The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

The Germans were the first to propose nuclear science, and some of their top minds advanced the field in the 1800s and early 1900s. That’s why it’s probably a little surprising that America had the first functioning nuclear reactor. And the first bomb. But the Nazis had not just one nuclear program, but three. And one of the teams had an honest-to-god reactor ready to go.


The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Enriched uranium
(Public domain)

The German nuclear program had two major prongs. There was a weapons program that was begun in 1939, but the shortage of scientists quickly short-circuited the effort. Later that year, a new team was re-assembled to study the wartime applications of fission. The possibility of a bomb was foremost, for obvious reasons.

But, despite Germany’s preeminence in the scientific side of nuclear endeavors, it lacked certain necessary materials like heavy water, water with radioactive hydrogen isotopes, to moderate the reaction. WATM has written before about the heroic lengths that Norwegian resistance members and British special operators went to frustrate Germany’s heavy water theft from Norway.

America, meanwhile, started its nuclear effort with about 1,000 tons of uranium, quickly got another 3,000 tons through a deal with the Belgian government, and began uranium production in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The American government would buy millions of tons over the course of the war from the Congo and other places. It also produced its own heavy water and used graphite as a moderator.

But Germany did get some of its own uranium. It actually has large reserves of its own, it’s just tricky to mine and refine.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
American soldiers dismantle a German nuclear reactor after World War II. The reactor never achieved a sustained reaction because the Germans never put enough of their uranium cubes in one spot.
(Public domain)

But when it came to using all these materials to make a proper bomb, Germany made a math error that ended its real efforts. See, British scientists were pretty sure they could make a device work with between 5 and 12 kg of enriched uranium (about 11 to 26 pounds). But Germany thought they needed tons of enriched uranium for a single bomb, thanks to the aforementioned error.

So Germany sidelined its bomb efforts but remained interested in nuclear reactors. Remember, its industry relied on imported or stolen fuel to run its factories, and its primary naval arm was submarines that had to slip under British blockades and patrols with limited fuel stores to do their work after they got into the Atlantic.

Nuclear reactors that gave them virtually unending power in cities or at sea would transform the way they operated in the war, and so they committed their nuclear stockpile to create a reactor.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
A museum exhibit shows the uranium chandelier Germany used for their experimental reactors.
(ArtMechanic, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Germany created three teams and planted one each at Berlin, Gottow and Leipzig. The design that the teams finally came up with centered on uranium chandeliers. Hundreds of small uranium cubes were suspended on wires in close proximity to one another, allowing their combined radiation to sustain a nuclear reaction. When they needed to shut down the reaction, they could lower the chandelier into a pool of heavy water with graphite for additional shielding.

The most advanced team was in Berlin. The reactor there had 664 cubes in its chandelier, and its scientists were actually close in 1944 and 1945 to achieving a sustained reaction, a reaction that could have kept factories humming along until the Allies broke the city.

The only problem: They needed a bit more uranium than they had. They suspected that they needed about 50 percent more cubes, and a 2009 paper says that they were probably right. Funnily enough, the group in Gottow had about 400 cubes, but the two teams weren’t allowed to talk about their work or share resources. So neither group knew that they could pool their resources and succeed in just a few weeks or months of work.

Probably for the best, though. It’s not like the world would be better off if the Nazis had managed to create nuclear power plants for the Allies to bomb as the war ended, and the reactors almost certainly would have come too late to save the Reich, anyway.

Meanwhile, the cubes were largely recovered by American forces and are now passed around as novelties in some classrooms and physicist social circles. Germany did eventually tap into its uranium mines in order to fuel reactors in the post-war world. Germany is getting out of the nuclear business, though, even the power generation part.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft finishes flight across the Pacific

US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.

The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.

“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.


The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis has a new carrier strategy for threats like Russia and China

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted at major changes in the US Navy’s way of deploying aircraft carriers in comments to the House Armed Services Committee in April 2018, Defense News reports.

Mattis compared how the US Navy deploys ships to a commercial shipping operation, with predictable, pre-planned routes, potentially blunting the strategic advantage of the fast-moving carriers.


“It’s no way to run a Navy,” Mattis told lawmakers at the House Armed Services Committe of the Navy’s status quo on carrier deployments in April 2018.

Instead, Mattis wants to “ensure that preparation for great power competition drives us, not simply a rotation schedule that allows me to tell you three years from now which aircraft carrier will be where in the world,” said Mattis, referring to war and rivalry with massive military powers like China and Russia as “great power competition.”

Mattis’ solution is quicker, more erratic deployments of aircraft carriers.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
(U.S. Navy photo)

“When we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment,” he said. “There will be three carriers in the South China Sea today, and then, two weeks from now, there’s only one there, and two of them are in the Indian Ocean.”

But rather than eight-month-long deployments typical of aircraft carriers these days, where one single ship could see combat in the Persian Gulf before heading to the Indian Ocean and eventually back home, Mattis wants snappier trips.

“They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment,” Mattis told lawmakers. “They will not have spent eight months at sea, and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles — we’ll actually enhance the training time.”

Mattis’ plan for more unpredictable deployments fits broadly with President Donald Trump’s administration’s national defense strategies that prioritize fighting against adversaries like Russia and China, both of which have developed systems to counter US aircraft carriers.

With shorter, more spontaneous deployments of aircraft carriers, Mattis and the Navy could keep Russia and China on their toes.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASA warns Meteor strikes aren’t just Hollywood fiction

NASA’s administrator warned that the threat of a meteor crashing into Earth is bigger than we might think.

Jim Bridenstine told the International Academy of Astronautics’ Planetary Defense Conference on Monday that “the reason it’s important for NASA to take this seriously is something you call the ‘giggle factor,'” or scientific theories that seem too ridiculous to be likely.

“We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood. It’s not about movies. This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth,” he added.


Bridenstine noted that in February 2013, a meteor measuring 20 meters (about 65 feet) in diameter and traveling at 40,000 mph entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over Chelyabinsk, in central Russia.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

A meteor streaking across the sky in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in 2013.

(CNN/YouTube)

Meteorites — smaller pieces broken from the larger meteor — crashed in the region, and a fireball streaked through the sky, the BBC reported at the time.

There was a loud, massive blast that caused a shock wave that broke windows and damaged buildings across the region, Bridenstine said, adding that the meteor’s explosion had 30 times the energy of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

More than 1,400 people were injured. Many were hit by flying glass, CNN reported.

Videos capture exploding meteor in sky

www.youtube.com

“I wish I could tell you that these events are exceptionally unique, but they are not,” Bridenstine said.

He said that NASA’s modeling had found that such events will take place “about once every 60 years.” He added that on the same day of the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion, another, larger asteroid came within 17,000 miles of Earth but narrowly missed.

Scientific experts at this week’s Planetary Defense Conference are discussing how the world can defend against any potentially hazardous asteroid or comet that looks likely to hit Earth, the conference said in a statement.

In such a scenario, Bridenstine said, NASA would measure the object’s speed and trajectory and decide whether to deflect it or evacuate the area that it would hit.

Watch Bridenstine’s speech, starting at the 2:39 mark, in the video below:

6th IAA Planetary Defense Conference – The Honorable James Bridenstine, NASA Administrator

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 injured in an explosion at an Army depot in Pennsylvania

At least three people have been injured in an explosion at a US Army depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

The blast took place at Letterkenny Army Depot around 7:15 a.m. July 19, 2018, and left the victims with serious burns.


Three people were airlifted to medical safety after the blast, the Franklin Fire Company said in a Facebook post.

It also said fire engines and trucks had arrived to fight a fire in one of the site’s buildings.

Two employees ran out of a building on the site screaming and on fire, with one of them showing chemical burns, the ABC 27 news channel reported, citing employees on the scene.

The explosion poses no threat to the public, the Franklin County Office of Emergency Management told Fox News.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

(U.S. Army photo)

A Facebook page for the depot also confirmed that an explosion had taken place and that there “were injuries,” though not how many. It added that the incident had been “contained.”

The posts about the explosion were later deleted.

The source of the explosion remains unknown. Employees are not being allowed back into into the depot for fear of more blasts to come, ABC27 said.

According to the depot’s Facebook page, the army depot helps “deliver superior maintenance, manufacturing, logistics, life cycle support and service worldwide to the Joint Warfighter and our International partners.”

Featured image: A satellite view of Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania. The depot is the large, brown building in the center of the image.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, cheating death and Hollywood Glory

We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.

Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)


When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.

One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.

Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.

After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”

Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.

The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.

But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.

Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.

The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.

Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.

A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.

Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.

Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.


In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.

In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.

The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.

Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.

Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)

Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.

Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.

Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.

The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.

A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”

It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)

Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.

For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.

And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.

On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.

“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.

Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.

Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)

“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.

“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”

Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.

Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”

There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.

The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Sam Elliott will narrate veteran-made docuseries about The Old Guard

Oscar-nominated Sam Elliott will narrate the four-part docuseries Honor Guard, which follows U.S. Army soldiers throughout the grueling training required to serve at the 3rd Infantry Regiment. Also known as The Old Guard, the 3rd Infantry Regiment is perhaps best known for hosting the Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Honor Guard is the follow-up to Time to Kill Productions’ award-winning 2016 feature documentary The Unknowns, which follows the training of the Sentinels. Creators Neal Schrodetzki and Ethan Morse, who served together as guards at the Tomb, will now follow the intense training cycles that prepare soldiers for The Regiment, the Honor Guard Caisson Platoon, the U.S. Army Drill Team, or a Full-Honors funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.


The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Morse and Schrodetzki have exclusive access provided by the United States Army to capture these never-before documented training cycles. Their mission is the same as Sam Elliott’s, and the reason he agreed to join the project: to honor the fallen.

Also read: What happens if you try to touch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Elliott’s contributions to military story-telling helped inspired Morse to serve in the first place. “I first became interested in the military after seeing Sam Elliott as the Union Cavalry General John Buford in Gettysburg. Fast forward a few years and I’m serving in the California Army National Guard, just like Mr. Elliott did.”

Elliott has a distinguished and longstanding reputation with the military community, due in part to the iconic roles he has played in films like We Were Soldiers and Once an Eagle.

Plus, his voice is smooth as molasses. You just know it is.

Related: Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out photos of Marines practicing air assaults

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California — In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.

Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades.


US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division.

Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Four US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions take off during exercise Steel Knight at El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise,” explained US Marine Corps Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd MAW.

“But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is better when all of its elements are put together.”

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Helicopter Support Team Marines prepare an M777 Howitzer for external lift during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.

“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US Marines load onto an MV-22B Osprey for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.

“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

US Marines prepare for a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(Photo by US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

Four MV-22B Ospreys arrive for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”

The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews.

The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.

Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.

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

Articles

This is the real Sgt. Pepper from the Beatles album cover

Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.


Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Ringo was just happy to be there.

The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Sorry, fellas. There’s only one America.

After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.

From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Just Sgt. Pepper, doing Sgt. Pepper things.

When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the ‘Frozen Chosin’ is the defining battle of the modern Marine Corps

The Korean War was a massive success for America and democracy, though the numbers may say different. The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir was one of the defining battles of the war and of the Marine Corps. Today, the events of that battle serve as a major history lesson for young Marines. Throughout boot camp, recruit will hear all about the heroics of this battle, instilling that “never-give-up” mentality that defines a Marine.


 

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

From this battle comes some of the Corps’ greatest Chesty Puller quotes. Sayings such as, “We’re surrounded. Good, that simplifies the problem” and, “we’re not retreating, we’re attacking in a different direction.”

Read Also: These 13 Chesty Puller quotes show why Marines will love and respect him forever

Even against overwhelming odds, Marines fought till their last breath.

America and its U.N. allies dealt a huge blow to the North Korean and Chinese militaries — and Communist expansion. But it came at a great cost. U.N. forces, led by the United States, almost captured the entirety of North Korea — until China entered the war.

The terrain was mountainous, but worst of all, it was cold. Freezing cold. By this time in the war, the winter had arrived in force, freezing over the landscape and creating many problems for troops, including disabling bouts of frostbite. The piercing cold was so unbearable, Marines at the reservoir said, “it would sink right to your bones.”

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
A Marine braving the cold and fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.

At the beginning, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army pushed the 7th Army Infantry Division back, allowing the PVA to encircle the Marines on the mountain. The mentality of the Marines continues to inspire, more than 60 years later: “Never retreat, die where I stand or lay, but never retreat.”

A Chinese invasion was not expected, especially in the dead of the winter storm, but it came all the same. A three-pronged attack hit the unprepared men of the X Corps, consisting of the 1st Marine Division, 7th Army Infantry Division, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army. Chairman Mao sent 10 Chinese divisions across the border with orders to destroy X Corps.

The fighting lasted 17 days. By the battle’s end, the fighting was hand-to-hand. Men were using their teeth, rifle butts, and anything else they could get their hands on to fight the Chinese onslaught.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Chinese troops attacking the Marines at Chosin.

 

Chinese units attacked countless times and countless times the PVA was forced back. With each attack, the PVA gained some ground, but at a great cost. With the ground frozen and foxholes impossible to dig, Marines used the bodies of the Chinese attackers as sandbags to help protect them from incoming fire.

Related: How these few Marines held the line at the Chosin Reservoir

The men in the battle had seen the fiercest fighting of the entire Korean War. With the ever-growing presence of the PVA, Marines were forced to start fighting back towards South Korea.

Still surrounded and with elements of the PVA in the way, Marines had to fight their way out against a 360-degree front as they moved south. They were heading to the port of Hungnam, where the men of X Corps could be evacuated.

By the end of the battle, U.S. Marines suffered 836 dead and around 10,000 wounded. The Army had 2,000 dead and 1,000 wounded. The Chinese had the most catastrophic losses. Intelligence reported the Chinese as saying American forces could beat any Chinese effort, no matter the size.

Six Chinese divisions were completely wiped out. Of the ten that attacked, only one would ever see action again. Though the exact numbers are not clear, historians estimate Chinese losses anywhere from 30,000 to 80,000 killed. The numbers of Chinese wounded may never be known.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Marines on the move near Chosin.

Chosin was technically a loss for the Marines. But it was a Pyrrhic victory at best for the Communists. Despite the loss, this battle instills in every Marine the ability to find strength.

You never give up, did those men give up?

This statement is made by almost every Marine who has ever served since. When faced with overwhelming odds, we use the thoughts of the Frozen Chosin to remind us to never retreat, never surrender, and raise hell.

Articles

How the U.S. smuggled weapons-grade uranium out of the former Soviet Union

The United States isn’t big on bipartisanship in Congress these days, but if any single event testifies to what America can do when we unite, it would have to be Project Sapphire – the secret removal of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union.

Long before the USSR fell at the end of 1991, it was clear to many in the U.S. that the “Evil Empire” was on its way out. The Cold War ending was a good thing, but it opened up a host of all new problems. For Congress, that problem was the potential for weapons-grade uranium ending up in the hands of Pakistan or North Korea, who didn’t yet have nuclear weapons. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of terrorists. 

Terrorists hadn’t yet committed some of the most egregious terror attacks against American assets in recent memory, such as the Khobar Towers attack, the World Trade Center Bombing or the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Islamic Jihad had claimed responsibility for the 1983 Beirut barracks attack that killed 299 Americans and the U.S. now had a large presence in Saudi Arabia.

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Map of Kazakhstan within the USSR (Wikimedia Commons)

There was 24 nuclear bombs’ worth of weapons-grade uranium sitting in the Kazakh SSR – modern-day Kazakhstan. The Soviet government was powerless to secure it and Iran and Iraq were motivated to secure it on the black market. 

That’s how Project Sapphire, a clandestine mission to secure and repackage 90% enriched, weapons-grade uranium in Kazakhstan for shipment to the United States. With state and non-state actors around the world looking to build nuclear weapons, the material had to be secured, packed, and shipped in total secrecy.

Seeing the writing on the wall for the USSR, Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar created the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program in 1986. The idea was to dismantle Soviet weapons and secure the fissile materials used to build them – the weapons-grade uranium. 

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II
Senators Nunn (left) and Lugar (center) with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (right) at the Nunn-Lugar Conference Room at the Pentagon following a ceremony commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program held at the Pentagon May 9, 2016.(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)(Released)

They also wrote and introduced the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991, which provided money for former Soviet states like Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan to decommission old Soviet weapons and ship them to Russia for destruction. Nunn and Lugar wanted to keep track of that material because they believed Russia could not. 

By 1994, the Soviet Union was long gone and Kazakhstan was an independent country. Its relations with Russia were still vital to its economy and its interests, though. It did not want to risk its relationship with its benefactor but still wanted to rid itself of its excess nuclear material. 

Its biggest concern came from a former Soviet submarine plant in the country that had been abandoned. The fissile material was sitting in the remote facility and the workers hadn’t been paid in months. 

On Oct. 14, 1994, a 31-person team slipped unnoticed into Kazakhstan and secured the submarine production facility with the help of a few of the workers. For nearly a month, the team worked 12-hour shifts six days a week to remove and repack the highly enriched uranium. When they finally finished in late November, it took two Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to move all the material from the former USSR to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

Upon their return, the mission was not only declassified, it was celebrated when announced to the press by the Clinton Administration and members of Congress who were instrumental in creating the means for its success.   

When American political parties are united, there’s nothing we can’t do, even if that means smuggling nuclear material out of a foreign country.


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

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