Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Pigeons are one of the most annoying and disgusting parts of living in a city these days. But did you know that those winged rats were once well-decorated war heroes?


The World Wars had dramatically increased the pace of technological advancement and gave rise to early forms quick communication, such as radio and telephone. But radio was easily intercepted and telephone wires were obvious to the enemy. Pigeons, on the other hand, had a surprising 95 percent efficiency and could carry longer-form messages than those sent by telegraph.

Communications between squads and battalions were typically delivered by a runner — a troop that moved across the battlefield carrying a message. For higher level communications, signal troops would write messages on tiny pieces of paper that would then be rolled up and attached to pigeons. Pigeons have natural magnetoreceptors and an instinct to return home, both of which they use to send a message on its way.

These birds can travel great distances in a (relatively) short amount of time. Princess the Pigeon, for example, managed a 500-mile flight during World War II when she carried vital information about the British troops fighting in Crete to RAF in Alexandria, Egypt.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
Not all pigeons in England are terrible.
(Imperial War Museum)

Pigeons weren’t just sent as messengers. As early as World War I, innovators attached cameras to the birds who would then fly about the battlefield as the camera automatically snapped photographs.

As you’d expect, most photos came out terribly but, on occasion, you’d get a photo that would prove the idea wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
(Imperial War Museum)

The most well-known story of the war pigeons is that of Cher Ami (which translates to “dear friend” from French). On Oct. 3, 1918, 195 American troops of the Lost Battalion were trapped behind enemy lines. Their position was surrounded on every side by German forces. To make matters worse, American artillery had started raining down on their position. Maj. Whittlesey affixed a message to Cher Ami and let her lose.

The message read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Cher Ami was spotted by the Germans and shot down. Despite her wounds, she managed to take flight again and complete her 25-mile journey in just 25 minutes. She did this after taking a bullet to the chest, being blinded in one eye, and nearly losing the leg to which her crucial message was attached. Thanks to Cher Ami, all 195 men survived.

She was patched up and sent back home to the U.S. by Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing himself.


MIGHTY HISTORY

6 nations that had no problems invading Russia in the winter

If there’s one generally accepted rule of warfare, it’s that you should never invade Russia during the winter. Hitler tried it and failed horribly, Napoleon tried before that and found equally terrible results, and the Swedes who fought in the Great Northern War would tell a similar story.


Supply lines running thin in the freezing cold and enveloping mud spells doom for anyone attacking into a Russian winter — or does it? For some reason, history tends to overlook the many times Russia has lost in the cold, despite their home-turf advantage.

1. The Japanese — Russo-Japanese War

Because the giant nation’s borders have changed throughout history, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes the “Russia” part of a “Russian winter.” Most historians would define it as invading west of the Steppes, but technically, the Japanese attacked Russia by taking Russian-controlled Korea and Manchuria.

Japan invaded and conquered the Korean peninsula in February 1904. Ironically, Tsar Nicholas II couldn’t get the supplies needed from the Western half of Russia due to intense winter weather — the same conditions that, supposedly, make Russia impregnable. As a result, the Japanese were able to fortify and held the territory until the end of WWII.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
If you want to conquer Russia, use their winters against them.

2. The Finns — Continuation War

As hard fought as the Winter War between Finland and the USSR was, the Finns managed to hold onto their independence by ceding 11% of their bordering lands to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland sought to regain these lands by making an enemy-of-my-enemy pact with Nazi Germany in 1941.

Finnish forces pushed through to Leningrad so “successfully” that it made Hitler confident he could do the same. Except, in this case, “success” meant that cannibalism wasn’t too widespread.  Though trying, the Finns were able to hold onto territory until 1944, when Finland sided with their archenemy, Russia, to fight off Nazi Germany.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

3. The Swedes — Ingrian War

Swedish invasions combined with ongoing Polish aggression (detailed below) in the early 17th century kicked off what has since been known in Russian history as “the Time of Trouble.” Sweden sought to capture the Russian throne, and they started by launching an offensive on Novgorod, which resulted in the successful installation of a Swedish monarch.

To find eventual peace, treaties were formed and broken and reformed and rebroken and finally reformed in favor of Sweden. Either way, the Swedish Kingdom pushed the Russians back to Kola and, in the process, kicked off what the Swedes call their “Age of Greatness.” Eventually, the Russians and Swedes formed an uneasy alliance because both of them were more focused on another common enemy: Poland.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

4. The Poles — Livonian War

Not to be outdone by the Swedes, Poland also got involved with conflict in the Russians around the turn of the 17th century. Swedish and Polish armies invaded Russia from different fronts and would eventually fight each other. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth get most of the credit for invading Russia because they seized and held territory in the name of Roman Catholicism.

The Polish king, Stefan Bathory, lead a widely-successful, five-year campaign against Ivan IV (or, as history knows him, Ivan the Terrible). It would take years for Russian forces to reunify under the Romanov dynasty and defend the Kremlin.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

5. The Central Powers — WWI

During WWI, the Germans managed to push the Eastern front all the way to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and caused enough instability to forever change Russian history. Germany pressured Russia into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which made Russia give up control of Poland and the Baltic States after fighting through the long winter of 1917-1918, effectively putting an end to fighting on the Eastern Front.

This was also what would sway public support for the Communist Red Army. In a way, the Czardom of Russia was completely destroyed because they lost a war fought in a Russian winter.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

6. The Mongols — The Golden Horde conquests

And, of course, the grandsons of Ghengis Khan very successfully curb-stomped the Kievan Rus’ at the height of the Mongol Empire. They cleared out Ryazan and Suzdal in December 1237 and eventually pushed their way into Kiev by December 1240. They were without supply lines (they were nomads — they didn’t rely on them) and were very much on Russian soil as winter set in. Their primary means of battle, the cavalry, were very susceptible to the rigors of winter, but still dominated.

Nearly every harsh element of harsh winters should have crippled the Mongol forces. Instead, the Mongols only stopped because they had little interest in holding territory.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
They took over castles with arrows and spears. What’s your excuse? (Courtesy Painting)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis says the US will not seek regime change in Iran

The United States is not after regime change in Iran, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said.

Asked whether the U.S. administration had created a regime change or collapse policy, Mattis said on July 27, 2018, “There’s none that’s been instituted.”

He said the goal of the United States was to change Iran’s behavior, as stated by other U.S. officials.


“We need them to change their behavior on a number of threats that they can pose with their military, with their secret services, with their surrogates, and with their proxies,” Mattis said during an off-camera briefing at the Pentagon.

Mattis’s remarks followed high-level discussions at the White House that included the issue of Iran.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani


They came amid increased tensions and an exchange of threats between Washington and Tehran, including a July 22, 2018 all-capital-letters post on Twitter by Donald Trump in which the U.S. president warned Iran not to “threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Trump’s tweet came following comments by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who said: “America should know peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and announced that the United States is moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

The move was harshly criticized by Iran.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA cures 100,000 vets from Hepatitis C

VA will soon mark 100,000 veterans cured of hepatitis C. This is exciting news and puts VA on track to eliminate hepatitis C in all eligible veterans enrolled in VA care who are willing and able to be treated.

Building on this success, VA takes on another important issue during Hepatitis Awareness Month: making sure all veterans experiencing homelessness are vaccinated for hepatitis A.

Recently, there have been multiple large outbreaks of hepatitis A among people who are homeless and people who use injection drugs across the U.S. Currently, there is a large outbreak in Tennessee and Kentucky that has affected well over 5,000 people across the two states with 60 deaths reported thus far.


Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, advising that all individuals experiencing homelessness be vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Given that individuals experiencing homelessness may also be at increased risk of exposure to hepatitis B, VA recommends vaccination for those with risk factors against both hepatitis A and B, as appropriate.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

3D illustration of the Liver.

During Hepatitis Awareness Month, the HIV, Hepatitis, and Related Conditions Programs, the Homeless Programs, and the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are collaborating to raise awareness on this issue.

We are collaborating with leadership and frontline providers to ensure all identified veterans who are homeless, non-immune and unvaccinated for hepatitis A and those at risk of HBV exposure are offered vaccination, as appropriate, at their next VA appointment.

Veterans who are interested in either hepatitis A or B vaccination may ask their VA provider for more information.

Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19) is a great reminder to check in with your provider about hepatitis C testing and treatment as well.

Learn more about hepatitis on the VA’s Viral Hepatitis website.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USS Fitzgerald returns to sea more than 2 years after fatal collision

A Navy warship that was damaged in a deadly 2017 collision left a Mississippi shipyard on Monday morning after more than two years of repairs.


The guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald will undergo testing at sea to make sure it’s capable of taking on new missions. Seven sailors were killed on June 17, 2017, when the Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.

The destroyer’s crew is credited with saving the vessel after that devastating accident. Now, Navy officials say the Fitz is marking “a significant step in her return to warfighting readiness.”

The ship has spent two years undergoing repairs at the Huntington Ingalls Industries-Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Pascagoula shipyard. It will now carry out a series of demonstrations at sea that will test the ship’s navigation, electrical, combat, communications and propulsions systems.

“The underway reflects nearly two years’ worth of effort in restoring and modernizing one of the Navy’s most capable warships after it was damaged during a collision in 2017 that claimed the lives of seven Sailors,” a Naval Sea Systems Command news release states.

Once the evaluations are done, the destroyer will head back to the shipyard for more training and crew certifications. The Fitzgerald is scheduled to return to the fleet in the spring.

“We are excited to take the next step to get Fitzgerald back out to sea where the ship belongs,” Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “My crew is looking forward to moving onboard the ship and continuing our training to ensure we are ready to return to the fleet.”

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

The Fitzgerald was one of two destroyers damaged in separate fatal 2017 collisions in the Pacific. Ten sailors died when guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided with a civilian tanker near Singapore about two months after the Fitzgerald accident.

That ship headed back to sea in October for testing after years’ worth of repairs.

The tragic accidents sparked a host of changes to the way the Navy trains personnel to operate on ships, as well as to sleep schedules and other policies. The accidents also led to fierce criticism after reports found Navy leaders had ignored a host of warning signs in the months and years leading up to the collisions.

Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces Pacific Fleet, is scheduled to testify before members of the House this week on the state of Navy readiness in the Pacific.

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

Articles

This Special Forces legend was saved by his beard

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication


Col. James “Nick” Rowe played a large role in designing the modern training programs for Special Forces soldiers, especially the school that prepares troops to survive being taken captive.

Rowe graduated West Point in 1960 and was eventually sent to South Vietnam as a military advisor. In 1963, then-1st Lt. Rowe was captured in a Viet Cong ambush and taken to a prison camp.Rowe’s intimate knowledge of how to survive captivity came from the more than five years he spent as a captive of the Viet Cong before successfully escaping, something he likely wouldn’t have accomplished without his beard.

For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.

In order to convince his guards that he wasn’t a threat, Rowe told them that he was an engineer drafted into the Army. They still tortured him, but he stuck to his story until anti-war activists in America released his bio and the North Vietnamese government learned he was Special Forces.

Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.

As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class James K. F. Dung

They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.

Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.

Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.

On Apr. 21, 1989, he was on his way to the advisory group headquarters when his vehicle came under fire and he was killed.

Rowe wrote a book about his time in the prison camp, “Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Review: The Daniel Defense Delta 5 is a bolt-action rifle with AR modularity

The AR rifle platform is popular among gun enthusiasts because of its customization. The modular platform allows gun owners the freedom to accessorize or even create their own build from the comfort of their own homes — the epitome of user friendly in the rifle world. Now, thanks to Daniel Defense, that modularity has spread to the much-loved bolt gun with the Delta 5 long-range precision rifle.

Daniel Defense is known for their AR rifles, parts, and accessories, so the Delta 5 is a first for them in the realm of precision rifles. The modular bolt gun features out-of-the-box customization that would typically require professional gunsmithing. From the user-configurable stock to the interchangeable cold-hammer forged barrel, the user can tailor this rifle to fit their personal preferences without the wait.


Daniel Defense didn’t just “manufacture” a rifle, they designed this gun with the user in mind. Except for the Timney trigger, the entire rifle — from the buttstock to the barrel — was carefully designed and engineered in-house by Daniel Defense.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

The author takes aim with the first bolt-gun offering from Daniel Defense, the Delta 5.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)

The rifle I tested was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s also available in .308 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington. After firing more than 500 rounds through the Delta 5, ringing steal at 1,000 yards and beyond, it’s evident that this gun is a fast-cycling tack driver.

The mechanically bedded stainless steel action of the Delta 5 is unique, and the design plays a huge part in the rifle’s accuracy. The three-lug bolt with 60-degree bolt throw and floating bolt head provides excellent lock-up and enables the shooter to get shots off faster. Combined with the integral recoil lug, this enables consistent performance for the shooter. A 20 MOA/5.8 MRAD Picatinny scope base requires fewer adjustments for long-distance shots.

However, where the Delta 5 really changes the game is the barrel, which is interchangeable at the user’s level. The fact that changing the barrel does not require a gunsmith makes moving between calibers dramatically easier and something the user can do at home. The barrels are made from stainless CHF steel, which provides longer life and requires no break-in time. These exceptional barrels are cold-hammered forged, providing a greater potential for accuracy compared to others, and the heavy Palma contour reduces the weight to 64 percent of that of other precision barrels.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

The length of pull of the Delta 5 is adjustable by inserting or removing quarter- and half-inch spacers between the stock and the buttpad.

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Defense)

During my range session, the feature that stood out to me the most was the Timney Elite Hunter trigger. This is a single-stage trigger with a two-position safety and is adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds, enabling a smooth pull and crisp reset.

Running the bolt is an easy and smooth pull, and if the bolt knob isn’t a good fit for your hand, the threaded bolt handle makes it easy for the user to install an aftermarket knob. What took some getting used to was the long stroke required when running the bolt. If you run it by memory, you’ll come up short, resulting in an empty chamber click. After spending some time with the gun, you start to become accustomed to the longer stroke, making it much easier and a little more automatic.

The stock of the Delta 5 brings more to the table than aesthetics alone. The eye-catching design is not only ergonomic, but also the carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer construction aids in longer life and lighter weight. The Delta 5 is also configurable for length of pull, shipping with quarter-inch and half-inch spacers, and the cheek riser is adjustable for preferred height, yaw, and drift. There is a total of 14 M-LOK points along the forend, one at the bottom of the stock and three M-LOK QD sling points.

I paired the Delta 5 with the Bushnell Forge Optic. Together, this duo has the power to make anyone feel like a sharpshooter with minimal effort. If you’re a fan of long-range precision shooting, the Delta 5 is worth testing. Daniel Defense didn’t enter the precision rifle game with a cookie-cutter product — they combined cutting-edge technology with in-house manufacturing, and wrapped it in a user-friendly, modular package.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A US Air Force A-10 accidentally fired off a rocket over Arizona

A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.

The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.

The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.


The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.

Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)

At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.

While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.

A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This police detective is looking for an uncle who went MIA over occupied France

Tom McCaslin is a police detective in Omaha, Neb. and his coldest case is turning 75 in 2019. It’s the search for his uncle, Staff Sgt. Thomas J. McCaslin, one of eight crew members of a bomber that was shot down over Nazi-occupied France on June 22, 1944.

All these decades later, his nephew is hunting for his remains in order to bring the bomber crewman back home while four of his 12 siblings are still alive.


Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Top row, from left: Lt. Col. Don Weiss, Lt. David Meserow, Lt. Axel Slustrop. Bottom row: Staff Sgt. John H. Canty,, S/Sgt. Tom McCaslin, T/Sgt. Clement Monaco. All but Monaco were aboard the B-26 when it was shot down.

Their B-26 Marauder was shot down by Nazi flak while supporting the Allied push inland. As the British Second Army fought the German Panzergruppe West in the streets of below, the crew of the B-26 tried in vain to stay aloft. They went down anyway, and that was the last anyone ever heard of them. Well, most of them, anyway. The first was found in 1946, buried after the crash by locals. The remains of the bird’s four officers were discovered in 1986 by a farmer in his fields. They were taken to the American cemetery at Normandy. Another, the enlisted top tail gunner, was found by an amateur historian who also found the man’s dog tag.

That leaves two – and one of those is Thomas J. McCaslin, the Marauder’s bottom turret gunner. McCaslin’s nephew is looking for his uncle and the other crewman.

“If there’s a lead to follow, I’ll keep looking into it,” McCaslin told the Hartford Courant.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Det. Tom McCaslin of Omaha, Neb.

McCaslin’s mission has led him to talk to both the historian and the farmer who found the previous remains. He has also obtained numerous documents about the B-26 mission. It was one of 36 planes to fly over a chateau being used as a headquarters building by the Nazi SS. As the bomber began to make its run and open the doors, a flak burst cut the plane in two and sent it careening to earth. No one was able to bail out. In 40 seconds, it was all over, leaving those eight men among the 73,000 who would be unaccounted for during the war. McCaslin even has aerial recon photos of the crash site taken right after the crash.

McCaslin and his detective skills are largely responsible for the 2018 discovery of Staff Sgt. John Canty’s remains. His work persuaded French authorities to further search the field where his dog tag was found. Canty was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery. From interviewing relic hunters to requesting documents, McCaslin has worked tirelessly to track down the entire crew since the discovery of the first remains – which he only learned about through a newspaper.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

The B-26 Marauder.

Detective McCaslin and his family have all worked the case tirelessly for years. As a family, they have hounded government agencies in an effort to step up the recovery of his uncle and another unaccounted-for airman from his crew. All hope is not lost. McCaslin is currently waiting for the DNA identification of some finger bones found in the area. He even has an eyewitness to the battle who reports that she saw parachutes as a young girl.

“The stuff they’ve uncovered is incredible,” says Jed Henry, a journalist and independent researcher who has become an advocate for families of missing service members from World War II. “To have the intelligence to sort through it, and the tenacity — and to care about it. … I’ve never seen a family that has gotten into this as much as they have.”

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

“My uncle joined (the military) in 1942, and we never saw him again,” Tom McCaslin said. “If there’s a chance to find him, we should do it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a tuba led to the National Guard training allies in Europe

In some ways, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program — which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide — started with a tuba.

“The Latvian military band needed a big tuba,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Conaway, the 22nd chief of the NGB and “father” of the SPP. “And we hauled a tuba over there.”


The trip with the tuba was part of the early planning stages for the program, which turns 25 in 2018.

“We delivered that tuba to the Latvian band and they were amazed to get it,” said Conaway. “That started the program with the first, initial visit.”

That first visit lead the way to a program that now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world. But it all started with three: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We were received in grand fashion in all three places,” said Conaway, referring to that initial trip. Where it would go from there, he added, was then still unknown.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “But, we had the visit. That was the start.”

That first visit was the result of a simple directive from Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then-supreme allied commander in Europe with NATO, and who would be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993.

“He called me up and said “we’ve got to help these new emerging democracies [in the Baltics],'” said Conaway, adding that after additional planning with Pentagon officials, he formed a small team and they started working with the State Department. That led to meeting with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as military officials in those countries.

“It looked like they wanted our help and we started talking about putting liaison officers from the National Guard on orders with them,” said Conaway. “Our role was to help make the transition [to democracy] as smooth as we could.”

The idea of liaison officers grew into tying specific Guard elements with specific countries.

“The [team] and I huddled and thought, “We’ve got tons of Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania,'” Conaway said. “It fit. We’ll tie Lithuania to the Pennsylvania National Guard.”

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
Sgt. 1st Class Harry R. Martinez, right, with the New Jersey Army National Guard, demonstrates how to load an ammunition drum on a M249 squad automatic weapon to Albanian Officer Candidate Endri Deda while training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

The idea grew from there.

“There were a lot of Latvian-Americans in Michigan, so we got with the adjutant general [of the Michigan National Guard] and tied them together with Latvia,” said Conaway. “There are Estonian-Americans in Baltimore, and so we tied [Estonia] together with the Maryland National Guard.”

Conaway added there was little precedent to follow while developing the program.

“We were doing this off the back of an envelope back then,” he said. “It was happening so fast.”

By the time Conaway retired in November 1993, the SPP had 13 partnerships, primarily with former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.

The following years saw new partnerships added from across the globe.

“It’s grown to 74 partnerships and that’s been an incremental growth of about two to three partnerships a year,” said Air Force Col. Donald McGuire, chief of the international affairs branch at the NGB.

As the program has expanded, the process for adding new partnerships has become more refined.

First, the country has to request to be a member of the program, said McGuire, adding that input from the State Department and the combatant command — the U.S. military command element overseeing specific geographic regions — goes along with that request.

“They collectively decide that this is a good country we want to nominate for selection into the program,” said McGuire, adding that from there staff work is done to determine the best course of action with pairing up elements for a partnership.

“It’s very analytical what the staff here does,” said McGuire. “They put a lot of hard work and brain cells against making sure they’re doing a good analysis to give the chief [of the NGB] the best recommendation they can.”

The long-term success of the program has come about, in part, from that intrinsic relationship with both the State Department and the combatant command, said McGuire. The SPP is nested with the command’s theater security cooperation plan and the State Department’s country study plan.

“It’s in tune with the combatant commanders, therefore, it’s in tune or synchronized with the National Defense Strategy,” McGuire said.

Building relationships, said McGuire, is one of the hallmarks of the program.

“This provides, perhaps, the most well-known and established international partnership capability the National Guard is involved with,” he said. “These are relationships that have grown over the course of time and continue to grow.”

Those relationships have not only seen partners in the program train together, but also work together in the wake of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication
Soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard demonstrate how to properly apply camouflage concealment to the face at Babadag Training Area in eastern Romania

It’s also seen co-deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.

“You wouldn’t have these countries and units deploying together, necessarily, if they didn’t already have this relationship.”

McGuire added that’s a significant element.

“That tells you a lot about the program,” he said. “These co-deployments are real-world operations, named contingencies that represent the next level of collaboration and coordination.”

Building collaboration and coordination is also key to building greater regional security, said Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the NGB’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs.

“In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers,” he said.

For Conaway, the continued growth of the program is more than he imagined 25 years ago.

“It is beyond my wildest dreams and imagination that it would be this passionate and this popular and the good the National Guard has done,” he said. “Here we are, 25 years after it started and the National Guard is just as enthusiastic as ever.”

The pairing of the West Virginia National Guard with Qatar was announced in April 2018, and McGuire said additional partnerships are in the coordination phase.

“We have a few more partnerships in the queue,” he said, adding he sees continued growth of the program over the next 25 years and beyond.

“It really is the entry point to a lot of good things that happen,” McGuire said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George H.W. Bush’s overlooked legacy in space exploration

On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, President George H. W. Bush stood on the steps of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and, backed by the Apollo 11 crew, announced his new Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). He believed that this new program would put America on a track to return to the moon and make an eventual push to Mars.


“The time has come to look beyond brief encounters. We must commit ourselves anew to a sustained program of manned exploration of the solar system and, yes, the permanent settlement of space,” he said.

As a political scientist who seeks to understand space exploration’s place in the political process, I approach space policy with an appreciation of the political hurdles high-cost, long-term and technologically advanced policies face. My research has shown that policy change both in general and in space policy, is often hard to come by, something exemplified by the Bush administration.

Vice President George W. Bush, Sr. talks to STS-1 Flight Crew

www.youtube.com

Among Bush’s many political accomplishments, few recall SEI, probably because it was largely panned immediately following its announcement. However, Bush’s presidency came at a key turning point in NASA’s history and ultimately contributed to the success of the International Space Station, NASA leadership and today’s space policy. As the country mourns his passing and assesses his legacy, space should rightly be included on Bush’s list of accomplishments.

While presidents are usually the most closely associated with the American space program, vice presidents often play a vital role. As Ronald Reagan’s vice president, Bush was intimately involved with NASA throughout the 1980s. He visited the astronauts who crewed the second shuttle mission in 1981, commiserating with them about their mission which had been shortened. And, he often enjoyed speaking to astronauts mid-flight.

In a 1985 White House speech, Bush announced that teacher Christa McAuliffe would fly aboard the ill-fated Challenger. In the wake of the disaster, Reagan dispatched Bush to meet with the families at Kennedy Space Center given his ties to the mission. After a private meeting with the families, Bush addressed NASA employees at Kennedy and pledged the space program would go forward, a promise he kept as president.

SEI and the Space Station

Shortly after taking office, the Bush administration sought to provide a vision for NASA. Bush reinstated the National Space Council and, allied with Vice President Dan Quayle, developed the SEI to coincide with the anniversary of Apollo 11. With less than six months between Bush’s inauguration and July 1989, there was little time to flesh out specific deadlines or funding sources. What resulted was a vague promise to build a planned space station in the next decade, return to the moon and venture onto Mars. With this lack of specifics, the SEI aroused immediate suspicion from both NASA and Congress.

The SEI faced a number of political hurdles upon its announcement. But 90 days later, opposition to SEI grew exponentially when a follow-up analysis of the initiative revealed a 30-year plan with a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag. Then the discovery of a flawed lens on the Hubble Space Telescope after its launch in 1990, the massive cost overruns on what was then called Space Station Freedom (the program had grown from billion in 1984 to billion in 1992), and an economic downturn all combined to threaten overall funding for NASA. While Bush lobbied aggressively for the SEI, the program failed to receive support and was largely shelved.

But what emerged from the SEI was still significant. When Congress threatened to cut funding to and essentially end the nascent space station, the Bush administration pushed to save it. Although NASA’s overall funding was cut, Bush’s support and the rationale behind the SEI gave the space station enough continued importance that Congress restored 0 billion to the space station budget.

Finally, the moon to Mars framework has remained relevant in human spaceflight. George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, proposed in 2004, retained the same goals but grounded it with a clear timetable and budget. Proposing a moon-Mars program is nothing revolutionary, but the SEI kept the idea of an expansive exploration agenda alive.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

President George H. W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle joined Apollo 11 astronauts to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

One of most significant impacts a president can have on a bureaucracy is choice of agency leadership. In that area, Bush succeeded in placing his stamp on NASA for years to come. Bush’s first choice for NASA administrator, former astronaut Richard Truly, was out of his depth politically. Truly did not support SEI and other space initiatives and was fired in 1991, partially at Vice President Quayle’s urging.

Bush’s choice to replace Truly was Dan Goldin, who became NASA’s longest serving administrator, staying on through the Clinton administration. Characterized as one of the most influential administrators in NASA history, Goldin took on the job of finding more support for the space station. He convinced Clinton that it could be useful in foreign policy. As a result, Clinton used the space station as a tool to ease Russia’s transition to a democratic state. The International Space Station was launched in 1998 due in large part to the support from the Bush administration. Having hosted 232 people from 18 countries, the ISS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

More importantly, Goldin initiated a program known as “faster, better, cheaper” (FBC), which required NASA to do more with less by bumping up the number of lower cost missions. Although this mindset led to several high-profile failures, including a crashed Mars probe, Goldin successfully shifted NASA onto a more sustainable political footing. As a result, Bush’s choice of NASA leadership was crucial to the direction and success of American space exploration.

Bush’s legacy

Space exploration is a difficult policy field. It requires long-term planning, consistent funding and visionary leadership, any one of which is difficult to achieve. Further, space policy is incredibly sensitive to overall economic dynamics, making it susceptible to continual budget cuts.

One can certainly debate the benefits of the International Space Station or the scientific value of human space exploration but, for better or for worse, NASA is the agency it is today because of the choices George H.W. Bush made as president. Ad astra, President Bush.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China plans new satellites to spy in South China Sea

China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.

Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.


“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”

The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.

The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.

Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.

In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.

The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.

“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why moving Fort Campbell’s Gander Memorial Park is for the best

On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.

This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.

After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.


Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)

The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.

All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.

(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)

The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.

Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.

Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.

(National Archives)

The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.

In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,

“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”

“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”