When Japanese planes swept Pearl Harbor in the December, 1941, surprise attack that took America into World War II, there were very few U.S. troops able to fight back in any meaningful way. That doesn’t mean resistance was minimal. Once the nature of the attack was realized, American fighting men sprang into action, manning whatever defenses they could. In fact, the Americans drew the first blood of the Japanese-American War, sinking the surveillance sub sent to recon the harbor.
An hour and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were already losing. But any defense in the face of such a surprise attack is worthy of mention — and worthy of full recognition, yet one Air Corps pilot was denied the full measure of recognition.
The modern-day remains of the surveillance sub sunk in Pearl Harbor
(Pearl Harbor Visitors Center)
Sinking the Japanese reconnaissance sub wasn’t the only American resistance to the attack. U.S. troops fired whatever small arms they had at their attackers, sailors manned whatever guns could be brought to bear against the incoming dive bombers, and a handful of American pilots actually got into the air, downing an obscene number of Japanese Zeros, especially considering the odds against them.
Although the Navy was the primary target for the Japanese, once their bombs were expended, Japanese planes made their way to the Army airfields to strafe the men and planes while they were on the ground. This tactic was as successful as the attack on the battleships in the harbor, but just as the USS Nevada attempted to get underway in the face of the surprise attack, American pilots also attempted to take off and get into the fight.
Kenneth Taylor and George Welch
(U.S. Air Force)
Hickam and Ewa Airfields were devastated by the strafing runs of Japanese fighters, so was the Navy’s base on nearby Ford Island. But there was once airfield that remained largely untouched by the incoming enemies, despite the raging aerial battle taking place in the skies above it.
That morning, Army Air Corps pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor were recovering off-base from an epic night of drinking, dancing, and playing cards. When they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they dashed off in their car to make way to the airfield at Haleiwa, where they hoped to have fueled and armed P-40 Tomahawks ready to go in defense of the islands. They reached the airfield during the second wave of the Japanese attack and managed to get airborne, still wearing tuxedo pants from the previous night’s revelry.
Hickam Army Air Field under attack, Dec. 7, 1941.
Once aloft, the two airmen were in a target-rich environment, knocking off Zeros as the enemy tried to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Other airmen managed to take to the skies, downing enemy planes, some of them losing their lives in the process. But it was Welch and Taylor who were making mincemeat out of any enemy foolish enough to approach Haleiwa. Welch and Taylor were credited with at least seven aerial victories and the overall preservation of Haleiwa airfield.
The two men were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their daring, heroism, and skill in the face of an overwhelming invader. Lieutenant Welch was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but it was denied. Why? Because his commanding officer said he took off that morning without being ordered to do so.
He finished the war with 16 total aerial wins against Japanese planes. Taylor, have been injured while fighting, also received the Purple Heart.
Welch and Taylor during the awards ceremony for their Distinguished Service Cross medals
All told, the Japanese lost 29 aircraft, 65 men, and five midget submarines in the surprise attack. It was a stunning victory, considering the losses suffered by the American forces. But it was the U.S. resolve in the face of a surprise attack that foreshadowed how the rest of the war would go.
Airman Magazine sat down with Gen. Tim Ray, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, for an in-depth interview. The below excerpts highlight how the command continues to innovate and explore the art of possible. There are only historical traces of Strategic Air Command; these Airmen are now Strikers. Excellence and teamwork is in the job description; they’re attracting talent and working hard to keep it in-house, building the world’s premiere nuclear and conventional long-range strike team.
“This is about figuring out how to be competitive.” – General Timothy M. Ray
Airman Magazine: What does it mean to be a “Striker”?
Gen. Tim Ray: Strikers stand on the shoulders of giants like Schriever, Doolittle, Arnold and Eaker. That’s our heritage. We understand that air and space power is not about perfection; it’s about overcoming obstacles and challenges. Strikers are in a business that no one else can do. Strikers know the score; and the score is that there are no allied bombers out there. There are no allied Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. What we do every day as a Striker is the foundation of the security structure of the free world. This fact is viewed in the eyes of our adversaries and it’s viewed in the eyes of our allies. In a very important way, there’s a lot riding on our Airmen, and we have to get it right every day.
Airman Magazine: What are some of the challenges Global Strike is facing and some of the conversations and solutions your team is coming up with?
Gen. Tim Ray: For us it’s to think about the competitive space we’re in, when the Cold War ended; there really was only one team that stopped competing at this level, of great power competition—the United States. We enjoyed a world order that was to our benefit. Now we have players on the scene with regional reach and capacity, and also global capacity, and we’ve got regional players who want to make sure that they have more sway. So think North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. So how we compete with them is not something that you can take lightly. When you step back and think about it, in this long-term strategic competition, how do we compete?
One of the things I’m very proud of in the command is what we’ve done with our weapons generation facility. Here’s an example: the old requirements for how you would build that were very expensive and somewhat outdated. We brought in a cross-functional team from across the Air Force. We gave everybody a right and left limit and we made them really think about this thing. The outcome of that effort is an option to re-capitalize our facilities at a third of the cost. We’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars that’ll have better security and better capacity. I think that’s the kind of business game we need to continue to play; to go and provide great, relevant capabilities, much more affordable for who we are as an Air Force and who we are as a military. I think that’s how we continue to take this particular thing on, is thinking about the context, what do we have to do to find ways to solve those problems.
A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1, 2019. The B-52H, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is part of a Bomber Task Force operating out of RAF Fairford, England. The aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. The bomber conducted a sortie to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners in support of our shared regional security interests. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) areas of operation, and when called upon, they offer a rapid response capability for combatant commanders. This mission to CENTCOM follows the B-1B Lancer mission to PSAB last week, again demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of allies and partners.
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the atmosphere of how we handled things back during the Cold War and how, in today’s great power competition, things are different?
Gen. Tim Ray: With the Cold War, there was bipolarity and a set number of competitors. With the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union versus everybody else; we had the lead. Now we have multi-polarity with competitors like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, violent extremist organization challenges; they are now part of the equation. So you have to think more broadly about this global situation.
Things are in this conversation now that weren’t back then, space, cyber, hypersonics, the information domain, the internet, what happens in social media, all those influencers. That’s a very different game when you start to understand what’s really going on out there.
Airman Magazine: How do you maintain a vector and vision for the command in an ever-changing competitive space?
Gen. Tim Ray: When you read the book Why Air Forces Fail, we see that there’s no loss based on a lack of tactics, techniques, or procedures. It’s always for a lack of ability to adapt to what’s going on. So when I think about that particular space, you have to realize this is really more of a chess game. So you can’t try to win every move. But you have to avoid being put on the chess board without options, and that’s how the enemy is playing the game. So you need to know how you get to checkmate on the enemy. And certainly when it comes time to maneuver on the board, you think more strategically. When you consider that dynamic, so how the Soviet Union dealt with us, they tried to win every day, and it didn’t work for them. So we step back and consider what’s going on, you have to set a pace to build margin and to compete that is sustainable.
Airman Magazine: What does the Global Strike Command of 2030 look like?
Gen. Tim Ray: The command in 2030 understands readiness and capacity as an ecosystem. How we tend to look at it these days is fairly numerical. And as you begin to modernize and change you have to think about it as an ecosystem. You have to think about the rate at which you can bring new technology on. You have to think about it in the rate at which you can keep it relevant for the conflict ahead of you, and put those capabilities in on time. You have to understand the training requirements, and the manpower.
So we’re standing up our innovative hub that’s connected to AFWERX—StrikeWerx. We’ve got great connections with academia here locally, and then building that more broadly. So that innovative space, that data, that ecosystem approach, means that I think we can be much more capable of keeping that margin in play, and doing it as affordably as we possibly can. So that piece, that’s an important part of just the organize, train, and equip.
We’re absolutely tying ourselves to space in a very formal way because that’s a big part of how we’re going to operate. Multi-domain command and control, multi-domain operations, means many sensors, many shooters. And to be able to connect them all together, I tell you, if you’re serious about long-range strike, you’re very serious about multi-domain operations, because that’s how we’re going to do this. And so it’s a big part of who we are.
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Airman Magazine: How important is it to develop and adopt simulation training technologies that are compatible across the command and that are scalable to an Air Force level?
Gen. Tim Ray: Starting locally at each of the wings, we’re beginning our own efforts to use augmented and virtual reality. It’s already in play in a couple of our wings. Certainly I see the ability to bring artificial intelligence into that, to make sure that we’re doing really smart stuff. We can measure human performance now more accurately, and so you can compare that to a standard.
I’m a huge fan of simulation. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there’s also some real-world things that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to keep those two things in balance. Not one before the other, but really it’s about putting them together correctly to give you the best trained Airmen, and that you’re relevant. I see us continuing to work down that line. I believe that all the new platforms that we’re bringing on with the new helicopter (MH-139 Grey Wolf), certainly the B-21, the new ICBM, and the new cruise missile, all those capabilities I think we have to bake in the virtual reality, augmented reality, dimensions to training, and the maintenance and the support and the operations. I think that’s got to be foundational, because it’s a much more affordable and more effective way to go.
Airman Magazine: General Goldfein said when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, that there might be a great cost to investing in it, but the cost of losing is going to be much higher. Can you expand on that statement?
Gen. Tim Ray: When you think of our nuclear triad, it must be looked at through the lens of the Chinese triad. Which is not big, but it’s a triad and modernized. The Russian triad which is large and modernized. Then, look at our triad through the minds of our allies and partners. That’s the context. And we don’t get to pick our own context. We don’t get to pick how we want to manage that. That’s the reality of how this operates.
Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.
Airman Magazine: How important is our commitment to our allies in this fight?
Gen. Tim Ray: What you’ll find is that, whatever happens in the nuclear realm, will need to play out in the capitals of all of our allies. What it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Because there are countries out there who are, on a routine basis, asking themselves whether they need to build a nuclear program. And because we’re doing what we do, the answer to that is no, they don’t have to. So there is a counter-proliferation dimension here. Back in the Cold War there was the United States, there was the UK, the French, and the Russians. Now there’s India, Pakistan, you’ve got North Korea, and China and so on. You’ve got a very different world. We don’t need more of those. It simply complicates it and makes it more difficult. So it has to play out in our minds, how we intend to stay the course in a way that works. That’s the difficult piece.
Airman Magazine: The Minuteman III was placed in the ground in 1973. As we look at updating those systems, moving toward more integrated, how do you look at the security aspect of that when it comes to the ICBM capability?
Gen. Tim Ray: Security on all dimensions for the nuclear portfolio is so critical. You have to have a very high degree of assurance there. What we’re doing is a priority
You now have a challenge with the old ICBM. When, not if, you need to make a modernization move for a new component, you have a phenomenal integration bill. Right now, we don’t own the technical baseline, which means we have to pay a very high price for that. It was not built to be modular, so now we have to have a lot more detailed engineering, and it’s going to take a lot longer to do that. And it’s less competitive, because there’s only handful of people, maybe one or two places which might even want to take that on.
For the new system, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, there’s a different value proposition there. One, it’s modular in design. It’s mature technology. It’s built to be in the ground for a long time. We’re talking about a two-third reduction in the number of convoys, which is a significantly safer world. It’s two thirds fewer openings of the site to do work on it, and to expose it to the outside. You’ll have a more modern communication capability, which means you can design in a much more cyber-resilient capability, and you can look at redundant paths. So I think at the end of the day, the value proposition of being able to make affordable modernization moves or changes to reduce the security challenge, and to bring in that modern technology that you can now work on in a competitive environment, that’s just a much smarter way of doing business.
Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Air Force just acquired a new helicopter which your command will be utilizing. Can you please talk about the acquisition of new technology for your command?
Gen. Tim Ray: There’s a formula for affordability. You need to have mature technology. You have to have stable requirements. You need to own the technical baseline so that you don’t have to pay the prime contractor extra money to go fix it. You need to be modular so that you can make very easy modern modifications without it having to be an entirely new engineering project. So you just have to reengineer that one piece to interface with it all. Then you’ve got to get it on the ramp on time, and then begin your modernization plan. That’s the formula. That’s exactly how the new helicopter played out in a competitive environment. It was the best option. I think we’re going to find it’s going to meet our needs quite well. That’s going to be a tremendous help, and I think it’s going to go faster than fielding a brand new system. So we’re modifying something that has the capacity to be modified. I think it’s a great, great success story.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.
Airman Magazine: The Air Force has the great responsibility of being entrusted with the most powerful weapons on the planet. What’s your view in being part of such a huge responsibility?
Gen. Timothy Ray: It is a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of two thirds … On a day to day basis, to be in charge of two thirds of the country’s nuclear arsenal, while there may be some instability, the world without these particular capabilities would be very different. I believe it’s important for us to look at it beyond simply day to day stewardship. If you really think about it, it’s not just the global strike portfolio, or the Air Force portfolio, or even the DoD, the Department of Defense, this is the nation’s arsenal. And the nation’s arsenal, and our leadership role in the world, and the role we play, there’s a tremendous application across the planet. So that just underscores how important it is on a day to day basis.
The M247 Sgt. Alvin York was pitched to officials and lawmakers alike as a precision shooter in the same vein as its legendary namesake and the silver bullet that would stop all Soviet aircraft — especially the feared Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter — that dared fly too low and close to ground troops.
Instead, it was an expensive boondoggle that couldn’t fight, couldn’t shoot accurately, and couldn’t tell the difference between a toilet and an enemy aircraft.
The M247 came from a requirement for a “Division Air Defense” weapon, a platform that could move forward with armored and infantry divisions and protect them from air-to-ground attacks. But the program was opened when the U.S. was already in the middle of five large weapons programs, and money was tight.
Every part of the weapon had a demonstrated history of performance, and so the anti-aircraft Frankenstein monster was expected to perform. But the F-16’s radar was never designed to deal with the amount of ground clutter that the York would have to deal with. And the M48’s chassis were getting worn out after years of service.
Second, the old chassis sometimes broke down under the increased weight of the larger York turret and the engines weren’t strong enough to propel the weapon quickly.
In fact, the York weighed 62 tons, 17 tons more than the original Pattons. The extra weight slowed the M247 so much that it couldn’t keep pace with the M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradleys that it was designed to primarily protect.
Third, the awesome Swedish cannons on the York provided their own problems. While capable, they were mounted in such a way that a weapon pointing high in the sky would confuse the already troubled radar.
And finally, the weapon wasn’t even accurate. In some tests, it failed to hit helicopters hovering completely still.
So, it couldn’t keep up with the vehicles it escorted, couldn’t properly find low targets because of ground clutter, couldn’t find high targets because of its own gun, and then couldn’t accurately hit anything it could find.
Army and Ford engineers worked hard to iron out the kinks, but they still had to resort to gimmicks like attaching radar-bouncing panels to targets to get the system to pass basic tests.
In one important display, VIPs from the military and Congress were invited to watch the York perform. The system failed to spot its target and instead locked onto something in the stands. It swung its own gun around to track it and several visitors suffered injuries in the scramble to escape the stands.
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-59-MC (S/N 73-1203) of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing from Clark Air Base, Philippines, flying out of Misawa Air Base, Japan, during "Cope North 80." (U.S. Air Force photo).
The air-to-air missiles of the F-4 Phantom II were notoriously unreliable in the skies over Vietnam. If the Phantom a pilot was flying was an early model and those missiles failed them in a dogfight, it was time to hightail it out of the sky.
Luckily for Col. Phil “Hands” Handley, he was flying a U.S. Air Force F-4E on June 2, 1972, when he and his wingman were surprised by two enemy MiG-19 fighters. That day, Handley would score the highest-speed air-to-air gun kill ever, breaking the speed of sound to do it.
Handley and three other F-4E Phantoms were flying out of Ubon Air Base in Thailand in support of a search and rescue mission near Hanoi. The Americans were looking for a pilot who was shot down 23 days prior.
Low on fuel, two of the F-4Es departed to rendezvous with an aerial tanker. Handley and his wingman kept flying the mission. The two were taken by surprise when two North Vietnamese MiG-19s appeared out of nowhere.
Neither pilot wanted to leave the other, but Handley’s wingman immediately went high. Turning hard into the pursuing enemy fighter planes, Handley turned on his afterburners and turned again, this time to the rear of the enemies. He made ready to fire his missiles.
Handley’s F-4E Phantom was carrying a total of four missiles. Two of them were AIM-4 heat-seeking missiles and two were AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. This didn’t bode well for the pilot or his wingman, because the AIM-7 Sparrow had a 10% probability of killing the target. The AIM-4 was much worse, with only a 5% probability of killing the target.
That huge gap between killing and failure was on full display when Handley fired his missiles. All either flew wide, flew up, dropped to the ground or didn’t leave the rail at all. Undoubtedly, there was no one more disappointed by this than Handley, except for maybe his wingman, who had two MiG-19s bearing down on him.
With his wingman critically low on fuel over “Thud Ridge” and unable to engage the enemy, his only chance was Handley’s 20mm cannon. It was a shot that had never been done before.
Closing in rapidly, which is an understatement considering Handley was flying at Mach 1.2, he fired a high deflection shot, a three-second burst from the plane’s M-61 Gatling gun into a MiG’s flight path.
300 rounds from the Phantom lit up the MiG-19, which exploded into a flying ball of fire. Handley’s own speed and flight path put a lot of distance from the remaining enemy fighter, which broke off its attack. His wingman met his date with the tanker and they all returned to Ubon Air Base.
It was the first time a pilot used his cannon at supersonic speed to down an enemy fighter. As if breaking a combat record wasn’t great enough, when the F-4E pilots returned to base, they learned the pilot they were searching for had been found and rescued.
“Hands” Handley would be in the United States Air Force for 26 years, retiring in 1984, still holding the record for the highest-speed guns kill in aviation combat history and the only supersonic guns kill ever made. To this day, he still holds that record.
1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg
Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.
What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.
Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.
Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.
Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.
2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats
Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.
Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.
Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.
FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.
Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.
The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.
After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.
At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.
3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”
Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?
The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.
The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.
At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.
4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system
WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.
The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.
Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.
5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds
This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.
And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.
The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.
The results weren’t fantastic, but the U.S. didn’t roll over. The operation continued for five years, undertaking over 2,000 missions and releasing nearly 50,000 cloud-seed chemicals throughout the trail. Lack of results aside, the dedication is still impressive.
Painting of the Battle of Guilford Court House (March 15, 1781) from Soldiers of the American Revolution by H. Charles McBarron. "[General Nathaniel] Greene observed as the veteran First Maryland Continentals threw back a British attack and countered with a bayonet charge. As they reformed their line, William Washington's Light Dragoons raced by to rescue raw troops of the Fifth Maryland who had buckled under a furious assault of British Grenadiers and Guards." (Source: Center of Military History.).
To the modern eye, accustomed to seeing armies wearing concealing uniforms and even face paint, to avoid becoming a target, an army wearing bright colors and marching in formations on a wide-open ground seems insane.
After all, the point of warfare to the untrained eye is to kill as many of the enemy as possible while not being killed yourself, right? The whole point is to make the other bastard die for his country, right?
That basic premise is as correct today as it was back then. Today, however, armies place the emphasis of that doctrine on the “while not being killed” part, whereas the armies of old placed the emphasis on the “killing as many of the enemy as possible” part.
The difference is in the kind of weapons infantry could use and the power organized forces had over individuals. A long line of men, three ranks deep and firing at the same time can put out a lot of destructive firepower at one time. The idea was to maximize the number of guns shooting into an enemy formation.
There was power in those formations. Formations provided protection and cover from charges and cavalry while making it easier for commanders to control their men and communicate with lower officers. It also was a morale booster for the men in the formation. Against a loosely dispersed formation, the rate of fire could be devastating.
If a rabble of hunters and frontiersmen were taking on an enemy army marching in formation, as is so often (falsely) depicted to be the case in places like the American frontier, the difference in rate of fire would mean that for every shot fired from the loosely-configured forces, each man could expect an estimated 16 rounds coming back at them – at once.
Besides, having a small, loosely formed rabble hiding in a treeline to try and pick off hundreds or thousands of well-trained and well-armed soldiers at a distance is suicidal. The weapons of the time aren’t accurate enough to maintain enough distance to keep the rabble from getting slaughtered, the smoke from the charge will give away their positions, and there probably isn’t enough treeline to hide enough men to actually take down a formation.
After firing their first round, the soldiers didn’t just take a knee to stop and reload, they countermarched to the rear so fresh troops with loaded rifles ready to go would come to the front. By the time the first three ranks were at the front again, they were loaded and ready for a new volley.
For anyone who thinks that firing a volley into a packed formation of soldiers is enough to scare off the rest of the formation, think again. The soldiers of yesteryear knew their lives depended on maintaining that formation. Forces who broke and ran became a loose formation, subject to the massed weight of fire any formation could shoot. It was far better for your own survival to march over your buddy’s dead body than turn and run.
Finally, men at arms in the armies of old did take cover whenever cover was possible, but on an open field, it’s not possible at times. Where armies of today would get into a prone position and make themselves as small a target as possible, soldiers of yesteryear would have a hard time reloading in a prone position.
After taking one shot, consider either rolling around on the ground trying to reload the muzzle-loading weapon you have or marching to the rear of a formation while you stand and reload standing up, behind a human wall, next to hundreds of battle buddies. Strength in numbers.
Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!
Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.
After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.
Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.
Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.
Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.
Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.
James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
Berry Gordy Jr
American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.
He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.
Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.
After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!
James Earl Jones
Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!
These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.
The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.
It may sound crazy, but an organization suffered worse losses in World War II than the Army, the Marine Corps, or even the Navy that was in charge of guarding it: The Merchant Marine, the sailors who crewed ships carrying goods from U.S. factories to European battlefields, lost nearly 4 percent of its members in the war.
Merchant Marine officers and crew members were in high demand in World War II, but it was a dangerous and largely thankless service.
(National Archives and Records Administration)
The Merchant Marine was never designed for front-line combat on the battlefield or on the ocean. It’s made up of mostly civilian members who conduct almost any type of maritime trade in peacetime, from fishing tours to oil shipping. During a war, the federal government can make these sailors into an auxiliary of the U.S. Navy.
And during World War II, these men went through light training before crewing ships that had to brave not only the seas and storms, but German U-boats that were organized into wolfpacks and ordered to hunt the Merchant Marine.
This forced these men into the worst of the fighting, despite their largely non-combat role. And it made sense for both sides. Logistics moves supplies and, along with the industry that creates those supplies, wins wars. Germany had a weak industrial base and needed to keep American industry out of the war as much as possible. But one of America’s greatest roles in the war was that of “Arsenal of Democracy,” and it couldn’t afford to keep the Merchant Marine at port.
German U-boats sank ships flying under Allied colors and didn’t have the ability to recover and rescue the people imperiled by the sinking.
(Willy Stower, public domain)
And so German U-boats patrolled the American coasts, sinking ships — sometimes within view of their ports. Whenever possible, German U-boats operated on the surface, drawing oxygen to run their diesel motors and attacking with deck guns that could punch holes in ships’ hulls and doom them. When that was too dangerous, they would hunt underwater and attack with torpedoes.
For the sailors of the Merchant Marine, this was terrifying. They were under threat of German attack from the moment they left the range of the shore guns until they reached European ports. American waters were actually some of the most dangerous as U-boats hunted the coast at night, looking for U.S. ship silhouettes blocking out lights from shore. Once they had the target, the subs could attack and disappear.
Counting the waters around the American Philippines, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico, the Merchant Marine lost approximately 196 ships in U.S. waters. Meanwhile in the Caribbean, our backyard, we lost another 180 ships. Officially, the U.S. lost 1,554 ships in the war. Approximately 8,000 to 12,000 Merchant Marine sailors were killed.
A ship sinks during World War II.
And the situations during the sinkings were terrifying. When ships were struck, sailors would have only minutes or seconds to get off the boat and to safety. Fires and the twisted hull could block passageways and make escape impossible. Jump into the water too early from too high and you could die from striking the water. Wait too long and the suction of the ship would pull you under to drown. Sharks, oil fires, and starvation could kill even those who made it out safely.
And, oddly enough, since the crews were often still technically civilians even when under Navy control, their pay stopped whenever they weren’t actively serving on a ship. That included when the ships were sunk under them and they had to spend weeks trying to reach a safe port.
The worst year, by far, was 1942, when approximately 500 ships were lost or captured in a single year. When the U.S. and the Axis Powers exchanged declarations of war in December 1941, U.S. ships sunk or otherwise lost skyrocketed from an average of 1 per month from January to November to about 55 in December, not counting Navy warships destroyed at Pearl Harbor.
“Victory” and “Liberty” ships under construction during World War II. These ships allowed American arms and supplies to be shipped en masse to Africa, Europe, and the Pacific.
(War Shipping Administration)
The U.S. rushed the convoy system from World War I back into service. Merchant ships were encouraged to sail in planned convoys with U.S. and British naval escort, and ships that took part were much safer than those who went it alone. Less than 30 percent of U.S. and allied ships lost to U-boat attacks were in a convoy while they were sunk.
This was due to a number of factors, the darkest of which was that, even when U-boats had the edge against Navy vessels, they needed to remain underwater. Since they couldn’t use their deck guns without surfacing, that meant they could only sink as many ships as they had torpedoes.
But British technological advances and the large American industrial base began giving potent sub-hunting weapons to the U.S. and Allied navies and, suddenly, the U-boats had a lot more to worry about when facing convoys than just their limited arsenals. By May, 1943, sonar, radar, improved depth charges, and other tools had tipped the battle in the Atlantic and across most of the oceans.
An illustration of the sinking of the Lusitania commissioned by the London Illustrated News. The ship was sank by U-boats, leading to America’s direct involvement in World War I.
While on a typical morning run in Smithfield, Virginia, a soldier witnesses a small boat capsize in the local Pagan River, then hears yelling and screaming coming from the area. As he looks around trying to pinpoint the sound, he takes off into a sprint to the end of the bridge, and with no hesitation he dives into the water.
He proceeds to swim 75 meters when he comes across a man struggling to stay afloat gripping onto the side of the boat. The men successfully turned the boat upright, but couldn’t get the excess water out and in a split decision U.S. Army Maj. Timothy Decker, operations officer for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, had to make the decision on how he would save 82 year-old George Gray.
“Once we couldn’t get the boat drained, I decided to have him hold on to it like a flotation device as I swam and pulled him and the boat,” Decker said. “After about a minute of trying that I realized we wasn’t making any progress to get closer to the shore line.”
Decker attempted to swim back to the same location he dove in, until he realized he was swimming against the current and was in the same spot he started just moments ago.
“I quickly changed directions and started swimming perpendicular to the current,” Decker said. “I was extremely exhausted, but I could see we were making progress, so I just pushed ahead. It took us five to seven minutes to reach a dock.”
U.S. Army Maj. Timothy Decker, operations officer for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, poses for a picture with George Gray in Smithfield, Va., Nov. 5, 2019.
(Photo by Bert Blanchette)
Throughout the whole process Decker explained how Gray maintained his composure and remained calm throughout the incident.
“It was pretty instantaneous from when he stepped foot on to the dock; he broke down in tears and gave me a big hug,” Decker said. “It was a very humbling experience.”
Shortly after, the police and ambulance were waiting to ensure both men were safe.
“I think anyone would have done what I did if they were in that situation,” Decker said. “I’m just happy I was there to help.”
Because of his actions on Oct. 5, 2019, when Decker saved Gray from drowning, Smithfield Police Department awarded him with the city’s Life Saving Award.
The Life Saving Award is issued to anyone whose actions saved the life of a fellow citizen in an emergency.
“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Gray said. “I was hanging on to the boat and I had on a really heavy coat and if it wasn’t for this gentlemen [Decker] I wouldn’t be here today.”
Mae Krier was on Capitol Hill, hoping to get Congress to recognize March 21 as an annual Rosie the Riveter Day of Remembrance.
Rosie the Riveter was an iconic World War II poster showing a female riveter flexing her muscle.
Krier also advocating that lawmakers award the “Rosies” — as women involved in the war effort at home came to call themselves — the Congressional Gold Medal for their work in the defense industry producing tanks, planes, ships and other materiel for the war effort.
During a visit to the Pentagon March 20, 2019, Krier told Air Force airmen that her lifelong mission is to inspire the poster’s “We Can Do It!” attitude among young girls everywhere.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, right, points out a Pentagon display to Mae Krier, center, March 20, 2019. With them is Dawn Goldfein, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
(DOD photo by David Vergun)
The spry 93-year-old walked around the Pentagon’s Air Force corridors, gazing at pictures and paintings of female airmen who were pioneers, telling every airman she met — both men and women — how proud she is of their service and giving away red polka-dotted Rosie the Riverter bandannas.
Krier said she grew up on a farm near Dawson, North Dakota. “Times were hard for us and for everyone else,” she said, noting that it was the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression in the 1930s.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Krier said, she and her sister had gone to a matinee. Upon their return home, they found their parents beside the radio with grave expressions. They had just learned that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
She said she remembers never having heard of Pearl Harbor. “Nobody had,” she said.
Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter, arrives at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., for her first-ever visit March 20, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)
Call to duty
Young men in Dawson and elsewhere were soon streaming away from home to board vessels that would take them to Europe and the Pacific war theaters, she said.
Among them was her brother. After seeing him off at the train station and returning home, she said, she saw her father crying — something he never did. The war “took the heart out of our small town and other towns across the country,” she said. “People everywhere were crying.”
Krier’s brother served in the Navy and survived a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. “Our family was lucky that no one was killed during the war,” she said.
Adventures in Seattle
As a restless teen seeking adventure in 1943, Krier said, she set off by train to Seattle. She recalls the windows of her train being stuck open, with snow flying in.
The big city life was exciting to the farm girl. She said she loved to listen to big-band music. She also loved to go to the dance hall, and was particularly fond of the jitterbug.
Gwendolyn DeFilippi (left) the Headquarters U.S. Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personal and services, and a Rosebud, takes a moment to speak with Ms. Dawn Goldfein, spouse of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Mae Krier an original Rosie the Riveter during Krier’s first-ever visit to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., March 20, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)
While dancing the Jitterbug one day in 1943, she said, she was charmed by a sailor, whom she would marry in 1944. He, too, was lucky, she said. He participated in the Aleutian Islands campaign in Alaska, where the Japanese had landed on the islands of Attu and Kiska.
They would be married for 70 years. He died recently at 93.
Becoming a Rosie
Krier said she doesn’t remember the exact details of how she ended up as a riveter, but she found work doing just that in a Boeing aircraft factory in Seattle, where she riveted B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers.
“We loved our work. We loved our flag. We all pulled together to win the war,” she said. “It was a good time in America.”
Meeting Air Force leaders
Krier said she enjoyed her visit to the Pentagon and meeting dozens of leaders and enlisted personnel. Among those she met were Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and his wife, Dawn.
Lt. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, Headquarters Air Force director of Staff, gives Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter, a tour of the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., during her first-ever visit March 20, 2019. Krier was accompanied by Dawn Goldfein, the spouse of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)
Goldfein gave Krier a hug, and she exclaimed that she could now say she hugged a general. Goldfein replied: “Now I can say I hugged a Rosie the Riveter.”
Krier also met Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, who, along with Dawn Goldfein, led her around to see the various wall exhibits in the corridors. Krier was pleased to hear that Van Ovost was an aviator as are so many other female airmen today.
The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) participated in a cooperative deployment with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships JS Izumo (DH-183), JS Murasame (DD-101) and JS Akebono (DD-108) June 10-12, 2019.
Reagan, Akebono, Izumo and Murasame conducted communication checks, tactical maneuvering drills and liaison officer exchanges designed to address common maritime security priorities and enhance interoperability at sea.
“Having a Japanese liaison officer aboard to coordinate our underway operations has been beneficial and efficient,” said Lt. Mike Malakowsky, a tactical actions officer aboard Ronald Reagan.
“As we continue to operate together with the JMSDF, it makes us a cohesive unit. They are an integral part of our Strike Group that doubles our capability to respond to any situation.”
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships with US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, in background, during a cooperative deployment.
(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Murasame, foreground, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.
(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)
Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force ship JS Izumo, left, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.
(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)
Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
The US Navy just released an impressive video of two of its aircraft carriers exercising in the Philippine Sea, but a new report from the US government said these massive floating air bases could be sitting ducks for Chinese missiles.
The USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John C. Stennis carrier strike groups conducted “high-end dual carrier operations” during the training in November 2018, a US Navy statement said.
The two carrier strike groups include guided-missile destroyers — meant to protect the carriers and other important assets — which trained with the carrier’s complex air, surface and antisubmarine warfare operations, according to the Navy.
The Navy said the exercise was dedicated to preserving a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which has become code for countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea.
Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
But even with two massive carriers, eight other ships, and about 150 aircraft flying overhead, the US government itself strains to believe it can stop China from locking down the region.
“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” a report from the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts handpicked by Congress to evaluate the 2018 National Defense Strategy — explained.
The report specifically points to “China’s anti-access/area-denial capabilities,” or Beijing’s ability to use long-range missiles to keep US systems, like aircraft carriers, out of the combat zone.
These area-denial capabilities have taken aim at the US’ most expensive, most powerful, and most vulnerable systems: aircraft carriers.
China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” missile was specifically built to destroy aircraft carriers. While the carriers sail with guided-missile destroyers meant to protect them from incoming missile fires, there’s no guarantee they could block the carrier killers. Even if the destroyers could knock them down, China has a massive fleet of these missiles and could simply overwhelm the ships’ defensive arsenals.
The DF-21D has a range of about 800 miles, and with the max range of US Navy carrier aircraft tapping out at about 550 miles, China can force the US to either back down from a fight or risk losing a carrier.
“Detailed, rigorous operational concepts for solving these problems and defending U.S. interests are badly needed, but do not appear to exist,” the report wrote of the area-denial missiles and other threats to the US.
“Put bluntly, the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights,” the report concludes.
Here’s the video of the carriers training in the Philippine Sea:
[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fmedia%2Fthumbs%2Fframes%2Fvideo%2F1811%2F640845%2F1000w_q75.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.dvidshub.net&s=925&h=2dcfab797ffdb5ff92c7c524ab64c67e654febc489e12241cf73ae6c6f4e156e&size=980x&c=456130137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fmedia%252Fthumbs%252Fframes%252Fvideo%252F1811%252F640845%252F1000w_q75.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fcdn.dvidshub.net%26s%3D925%26h%3D2dcfab797ffdb5ff92c7c524ab64c67e654febc489e12241cf73ae6c6f4e156e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D456130137%22%7D” expand=1]USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan dual carrier strike force exercise.
During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.
Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West
The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.
A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.
A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.
An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.
(Alfred Rudolf Waud)
The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.
At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.
This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.
Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.
At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.
Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.
(David Humphreys Miller)
During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.
But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.
The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.