community chosen, despite our population’s median age being 49, over 10 years older than the national average? Because the passengers will be quarantined on government-owned land. This is also why military bases are “go-to” locations for other, more serious cases.
How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

The Pacific Grove coastline is just across the street from where the 24 quarantined Grand Princess cruise line passengers are staying. They will be monitored for the next two weeks as part of the state of California’s plan to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Why is it that the military community is always the first to be put at risk? As a military spouse and mother of three, I’m not so much scared of the Coronavirus as I am perplexed.

If military communities are already being asked to sacrifice more than most, don’t we at least deserve concrete facts on how we are being protected instead of attempts to pull at heartstrings?

The military housing areas on Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Naval Air Station are less than a mile away from where exposed citizens are being housed. I can’t imagine what these military families are feeling. As some previously in quarantine leave, new patients arrive. I hope that they are looped in, that they feel taken care of and reassured that their lives are just as important as those they are being asked to support.

While some communities may be better at communication than others, the press release likely caused more panic than reassurance. Given the current climate, words sent out through official channels carry weight. So instead of adding to the hysteria, I emailed the local public officials quoted in the article for clarification.

No response.

However, within 24 hours, I did get reassurance from every travel-related company I have ever had an online shopping relationship with that they were on top of COVID-19 and take sanitation seriously.

Shortly thereafter, I finally received an update from my daughter’s elementary school, the only reliable source of information. It seems that clarification from public officials was possible. But instead of hearing from the governor’s office again, our small town’s City Manager set the record straight, or as straight as possible given all this confusion.

According to his release, “the state of California made the determination” to temporarily house 24 exposed passengers (less than two miles from my house). Thankfully, it turns out that he did have good news. The 24 have tested negative for the virus and “are not permitted to leave the confines of their hotel rooms.”

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

Costco runs feel like hoarding, but they are not. However, you might be a hoarder if you are one of the people who purchased all the paper towels, water and toilet paper.

Slightly relieved, I chuckled when I saw that “Outbreak” with Dustin Hoffman was trending on Netflix. Watching it served as a reminder that Americans don’t like rules or borders. We rebelled against the British. We conquered lands that weren’t our own. We believe rules are made to be broken. I hope these 24 are rule followers who regret our forefathers breaking from England and “displacing” Native Americans.

Unsurprisingly Costco was packed, leaving me either highly exposed or highly prepared. In the hidden back corner of the warehouse, a lady was positioned, not with samples, but with a clipboard and bouncer-like confidence, “we are out of water, paper towels and toilet paper.”

Twenty four hours after the first press release, I’m not scared of death or quarantine. We have Cheerios, bread, shelf-stable milk, charcoal and… champagne, because if I have to stay in the house with my three kids and husband for a month without toilet paper, I’m gonna need it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Online commissary privileges finally available to newly eligible shoppers

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.


However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

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

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

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

images02.military.com

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time a US Navy blimp turned into a flying ghost ship

For as long as there have been men sailing the high seas, there have been tales of ghost ships. From legends of the Flying Dutchman appearing near ports during inclement weather to the very real tale of the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 completely abandoned and in good working order, it can be hard not to be drawn into these tales of mysterious happenings on the great waterways of our planet.


Of course, it makes perfect sense that men and women would occasionally go missing during an era of long and often grueling voyages across the high seas. For all of mankind’s domination of nature, the sea has long been too vast to manage and too treacherous to tame. For much of humanity’s history, traveling across the ocean was always a risky endeavor.

But by the early 1940s, however, sea travel had become significantly less hazardous, and mankind had even managed to find new ways to avoid the ocean’s wrath — like flying high above it in aircraft or hot air balloons. At the time, Americans had largely moved past their fear of the high seas in favor of new concerns about what was lurking within them: German U-Boats.

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

The Navy’s L-8 blimp was a former Goodyear Blimp repurposed for naval duty.

(National Archives)

Concerns about encroaching Nazi U-Boats near American shores had led to a number of novel sub-spotting approaches. One was using L-Class rigid airships, or blimps, to float above coastal waterways and serve as submarine spotters.

On the morning of August 16, 1942, Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams climbed aboard their L-8 Airship, which was a former Goodyear Blimp that the Navy had purchased a few months prior to deliver equipment to the nearby carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) out at sea. Their mission that day was simple: head out from their launch point on Treasure Island in California to look for signs of U-Boats beneath the surf in a 50-mile radius around San Francisco.

A bit more than an hour into their patrol, the two sailors radioed that they had spotted an oil slick on the water and were going to investigate.

“We figured by that time it was a submarine,” said Wesley Frank Lamoureux, a member of the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit who was aboard the cargo ship Albert Gallatin. “From then on, I am not too positive of the actions of the dirigible except that it would come down very close over the water. In fact, it seemed to almost sit on top of the water.”

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

This image of the L-8 was taken prior to the mission that would see Cody and Adams go missing.

(National Archive)

In Lamoureux’s official statement, he recounted seeing the blimp drop two flares near the slick and then circle the area — which was in keeping with sub-hunting protocols of the day. The nearby Albert Gallatin cargo ship, seeing the blimp’s behavior, sounded their submarine alarms and changed course to escape the area. Unfortunately, these reports would be the last time anyone would see the blimp with the crew onboard.

A few hours later, the former Goodyear Blimp appeared sagging and uncontrolled over the shores of Daly City, California. It drifted over the town until it finally dipped low enough to become snagged on some power lines and come crashing down onto Bellevue Avenue. Crowds quickly formed around the downed blimp, and a number of people ran to the wreckage in hopes of saving the crew… only to find the cabin was completely empty.

The pilot’s parachute and the blimp’s lifeboat were both right where they belonged. The pilot’s cap sat on top of the instrument panel, and the blimp’s payload of two bombs were still secured. A briefcase containing confidential documents that the crew had orders to destroy if they feared capture remained onboard as well.

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

The Navy’s L-8 Blimp, crashed and crew-less.

(National Archives)

The L-8’s crew had seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting a slew of differing theories. Some assumed both the pilot and ensign had simply fallen out of the airship, though for such a thing to happen, they would have had to both fall overboard at the same time. If there was something damaged that required both men to address on the external hull of the vessel, there was no evidence to suggest what it could have been in the wreckage.

Another theory suggested the two men lowered their blimp enough to be taken prisoner by the crew of the U-Boat or a Japanese vessel in the course of investigating the oil slick. Still, others wondered if the two men may have been entangled in some sort of love triangle that drove one to kill the other and then escape by diving into the sea. Despite a thorough investigation, no conclusion could ever be drawn.

So what really did happen to the two-man crew of the L-8? Did they simply fall out of their blimp and die? Were they captured by Nazis that didn’t bother to check for any classified material on the blimp? To this day, their remains have never been found, and no other details have surfaced. For now, it seems, the legend of the L-8 “ghost ship in the sky” will live on for some time to come.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why pilots love and hate ‘B-tchin’ Betty’

Believe it or not, movies usually get the alarms and alerts in fighter jets wrong. (I know, this is shocking information coming from a website that once specialized in identifying mistakes in movies like Basic, The Hunt for Red October, and The Marine.) The fact is, the worst alarms are rarely loud chimes or claxons. Setting off a bunch of horns in the cockpit while a pilot is already stressed would create more problems than it solved.


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

 

Instead, the worst alarms are usually announced by a calm voice. And pilots often hate that voice.

So here, in a nutshell, is what’s going on. As engineers started making fourth-generation jet fighters, it became apparent that they needed too many alarms to do it all with lights and sounds. No, it would be much faster and more precise to have a human voice say the exact thing that the pilot needs to know.

And also, experiments had shown that pilots losing consciousness could respond to oral instructions for a longer period than they could understand other auditory or visual alarms.

But the last thing a pilot needs in the emotional roller coaster of a dog fight over Eastern Europe or an engine failure over the ocean is someone emotionally screaming at them through their controls. So jet manufacturers hired voice actors to do careful and calm voice recordings. The first was an actor named Kim Crow.

America opted for a female voice actor because they thought pilots would react much faster to a female voice because girlfriends exist. That’s not a joke, that’s how Kim Crow described it herself in this interview.

It was Crow’s job to warn pilots that they were about to crash into the ground, that a missile is in the air and hunting them, or that radar on the ground has a lock on them. In 1980, Leslie Shook became the voice of the F/A-18. 

So, pilots should love that little voice that calmly alerts them to an emergency, right?

Well, no. And for a few good reasons once you give it a good thought. First of all, these alarms usually go off when things are going very badly. No matter how calm the voice is, you’re going to have an emotional reaction to a voice you only hear when there’s a risk you’re about to die, crash, or accidentally destroy a multi-million dollar aircraft.

But, worse, pilots can’t always spare a hand to turn off the alarm when things are going wrong. Obviously, if you’re dodging Iraqi missiles in Desert Storm and get too close to the deck, you’re going to be too busy escaping the missiles and gaining altitude to toggle off an alarm. But that easily means that some of the most stressful three minutes of your life has a soundtrack, and it’s a woman saying, “Missile alert,” over and over even though you already know there’s a missile.

And so pilots started giving the voices in their planes nicknames, usually derogatory ones. America’s became known as “Bitchin’ Betty.” Britain is known for calling theirs “Nagging Nora.” And Australia reportedly uses “Hank the Yank” because their country apparently thought pilots could quite easily respond to a male voice.

Or maybe Hank is a female nickname in Australia. We’ve never been fighter pilots in Australia.

But while military pilots have mixed feelings toward the voices in their planes, they seem to work. And many of the same tactics are used in civilian planes and helicopters for the same role and for the same reasons.

But just imagine if Siri, Alexa or Cortana only spoke to you when everything was going horribly wrong and wouldn’t shut up during your crises. Yup, you wouldn’t like them much either.

Articles

This is why cancer isn’t the toughest fight John McCain has faced

The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.


However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.

His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.

McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).

Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).

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

The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.

It’s not his first go-round with “the big C,” either. McCain fought a battle with malignant melanoma in 2000.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This museum in Hawaii was built by Pearl Harbor survivors

With the help of Pearl Harbor survivors, Janet Glen Tomlinson created Home of the Brave Tours Museum, a one-of-a-kind WWII Military Base Tour along with the largest private collection of 1940’s memorabilia in the Pacific. As curators of this extensive collection, the Tomlinsons have received numerous awards and accolades for their work in educating the public about the rich heritage, sacrifices and traditions of the United States military.


The Home of the Brave Museum is a one-of-a-kind treasure trove of artifacts, stories, and memories of our American Military that fought to save our country and liberate the world during our darkest hours. The extensive collection exists to preserve wartime legacies, as well as to honor the sacrifice and victory of our nation’s great servicemen and women.

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

Their goal is to maintain the extensive collection and expand the property into an interactive learning center to further promote awareness, gratitude, and documentation of America’s military heritage for public interest and educational purposes.

Also read: A previously ‘unknown’ sailor killed at Pearl Harbor is returned home 75 years later

Last year, the revenue needed to operate the museum was cut off due to the termination of their exclusive military base tour. This was due to security concerns from Homeland Security increased competition from larger tour operators who offer larger commission structures to the sales agents selling and promoting Pearl Harbor Tours. The five star “mom pop” tour operation just couldn’t compete with the “big boys.”

The Foundation offers exciting and engaging ways to delve into America’s military legacy as well as educational (hand-on history) and entertainment opportunities for school groups, senior centers, local, military, and island visitors.

The Home of the Brave Museum is asking for help. Visit this site to give your support.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why top military leader goes to bed thinking about logistics in Europe

Since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, NATO leaders have been focused on securing the alliance’s eastern flank.

But defending that boundary and deterring threats to member countries there takes more than just deploying troops. It means moving them in and out, and, if necessary, reinforcing them, and that’s something that’s always on US and European military commanders’ minds.


“I will tell you that when I go to sleep at night, it’s probably the last thought I have, that we need to continue to improve upon, and we are, from a road, rail, and air perspective, in getting large quantities of hardware and software from west to east on continent,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

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

A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off ARC vessel Endurance at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)

The US, which has drawn down its forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, has put particular focus on both returning to Europe in force and on moving those forces around the continent.

This has included working at ports not used since the Cold War and practicing to move personnel, vehicles, and material overland throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

“We’re improving, but I will tell you, as a supreme allied commander of Europe and a commander of US EUCOM, I’m just not satisfied,” Wolters said. “It’s got to continue to get better and better and better, and we are dedicating tremendous energy to this very issue.”

“In US EUCOM, we have directors, which are flag officers that work for me, and they’re called J codes, and our J4 is our logistician, and he’s a Navy flag officer, and he’s probably one of the busiest human beings on the European continent,” Wolters added. “He gets to sleep about one hour a day, and his whole life exists from a standpoint of finding ways to improve our ability to move large quantities at speed from west to east in road, rail, and air, across the European continent.”

‘There will be some snags’

The renewed focus on moving US and NATO forces around Europe has highlighted the obstacles posed by varying customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of proper transport vehicles.

Those would be challenges for any peacetime mobilization and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

To correct that deficiency, NATO has stood up two new commands. One, Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, will oversee movements across the Atlantic. The other, Joint Support Enabling Command based in Ulm in southern Germany, is responsible for movement on the ground in Europe.

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

US Army vehicles during a tactical road march in Germany, April 22, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

“We’ve also recognized the need in NATO to improve in this area,” Wolters said. “Through NATO command structure adaptation … we elected to standup an entire new command called Joint Support Enabling Command, JSEC, and it’s run by … a NATO flag officer, and that commander’s sole purpose in life is to nest with all the nations to find ways to improve our ability to move large resources at speed from west to east across the continent.”

That will be on display during Defender Europe 20, the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years, which will involve 37,000 troops from 18 countries — including 20,000 US troops deployed from the US — and take place in 10 countries in Europe.

Defender Europe 20’s actual drills won’t take place until next year, but, Wolters said, “it’s already started, because the benefit of a large exercise is all the planning that takes place beforehand.”

“The strategic message is we can demonstrate our flexibility and adaptability to lift and shift large forces to any place on planet Earth to effectively deter … and that’s incredibly valuable,” Wolters said.

But, he added, getting the logistics right on the ground may be the biggest obstacle.

“We want to make sure that from a border-crossing perspective and from a capability perspective in those 10 nations in particular that we’ve got it right with respect to our ability to lift and shoot and move and communicate with an exercise at speed,” Wolters said.

“There will be some snags along the way. We will find things that we’re not happy with. We will will after-action review those. We will find remedies in the future, and when we have another large-scale exercise we’ll demonstrate an ability to get through those snags … and we’ll just be that much quicker and that much faster in the future.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of helicopter warfare and the future of air assault operations

Carrying troops into combat, or at least close enough that they can walk to it, was a fairly basic art for thousands of years. Horses or boats did the job until motorized vehicles started to be used in large numbers in the beginning of the 20th century. 

During World War II, airborne and glider troops made mass assaults with thousands of troops possible at long ranges. While this was a huge leap forward, airborne operations came with some major liabilities. As seen during the D-Day landings, the accuracy of these drops was lacking, and troops could end up far from their intended drop zones. Just as importantly, parachutes and gliders were both one-way trips, and troops were largely on their own until their leg counterparts could catch up.

Helicopters promised to change all that. Which helicopter was officially “first” is subject to some dispute, but vertical flight was largely a novelty for many years. Toward the end of World War II, some primitive rotary-wing aircraft saw limited action in the Pacific doing rescue missions, but they were far from a decisive arm.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Retired Sgt. Maj. Mike Zacker, secretary of the board of directors and docent at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum and Historical Foundation, poses in front of an HRS-1 at the museum aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., September 2014. Zacker spent 18 years of his 30-year career working on the HRS-1 and similar helicopters. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher Johns.

After World War II, the Marine Corps first saw the utility of helicopters in an air assault role. As the service contemplated how amphibious assaults would remain viable in the Atomic Age, it concluded that the ability to cover much greater distances would be necessary. The Corps stood up Marine Helicopter Squadron One, HMX-1, and experimented with employing helicopters in amphibious warfare, developing the first doctrine on the subject.

The Korean War launched the helicopter from infancy to adolescence. The Marine Corps performed the first mass resupply via helicopter on Sept. 13, 1951. Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 (HMR-161) used HRS-1 helicopters to deliver 74 Marines and more than 18,000 pounds of supplies to an area known as the Punchbowl. A week later, they performed the first combat troop lift, delivering 224 Marines to a hilltop in the area.

It took nearly two more years for the Army to perform its first helicopter assault, but true to form, it was bigger than the Marines’. On July 13, 1953, Army H-19 helicopters of the 1st Transportation Helicopter Battalion lifted more than 800 Republic of Korea troops.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
An American Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam in 1963. Army photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The Kennedy administration’s focus on “brushfire wars” and shift to a doctrine of “flexible response” contrasted with Eisenhower’s “massive retaliation” and gave birth to what the Army would call “air assault.” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara insisted on increasing the tactical mobility of the US Army. Under Lt. Gen. Hamilton Howse, the Army conducted a series of experiments at Fort Bragg in the early 1960s, leading to the formation of the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, which soon became the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

The “1st Air Cav” became one of the most storied units of the Vietnam War, which became known as the “helicopter war.” Given the terrain and the enemy insurgency in that conflict, helicopters — usually the UH-1 “Huey” — gave US forces a tactical advantage. Large insertions of troops into “hot” landing zones would become a trademark of the conflict, and ultimately, more than 5,000 of the roughly 12,000 helicopters used during that war were lost. 

After Vietnam, the Marines returned to their traditional focus on amphibious assault and using helicopters accordingly. The Army returned to focusing on Europe and deterring the Soviet bloc. Helicopters, now mostly the UH-60 Black Hawk instead of the Huey, formed the most mobile element first in “Active Defense” and later in “AirLand Battle.”

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A UH-60 Black Hawk lifts off during the Ghazni offensive in Afghanistan in support of soldiers from 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Sept. 2, 2018. Army photo by 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Fortunately, Europe never needed American helicopter assaults to save it, but 1991 gave those aircraft a chance to shine. The 101st Air Assault Division mounted a brigade-sized lift to envelop the northern flank of Iraqi troops defending Kuwait as part of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s famous “left hook” attack. The operation validated the utility of helicopter-borne forces in maneuver warfare, as opposed to the counterinsurgency role they served in Vietnam.

In almost a “back to the future” moment, after 9/11, helicopters once again became the preferred tool to maneuver quickly against enemy insurgents, first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. While generally on a smaller scale than the largest assaults of the Vietnam era, tactical movement by helicopter has been essential throughout what became known as the Global War on Terror. 

Modern helicopter insertions look different from those in Vietnam. Insertions into hot landing zones are rare, and losses are less common. This can be attributed to improvements in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) technology, as well as tactics. While there have been some failures, such as Operation Anaconda, by and large, helicopters have been key to major successes, including the raid that killed Usama bin Laden in 2011.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
The MV-22 Osprey’s mission for the US Marine Corps is the transportation of troops, equipment, and supplies from ships and land bases for combat assault and assault support. Photo courtesy of the US Navy.

As the military exits Iraq and Afghanistan and shifts toward potential threats in the Pacific, the role of the helicopter will undoubtedly change once again. The mobility helicopters provided in the geographical constraints of Vietnam and Afghanistan seems limited in comparison with the vastness of the Pacific. 

Vietnam-era Hueys could fly around 120 knots for about 275 miles. The Black Hawks that succeeded them in the US Army can reach 150 and about 300 miles in a basic configuration. A big leap in performance will be necessary if rotary-wing aircraft are to remain a part of future war plans.

The Marine Corps, with its amphibious mission, had to face this problem much sooner. The Marines invested in the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, which cruises nearly twice as fast and flies twice as far as traditional helicopters. The Marines first deployed the Osprey in 2007 and replaced the last of its CH-46 helicopters with it in 2017.

The Army will have to invest in a similar capability to prepare for the type of conflict envisioned in the National Defense Strategy. It is moving ahead with the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program, which aims to produce an aircraft with the necessary speed and range to fight in tomorrow’s battlefields. Both Bell and a joint Sikorsky-Boeing team are competing, but whichever wins, it’s a certainty that air assault will continue to have a long future.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

‘Top Gun’ is a classic and arguably one of the most visually stunning aviation movies ever made. Few movies in cinematic history have been as prolific in contributing to the pop culture lexicon, as well. (Who among us hasn’t said, “I feel the need for speed” in random social situations?) And if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it chances are they’ll list ‘Top Gun’ as one of the reasons.


Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make ‘Top Gun.’ Real-life air-to-air combat doesn’t lend itself to the silver screen in that it’s super technical, very chaotic, and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time. So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. and the late-great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain movie-goers.

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

But, even allowing for that, ‘Top Gun’ has a bunch of cringe-worthy technical errors that cause it to be as much cartoon as tribute. Here’s WATM’s list of the big ones (annotated by the exact time they occur). After reading them we guarantee you’ll never look at the movie the same way again.

(4:23) CATCC controller is sweating. Those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics.

(4:26) Bald-headed guy (played by actor James Tolkan) walks in wearing cover, something the crew doesn’t do on Navy ships unless they’re on watch on the bridge. What is this guy’s billet anyway? CAG? Carrier CO? Tomcat squadron skipper? (He’s an 0-5, so that would make him too junior for the first two, but he acts like he’s in charge of everything.)

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

(4:33) (Not an error but a technical note): MiGs-28s are actually F-5Fs painted black. (Top Gun still uses F-5s as aggressor aircraft.)

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

(4:45) GCI controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.

(4:56) Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.

(5:00) RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. (Wouldn’t want a radar that pointed back at the crews. That would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.)

(6:00) Tomcat’s wings are swept fully aft, which means — at that altitude — that the aircraft is going supersonic or the pilot commanded them into that position, which he wouldn’t do because the airplane doesn’t turn that well in that configuration.

(7:21) Standby gyro is un-caged as Maverick “goes for missile lock” by twisting a nob on the mid-compression by-pass selector — a system that has nothing to do with the Tomcat’s weapons suite.

(8:00) Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” Well, whatever the ROE, the question is moot until you do some pilot shit and actually maneuver your jet into a position to commit a weapon.

(9:01) As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.

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

(9:03) The RIO wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.

(9:59) Merlin taps on a fuel gauge that doesn’t exist in the rear cockpit of the F-14, only in the front cockpit. (The RIO only has a fuel totalizer.)

(10:06) Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.

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

(10:12) Cougar has a photo of his wife and baby taped over the airspeed gauge to the left of the altimeter. Meanwhile the vertical speed indicator shows he’s descending at 6,000 feet per minute, which would be an aggressive dive. At the same time the altimeter, which shows he’s at 31, 500 feet, is set to standby with the barometric pressure dialed to 28.32 when it should be at 29.92.

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
F-14 A Tomcat cockpit. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

(10:26) ICS comms (intra-cockpit chatter) can be heard in air ops.

(10:48) A ball call (the transmission indicating the pilot sees the Fresnel lens that gives him glide slope information for landing) would not include the pilot’s call sign.

(10:57) Goose has the same non-existent rear cockpit fuel gauge as Merlin.

(10:58) Maverick crosses the ramp with his hook down and then a second later he has the hook up. (It takes several seconds to cycle between fully up and fully down.) Then he pulls the throttles aft to go around, which would reduce engine power, as somebody screams “Cougar!” over the radio.

(11:06) Maverick instantly bolters — in full burner, no less — with the hook down again.

(12:25) Cougar never calls the ball when instructed but gets a “roger, ball” from the LSO.

(12:27) There’s no way Cougar wouldn’t have been waved off based on that wild approach. He gets at least five “power” calls and no “wave off” call. The Air Boss would have had Paddle’s ass after that.

(12:51) Cougar traps, leaves lights on (Case I or Case III approach? Unclear here), and immediately shuts the jet down instead of taxiing out of the landing area. Maverick is still airborne, low on gas, and needs to land but can’t now because Cougar has fouled the landing area and has to be towed out of the wires.

(13:00) Nice stateroom for a squadron CO. (He’s an 0-5, fer crissakes.) Again, what’s this guys’ billet?

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

(13:58) First glimpse of random patch assortments on flight suits as Maverick and Goose get chewed out by skipper in his really nice stateroom. (And everybody’s sweating.)

(14:19) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “With a history of high-speed passes over five air-controlled towers.” Not sure what those are but they must be different than ground- or water-controlled towers.

(15:36) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time” and dismisses the crew to head for Top Gun, thereby committing professional suicide by not getting the only information that anyone above him in the chain of command would care about that particular day.

(16:06) “Um, tower, there’s some dork riding a motorcycle down one of the taxiways shaking his fist at us.”

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

(16:59) There is no Santa Claus. And there’s no such thing as the Top Gun Trophy.

(17:46) Slider is a lieutenant (junior grade). That’s too junior for a Top Gun slot.

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

(18:32) Navy leaders would be reprimanded for encouraging arrogance because the Navy spent money on posters that read “excellence without arrogance.”

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

(20:02) Goose quips, “Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man; what happened?” So he’s a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the “RIOs as second class citizens” vibe left the community with the F-4.

(25:52) A hangar isn’t the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs.

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

(26:29) Charlie briefs, “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” Must be because black paint is lighter than other colors.

(26:37) Charlie briefs, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” Those must be different than upright flight tanks.

(26:54) Anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.

(27:36) Maverick makes a big deal about how the information regarding his MiG encounter is classified and then proceeds to reveal it in front of the entire group with no idea of whether they have clearance or not. Again, they’re briefing in a hangar. Not exactly a SCIF.

(28:42) Jester says, “All right, gentlemen, we have a hop to take. The hard deck on this hop will be 10,000 feet. There will be no engagements below that.” Of course we haven’t briefed any of the other details of this event — including ACM rules of engagement — because Charlie has wasted our time hitting on Maverick, but whatever . . .

(29:53) Smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel . . . a stupid idea when you’re about to enter a dogfight.

(30:01) First merge happens very low to the ground over the desert, not exactly a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(30:51) Goose says “Watch the mountains!,” words never spoken during an air combat maneuvering event with a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(31:31) Maverick “hits the brakes” by pushing the throttles forward, which would increase power, not decrease it.

(31:49) Jester’s evasive maneuver in the A-4 is an aileron roll – not exactly an effective move in terms of creating the sort of lateral displacement that might defeat an enemy’s weapons solution.

(32:08) Goose says, “We’re going ballistic, Mav. Go get him,” which makes no sense because a pilot has no control over a ballistic airplane.

(33:34) Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.

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

(35:52) Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds . . .”

(37:10) Any lieutenant whose fitness report reads “He’s a wildcard. Completely unpredictable. Flies by the seat of his pants” would be done flying, not to mention unqualified for a Top Gun slot.

(38:26) Goose says to Maverick, “They wouldn’t let you into the Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” There are lots of reasons not to get admitted into a service academy — low SAT scores, for instance. Being the dependent of a veteran isn’t one of them; in fact, that status qualifies the candidate for a Presidential nomination.

(39:26) Maverick explains to Charlie during a TACTS debrief, “If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” She replies, “But at that speed it’s too fast.” Um, what are you guys talking about, and what language are you even speaking?

(51:43) Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million. Maybe she wasn’t including the cost of the two engines, which could have been a subtle dig on his energy management skills.

(55:31) Why is Hollywood eating an orange on the flight line?

(55:45) More dumping of gas going into a dogfight.

(56:30) Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him (in accordance with safely of flight rules).

(57:26) Logic of the engagement is ridiculous. Maverick lets Jester go and then flies in parade formation behind Hollywood who’s saddled in super-close behind the other bandit. Hollywood whines at Maverick not to leave him when he should just shoot the bandit right in front of him, and then Maverick leaves to go after Viper and ultimately winds up getting shot because Goose does a shitty job of keeping their six clear (at 59:23).

(57:49) More fuel dumping.

(58:42) HUD display looks nothing like the real thing.

(59:04) Maverick switches to guns but HUD symbology stays the same.

(1:06:16) Iceman transmits, “I need another 20 seconds then I’ve got him” while flying so close that if he took a gun shot he’d probably FOD his own engines with the debris from the airplane in front of him. What does he need 20 seconds for?

(1:06:56) Goose says “Shit, we got a flameout. Engine 1 is out.” The RIO has no engine instruments in the rear cockpit of the F-14.

(1:07:13) Iceman transmits, “Mav’s in trouble. He’s in a flat spin and headed out to sea.” When an airplane is in a flat spin it is not heading anywhere except straight down.

(1:07:22) Goose reports, “Altitude 8,000. 7,000. Six, we’re at six.” They should have ejected already. NATOPS boldface (immediate action steps committed to memory) procedures read like this: “If flat spin verified by flat attitude, increasing yaw rate, increasing eyeball−out G, and lack of pitch and roll rates: 8. Canopy – Jettison. 9. EJECT – RIO Command Eject.”

(1:07:23) Goose says “We’re at six [thousand feet]” while the altimeter shows 2,200 feet.

(1:07:48) See step 8 above. If Goose had followed procedures he wouldn’t have died.

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

(1:14:20) A Field Naval Aviator’s Evaluation Board (FNAEB — pronounced “fee-nab”) would not look like a judicial proceeding held in a courtroom.

(1:23:08) Viper tells Maverick about the day his dad died like this: “His F-4 was hit. He was wounded but he could have made it back. He stayed in it. Saved three planes before he bought it.” And Maverick doesn’t respond by saying, “That makes no sense, sir. How does a pilot save three planes after his jet is hit? Why are you bullshitting me?”

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

(1:23:20) Viper explains, “It’s not something the State Department tells dependents when the battle occurred over the wrong lines on some map,” which ignores the fact that the Pentagon would be pissed if some random State Department dude spoke to surviving family members at all.

(1:26:50) Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.

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

(1:27:24) Again: What. Is. This. Guy’s. Billet?

(1:28:56) Pilots salute cat officers for launch with oxygen masks off.

(1:29:08) Maverick walks on the flight deck during flight ops without his helmet on.

(1:32:10) Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.

(1:33:08) Random lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults.

(1:34:47) Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that.

(1:36:41) Ice says, “I’m going for the shot” while at close range behind a bandit, but he switches from ‘Guns’ to ‘Sparrow/Phoenix’ — the long range, forward-quarter weapons.

(1:36:54) Missile magically transforms from an AIM-7 Sparrow into a AIM-9 Sidewinder in flight.

(1:37:48) Maverick shoots a Sparrow in the rear quarter at short range, which wouldn’t work because the AIM-7 needs a lot of closure to guide.

(1:38:02) Again the missile magically transforms from a Sparrow into a Sidewinder in flight.

(1:38:54) Once again Maverick ‘hits the brakes’ by advancing the throttles, which would make the airplane speed up.

(1:39:47) Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.

(1:41:14) Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with.

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

(All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures except as otherwise indicated.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany backs up France in calls for European army

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.

“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.

“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.


Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.

“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.

Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.

His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.

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

President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.

(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)

On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.

Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”

“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.

The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”

That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.

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

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.

France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.

Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.

The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.

Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.

The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.

As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.

But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens when the Coast Guard makes a drug bust

Most troops and vets know very little about what the Coast Guard actually does. They’re often seen as either the “Navy National Guard” or as a bunch of puddle pirates trying to pretend like they’re one of the cool, DoD kids.

Yeah, sure; we’ll hear their name get brought up whenever a hurricane hits or they’ll be cursed at when they catch someone speeding on a private lake, but the truth is that they’ve more than earned their right to be a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

When they aren’t out helping idiotic boaters, they’re dropping narco-terrorists just like their grunt brothers.


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

When it kicks off, Coasties stay busy and can probably expect six or so busts in a week after that long-ass wait.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)

It all begins with actionable intelligence. Despite what you might think about gangs not snitching on each other to save their own hides — they absolutely do. Apparently, it doesn’t even take that much to get them to talk. A threat of extradition and being sent back to their home country (where they face grave, domestic threats) is usually enough to get them singing like a canary.

So, the Coast Guard goes out to the expected route of traffickers in their Cutters and they wait… and wait… and wait…

This process could take days, weeks, or even months. If it turns out that the collected information is indeed legit and they find the smugglers, then the fun begins.

First is the show of force and an appeal to try and get them to surrender peacefully. There’s literally no escape when the Coast Guard has you surrounded with much faster vessels and helicopters flying overhead. The ones who value their well-being will give themselves up.

If they don’t, warning shots will strafe the waters in front of the bow. If they still don’t get the message, snipers from inside the helicopters will disable the engines — that’s right: The Coast Guard has highly trained snipers who can hit speedboats from helicopters with surgical precision.

They should get the hint by now, but just in case they don’t, the Coast Guardsmen then board their vessel and detain the smugglers while remaining very weary of any potential threats that may appear. For a look at what that’s like, in a safe-for-television manner, check out the video below:

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

Ever wonder what half a billion dollars looks like? This was from just three busts.

(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mariana O’Leary)

The traffickers will go into custody and may be sent back to their host nation for trial (or execution, depending on the country). Then, the drugs are incinerated or destroyed by other means.

We’re not talking small amounts either. We’re talking about cartel-level quantities. Each bust account for tons of narcotics that will never make it to the streets. When they’re set ablaze, that’s millions that will never make it back to the cartels. Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard took out 500 tons of cocaine — billion in street value.

The war on drugs is a constant battle, but busts like these make significant dents.

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