One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

As they’re now America’s two top rivals, it’s easy to forget that China and Russia aren’t allies and actually have decades of regional rivalry and have been at each other’s throats more than once. In fact, in 1970, the Soviet Union started asking around about whether or not anyone would really care if they launched a preemptive nuclear strike against China.


Ya know, for world security and all that.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

China’s first nuclear test in 1964 set off a series of dominoes that almost convinced Russia to nuke it.

(Public domain)

Russia and China try to smooth over their regional troubles in the common interest of trying to constrain America, even when Russia was the Soviet Union and the year was 1950. Russia and China sent pilots to North Korea to help fight American air power, downing and killing U.S. pilots. It was a real high-point for Soviet-Sino Relations.

But at the time, China was basically to the Soviet Union what North Korea is to China today. The Soviet Union was much larger and stronger, and it was embroiled in a battle of superpowers with the U.S. China was welcome on the playground as long as it was playing by the rules and backing up Soviet interests. But China wanted to become a nuclear power just like its big brother.

And so, in 1964, China detonated its first device, becoming the fifth country to become a nuclear power.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

Russian boats try to knock a Chinese man off of his craft in the Wasuli River during the 1969 border clashes between the two countries.

(China Photo Service, CC BY-SA 3.0)

This combined with already simmering tensions over border conflicts and brought the two countries’ relations to a low boil. Their troops fought skirmishes against one another on their shared border while both sides greatly built up their troops and their stockpiles of less-than-nuclear weapons like biological and chemical threats.

In 1969, this grew into the Sino-Soviet border conflict, a seven-month undeclared war between the two sides from March to September of that year. Moscow seemed to hope that internal divisions in China would distract Mao Zedong and Liu Shaoqi, the top leaders of China’s Communist Party at the time.

Instead, China called international attention to the clashes and stared Russia down. And on Zhenbao Island, Chinese and Russian troops drew serious blood with 58 dead on the Russian side and 29 dead from China. So, that summer, highly placed Soviets, including the son-in-law of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, began telling their counterparts in other nations that it might become necessary to take out China’s growing atomic arsenal by force.

In April they said that, hey, maybe the best way to do that was with surgical nuclear strikes. It was the only way to restore the peace, after all.

China and Russia agreed to bilateral talks in 1970 that eventually restored peace, so it’s possible that this was a bluff from the Soviet leaders. Maybe they believed that the threat of nuclear war could end the border clashes with no need to actually send any missiles or bombers up.

But it’s also quite possible that the threat was real. While we in the West like to think of the Cold War as an all-consuming grapple between America and the Soviet Union, the Soviets were actually holding three times as many military exercises focused on their eastern border with China in the 1960s as they spent practicing for war with the U.S. and Europe.

So, yes, the world’s first nuclear war could’ve been a clash between the Soviet Union and China, but that was thankfully averted. Unfortunately, China watched for weaknesses in the Soviet Union and, as the bloc started to crumble in the late 1980s, China made its move. While the Soviets tried to hold themselves together and America was preoccupied with finishing the fight and planning the post-Soviet world, China began an arms buildup.

And, uh, they’ve gotten stronger now. Including the nukes.

popular

The 6 worst spies of all time

Like any other profession, espionage is going to have its legends and its cautionary tales. Some spies are better than others. If you’re truly a great spy, then chances are good no one will ever know what you did or why. This list isn’t about effectiveness, this list is about methodology.


The six spies on this list experienced varying degrees of success or failure, depending on which side of the border the reader is seeing. How they went about their work is what’s most suspect. There’s a reason spy agencies check their employees’ bank accounts, psychological profiles, and alcohol use. Then there’s some spies who just can’t wait to get spying, and they have to flag down the car of the local foreign intelligence agency chief.

1. Adolf Tolkachev

Tolkachev was a great American asset for ten years of the Cold War, after he made contact with the CIA, that is. He managed to do this by leaving hand-written notes on cars with diplomatic license plates that happened to be parked near the American Embassy in Moscow. He even banged on the car of the CIA’s Moscow Station Chief.

 

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
This is how the KGB moves you once they find out you work for the CIA. (Melton Archive)

It’s truly amazing that it took the KGB so long to catch Tolkachev in the act. In one day he was tried, convicted, and executed. In the end, it wasn’t his open hatred of the Soviet government or the notes he left on cars a decade before, it was CIA agents (either Edward Howard or Aldrich Ames) who outed him to the KGB. Speaking of which…

2. Aldrich Ames

This guy is probably the reason federal investigators look for certain trouble warnings in their investigations for security clearances. Ames was more of a “bumbling boob” than a master spy. He kept being promoted despite a series of drunken incidents, poor performance reviews, and insubordination. Unsure of how the CIA could allow this to happen? Think about your own job. Is everyone there 100 percent effective? Right.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Ames also has a very punchable face.

In his nine years as a mole, Ames was able to ID at least twenty CIA operatives in the Soviet Union to the KGB. Many of those agents were executed as Ames lived a plush life on Soviet money, to the tune of some $4.6 million. This is why the Agency watches bank accounts, as Ames expenditures exceeded his monthly salary, he paid for a home and a Jaguar in cash, and started wearing very fine tailored suits. He is serving a life sentence with no parole.

3. Michael Bettaney

Bettaney was a British MI5 agent whose work was so awful and methods so crass, he was actually given up to the UK government by the Russians because they thought he was meant to be a crude sort of double agent.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Also, Bill Cosby needs his sweater back.

An alcoholic who would regularly try to avoid the drunk tank by telling everyone he was a spy, Bettaney photographed MI5 documents and stored those photos in his home. He was scheduled to leave for Austria to sell the stuff when the Russians betrayed him.

Basically, this guy was the English version of Archer if Archer never succeeded in a mission.

4. Anna Chapman

The laziest Russian spy of all time, Anna Chapman was part of a sleeper ring. She and her spies were so bad at espionage, the U.S. government just shipped Chapman back to Moscow because they didn’t have enough evidence of actual secrets stolen to convict her.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Chapman in a Russian military video

That’s not the worst of it. Chapman and the 11 others in the spy ring failed in a lot of espionage basics. They conducted monetary and other transactions in broad daylight, kept their communications guidebook instead of memorizing it and burning it, and met directly with sources instead of using an intermediary.

5. Unnamed CIA Lady

This is the person who is responsible for spreading the idea that “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) are an effective method for getting information from suspects with links to terror cells. Still at the CIA, her name remains a mystery to most, but an NBC investigator found documented evidence this woman not only defended the practice, but enjoyed taking part in its implementation, even on innocent people.

She inaccurately reflected intelligence to CIA leadership who continued a program she knew to be ineffective. Does this not sound so bad? This woman’s name was also included in the 9/11 Commission’s report for not sharing testimony about two of the hijackers with the FBI — which the reports say was one of the critical failures of pre-9/11 intelligence.

6. Stewart David Nozette

Nozette was a space scientist with a very high security clearance. He was arrested in 2009 for being an agent of Israel, spying on the U.S. for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. Unfortunately, the Israelis never talked to Nozette. He was actually talking to the FBI the whole time. And they got it on tape.

Nozette worked for a number of aerospace companies in Israel which shared defense contracts with the U.S. He practically announced his intention to become a spy and attempted espionage for $11,000 (a paltry sum, considering what other spies, like Jonathan Pollard, received for their services).

MIGHTY CULTURE

This video is the Army toy battle you wanted to fight as a kid

Remember those little green Army men your brother kept in a large bucket that you could only play with while he was at basketball practice? YouTube user Michael Akkerman remembers, and he created an epic battle with the little toys that tells the tale of a Green Army offensive against the Tan Army.


Army Men – Plastic Apocalypse

www.youtube.com

The battle, embedded above, is mostly shot using stop motion, but makes extensive use of what appears to be CGI when weapons fire and larger rounds explode. This becomes gnarly when troops are hit by enemy fire and melted plastic splatters across the ground like thick blood.

The combat includes armored units, artillery, and combat engineers, but it focuses on the infantrymen making up the bulk of the advance against the Tan Army’s prepared defenses, which includes barbed wire, trenches, and bunkers. Oddly, these prepared defenses include a lot of snipers who, for some reason, fire almost exclusively from guard towers.

As a Green infantryman says at 9:15, “gosh, that is a bad sniper.”

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

While the military details aren’t perfect (the artillery is always brought up into direct fire positions and never once fires an indirect shot), it’s still a lot of fun to see the combined arms invading force try to deal with the thick defensive lines of the Tan forces.

The director keeps the bulk of his shots close to the infantrymen on the march, making it feel like you’re in the thick grass with the men. Occasional wide shots give an idea of the scope of the battle as dozens of men on both sides clash over whatever ideological difference the hordes of plastic soldiers may have.

Be prepared for some gut-wrenching moments. Green forces are no boy scouts, and they aren’t above committing a few atrocities to secure a Tan-free future.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia just named the first places it will drop its new weapons

As President Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam to defuse one potential nuclear showdown, America’s perennial rival Russia is upping the ante on the new Cold War’s latest arms race: hypersonic nuclear weapons.


It doesn’t help that a Cold War-era nuclear arms limitation treaty is also in the midst of being dismantled by both the United States and Russia. In recent days, the U.S. has accused the Russians of repeatedly violating the Intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, going so far as threatening to pull out of it entirely. Russia vowed a “tit-for-tat” response to the American declaration.

And now the Russian media are entering the discussion.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

No, not the Trololo Guy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one of Russia’s most influential state-run media channels boasted about the Kremlin’s first strike capabilities against the United States during its Sunday night prime-time recap of the news of the week. The Kremlin mouthpiece specifically mentioned that precision strikes against the Pentagon and Camp David could hit the United States in less than five minutes.

They also mentioned that a U.S. response to the attack would take another 10 to 12 minutes. The Russians cite this advantage due to their positioning of Russian missile subs carrying Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

A Tsirkon cruise missile during a test fire.

(Sputnik News)

The Tsirkon missile was first successfully tested in 2015 and has since been developed to reach speeds of eight times the speed of sound. Its operational range is upwards of 300 miles or more. Being so close to the U.S. and capable of such speed would make it difficult to intercept with current U.S. ballistic missile technology. The missile travels covered by a plasma cloud which both absorbs radio waves and makes it invisible to radar, according to Russian military sources.

Tsirkon missiles are at the center of the newly heightened tensions between the two powers. Washington contends the Tsirkon violates the 1987 INF Treaty, along with several other missiles developed by the Russians in the years since. When Washington threatened to redeploy short- and medium-range nuclear forces in Europe, it was too much for Russian state media. That’s when they began lashing out and naming targets.

Other potential targets listed included Jim Creek, a naval communications base in Washington, as well as the Pentagon. Camp David is the traditional vacation home of the sitting American President, and was a clear shot at President Trump. There was no mention of Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, where he spends much of his free time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Areas of Fort Sill on lockdown in response to an unknown, “serious incident”

Editor’s Note: This page was last updated at 1:29p.m. PST.

Reports of a “serious incident” are surfacing from Fort Sill, located north of Lawton, Oklahoma. Currently, several buildings are on lockdown and official channels are advising people to “stay away from [these] areas at this time.”


As of 9:39 a.m. PST, according to the Fort Sill Provost Marshal’s Office and Directorate of Emergency Services Facebook page, locked down areas include:

  • McNair Hall
  • Taylor Hall
  • Knox Hall
  • Sheridan Hall
One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

The locked-down buildings mentioned above are located within the encircled area.

[Update – 11:39 a.m. PST] According to Stars and Stripes, a public affairs officer has reported that the situation is “all clear.”

[Update – 1:29 p.m. PST] Official reports have surfaced that explain a former Fort Sill employee was detained and his vehicle was searched. The previously mentioned buildings were locked down as a security measure and the situation has been resolved.

At present, all we know is that it was not a bomb threat.

This page will be updated as the situation develops and details emerge.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US military made an ‘atomic cannon’

As a wise man once said, “They say that the best weapon is the one that you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree! I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once.”

Adhering closely to this mantra, the M65 was indeed only fired once and then simply used as a deterrent in the early days of the Cold War. Why was this weapon so special? Well, it helps that it fired 280mm nuclear tipped artillery with blast power approximately that of Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima.


Designed by engineer Robert M. Schwartz in 1949, the shells, in addition to being larger than anything the US military had ever produced before, had to have a case some 4000 times stronger than that of the aforementioned bomb dropped on Hiroshima in order for the nuke to survive the extreme forces it would be subjected to when the weapon was fired. While you might think designing such an round would be insanely difficult, if not wholly impossible, Schwartz reportedly had a working rough design ready in just 15 days. The resulting W9 was essentially an 850 pound, 11 by 55 inch shell with a gun type nuclear tip capable of producing a 15 kiloton blast.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.

Of course, there was also the problem of the U.S. not then having a cannon capable of firing these W9 shells. Schwartz solved this too, drawing inspiration for the ultimate design of the M65 from German WW2-era railway cannons like the Krupp K5. He also designed the M65 such that it could be transported via roads, hugely increasing the weapon’s utility over railway cannons.

That said, to say the M65 was cumbersome is a massive understatement. Weighing around 83 tons tons, it was rather difficult to move, requiring two trucks packing 375 horsepower engines, one truck on each end of the cannon, with the drivers needing to be in constant communication as they drove. The top speed on this setup was a breakneck 35 mph, if the road was straight and reasonably flat.

Its mobility was also limited by the length of the vehicle- about 80 feet- with one soldier, Jim Michalko, recalling that after getting the cannon stuck in a narrow street during transport in Germany, they ended up having to destroy several buildings in order to make necessary turns.

Despite these issues, a well-trained crew of around 5 people could have the cannon ready to fire in around 15 minutes, with the weapon capable of hitting any target within roughly 20 miles with pinpoint accuracy. It likewise only took around 15 minutes to get the cannon back on the road, ready to nuke another target.

As alluded to earlier, the M65 is known to have only been fired once, as part of Operation Upshot–Knothole, a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada National Security Site in 1953.

In the one and only time a nuclear bomb has been shot from a cannon, during the Grable test at Frenchman Flat, the nuke flew 10 kilometres (roughly 7 miles) through the air, where it exploded about 500 feet above the ground.

The resulting explosion incinerated everything within about a mile of desert, excepting of course a lead lined fridge that was thrown free, and released a shockwave of searing hot air that tore apart lightly armoured vehicles positioned at set distances from the target area- all while several thousand soldiers, hundreds of military officials, several members of congress and then Secretary of Defence, Charles Wilson, looked on in awe from a mere 10 miles away.

Footage of this test was quickly circulated by the military as a show of force to the Soviets, and twenty M65 cannons were ordered to be created, all of which were shipped to Europe and South Korea where they spent around a decade being moved to various classified locations.

However, with the combined advent of tactical nuclear missiles and smaller nuclear shells that could fit in more widely used 155mm and 203mm cannons, the M65, which debuted with a bang in 1953, quietly went the way of Dodo by 1963.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Britain’s Ministry of Defence plays for time (and money) in a dangerous world

In December 2018, just before policymakers and pundits escaped their besieged bunkers for Christmas, the UK government published the long-awaited final report on its Modernising Defence Programme. This programme was meant to update the military commitments made in the last full-blown Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2015.

How far it has succeeded in that task is debatable, however. The report’s brevity and lack of detail left many lamenting a missed opportunity.

Revising 2015’s review became necessary thanks to a marked change in circumstances. Partly, those changes are strategic. Relations with Russia have deteriorated even further since 2015, Islamic State (IS) is much diminished, and new military technologies and tactics are advancing.


Mainly, however, those changes are economic. The lower growth trajectory induced by Brexit has reduced the resources available to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). (The UK Defence Budget is set at 2% of GDP, which means that if GDP is smaller than it might have been, so too is the budget available to the military.)

The pound’s depreciation since the Brexit vote in 2016 has also raised the real costs of buying defence equipment from abroad, such as the US-sourced F-35 combat jet. A broader rise in inflation has further added to cost pressures on a 2015 review that was already seen as financially optimistic.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

F-35B Lightning II.

Taken together, these pressures have stretched the disconnect between intended military expenditures and available resources beyond the point that could reasonably be ignored. A political consequence of this has been the MOD —currently led by Gavin Williamson MP, a Defence Secretary unusually willing to provoke budgetary confrontations within Whitehall —demanding more government money to ensure that neither current nor planned military capabilities receive further cuts.

The Treasury, for its part, recognizes that Britain’s security environment has deteriorated to a worse condition than at any point since the Cold War. Yet it is still attempting to avoid major new spending commitments until the full fiscal shock of Brexit becomes clear. It has also long been skeptical of the MOD’s budgetary requests, viewing the department as a perennial financial black hole.

Political turmoil, strategic change

With a full cross-government spending review now scheduled for post-Brexit 2019, this Modernising Defence Programme report represents multiple levels of compromise. It has provided the government with a “good news” item, in the form of modest amounts of new funding to important areas such as high-technology research and “net assessment” of threats.

It also recognizes growing pressures in defence, such as the need to increase the usability of existing equipment if Britain is to pose a credible conventional deterrent against Russia (for example, by ensuring adequate numbers and varieties of munitions for ships and aircraft).

But the report has also dodged some of the hardest choices. For if more money is not eventually forthcoming from the Treasury to pay for equipment — and the people and infrastructure who turn such equipment from mere “stuff” into effective fighting capability — how will it be paid for or what will need to be cut?

These “micro” politics are all occurring against a backdrop of “macro” change in Britain’s strategic environment. The post-Cold War era of unrivaled American (and therefore Western) power is arguably coming to an end, with the rise of China and partial resurgence of Russia.

All of Britain’s closest alliances are simultaneously in flux. With the major European powers, this is due to Brexit. With the US, it is thanks to a combination of President Trump’s mercurial temperament and a longer standing requirement to pivot towards containment of China.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

United States President Donald Trump.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)

Yet even as Washington wants to focus on Beijing, European states face a hostile power in their own region, in the form of a Russia that sees good reasons to weaken and ideally break NATO.

Besides the Russia situation, political demands for UK military commitments in other regions also still remain — in the Middle East, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, and increasingly in East Asia too. This difficulty of juggling pressing regional defence needs with a desire for expansive global involvement reflects two competing sets of long-standing pressures in British strategy: the aspiration to play an influential role in the world versus the need to safeguard national security.

A combination of strained alliances and ever-expanding political demands explains the MOD’s determination to secure funds to rebuild UK military capability. After 20 years of preoccupation with counter-terrorism and humanitarian intervention, the current Defence Equipment Programme is now more focused on the heavier “state-on-state” capabilities required to deter a hostile major power in the North Atlantic region (warships, combat aircraft, mechanized ground forces, and so forth). And all of this must take place while still having enough left over to do a bit of all the other things that are asked of the armed forces.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), HMS Sutherland (F81), and HMS Iron Duke (F234).

(UK Ministry of Defence photo)

Without the budget to fulfill recent ambitions, the MOD will not be confident that it can meet Britain’s defence needs. So rather than accept cuts today, this latest report plays for time. The hope is that the tougher security environment of tomorrow will ultimately persuade the Treasury to release more resources for defence, especially once Brexit has been and gone.

To that extent, December 2018’s report achieved its aims. A bit more funding for advanced technology research and net assessment is no bad thing. A recognition that Britain needs more robust stockpiles of fuel, spares, munitions, and expertise was long overdue. And the MOD has managed to delay its day of reckoning with the Treasury until after the initial fiscal shock of Brexit.

A delay is not a victory, however. There is no sign yet of the substantial uplift in funding or the cuts to planned capabilities necessary to place the armed forces on a sound budgetary footing. That hard day of financial reckoning could therefore still be to come.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return to their old stomping grounds

Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot Parris Island is a sacred place that shapes everyday citizens into United States Marines. The journey from recruit in training to United States Marine is unforgettable and some even describe it as the best worst time of their life. Once a Marine leaves the island, most may never return.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were given the opportunity to visit MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina during a professional military education trip on June 14, 2019.


The day started off with the Marines visiting the famous yellow footprints, the place where the training begins. They then made their way to the receiving bay where all recruits are allotted one phone call home to let their families know they arrived safely, followed by a tour of a recruit living quarters.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, pose for a group photo with Brig. Gen. James Gylnn, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Sgt. Major William Carter, sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Going back to MCRD Parris Island was an overwhelming feeling,” said Pfc. Johnny Francis, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 23, 2019, now a motor vehicle operator with 2nd TSB. “It is the place that broke me, made me want to give up, but also gave me the courage to keep going and in turn allowed me to become a United States Marine.”

Marines pride themselves on being the best, and it all starts at recruit training. The Marine Corps has the longest entry level training of any of the four branches.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, walk down the road at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

Recruits endure 13 weeks of rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Under 24/7 watch and care of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor, recruits are completely stripped of their civilian habits and relearn everything the Marine Corps way.

“Getting to see recruit training as a Marine made me understand why we are held to such a high standard,” said Lance Cpl. Charlene Yabut, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 29, 2018, now a landing support specialist with 2nd TSB. “Those recruits don’t know it yet but they will remember everything that was drilled into their head. Being a Marine takes everything you have to offer every day and without the foundation that is laid here, we wouldn’t be the U.S. Marines.”

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Nicholas Underwood with Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, gives Marines from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group a tour of Company K’s recruit living quarters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

2nd TSB ended their trip on the island with witnessing 570 new Marines from P and M Company march and graduate on the Pete Ross Parade Deck.

Graduation day marks the end of recruit training; it is the culminating and most awaited day by all new Marines.

“We wanted to bring the Marines from our unit here to allow them to reflect and remind them that we all stepped foot on those yellow footprints for a reason; we all wanted to become Marines,” said Capt. Brian Hassett, Alpha Company Commander, 2nd TSB, CLR 2, 2nd MLG. “We have earned the title, but it doesn’t end there. We have to keep working hard, stay dedicated and be prepared for when America calls.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Vietnam War PJ joined the crew of ‘The Last Full Measure’

When Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger posthumously received a Medal of Honor for his valor and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, retired Air Force Pararescueman SMSgt John Pighini was at the ceremony.

In March 1966, Pitsenbarger was killed in action after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue Army infantrymen pinned down by the enemy during Operation Abilene during the Vietnam War. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions, but the men he saved never forgot what his sacrifice meant.

After 34 years, his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that took place on Dec. 8, 2000, just in time for Pitsenbarger’s father to accept the medal on his son’s behalf.

Nearly 20 years later, The Last Full Measure tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and the efforts it took to present him with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States of America.

The film recreates the moving Medal of Honor ceremony. John Pighini was there for that, too, which is how his filmmaking journey began.


This is the true story that inspired The Last Full Measure

www.youtube.com

“We’d known about the movie for years — it took almost 20 years to get it done. They’d always told us [members of the pararescue community] we could be in the remake of the Medal of Honor ceremony,” Pighini recalled. While there he noticed some military details that weren’t quite correct — so he spoke up and found the director and crew willing to listen and make adjustments.

Director Todd Robinson quickly recognized that Pighini was a valuable resource for his film. Pighini served in Vietnam after graduating from his pararescue training program in November 1966. He would earn a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue missions during the war. He would also serve as the first pararescue superintendent for the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and he now serves as vice president of the Pararescue Association.

So, he knows a thing or two about providing medical aid on the battlefield and combat in Southeast Asia.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

Todd Robinson, Jeremy Irvine, August Blanco Rosenstein, John Pighini on set for The Last Full Measure in Thailand, 2017. (Photo by Eddie Rosenstein)

His unique experience made him a particularly helpful resource for creating accuracy for the film. “I taught combat medicine so I was very much in tune with setting up exercises and working with people to ensure everything is done correctly. I was also involved in helicopter operations for so many years,” Pighini stated. He was brought on to film on location with the cast and crew as they shot the Vietnam scenes for the film.

Of course, anyone who has worked on a film knows that it isn’t always possible to be completely accurate. Budget limitations or storytelling choices will often take precedence.

“The important thing was that we told Pits’ story and it resonated with people. There are those who point out that we didn’t have the right helicopter, but there was only one 43 [Kaman HH-43F] and the guy just wouldn’t let it go so we used the Huey [Bell UH-1 Iriquois]. But the movie wasn’t about the Hueys, it was about Pits. It was about going down and saving lives, knowing full well what was coming his way that night. It was about our creed: these things we do that others may live,” Pighini reflected.

When I asked him about the idea of heroism, Pighini grew solemn. “Pararescuemen…it’s in your blood. Like nurses and doctors — when people want to help people, it’s a calling. To me, it was always about saving a life. I didn’t feel like I was being a hero. The guys that gave the last full measure…they’re the heroes.”

The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21

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‘The Last Full Measure’ Trailer

The Last Full Measure is available on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital and includes special features for fans of military history:

  • “The Women of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” Featurette
  • “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” Featurette
  • “USAF Museum Screening with Veterans Pitsenbarger Family” Featurette
  • “The Music of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “William Pitsenbarger Tribute” Photo Gallery
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why submachine guns fell out of favor with the US military

Submachine guns were a staple of combat in the early 20th century. Their light weight and sleek profiles meant that they could be used in many close-quarters situations and their high rate of fire gave them a stopping power to be feared. By the 1980s, however, submachine guns were rarely seen in regular line units.


Now, this isn’t to say that the entire class of firearm is faulty or that there isn’t a use for them. In fact, many special operations units and police SWAT teams use submachine guns for their ease of control and for the very reason they’re discouraged by conventional units: a lesser stopping power compared to automatic rifles.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Back in the day, everyone from troops to gangsters to prime ministers loved submachine guns.
(National Archive)

Created as a mix between a machine pistol and a carbine, the Italian Beretta M1918 and the German MP 18 were game-changers in the trenches of WWI. The American Thompson M1921 (better known as the “Tommy Gun”) wasn’t ready in time for the war, but served as a basis for every SMG that came after it.

In WWII, the Tommy Gun gave American troops a lot of firepower in a small package. Paratroopers could easily carry them on planes, tankers could keep them handy in case anyone got too close, and infantrymen could maneuver through cities with them with ease. It was often copied but never outdone. It and its sister weapon, the M3/M3A1 “Grease Gun,” were mainstays throughout the Korean War and into the early parts of the Vietnam War.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Even the one of the most famous photos from the Battle of Okinawa is of two Marines rocking Tommy Guns.
(Photo by SSgt. Walter F. Kleine)

The submachine gun, however, wasn’t able to hold up long in the jungles of Vietnam when the M16’s durability, range, and 5.56mm ammunition outperformed it in nearly every way. This, however, wasn’t its death rattle.

The SMG’s maneuverability in close quarters didn’t go unnoticed by law enforcement — primarily by SWAT teams. Additionally, SMGs are often chambered in 9mm or .45 ACP, meaning that targets struck by rounds are more often incapacitated than killed. In the hands of law enforcement, an armed assailant could then be taken into custody.

Though modern rifles have made the SMG unpopular in warfare, it still serves a valuable purpose in the right hands.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Modern conventional troops will use them sparingly. But word has it that they might come back.
(USMC)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Norway releases video from inside sunken elite warship

A little over a month after the Helge Ingstad sank after colliding with a tanker in a Norwegian fjord, the Norwegian military has released footage from the submerged frigate.

The warship was rammed by a Malta-flagged tanker in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2018, in the port of Sture, north of Bergen, which is Norway’s second-largest city.


The frigate displaces 5,290 tons, and the tanker displaces over 62,500 tons when empty. But when the tanker is fully loaded, as it was at the time of the collision, that jumps to about 113,000 tons, more than an aircraft carrier. The collision tore a large hole in the starboard side of the frigate’s hull, which caused other compartments to flood.

Footage released by the Norwegian military, which you can see below, shows the damage sustained by the frigate.

Damage to the Helge Ingstad

www.youtube.com

The 0 million, 442-foot-long warship was returning from NATO’s massive, multinational Trident Juncture military exercise when it collided with the 820-foot-long tanker.

A Norwegian rescue official said at the time of the collision that the frigate was “taking in more water than they can pump out. There is no control over the leak and the stern is heavily in the sea.”

According to a preliminary report released at the end of November 2018, control of the frigate’s rudder and propulsion systems was lost, which caused the ship to drift toward the shore, where it ran aground about 10 minutes after the collision.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

Recovery operations for the Helge Ingstad on Nov. 28, 2018.

(Norwegian armed forces photo)

Running aground prevented it from sinking in the fjord, but later, a wire used to stabilize the sunken vessel snapped, allowing it to sink farther. Only the frigate’s top masts remain above the surface.

In December 2018, Norwegian explosive-ordnance-disposal divers returned to the ship to remove the missile launchers from its foredeck.

Below, you can see footage of them detaching the launchers and floating them to the surface.

Missile removal Helge Ingstad

www.youtube.com

“All diving assignments we undertake require detailed planning and thorough preparation. We must be able to solve the assignments we are given, while providing as low a risk as possible,” diving unit leader Bengt Berdal said, according to The Maritime Executive.

“Our biggest concern [during this mission] is any increased movement of the vessel.”

With the missiles off the ship, all its weapons have been removed. Recovery crews are preparing to raise the ship, putting chains under the hull to lift it on a semisubmersible barge that will take it to Haakonsvern naval base.

The frigate will not be raised until after Christmas, according to The Maritime Executive.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

Chains being readied aboard the heavy-lift vessel Rambiz to lift the sunken Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad on Dec. 7, 2018.

(Norwegian armed forces photo by Jakob Østheim)

The oil tanker was not seriously damaged in the incident and didn’t leak any of its cargo. Only eight of the 137 crew aboard the Helge Ingstad were injured, but the multimillion-dollar ship was one of Norway’s five capital Nansen-class frigates and was one of Norway’s most advanced warships. (It also leaked diesel and helicopter fuel, but that was contained and recovered.)

The preliminary report found that the warnings to the frigate, which was headed into the port, went unheeded until too late, allowing the outbound tanker to run into it.

According to the report, the frigate’s automatic identification system was turned off, hindering its recognition by other ships in the area, and there was confusion on its bridge because of a change in watch — both of which contributed to the accident.

The preliminary report also raised questions about other ships in the class and the Spanish shipbuilder that constructed it.

The review board “found safety critical issues relating to the vessel’s watertight compartments. This must be assumed to also apply to the other four Nansen-class frigates,” the report said.

“It cannot be excluded that the same applies to vessels of a similar design delivered by Navantia, or that the design concept continues to be used for similar vessel models.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.

For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.


But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.

Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.

But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.

Houses that repair themselves

Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.

Lab-grown blood

This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.

Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules 

Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.

Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.

Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.

Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.

One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China
Five Finger Death Punch Videographer Nick Siemens.

Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.

“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”

Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.

“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”

Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.