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.

Articles

These are the 7 finest pieces of flair on US military uniforms

In the 1999 film Office Space, one of the most quotable scenes is when Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), is confronted by her boss Stan, portrayed by the film’s writer/director Mike Judge, about her lack of “flair” on her work uniform.


Pieces of flair are quirky buttons and other accessories with funny, light-hearted phrases or pictures on the uniforms of characters working in a fictional TGI Friday’s rip-off.

When it comes to “flair,” the U.S. military has some cool looking badges. Unlike the cheesy buttons from the movie, military badges are earned through intense training and personal dedication.

While we acknowledge tabs such as Special Forces and Ranger (among others) awards are pretty awesome, the focus of this list is with pin-on badges that aren’t only difficult to earn but require a certain level of expertise.

They are also aesthetically pleasing from all branches of the Armed Forces – that is to say, they just look cool.

7. Space Operations Badge

This badge looks straight out of the Star Trek movies with its slick and futuristic design. It’s certainly a badge that will make you look twice when you see military personnel wearing it.

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

Members of the U.S. Air Force and Army who complete specialized training and performed space and missile operations over a period of time are eligible to wear it.

6. Military Freefall Parachutist Badge

First awarded in 1994, service members must complete a four-week freefall course in order to earn the coveted badge — commonly known as HALO Wings (High-Altitude Low-Opening).

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

The badge design features a dagger, arched tab, parachute, and wings. The knife represents infiltration techniques, and the parachute is a seven-celled MT1-X, which is the first parachute adopted for military freefall operations. Members of the Army and Air Force are qualified for the badge.

5. Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns Identification Badge

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

One of the highest honors in the U.S. military is to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The badge features a wreath representing mourning and three figures representing Peace, Valor, and Victory on the east face of the Tomb.

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

In order to be selected as a Tomb Guard and wear this badge, U.S. Army Soldiers must volunteer and be accepted into training. The position is so hihgly regarded that less than 700 badges have been awarded since it was established in 1958.

4. Master Diver insignia (U.S. Maritime Services)

The Master diver badge is a shared by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. A master diver is an individual who typically has the most experience in all aspects of diving and underwater salvage.

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

The unique feature of this badge are the seahorses. The symbolism of the seashores goes back to the Greek god Poseidon who used them to pull his chariot. The double tridents represent the diver’s ability to master the ocean.

3. Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge

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

A big perk of getting a high score during the Marine Corps Weapons Qualification test is that you get to wear the Expert Rifle Marksmanship badge. Having this “flair” on your uniform just makes the Marine dress blue uniform that much better.

2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge is a universal badge awarded across all five branches of the U.S. military. Like many badges, there are three levels: Basic, Senior, and Master.

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

The meaning of the badge is also very descriptive. The wreath represents the achievements of EOD personnel. It also serves as a symbol to those EOD members who gave their lives while conducting EOD duties. The unexploded bomb serves as the main weapon of an EOD attack. The lightning bolts signify the power of a bomb and the bravery of EOD personnel. Lastly, the shield embodies the EOD mission: to prevent detonation and protect personnel and property.

1. SEAL Trident

The U.S. Navy SEAL Trident is probably one of the most recognized badges in the U.S. military, worn by the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. When you see this piece of flair, it deserves the ultimate respect.

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

What piece of flair did you earn that lets you “express yourself” or represents your military service?

Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.

Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.


“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”

Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.

“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”

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

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.

“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”

Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.

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

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”

Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.

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

The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.

With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Demise of a US Air Force C-121G ‘Super Constellation’ — and the Arizona trail that honors it

Just before 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1959, in the clear sky 5 miles north of Prescott, Arizona, something went wrong aboard an Air Force C-121G Super Constellation aircraft. The pilots, Navy Lt. j.g. Theodore Rivenburg and Cmdr. Lukas Dachs, had mere seconds to react as their large transport plane stalled 1,500 feet above the rough granite and cactus-covered ground below.

Rivenburg and Dachs throttled up their four-radial piston engines and tried to raise the nose as the silver plane made a right turn 2 miles south of the Prescott Municipal Airport. As the turn tightened, the bank steepened and the Super Connie snap rolled into a near-vertical dive.

The pilots had no time to recover.


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

March 1, 1959, cover of the Arizona Republic with news of the Constellation Crash outside Prescott, Arizona. Courtesy of Newspapers.com.

Witnesses driving on state Route 89 told an Arizona Republic reporter that the plane “exploded ‘like an atom bomb’ as it slammed into the ground alongside the highway.”

In addition to Rivenburg and Dachs, the crash killed everyone else on board, including Lt j.g. Edward Francis Souza, Petty Officer 2nd Class James Miller, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Calvin Coon.

Sixty-one years later, the reasons behind the accident remain a mystery. The Air Force investigated, but the plane wasn’t equipped with a flight data recorder, so investigators had limited information about those terrifying final moments. The Air Force’s redacted crash report, released via a Freedom of Information Act request, notes good weather and no mechanical issues, and describes the crash’s cause as “undetermined.”

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

Remnants of wreckage from the C-121G that crashed near Prescott, Arizona, on Feb. 28, 1959. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Over the years, scrub brush and manzanita grew over the blackened scars of the accident site. Monsoon thunderstorms and winter winds veiled the scraps of aluminum and wiring beneath sand and gravel. The bright Arizona sun turned the relics a pale gray. With each year, fewer and fewer of those who remember the crash remain. The tragedy might have faded completely if the city of Prescott hadn’t purchased 80 acres that included the crash site in 2009 to create a recreation area on the land.

By chance, the Prescott trail manager and some concerned citizens recovered the lost saga, and the city of Prescott dedicated the Constellation Trails to the memory of the crew in a powerful combination of history and outdoor recreation.

The vision for Lockheed’s Constellation aircraft began in a 1939 meeting between Howard Hughes and corporate brass. Hughes wanted a fleet of commercial aircraft for moving passengers and cargo across the country, and Lockheed wanted his business. The result was a first-of-its-kind commercial plane that, according to Lockheed, featured the industry’s first hydraulic power controls, cruising speeds faster “than most World War II fighters at 350 mph,” and a pressurized cabin for 44 passengers that allowed the plane to fly above most bad weather, creating a smooth and comfortable ride.

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

The Lockheed VC-121A Constellation 48-0614 Columbine was the personal aircraft of Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was commander at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in the early 1950s. It is now preserved at the Pima Air Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

By 1942, the military saw the Constellation as a potential transport, and in 1944 Hughes broke cross-country speed records in the olive-green military version called the C-69. After World War II, TWA bought the military’s C-69s and converted them into commercial aircraft. In 1951, Lockheed introduced the Super Constellation, which featured “air conditioning, reclining seats and extra lavatories,” as well as unheard-of fuel efficiency.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Super Constellations crisscrossed the globe as commercial and military workhorses. They saw action in Korea and Vietnam. In addition to hauling troops and cargo, Super Connies ran rescue missions, mapped Earth’s magnetic field, acted as the earliest airborne early warning platforms, hauled scientists to Antarctica, served as the Navy Blue Angels’ support plane, and even became the first Air Force One under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The crew of the ill-fated Super Connie, tail number 54-4069, was assigned to Navy logistics support squadron VR-7 at Moffett Field, California. The unit — part of the joint Military Air Transport Service, or MATS — moved people, patients, cargo, and mail throughout the Pacific. As part of the MATS, precursor to Military Airlift Command, the Navy operated and maintained the aircraft that belonged to the Air Force. According to a 1959 Naval Aviation News magazine feature on the unit, VR-7 helped maintain a supply line from California to Asia and the Middle East.

THE LAST LOG ENTRY CAME AT 1:44 P.M. […] MINUTES LATER, WHILE FLYING NORTH, AF 4069 MADE THAT RIGHT TURN INTO OBLIVION 2 MILES SOUTH OF THE PRESCOTT AIRPORT.

The southern route passed “through Hawaii, Kwajalein, Guam, and the Philippines. From Manila, the Embassy route continues on to Saigon, Bangkok, Calcutta, New Delhi, Karachi, ending in Dhahran.” And the northern route ran from “California west to Hawaii, Wake Island, thence to Tokyo, returning by way of Midway Island to Hickam.”

The magazine said that the aircraft could carry 76 passengers or 67 litter patients or a payload of more than 10 tons. And in terms of size, “the big Connie exceeds two railroad boxcars in length. If upended, its wings would easily tower higher than a 10-story building.”

The crew was on a nine-day temporary duty trip for training to orient themselves around Naval Air Station Litchfield Park, now Phoenix Goodyear Airport. The Prescott airport’s tower logs show AF 4069 practiced approaches and touch-and-go landings at the airport the day before the crash. Around 8:45 a.m. the following morning, the plane arrived in the area for more practice. At 11:32 a.m., AF 4069 left the area, returned to NAS Litchfield Park, switched aircrews, and took off again at 12:45 p.m.

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

The No. 1 Wright R-3350 engine starts on Lockheed Super Constellation Southern Preservation of Australia’s Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Illawarra Regional Airport. The aircraft is an ex-US Air Force C-121C (Lockheed Model 1049F), c/no. 4176, s/no. 54-0157. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

After departure, the crew most likely conducted high-altitude training, “basic air work and emergencies” until 1:30 p.m. The last log entry came at 1:44 p.m. when the crew reported a forest fire 20 miles south of Prescott. Minutes later, while flying north, AF 4069 made that right turn into oblivion 2 miles south of the Prescott airport.

“The nose came up and a roar of power was heard,” the Air Force crash report states. “The right wing dropped sharply as the plane entered a near vertical dive to the ground, with the right wing leading at time of impact.”

The report continues, “Witness states the gear and flaps were up,” and the next two lines are blacked out.

The “Findings” section says, “The primary cause of this accident is undetermined,” and “investigation of the wreckage revealed no material or mechanical failure.” The last line before a redacted paragraph of recommendations says, “the aircraft apparently stalled too close to the ground to effect recovery.”

The reason for the stall is unknowable.

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

Constellation Trails. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The FOIA response came with scanned copies of 23 black-and-white photos of the crash scene. It’s tough to make out much in many of them. The images show big splotches of black and gray with hand-drawn dashed lines and explanations. One photo stands out: Two men stand on the highway looking into a hole, hands tucked in their pockets and fedoras tilted on their heads. In the top middle of the frame, a bucket from a ’50s-era backhoe hangs ready to dig. The text on the photo says: “Location of #4 prop dome 6’2″ depth under highway.”

Chris Hosking, Prescott Trails and Natural Parklands coordinator, had no knowledge of the accident when he began planning the area’s trails. While performing an archeological survey to check for Native American ruins and other historic artifacts, he noticed “all these aluminum shards everywhere.”

So he reached out to Cindy Barks, a reporter at the local paper, the Prescott Daily Courier, who helped him figure out that an airplane had crashed there decades before. He knew then that the community should do something special to honor the fallen aviators.

The city chose to name the trail system after the fallen Constellation. One of Hosking’s son’s friends, Cody Walker, read about the project and stepped up to lead an effort to build a monument and host a dedication ceremony as part of an Eagle Scout project.

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

The memorial plaque dedicating the trails to those who died in the Super Constellation crash of 1959. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“He went the extra mile,” Hosking says. “He contacted some of the families of the five airmen who were lost in that crash.”

Several of the aircrew’s children, other family members, and unit alumni came to Prescott for the ceremony.

“It was really emotional, you know, because some of these kids were too young to know their dads,” he says. “They knew their dads died in Arizona, but they didn’t know where or why or what happened, so that was a cool way to put some closure on that whole event for them.”

The Constellation Trails weave through sublime rock formations called the Granite Dells. The red granite boulders look like the backdrop of an old Western movie and have served as the set for many early Westerns and other films since 1912.

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

Constellation Trails. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Hosking designed a trail system with an outer loop and multiple cut-throughs to the center. Near the trailhead, scrub oak passageways filter the sunlight, and as the trail gains elevation, the rock formations become more and more impressive.

With names like North 40, Ham and Cheese, Hully Gully, Hole in the Wall, Lost Wall, Ridgeback, and Ranch Road Shortcut, the routes in the Constellation Trail system sound like amusement park rides.

“I usually come up with the names,” says Hosking, an avid mountain biker. “Usually it’s a landmark or a view or something that happened there.”

Carving the trails among granite boulders and navigating rock walls and cacti is hard work. While the community funds the projects, there’s no dedicated workforce to actually build the trails, so Hosking depends on a local volunteer group composed primarily of local retirees called the “Over the Hill Gang.”

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

The Over the Hill Gang volunteers building the Constellation Trails in 2011. Photo
courtesy of Chris Hosking.

“We get about 10,000 hours of volunteer time out of those guys,” says Hosking of the group, which started with four volunteers and now has 60 or 70 active members. “I come up with a crazy plan and design, and then those guys come out and we build trail.”

They built the trails in the Dells with hand tools because they couldn’t get heavy machinery past the boulders. Doing so takes significantly more time and effort.

John Bauer, a retired Air Force navigator, has volunteered with the Over the Hill Gang for more than 10 years, and the Constellation Trails were the first he helped build.

“I loved building those trails,” says the former F-4 weapons systems officer, who also served as a navigator on C-130s and C-141s.

These days, Bauer loves to move boulders, and with the rocky topography of the Dells, he was in luck.

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

The Over the Hill Gang volunteers building the Constellation Trails in 2011. Chris
Hosking is on the left and John Bauer is second from left. Photo courtesy of Chris Hosking.

“Some of the trails in other areas are not as interesting — scraping the weeds off a piece of dirt,” the retired lieutenant colonel says. “I’ve done a lot of that, but it doesn’t give me the same amount of joy as moving rocks.”

The trailhead sits at the north end of the park, and the trails gain elevation as they work their way south. According to Bauer, the high ground near the back of the trail system proved the most challenging to build.

“There was a short little connection that went through a very narrow and steep canyon,” he says. “That was probably one of the most difficult parts because working in those little canyons, it’s hard to move the boulders around.”

With rock bars, leverage, sweat, muscle, and grit, the crew cleared an awe-inspiring trail.

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

Chris Hosking uses a backhoe to build the Badger Mountain trail near Prescott, Arizona.
Photo courtesy of Chris Hosking.

“The bigger the boulder, the more people we need to move them,” Bauer says. “We’ve moved some pretty gigantic boulders.”

Small pieces of the aircraft still lie scattered throughout the area. The crew gathered the pieces they found and placed them next to the memorial near the trailhead.

“If you went out and off the trails, off into the shrubs and stuff there, you could still find pieces of that airplane even after all these years,” Bauer says.

The Constellation Trails are just a few miles of trail in an area that features 104 miles of city-owned trails, as well as hundreds of additional miles of trail on nearby Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land. Easy access and the variety and number of trails has made this stretch of northern Arizona a hiking and mountain biking destination.

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

Chris Hosking. Photo courtesy of Chris Hosking.

To understand the Constellation Trails, and the larger Prescott Trail System, it’s important to understand a bit about their creator.

Hosking, originally from the United Kingdom, trained as an industrial designer and spent time in the Silicon Valley working for Apple. One day the lifelong outdoorsman realized, “I didn’t really like that living — that particular lifestyle — so I kind of went freelance and moved up to Mammoth Lakes up in the Sierras.”

While in the Sierras, he delved into trail design. Eventually, Hosking and his wife wanted a bigger town to raise their kids in, and after some research, Prescott ended up No. 1 on both their lists. They arrived in Prescott in 2006, and soon after he became Prescott’s trail master.

In 14 years, he’s taken Prescott from 24 miles of trails to more than 100.

“I would put Prescott up against any community in the country as far as the quality of trails, the variety of trails, the access,” he says. “I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Moab. Moab’s like Disneyland — you go there and it’s got every type of trail. We’re not that, we’re a real town with a great trail system.”

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

Chris Hosking mountain biking at the Constellation Trails, near Prescott, Arizona. Photo
courtesy of Chris Hosking.

Hosking attributes the success to the area’s excellent topography, a variety of vegetation, and a volunteer work crew “who don’t mind busting their ass to get things done.”

“I see Prescott as kind of the whole package because it’s a great place for people who live here, and it’s got a huge variety of very easy trails, and then it’s got very technical trails, and everything in between,” he says.

Gil Stritar, a Prescott Valley resident who hikes nearly every day, says the Constellation Trails are his favorite in the area because of the ease of access and excellent views.

“There’s beautiful photo ops in the narrows sections,” he says. “Most trails in the Granite Dells have big drop-offs and are more remote, so this is a good family choice. Also, this is the most scenic trail in the Dells in my opinion.”

According to Hosking, all the years of hard work, purchasing land, working agreements, and designing and building trails have come into focus this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has spiked visits to trails sometimes by 200 percent to 300 percent. The Constellation Trails have seen 100 percent more traffic.

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

Constellation Trails. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“When you have gyms closed and everything is closed, the only way people can really get out and exercise is by going on trails,” Hosking says. “It’s helped us realize what we’ve done and what a benefit it’s been to the community because now people can get out and go hike and get away from things, so we have a lot of stuff to be thankful for.”

Prescott has a large hiking and mountain biking community that’s growing thanks to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.

“We’ve got seven teams in the area,” says Hosking, including the top two teams in Arizona. “All those kids getting into mountain biking means their parents are getting into mountain biking.”

While some ride their mountain bikes on the Constellation Trails, Hosking says there are usually more hikers due to the rocky terrain and challenging aspects of the trails.

He likes to ride there when he feels like beating himself up and says his favorite trail is “the one I’m on!”

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

popular

Was George H.W. Bush almost eaten by cannibals?

The 41st President of the U.S., George H.W. Bush, served as Commander in Chief from 1989 until 1993. He also served as Ronald Reagan’s VP from 1981 until 1989. But before his stint in the White House, he had a prolific political career, working in the Texas House of Representatives, as a UN Ambassador, on the Republican National Committee and director of the CIA. 

However, Bush got his start in the Navy, where he was almost captured by cannibals after a crash landing.

At just 18 years old, he joined the service, becoming one of their youngest pilots to date. During WWII, he served in the Pacific Theater, flying a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. His first combat mission took place in May of 1944 and under the callsign/nickname Skin, Bush went on to fly a total of 58 missions with 128 completed landings. 

It was during one of these missions over Japan that our former president had a run-in with a crew of Japanese torturers, an experience which he narrowly escaped. 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
Chichi Jima (V5planet, Wikipedia)

A downed plane and hungry captors

After an attack on Chichijima, a Japanese base, Bush was able to attack several of his intended targets. Along the way, however, his plane was hit by enemy fire and went down. Others on the plane died in the crash, but he was able to bail out, landing in water. Those in other planes who survived the fall were captured by the Japanese. Meanwhile, Bush found a raft and paddled away from land as an attempt to get away. He was eventually rescued and taken aboard the USS Finback, a submarine. He was spotted by the watchman and pulled aboard, before the vessel went back underwater. 

The other survivors were tortured, beheaded or killed by other means, and were partially eaten their captors. It’s reported at of the nine Americans who landed alive, eight were killed, and four had parts of their livers and thighs eaten. The future President Bush was the ninth. 

As for the cannibalism, there are a few explanations to this in the 2003 book by James Bradley, Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. In the book, Bradley aligns that consuming the liver is a Japanese tradition, citing the cultural belief of health benefits from consuming human flesh. However, in WWII, cannibalism also became a necessity when food was sparse, with other parts of the body also being consumed. Because only portions of bodies consumed in this case, it’s believed it was ritualistic, but that theory has not been proven. 

This event sparked many trials after the end of the war. Thirty Japanese soldiers were sentenced; punishments ranged from prison time to death by hanging. Members were tried for murder and “prevention of honorable burial,” as wartime laws are not worded for instances of cannibalism. 

George H.W. after the war

After this near-death experience, the future president is said to have had a type of awakening. He believed something was to come of his life, having been spared from a terrible death. 

He later told the press: “Why had I been spared and what did God have in store for me? In my own view, there’s got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something on Earth,” Bush later said. “I think about those guys all the time.”

The 41st President of the United States, Bush passed away November 30, 2018 at 94 years old.

popular

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

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

Myth #1: Vikings wore those goofy horned helmets.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

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

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

Myth #2: They were basically pirates.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction…mostly

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

Myth #3: Vikings were uncivilized brutes.

Fact or Fiction: Total fiction

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

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

Myth #4: They wrote using ancient runes.

Fact or Fiction: Fact

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

Myth #5: They were ruthless warriors.

Fact or Fiction: A little of both

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

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

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

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

Myth #6: Vikings were a formal group.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

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

Myth #7: Vikings were all about war. 

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

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

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

Myth #8: Viking ships were next-level.

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

Fact or Fiction: Definitely fact

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

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

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

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

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

Myth #10: They buried their dead at sea.

Fact or Fiction: Mostly fiction.

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman is about to become a Green Beret and the military will be stronger for it

This week, historic news filtered out of North Carolina saying that a female National Guardsman will be the first woman to pass the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course) and will earn the title of Green Beret. While the enlisted soldier has not passed the course yet, officials say that at this point barring a medical injury, she is practically guaranteed to graduate.


This morning, the New York Times reported that in 1980, a woman named Kate Wilder did indeed graduate the course but was told the day before graduation she was not allowed to graduate with her class, because of her gender. Ms. Wilder fought back and six months later was finally given the certificate stating she had earned the right to wear the Green Beret, but Wilder had already left the Fifth Special Forces Group and eventually transitioned to the Reserves.

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

Prior to now, only a few women have passed the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course but none of them passed the year long Q-Course. The soldier is going to be an 18C or Engineer Sergeant.

According to the Army, the Special Forces Engineer Sergeant is a construction and demolitions specialist. As a builder, the engineer sergeant can create bridges, buildings and field fortifications. As a demolitions specialist, the engineer sergeant can carry out demolition raids against enemy targets, such as bridges, railroads, fuel depots and critical components of infrastructure.

The New York Times also reported a second female soldier is working through a longer Q-Course (the course length will depend on the prospective Green Berets MOS) as a 18D or Medical Sergeant.

This is no small feat. As we all know, making it into the Special Forces required many attributes including superior physical fitness, an ability to handle traversing rugged terrain, weapons proficiency and strong mental aptitude to solve problems on the fly. Green Berets deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and security force assistance. Also, passing the Q-Course is one thing. The constant tempo of deployments and training while keeping up with high physical fitness standards and training can take a toll on even the most seasoned Green Berets.

There is no doubt the newly minted Green Beret will have tough challenges in her career in the Special Forces. And there will probably be resistance from a few people that struggle to accept that a woman made it through such an arduous course. (The course has been modified due to feedback from active Green Berets so it could be more compatible with deployments and retention but the standards are still the same.)

However, the potential benefits to having women as part of the Special Forces community are too great to ignore.

Retired Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, a 42-year Army veteran who spent 16 years with the Green Berets said, “I applaud and celebrate the fact because half of the world that we have to deal with when we’re out there, half of the people we have to help, are women. The days of men fighting men without the presence of women is long gone.”

When it comes to unconventional warfare, it’s safe to say pretty much every engagement we are involved with nowadays is unconventional. The role of women has expanded dramatically during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and women have been decorated for bravery on the battlefield.

In recent years, we have seen ISIS be thoroughly beaten when engaged by Kurdish forces comprised of women. Having a female advisor in those units would allow better access, more trust, and better control when it comes to directing forces to defeat our enemy.

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

The same can be said for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. The Green Berets were some of the first troops to go into Vietnam as advisors to the South Vietnamese who were fighting a counter-insurgency campaign against the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong and many other insurgent troops have used local females as fighters, transporters and for intelligence gathering. Having a female Green beret engage local women could potentially make counter insurgency easier.

When it comes to reconnaissance, we all know there are places that are harder to get close to because men would stick out like a sore thumb. Certain places in the Middle East and elsewhere have places where men can’t get into and having a highly trained female would be a great way to circumvent that potential issue.

William Denn, an Army Captain who served multiple combat tours said in an interview with the Washington Post that, “Most Iraqi men were reticent to speak with us for fear of retribution from al-Qaeda. Iraqi women, often fed up with the violence in their neighborhoods, could be persuaded to provide information, but first we had to bridge the gender gap, build rapport and earn their trust, all of which took valuable time.” Denn went on to write that “including women in front-line units would be more than an exercise in social equality; it would be a valuable enhancement of military effectiveness and national security.”

While we won’t know her identity anytime soon, it will be awesome to see the path she trailblazes for other women who seek to serve in the Special Forces and how it can help us earn victories in the toughest environments.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The first large crowd to gather after 9/11 will probably not surprise you

The days following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were a strange time for Americans. For the first time in most people’s lives, political divisions disappeared. Daily life became anything but routine, even if you lived far from Ground Zero. Even American pop culture was deeply affected by the events, unsure of when it would be acceptable to laugh again.

Leave it to America’s foremost experts in drama and onscreen conflict to show everyone it was okay to gather once more.


On Sept. 13, just two days after the attacks that shook the world, it was the WWE who gathered people together in (where else but) Texas. Houston, to be exact. Emotions were still riding high, not only among the people who create the WWE’s show twice a week, but the nation as a whole. Just like the rest of America, Vince McMahon and his staff had watched helplessly as planes flew into the Twin Towers, not once but twice.

But the WWE – its producers as well as its staff and the “Superstar” wrestlers who make the show happen – considered themselves lucky, lucky to be with the people with whom they spent a majority of their time anyway. They were with the people who were as close to family as they could get in those stressful hours.

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

(WWE)

The show that night, just two days after the attacks, was supposed to be a Smackdown! taping in America’s third largest city. The WWE initially felt the taping should be postponed, that America had other things to worry about. They weren’t alone. Many shows, especially live-taped shows, were airing reruns instead of new episodes. No one knew exactly what to say.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared with the cast of Saturday Night Live and told America is was okay to laugh again. Jon Stewart used his time on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to remind Americans that life had to go on, and that it was okay. But people and entertainers were still wary of getting together in large crowds.

Not the WWE.

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

(WWE)

After Vince McMahon was assured by government officials that regular WWE programming would actually be more helpful in getting people’s minds off the tragedy, they went ahead with the show. WWE Superstars crowded the ringside as their boss, the wrestling mogul, entered the ring to an enthusiastic crowd, chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”It was McMahon giving a speech just like the ones a WWE Superstar would give as part of the plot of any given Raw or Smackdown! episode, challenging a rival to a grudge match.

“The spirit of America lives here in Houston, Texas,” McMahon said, as he began a speech that sent condolences to the victims and families of 9/11 and condemned the terrorists. “Our nation’s leaders have encouraged us to return to living our lives the way we normally do… the American way… Make no mistake about the message this public assembly is sending to terrorism tonight. That message is simply we will not live our lives in fear.”

“America’s heart has been wounded but her spirit shines as a beacon of freedom,” he said, “that will never be extinguished.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China has been testing anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea

The Chinese military has been practicing sinking enemy vessels with anti-ship naval missiles in the South China Sea, CNBC reported July 1, 2019, citing US officials.

The Chinese military reportedly began testing these weapons over the weekend, as a week-long drill kicked off in the disputed waterway. CNBC reports that Chinese forces test-fired anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which could include systems like the DF-21D or DF-26.

The testing of ASBMs would be an important first for the South China Sea and a significant step forward as China seeks to strengthen its anti-access, area-denial capabilities, although some expert observers suspect China may have been testing anti-ship cruise missiles.


For ballistic-missile tests, Chinese authorities typically issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) identifying “temporary danger areas,” Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, explained. Such a NOTAM was issued for the period between June 30 and July 1, 2019, marking off two locations in the South China Sea.

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

The DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.

Beijing previously moved land-based anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), such as the YJ-62 and YJ-12B, to Chinese-occupied territories in the region, a move the US condemned.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft,” Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense, explained last year. “Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”

Range limits require ASCMs be on islands in the South China Sea in order to reach surrounding waterways. Longer-range ASBMs could be fired from the Chinese mainland, allowing for more robust defenses around the batteries.

China argues that relevant deployments are a necessary response to aggressive US behavior.

China’s latest testing comes on the heels of joint drills in the South China Sea involving the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 1, which includes the Izumo multi-purpose destroyer that is slated to become Japan’s first carrier in decades.

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

The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan operates with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, June 11, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo)

US officials told CNBC that while the US Navy has ships in the South China Sea, the missile testing did not endanger any US ship. The testing was, however, characterized as “concerning.”

Locked in competition with great power rivals, the US is looking more closely at the development of anti-ship capabilities as it prepares to counter near-peer threats, such as the massive Chinese navy.

Both the Army and the Marine Corps, for example, are looking at long-range artillery and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries to control the maritime space from land.

“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels,” Mark Esper, the former secretary of the Army who is now acting secretary of defense, explained earlier this year.

“We can, from a fixed location, on an island or some other place, engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets,” Esper said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how to safely land NASA’s bomber with an engine out

When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.

But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.


How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?

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

B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.

(USAF)

This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.

One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.

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

NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.

(NASA)

Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfLdEGdyuIo

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Feed the Rangers: America’s elite left without enough food

Feed the Rangers.

It’s hard to imagine that one of the U.S. military’s premier Special Operations units would fail to sufficiently feed its troops during an extraordinary time. And yet that’s exactly what is been happening in the 1st Battalion, 75th Regiment, which is based at Fort Steward, Georgia.


Last week, approximately 300 Rangers were notified by their leadership that they would be moving to another barracks and undergo a two-week quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The barracks that they relocated to, however, wasn’t prepared to receive them. The main issue with the new housing arrangement was that it didn’t have an adequate Dining Facilities Administration Center (DFAC) that could properly feed the Rangers.

SOFREP understands that in the first days the quarantined troops, several of which have tested positive for the Coronavirus, were being fed twice a day with extremely low quantities and quality of food. The following pictures speak for themselves.

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

To alleviate the quarantined Rangers’ predicament, a support group was set up in order to supplement their nutrition. Word quickly spread via social media, and in just a few days, the support group has managed to raise over ,000 and deliver food to the troops in need.

One of the quarantined troops reached out to those organizing the Ranger version of the Berlin airlift and said, “I’m one of the guys who unfortunately tested positive [for COVID-19] from 1/75, just wanted to reach out and personally say we all appreciate what you guys have done for us. . . before y’all showed up, we would all just get the scraps of whatever came through for food, but now man, that is definitely not the case anymore. We all really do appreciate it!”

The guys who are organizing and running the support service are clear that what they are doing is only to supplement the nutrition of the quarantined Rangers. They don’t have an issue with the leadership.

The whole issue signals a breakdown in communications. Broken down, the core duties of a leader are to achieve the mission and take care of his troops. You can easily discern good officers and non-commissioned officers from their actions. Are they last to eat or sleep while in the field? Do they help clean up after a long day at the range? If yes, then that’s a sign that they put their troops before their welfare and comfort. Good and timely communication is also important. You can honestly care about your troops but if you don’t communicate it or, reversely, encourage productive feedback, then your good intentions will fall short.

Furthermore, the situation suggests that the Army is still having trouble in addressing COVID-19 and potential quarantines. It seems like units just hope it won’t reach them rather be proactive about it and sufficiently prepare. As a consequence, they are forced to such hodgepodge reactions that result in troops not being fed enough.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is the premier direct action Special Operations unit of the U.S. military. It is comprised of three infantry battalions (1/75, 2/75, 3/75), a special troops battalion, and a military intelligence battalion.

This event is sure to produce second-order effects. With such poor treatment during a time of need, several Rangers will be looking to either move to other Special Operations units, such as the Special Forces Regiment or Delta Force, or leave the force altogether.

The quarantine is expected to last for approximately ten more days.

You can help out by visiting the GoFundMe page that has been set up by the members of the community.

It was Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist that said “Please, Sir, I want some more,” but it’s the quarantined Rangers who are living it.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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7 canceled weapons that you’ll wish were standard issue

Thousands of whiteboards owned by inventors and military contractors around the world contain designs for military technologies that could change the way that battles are fought if they’d ever see active service.


But as the U.S. military learns time and time again, these weapons don’t always work as well as hoped. Here are seven designs that would be awesome to fly, ride, or carry into battle if designers had just been able to work the kinks out:

1. XM29

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(Photo: U.S. Army)

 

While the M4 and M16 are fine weapons, the Army has tried to replace it a few times. Its sexiest candidate was definitely the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a rifle and airburst grenade launcher hybrid that could be fired around corners. The airburst rounds were programmed to fly customized distances before exploding.

But high costs and weight problems kept the weapon from reaching its potential.

2. XM25

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(Photo: U.S. Army)

 

When the XM29 was canceled, its airburst grenade technology was split off as its own weapon with 25mm rounds in the XM25. The new weapon even saw combat tests in Afghanistan, but a malfunction that resulted in injury in 2013 caused the grenade launcher to be pulled from theater.

The XM25 is technically still in testing, but the program has been basically shuttered since the safety incidents. A recent inspector general report urged the Army to come to a final decision soon and said that the funds required for the XM25 could be put to better use if the program is canceled.

Would’ve been nice to fire airburst rounds though.

3. Comanche

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
A RAH-66 Comanche prototype flies with an AH-64 Apache. (Photo: U.S. Army)

 

The Comanche was supposed to be the attack/reconnaissance helicopter to rule them all. It was quiet, featured incorporated stealth technologies, and carried a 20mm machine gun and Hellfire and Stinger missiles.

But the development process dragged on for far too long. A 1991 contract netted two prototypes in 2004, by which time the Army had put stealth helicopters on the back shelf while they hunted insurgents.

4. Arapaho

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(Photo: U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs)

 

The ARH-70A Arapaho was supposed to replace the Kiowa in the reconnaissance business after the Comanche was canceled. It was a Bell 407 helicopter with a stronger engine, weapons, and sensors added. They could have been rapidly deployed around the world with two fitting aboard a C-130H Hercules transport.

And their high maneuverability would have allowed them to fly through cities and hover near buildings.

Unfortunately, the militarization of the 407 was not as smooth as anticipated. Delays and cost overruns got the program put on ice for a few months in 2007 and formally canceled in 2008.

5. Airborne Laser

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
The YAL Airborne Laser Testbed’s turret assembly. (Photo: YouTube)

 

The Airborne Laser was supposed to be the ultimate ballistic missile destroyer. It would fly over or near enemy territory watching for enemy ballistic missile launches. When one took off and entered the boost phase, the plane would fire three lasers. Two were for acquiring and tracking the target and the third would punch through the missile’s body and blow it up.

But the laser had a limited range and loitering capability, meaning that planes would have to spend a lot of their time flying within an enemies’ borders to actually have a shot at the missiles. Luckily, this program could get revived using a new kind of laser and flying on high-altitude, stealthy drones.

6. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

 

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle provided better range, better speed, and better armor than the AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle it was meant to replace. It featured two 30mm cannons and was propelled through water with jets and it operated on land using its treads.

The EFV suffered some small setbacks during testing and development and then fell victim to budget cuts across the Department of Defense in 2011. The Marine Corps has wrestled with how to best move supplies and Marines from the ships to the shore since then.

7. SL-AMRAAM

 

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent
An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is fired from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

 

The Surfaced-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile would have been the Army’s premiere system for defending troops from cruise missiles, helicopters, many jets, and other low and mid-altitude aerial threats. It featured a proven Air Force missile, the AIM-120C-7, originally designed for air-to-air battles.

Norway and Spain field the SL-AMRAAM under the name NASAMS, but the U.S. Army pulled out of the program in an effort to save money and invest in counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar systems instead. Some NASAMS are in U.S. service defending Washington D.C. from cruise missile attack.

Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Spanish warship could be the next US Navy frigate

Let’s face it: The littoral combat ship has not exactly lived up to all of the hype. In fact, it has proven to be inadequate in replacing the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates. Now, the United States Navy has started the FFG(X) program to find the next guided-missile frigate, and five shipbuilders are contending. One such shipbuilder is General Dynamics, which intends to iterate on the Spanish Alvaro de Bazan-class guided-missile frigate.


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

The Cristobal Colon, the fifth Alvaro de Bazan-class guided missile frigate.

(Photo by Diego Quevedo Carmona)

This class of frigate has been around for a while — the lead ship was commissioned by the Spanish Navy in 2002. The vessel weighs 5,800 tons and carries a five-inch gun, a 48-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system, two twin 324mm torpedo tubes, a 20m Meroka close-in weapon system, and, for good measure, an H-60 helicopter. The Bazan also has the SPY-1 radar and the Aegis Combat System. In this sense, it’s like a miniature Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer.

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

USS Reuben James (FFG 57) during her trials in the 1980s. Note the Mk 13 missile launcher.

(US Navy photo)

As the Bazan-class was entering service, the United States Navy had begun to look at replacing the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates. The Perry-class frigates had been initially equipped with a Mk 13 missile launcher that could carry up to 40 missiles (usually a mix of RIM-66 Standard SM-1MR missiles and RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles), a single 76mm gun, two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts, and a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system.

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

An Alvaro de Bazan-class guided missile frigate in the Pacific. Note the antenna for the SPY-1 radar.

(US Navy photo)

The littoral combat ship has seen a number of problems. The big issue has been breakdowns that leave the ships stuck pierside. Well, one didn’t break down, it got iced in — but the problem persists nonetheless. The other problem is that the littoral combat ships usually enter the fight with just a single 57mm gun, a few .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.


The Navy is planning to buy 20 of these new frigates, with the announcement and order of the first ship to be made in 2020. Whether the Bazan makes the cut remains to be seen.

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