How the top brass actually tried to prevent Pearl Harbor attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the top brass actually tried to prevent Pearl Harbor attack

Army Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short and Navy Adm. Husband Kimmell, the senior Army and Navy defenders at Pearl Harbor, certainly fell short in December, 1941, and their failures compounded others in the weeks leading up to the infamous battle.

But the fact that they received nearly all of the blame for the failures at Pearl Harbor is a miscarriage of justice that overlooks their many requests for additional weapons, land, equipment, and troops. Such requests, if granted, would have allowed defenders on the island to much more quickly and effectively sling lead back at their Japanese attackers.


Take, for starters, Then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall’s letter to Short on the day Short took command, Feb. 7, 1941 — exactly 10 months before the attack.

Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short commanded Army forces in Hawaii for the 10 months before the Pearl Harbor attack.

(National Archives)

In the letter, Marshall opens with an assessment of Short’s new Navy counterpart, Kimmell, and how Kimmell had recently complained about shortages of defensive Army materiel.

Marshall explains, point-by-point, when he will provide certain pieces of equipment to Short and why other pieces cannot be found. He acknowledges a shortage of:

  • Anti-aircraft guns, especially .50-cal. machine guns and 3-inch anti-aircraft guns
  • Planes, especially fighter and pursuit planes, but also medium bombers
  • Barrage balloons, of which the U.S. had only just began real manufacture
Short accepted Marshall’s timeline for new equipment delivery and immediately started working with Kimmell on a wishlist for improving their defenses. The list got continuously longer as the men identified additional weak points in their position.

In meetings that also included Rear Admiral Claude C. Bloch, the men decided that they needed additional land over which to disperse aircraft, a move that would’ve drastically reduced the number of planes that could be damaged in a single enemy wave.

Army Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, left front, and Navy Admiral Husband Kimmell, right front, visit with British and American Navy officers.

(U.S. National Park Service)

The three men also called for improvements of harbor defense and anti-aircraft defense as well as the purchase of spotlights.

Similarly, the group agreed upon new rules for air operations around Hawaii, specially noting how important coordination would be for pursuit and intercept of an enemy air attack as well as how bombers would be controlled when leaving Hawaii to attack an enemy fleet.

As the meetings were going on, Short had already dispatched two of his highest subordinates to the mainland to watch intercept operations. The idea was to learn how to best set up operations on Hawaii with new equipment being put in at Pearl, including radars for identifying attacks from as far as 80 miles from shore. They returned December 4, too late for their ideas to be implemented before the surprise attack.

If you often have to line your aircraft up and can’t properly disperse them, you really want well-trained air defense crews.

(U.S. Air Force archives)

Not that the radars would have completely changed the situation on the ground, since air defense crews were often not allowed to practice emplacing their guns in position during exercises because most of their positions were on private property. And almost none of them had engaged in live gunnery practice due to ammo shortages and the prioritization of sending what ammo was available to the Philippines or the Azores.

As all this was happening, Marshall was recommending to President Franklin Roosevelt that Hawaii was near impregnable and that planes and other important assets could be moved off of the islands to reinforce other positions. As a result, Short lost 9 of his 21 heavy bombers to the Philippines.

Then, Short received the Nov. 27, 1941, “Do or Don’t” message, which essentially told him that an attack could come at any time, but that he must prepare for it while ensuring that absolutely none of his preparations alert the local populace or appear to be aimed at Japan, since that could sway public opinion should war break out.

Negotiations with the Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese Government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable, but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act. This policy should not, repeat not be construed as restricting you to a course of action that might jeopardize your defense. Prior to Japanese action you are directed to undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary, but these measures should be carried out so as not, repeat not, to alarm the civil population or disclose intent. Report measures taken. Limit the dissemination of this highly secret information to minimum essential officers.

The telegram carried Marshall’s name, but had actually been written by committee in Washington while Marshall was in Louisiana.

The delayed warnings on December 7 took it from unlikely to impossible that interceptor planes and bombers could make it into the air before the Japanese planes got to them.

(U.S. Air Force archives)

Finally, though Washington knew for hours before the attack that it would likely start at 1 p.m., they waited to send word to Short and only used telegram when they did.

Short and Kimmell saw the telegram after the attacks.

In the end, American planes on Hawaii were concentrated in too few places for effective dispersal; air defenders were under-trained, under-equipped, and under-supplied; defense infrastructure was underdeveloped; and what improved defense measures Short and Kimmell were able to implement despite supply shortages were still a few months (or, in some cases,a few weeks) from full maturity.

The general officers cannot sidestep the fact that their respective commands took massive losses in an attack which had been proven possible by American forces almost a decade previous.

But it is not fair for the American public and Washington to lay the blame solely on them when priorities and complacency in Washington, as well as breakdowns of important communications, left the commands under-supplied and under-informed at the start of American involvement in one of mankind’s bloodiest conflicts.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Much of the world knows the Grenadier Guards from their roles as formal guards in London and at Windsor Castle. Their distinctive ceremonial uniforms are a symbol of the British Crown. They are also one of the world’s best light infantry units who joined the British Army in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But while they left their distinctive bearskin hats at home, they did bring many traditions to desert wars with them.


“Make way for the Queen’s Guard.”

One of those traditions surrounds saying the word “yes.” Apparently, members of the Grenadier Guards find the affirmative to be redundant. According to one guardsman in a 1989 BBC story called the “Weird and Wonderful Traditions of the Grenadier Guards,” saying yes is redundant as a guardsman always obeys his orders. The only alternative would be saying “no,” something a guardsman would never do.

So in the Grenadier Guards, they simply respond to direct orders with “sir.”

The Grenadiers’ unquestioned obedience doesn’t limit their ability to communicate. According to a ranking Guardsman of the time, they can still pass different meanings through the word using different tones and inflections. If you’re given a bad assignment, you just say “sir.” It doesn’t mean you’re happy about it, but you accept it. If you’re told something you simply just can’t believe, you might say “sirrrrrr?” Or maybe you disagree with it entirely and don’t like it one bit.

A monotone “sir” is an acceptable response. Tune in to the above video at around 6:15 to hear the Guards tell it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Damages for the sailors killed on the USS Cole goes to the Supreme Court

In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.

On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.

It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.


At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.

Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.

(FBI)

Osama bin Laden spent five years in Sudan after moving there from Afghanistan in 1991. He invested heavily in Sudan’s infrastructure before he was expelled in 1996. Sudan says it was his expulsion from Sudan that turned him into the world’s most wanted terrorist and, before that, he was little more than a businessman.

The judge awarded $8 million to the families through the Death on the High Seas Act, much of which was taken from Sudanese assets frozen in the United States. That act did not allow compensation for mental anguish.

In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.

Two flightline personnel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, pay their last respects to the five sailors killed in an apparent attack on the USS Cole as they are escorted from the C-17 Globemaster III that arrived from Yemen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)

By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of high stakes US-Russia summits

When U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in July 2018, they’ll shake hands in a city with a history of high-profile negotiations between Moscow and Washington.

The July 16, 2018 talks will mark the fourth time that Helsinki has hosted negotiations between the leaders of the two nuclear powers, continuing Finland’s legacy as neutral territory for the former Cold War foes to hash out their differences.

Finland fought Soviet forces during World War II and signed a cooperation deal with Moscow in 1948. Wary of its massive Soviet neighbor, Finland allowed significant Soviet influence on its domestic and foreign policy while formally retaining its independence.



That approach — which spawned the term Finlandization — continued for decades as the Finnish government sought to maintain a deft balance between the two Cold War superpowers, both of which used the Nordic country as a platform for intelligence-gathering operations.

Offering Helsinki as a forum for negotiations between the Soviets and the West became a prominent strategy by Finland, which joined neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact, to demonstrate its bona fides as a neutral geopolitical player.

From treaties limiting nuclear weapons to the Helsinki Accords, U.S. – Russia summits have earned quite the legacy.

“From the Finnish perspective, it was part of our active policy of neutrality,” Finnish historian Mikko Majander told RFE/RL. “Finland was between the blocs, East and West, and, by offering good services to international diplomacy, kind of strengthened its position.”

‘Recognition from East and West’

The Finnish capital’s most famous Cold War-era security summit came in 1975 and resulted in the signing of the Helsinki Accords, spelling out the guiding principles — including territorial integrity and respect for human rights — of relations between the United States, the Soviet Union, and 33 European states.

U.S. President Gerald Ford and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev both signed the accords for their respective governments in Helsinki and held arms-control talks there that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger described as “very useful.”

Chancellor of Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) Helmut Schmidt, Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) Erich Honecker, US president Gerald Ford and Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky

Speaking to Ford outside the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Helsinki, Brezhnev told Ford that the Soviets backed the Republican’s upcoming election bid — which he would ultimately lose to Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter — and “for our part will do everything we can to make that happen.”

Ford responded that he expected to be elected and expressed support for “the cause of strengthening detente,” according to a Soviet memorandum of the private conversation that, according to the White House, was “reconstructed from scraps of paper retrieved from Brezhnev’s ashtray” at the Helsinki hall where the 1975 summit was held.

Hosting the 1975 summit where the Helsinki Accords were signed was a “major goal of Finnish diplomacy in the early 1970s,” Jussi Hanhimaki, a Finnish historian with the Graduate Institute of Geneva, told RFE/RL.

“This was a way of getting sort of recognition from both the East and the West that yes, the neutrality was for real,” Hanhimaki added.

Bush, Gorbachev, Clinton, Yeltsin

The next meeting of U.S. and Soviet leaders in Helsinki was held in September 1990 between U.S. President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Those talks were devoted almost exclusively to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Two years earlier, Bush’s predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had stopped in Helsinki on his way to Moscow for a summit with Gorbachev. Reagan used his three-day sojourn in the Finnish capital to deliver a speech in which he said “there is no true international security without respect for human rights.”

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meeting with Ronald Reagan and President-elect George H. W. Bush in New York City in December 1988

The most recent Helsinki-hosted summit between the two sides was held in 1997, when U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin addressed a range of issues, including Moscow’s staunch opposition to NATO expansion into countries of the former Soviet bloc.

According to the White House, the talks nonetheless yielded agreement “on the importance of crafting a cooperative relationship between NATO and Russia.”

Two months later, Russia and NATO signed a historic road map for cooperation known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act. That agreement, however, has been mired in mistrust and mutual accusations of violations following Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea territory and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

‘Bridge-building’

The July 16, 2018 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki comes amid battered relations between Washington and Moscow over a range of issues, including the Ukraine conflict, Russia’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and U.S. accusations of Russian election meddling.

Finland joined the European Union following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has not joined NATO but did join the alliance’s Partnership For Peace program, and Finnish troops have participated in NATO peacekeeping missions.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has maintained contacts with Putin despite the tensions between Moscow and the West and has also met Trump in the White House.

Hanhimaki said Finnish leaders “like to see Finland as very firmly” part of the West, “despite not being a NATO member yet.”

He added that there is some concern in the country “about the meeting giving too much legitimacy to Russia and Russia’s foreign policy.”

“But I think that’s still being overweighed by the fact that…the only way to increase Finland’s international standing today is by acting as a kind of a host,” Hanhimaki said.

Majander told RFE/RL that “from a Finnish perspective, it’s very well that we still can be kind of a bridge-building place.”

“We don’t have our own agenda here, but, of course, we, as a neighbor of…Russia, we want detente relations between the West and the East. And if we can do any service on that, it’s good for us as well,” Majander added.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Chris Kyle wore a ball cap instead of a helmet

A user on Quora asked the following question: “Do some troops really wear ball caps and berets into combat instead of helmets? Why?” It might sound surprising, but the answer is actually yes, yes sometimes they do.

It seems counterintuitive, given that a helmet is worn to protect against bullets, collisions, and shrapnel while a ball cap is…not, but enough troops weighed in with their own experiences to confirm this activity.

The reasons varied, but legendary sniper Chris Kyle probably gave the most honest answer:


Bradley Cooper portraying Chris Kyle in the film ‘American Sniper.’

(Warner Bros.)

“Why a ball cap? Ninety percent of being cool is looking cool. And you look so much cooler wearing a ball cap,” Kyle wrote in his autobiography American Sniper.

The late Navy SEAL is credited with 255 kills, making him America’s top sniper. He also remains spoken highly of as a leader and as a family man and friend.

He really didn’t need the ball cap to be cool. He just was.

Also read: Chris Kyle’s 10 most definitive American weapons of all time

Before Kyle’s death, ‘American Sniper’ screenwriter Jason Hall had the opportunity to work closely with him to maintain the authenticity of the film. Here, Bradley Cooper plays Kyle in a close-quarters scenario.

(Warner Bros.)

Other vets have said that helmets limit their agility and visibility — they accept the risk in removing the helmet to gain mobility. To mitigate this, the military is developing new lightweight protection systems.

But one of the most important reasons service members will don a ball cap or beret in lieu of the helmet is to appear less intimidating to the local population. When dealing with low level insurgencies, appearing more friendly can help reduce tension and “win the hearts and minds” of civilians.

Still, at the end of the day make no mistake, in combat a protective helmet is the best protection against traumatic brain injuries and death.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon’s accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.


“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. “We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit.”

The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.

Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.

Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.

Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.

U.S. Marine Corps

The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there’s like less room for error but remember: it’s still the top of the bottom of the list.

U.S. Army and U.S. Navy

Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.

U.S. Air Force

It’s not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 female pirates you might not know about

Names like Blackbeard and The Barbarossa Brothers may ring a bell. They conjure visions of a billowing Jolly Rogers flag, bands of thieving pirates, and of poor souls walking the plank to their watery graves. But you probably also picture only men. Contrary to popular belief, female pirates have also sailed the high seas, from the very beginning of piracy’s existence.


These swashbuckling female pirates left their mark on history. They defied odds when women weren’t even permitted on ships, commanded crews, and carried out some of the wildest heists in history.

upload.wikimedia.org

1.Ching Shih

Madame Ching, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a pirate who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded over 300 ships, and 40,000 pirates, including men, women, and even children. Skirmishes with the British Empire, Portuguese Empire and the Qing dynasty were common during her reign.

But Madame Ching wasn’t always a successful pirate. She was born in 1775 and is believed to have worked in a brothel until she was in her late teens. Then in 1801, she met Cheng I, a notorious pirate with whom she fell in love. They were married and adopted a son, Cheung Po, who was being taught the ways of piracy by Cheng I. Allying with Madame Ching allowed Cheng to access the alliance and powers of the mainland underworld. Madame Ching, a cunning woman, only allowed his access on the condition that she have equal control and share of their fortune.

Six years after the two were married, Cheng died. Madame Ching took advantage of the opening. She was one of the few female pirates who was fully accepted by an entirely male crew, being adopted wholeheartedly by Cheng I’s crew. Madame Ching rose to become one of China’s most notorious pirates. Once she was in charge, Madame Ching also instituted a code of law for her pirates unlike any seen before. They included prohibition from stealing from friendly villagers, beheading for any rapes, and more.

By the time Madame Ching died in 1844, she held numerous coastal villages under her control, levying taxes and protecting towns from other pirates.

upload.wikimedia.org

2. Anne Bonny

Despite Anne Bonny’s historic reputation, very little is known about her life. We know she was an Irish pirate who spent most of her life in the Caribbean. She’s thought to have been born somewhere near Cork, Ireland in the late 1600s or early 1700s. She and her father moved to London after a fight with his wife—who was not Anne’s mother. He began dressing her as a boy around that time. They later moved to Carolina, then Nassau in the Bahamas.

There, Anne met John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a well-known pirate captain. The two quickly became secret lovers, although Anne had already married James Bonny. She was brought on board his ship in her old male disguise.

She took equal part in combat alongside the men, becoming well-liked amongst the crew. Together, they plundered the waters surrounding Jamaica. However, in 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a patrolling ship commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica. Most were taken off guard and too drunk to fight, but Bonny and a female crewmate (and rumored lover), Mary Read, held off the assailants for at least a short while.

Eventually, the entire crew was taken, convicted and hanged. Both Read and Bonny were able to gain a stay of execution due to their “delicate conditions” (read: pregnancies). However, Read died in prison, most likely during childbirth or from its aftereffects. Bonny gave birth in prison, then was released. Her fate after this is unknown. Some believe she actually died in prison, others that she escaped and returned to a life of piracy.

upload.wikimedia.org

3. Grace O’Malley

Grace O’Malley has become a legendary figure in Irish folklore despite her very real roots—she was even an inspiration for Anne Bonny to take up piracy. From a young age, O’Malley longed to follow in her father’s footsteps as a privateer on the seas. She once asked her father if she could join him on a trading venture to Spain. She was promptly rejected: Her father said her hair was too long and would get caught in the ship’s ropes. In response, O’Malley chopped off her hair.

With this proof of her seriousness, her father backed down, and she joined him on his next journey to Spain. Upon his death, she took control of the family’s land and sea despite having a brother. She paraded up and down the coastline thieving and bringing her findings back to her family’s coastal stronghold.

Her marriage to Donal an Chogaidh brought her even greater wealth and power. She had three children, including a daughter who took after her mother. When an Chogiaidh was murdered in an attack on his lands, O’Malley was ready to seek vengeance. She launched an attack on Doona castle, whose owners were thought to be responsible. The ferocity of this attack left her with a lasting nickname: the Dark Lady of Doona.

Later in life, O’Malley had an ongoing battle with Sir Richard Bingham, an English officer who was responsible for the Tudor conquest of England. Irish nobles like O’Malley were unwilling to give up their freedom of rule and fought viciously against the Tudor monarchy. After her sons were captured during a battle, O’Malley decided to visit the Tudor court to plead for their freedom.

She and Queen Elizabeth spoke in Latin, their common language (Elizabeth spoke no Irish, O’Malley no English). O’Malley refused to bow to the queen, as doing so would recognize her rights as the Queen of Ireland. The court was scandalized by O’Malley’s behavior, including blowing her nose in front of the queen. Their meeting resolved in O’Malley’s sons’ freedom and the removal of Bingham from Ireland. O’Malley continued to support the Irish insurgency by sea and land until her death in (approximately) 1603.

Beloved by Irish nationalists, O’Malley was renamed Gráinne Mhaol after her death and held up as a symbol of Irish indepence.

4. Sadie Farrell

Though there is some speculation about whether she actually existed, Sadie Farrell, also called Sadie the Goat, was an American criminal, gang leader, and river pirate who operated primarily in and around Manhattan. Her nickname emerges from how she would attack her victims on land: ramming headfirst into her target’s gut while a nearby acquaintance readied their slingshot.

When she tired of thieving on land, Sadie traveled to the waterfront in West Side Manhattan. It was here that she witnessed a failed attempt by the Charlton Street Gang to board a small riverboat and rob it. She offered up her services to the group and soon became their leader. Within days, she’d organized a highly successful theft which ignited her career as a pirate.

She and the Charlton Street Gang would soon be seen sailing up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages with a Jolly Roger flying from their sloop’s masthead. She was notorious for kidnapping men, women and children for ransom and is said to have made countless men walk the plank. Within a few months, people began anticipating the gang’s raids and what successes they had became smaller. Eventually, the gang returned to the Bowery for the more consistent life offered there.

upload.wikimedia.org

5. Jeanne de Clisson

This Breton pirate sailed the English Channel during the 1300s, and in these years earned the title Lioness of Brittany. Born in 1300, de Clisson was married first at 12. She had two children during her first marriage. Her husband, despite being only seven years older than her, died in 1326. Jeanne remarried twice after this. Her third and final marriage was rather unusual for the time—it seemed to be a love match. She and Oliver de Clisson had five children together, one of whom may have been born before they were actually married.

Her path to piracy began during the Breton War of Succession. For most of the fight, she sided with the French. That is, until her husband was lured onto French soil under the guise of achieving some kind of peace deal. He and his companions were captured, with their peers alleging that they had committed treason with the British. They were all tried and beheaded.

As revenge, de Clisson raised a force of loyal men and started attacking French forces in Brittany. With the English king’s help, she decorated three warships completely in black and, so the tale goes, wrote “My Revenge” across the vessels. It was on these ships that she patrolled the English Channel, hunting down and destroying French ships for 13 years before calling it quits. Jeanne seemingly decided that she had achieved sufficient vengeance out of nowhere and simply stopped wreaking terror upon the high seas. She died in a small port town on the Brittany coast in 1359.

upload.wikimedia.org

6. Sayyida al Hurra

Though Sayyida al Hurra never sailed much, if at all, she was regarded as a queen of the pirates in the Mediterranean. Between 1515 and 1542, she was both the actual Queen of Tétouan in northern Morocco and a pirate queen. She controlled the western Mediterranean Sea and was well-respected throughout the Mediterranean for her ability to rule on her own terms and to resist occupation when her power was threatened. In fact, her name means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”

She was born into a family of power in 1485, and quickly rose in ranks, marrying Tétouan’s ruler in her teens. When he died, she became ruler in her own right, at about 30. Not long after, the King of Fez, another Moroccan city, sought Sayyida’s hand. They were married, and Sayyida began realizing how piracy could revitalize her city after invading Christian forces devastated it.

By 1523, Sayyida was running the Mediterranean Sea. Her pirates stalked Portuguese shipping routes, stealing goods and money for the benefit of Tétouan. Although it’s possible that Sayyida was never actually on board any of her ships, her strategy and skill were able to create the opportunities that her people needed to rebuild Sayyida’s most beloved city.

7. Charlotte de Berry

De Berry is another possibly mythic female pirate. Stories of her life only appear in writing two centuries after her supposed death. Despite this, many believe that Charlotte de Berry did in fact exist and did take to the seas.

Born in the mid-1600s, de Berry grew up in England. In her late teens, de Berry fell in love with a sailor, married him, and started on her journey to piracy. Disguised as a man, she joined her husband onboard and fought valiantly alongside her crew. After one of the ship’s crew discovered that de Berry was a woman, her husband was killed. De Berry barely managed to escape, shedding her sailor garb and posing as a woman working on the docks.

While she was working on the docks, a captain kidnapped de Berry and forced her to marry him. He was brutal to de Berry. In order to escape him, she convinced the crew to betray their captain. De Berry decapitated him before the crew, and took his role as captain of the ship.

For many years following, she sailed the seas, attacking ships and stealing their treasures. She fell in love with a Spaniard, and invited him to join her crew. Shortly after they were shipwrecked. Most of the crew perished, including de Berry’s lover. The survivors were rescued by a Dutch ship, but de Berry jumped into the ocean rather than leave her lover behind. Her fate after this is unknown.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wreckage of Japanese F-35 found; pilot still missing

Search and rescue teams found wreckage belonging to a Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared on April 9, 2019, over the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, a military spokesman said on April, 10, 2019.

The pilot of the aircraft is still missing, said the Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) spokesman.

“We recovered the wreckage and determined it was from the F-35,” the spokesman told Reuters.

The F-35 was less than a year old and was delivered to the ASDF in May 2018, he added.

Japan’s first squadron of F-35s has just become operational at the Misawa air base and the government plans to buy 87 of the stealth fighters to modernize its air defenses as China’s military power grows.


The advanced single-seat jet was flying about 135 km (84 miles) east of the air base in Aomori Prefecture at about 7.27 p.m. (1027 GMT) on April 9, 2019, when it disappeared from radar, the Air Self Defense Force said.

The aircraft was flying for roughly 28 minutes when it lost contact with Japanese forces, an official reportedly added.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defense Force as needed.

The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The crash was only the second time an F-35 has gone down since the plane began flying almost two decades ago. It was also the first crash of an A version of the fifth-generation fighter designed to penetrate enemy defenses by evading radar detection.

A U.S. military short take off and landing (STOVL) F-35B crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina in September 2018 prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin also makes a C version of the fighter designed to operate off carriers.

Japan’s new F-35s will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants that planners want to deploy on its islands along the edge of the East China Sea.

The F-35s are shipped to Japan by Lockheed Martin and assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd at a plant near Nagoya in central Japan. Each costs around 0 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane.

Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo, and Idrees Ali and Chris Sanders in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why your radio guy is always up at 0430

Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.

In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.

Being appreciated is, however, not one of them.
(U.S. Army Photo)


The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.

Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.

This is also why the good radio operators carry two watches u2014 one in current time and another in Zulu time.

For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.

As if being a deployed radio operator wasn’t sh*tty enough.

Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.

This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.

So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.

Articles

That time Gerald Ford promoted George Washington to six-star general

In today’s military, seniority by rank is limited to four-star generals and admirals. And while public law still allows for five-star generals, one hasn’t been appointed since Omar Bradley held the rank in 1950.


Yet, six-star general is a rank that (technically) exists.

Snap to it, Truman! The buck stops when I tell it to. (DoD Photo)

Two men have held higher ranks in the Armed Forces of the United States. The latest was General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, whose contributions to service were awarded with the title General of the Armies of the United States, complete with gold four-star insignia. His rank was higher than that of other four star generals due to an act of Congress that mandated that he remain preeminent above all personnel until his death in 1948.

Although I hope the act of Congress didn’t specify the year.

That mustache will always be out of regs, but first in our hearts.

The other is the father of America, who wore only two stars in his lifetime, President George Washington. The Continental Congress commissioned Washington as a Major General in 1775. As Commander-In-Chief, he outranked all others fielded by Congress. After his Presidency, his successor, John Adams, promoted him to Lieutenant General and he would be on the Army rolls as Lt. Gen. Washington in perpetuity, outranked by every four- and five-star general who came after him.

At the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Washington would be getting coffee for the four stars. We can’t have that.

Toward the end of World War II, Congress considered promoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur, already a five-star general, to General of the Armies, on the same level as Pershing. The Army Institute of Heraldry even designed an insignia for this rank which included six stars.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

But as the years went on and the U.S. came closer to its bicentennial birthday, the idea that someone could outrank George Washington began to bother some in government, including President Gerald Ford. In 1976, Ford would sign a bill which promoted Washington to stand “above all grades of the Army, past or present.”

The text of the bill reads:

“Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That… The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”

News reports at the time referred to his promotion as a six-star general’s rank (though there is no mention of the insignia he would wear).

House Representative Lucien Nedzl of Michigan thought the rank was unnecessary, saying “it’s like the Pope offering to make Christ a Cardinal.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 horror films that best portray true military reactions

Horror films are ripe with terrible tropes that make audiences groan. Invariably, plucky young adults are pinned against a supernatural or monstrous force. So long as these young adults aren’t idiots (like the morons who decided to go skinny-dipping as people were being slowly picked off), they can survive until the third act — and then they’ll either live or die, depending on whether the hero or the featured monster is more marketable.

The most infuriating tropes, however, happen when the military shows up. In far too many movies, troops and veterans are cast as inherently evil or constantly in search of using the protagonist as a means of starting a world war. In reality, we’d probably be the ones organizing a survival movement against the big bad — but I digress…

We’ll save ripping those films for another time. There are many horror films out there that actually do the military justice and treat us like fully developed characters instead of mindless, B-movie villains — like these classics:


‘Throne of Blood’

Starting off the list is the Akira Kurosawa 1957 classic, Throne of Blood. While his other films (including Roshomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo) receive near-universal praise, it was his re-imagining of Shakespeare’s MacBeth that gave him his first inroad to a western audience. And when we say “re-imagining,” we mean that Kurosawa’s version is about samurai who learns of the future from a spider witch — that’s what Shakespeare was really trying to say, right?

Its central plot doesn’t involve many true-horror moments, as modern Western audiences know, but the early moments when General Washizu goes into the Forest of the Spider’s Web heavily influenced later horror films. His reaction to all the spookiness is a stern “listen here, witch” — which perfectly captures how any service member would react in that situation.

‘The Objective’

Rarely do filmmakers delve into the actual spooky side of Afghanistan. Ask anyone who’s ever pulled a 12-hour night guard duty shift and have them tell you what it’s like to stare out over a place that earned the nickname, “Graveyard of Empires.”

This indie film, made by Daniel Myrick, the same writer and director of The Blair Witch Project, begins like any other war film about the post-9/11 Global War on Terrorism, but then it makes a sharp turn into the paranormal. The troops’ response? Let’s f*cking kill it.

‘Day of the Dead’

It’s remade every so often, but nothing can compare to the original Day of the Dead by George A. Romero. Unlike most films in the military-horror genre, this one actually understand that troops want nothing to do with zombies as a weapon of war. Why on Earth would we risk doing something that stupid? We can’t even go into a combat zone without a shiny, reflective belt, for f*ck’s sake.

But I digress. The film does include nefarious scientists who try to weaponize zombies at the expense of the soldier’s safety, but troops react how you’d actually expect them to if they were test subjects for flesh-eating zombies.

‘The Thing’

While not outright a military film, it does feature Kurt Russel as a veteran helicopter pilot from the Vietnam War. This vet, R.J. MacReady, naturally assumes a leadership positions and gets to thinking logically to overcome an incredibly elusive, deceptive foe.

While the “Thing” inhabits others’ bodies and everyone starts losing their minds, MacReady’s quick thinking helps him survive the film.

‘Predator’

Never has a film bitter mixed action and horror quite like 1987’s Predator. It had everything: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers in their primes, a truckload of firepower, and muscles on top of their muscles — not to mention an antagonist so brutal that he picks off Special Forces soldiers like a hunter taking out deer. It’s so well done that it doesn’t matter to me that, as a commo guy, the group’s radio operator is the first named character killed off — which is another one of my most-hated cinema tropes.

Related: 6 reasons why commo guys hate military movies

The titular foe uses the military’s tactics against them by being better at hiding (albeit by using technology) than the Green Berets. The only way to stop it, in the end, was to beat it in one of the most brutally awesome hand-to-hand fights in cinema history.

Well, there’s that, and there’s Schwarzenegger’s delivery of his most iconic line — “Get to the choppah!”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Japan is bothered by the Korean Unification Flag

Ahead of the historic meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea on April 27, 2018, political emblems depicting unity have been rolled out across South Korea.

One of these is an outline of the full Korean Peninsula, like on the Korean unification flag seen prominently at the Olympics. Inside Peace House, where Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-In will meet, chairs have been engraved with the same outline and a miniature version of the flag will be placed on a dessert later in the day.

But not everyone views the symbols favorably.


The Korean unification flag features a set of disputed islands between Japan and South Korea that have been a source of tension for over a millennia.

Both South Korea and Japan claim the pair of nearly uninhabitable islets located in the Sea of Japan, which are controlled by South Korea. South Korea refers to the islands as Dokdo, while the Japanese refer to them as Takeshima.

Internationally, they have been given the name of Liancourt Rocks to avoid dispute.

Japan claims it acquired the islands in 1905 as terra nullius during its occupation of Korea, while Korea maintains it was illegally occupied and that Japan’s claims to the islands amount to continued imperialism.

The Liancourt Rocks.u00a0South Korea refers to the islands as Dokdo, while the Japanese refer to them as Takeshima.

The islands holds significant symbolic importance to South Korea but Japan has protested the use of the islands in the Korean unification flag.

On April 25, 2018, Japan’s foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint about the use of the flag, which is set to be featured on top of a mango mousse served during the inter-Korean summit on April 27, 2018.

A Japanese official met with the South Korean embassy in Tokyo, telling them the use of the flag is “deeply regrettable and unacceptable for Japan,” according to NHK News.

The Japanese Embassy in Seoul has also lodged a complaint with South Korea’s foreign ministry.

This is not the first time the symbol has angered Japan.

In February 2018, Japan lodged a protest against the unification flag which was on display during a women’s ice hockey match between the joint North-South Korean team and Sweden.

South Korea later said it would not depict the islands on the flag it intended to use during the Olympics. But pictures of North Korea’s cheerleaders at the games show they appear to have used the controversial flag anyway.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US military launched a half a billion needles into space

In the early 1960s, international communications were limited to transmissions through undersea cables or occasionally unreliable radio signals bounced off of the ionosphere. As you might imagine from this, many in the Western world weren’t too keen on the state of the situation given that were to someone, say, the Soviet Union, cut those cables before launching an attack, international communications with overseas forces and foreign allies would have to rely on the mood of said ionosphere.

For those unfamiliar, the ionosphere is a layer of the upper atmosphere about 50 to 600 miles above sea level. It gets its name because it is ionized consistently by solar and cosmic radiation. In very simple terms, X-ray, ultraviolet, and shorter wavelengths of radiation given off by the Sun (and from other cosmic sources) release electrons in this layer of the atmosphere when these particular photons are absorbed by molecules. Because the density of molecules and atoms is quite low in the ionosphere (particularly in the upper layers), it allows free electrons to exist in this way for a short period of time before ultimately recombining. Lower in the atmosphere, where the density of molecules is greater, this recombination happens much faster.


What does this have to do with communication and radio waves? Without interference, radio waves travel in a straight line from the broadcast source, ultimately hitting the ionosphere. What happens after is dependent on a variety of factors, notable among them being the frequency of the waves and the density of the free electrons. For certain types of radio waves, given the right conditions, they will essentially bounce back and forth between the ground and the ionosphere, propagating the signal farther and farther. So clearly the ionosphere can potentially play an important part in the terrestrial radio and communication process. But it is the constantly shifting nature of the ionosphere that makes things really interesting. And for that, we’ll have to get a little more technical, though we’ll at the least spare you the math, and we’ll leave out a little of the complexity in an effort to not go full textbook on you.

To begin with, the ionosphere’s composition changes most drastically at night, primarily because, of course, the Sun goes missing for a bit. Without as abundant a source of ionizing rays, the D and E levels (pictured right) of the ionosphere cease to be very ionized, but the F region (particularly F2) still remains quite ionized. Further, because the atmosphere is significantly less dense here then the E and D regions, it results in more free electrons (the density of which is key here).

When these electrons encounter a strong radio wave of certain types, such as AM radio, they can potentially oscillate at the frequency of the wave, taking some of the energy from the radio wave in the process. With enough of them, as can happen in the F layer, (when the density of encountered electrons is sufficient relative to the specific signal frequency), and assuming they don’t just recombine with some ion (which is much more likely in the E and D layers in the daytime), this can very effectively refract the signal back down to Earth at sufficient strength to be picked up on a receiver.

Depending on conditions, this process can potentially repeat several times with the signal bouncing down to the ground and back up. Thus, using this skywave certain radio signals can be propagated even thousands of miles and, most pertinent to the topic at hand, across oceans.

Of course, given the unpredictability of this form of communication, and potentially even times when communication would be impossible, military brass during the Cold War wanted another option.

Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs, the project was initially called “Project Needles” by Professor Walter E. Morrow in 1958 when he first dreamed up the idea. It was later re-named “West Ford”, presumably after Westford, Massachusetts, a nearby town. The idea was to place potentially even billions of tiny (1.78 centimeters 0.7 inches long and microscopically thin) copper antennae or dipoles in a medium Earth orbit to be used for communication signals at 8 Ghz.

The first set of well over a hundred million needles was launched on Oct. 21, 1961, but unfortunately this test failed when the needles didn’t disperse as planned.

On a second attempt in May 9, 1963, a batch of 350 million needles was placed on the back of an Air Force satellite and sent into orbit. Once dispersed, properly this time, the needles spread to form a sparsely concentrated belt with approximately 50 dipoles per cubic mile.

Needles from “Project Needles” compared to a stamp.

While you might think surely this wouldn’t be dense enough to be effective for use in communication, in fact early results of the experiment were extremely promising, with communication established using the needle array from California to Massachusetts, some 3K or so miles or 4,800 km apart. As such, there were reports that the Air Force was considering launching two more belts to be placed more permanently in orbit.

There was a problem, however. Beyond the Soviets, allies and even Americans opposed the further deployment and continuance of this program.

Why? Astronomers, in particular, were afraid that the belt would interfere with their observations. The outrage of scientists and the reason for it was perhaps best expressed by Sir Bernard Lovell of the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory who said: “The damage lies not with this experiment alone, but with the attitude of mind which makes it possible without international agreement and safeguards.” After all, the space above the Earth is not the United States’ alone to do with as it pleases without consulting other nations of Earth.

While you might consider this a bit of an overreaction, it’s important to understand the context here, with the U.S. up to and around this point having done a series of things in space without oversight that the international community was more than a little upset about. For example, consider that also smack dab in the middle of this time, the United States was busy accidentally nuking Britain’s first satellite, among many, many others.

The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket.

Around nine months after the launch of the first batch of needles, on July 9, 1962, mere weeks after Ariel-1 was put into orbit and had successfully begun transmitting data about the ionosphere back to Earth, British scientists were shocked when the sensors aboard Ariel-1 designed to measure radiation levels suddenly began to give wildly high readings.

Ariel-1 satellite.

As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl.

The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time.

Most pertinent to the topic of communications, this famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic and managed around 400 such communications before the U.S. accidentally nuked it. Funny enough, the Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional ionizing radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit. They were eventually able to get it back online for a short period via some clever software workarounds, but it didn’t last thanks to the extra radiation further degrading its systems.

It’s also noteworthy here that The Starfish explosion was actually supposed to have happened a couple weeks earlier on June 20th, but the rocket carrying it failed at about 30,000 feet. Once this happened, the self-destruct on the nuclear warhead was initiated and it broke apart, raining its radioactive innards down on Johnston and Sand Islands, as well as in the ocean around them.

It should also be noted that the effects of Starfish-Prime weren’t just limited to low orbit.

The electromagnetic pulse created by the blast ended up being much larger than expected and, in Hawaii some 900 or so miles away from the blast, the pulse ended up knocking out a few hundred street lights and damaged the telephone system. Today in our digital world, of course, a similar electromagnetic pulse would have much more catastrophic effects, especially if near more populated centers, potentially even revealing the Lizard people’s Matrix, which would be catastrophic to our Draconian overlords’ (may they reign forever) plans…

The flash created by The Starfish explosion as seen through heavy cloud cover from Honolulu 1,445 km away.

Needless to say, this, the needles in space, and other such projects had many in the international community concerned with the lack of any oversight on the United States’ activities in space. (Presumably it would have been even worse had everyone realized the United States had, a few years before this, planned to nuke the moon, more or less just because they could…)

Going back to the needle issue, a compromise measure was reached thanks to incorporating a sort of planned obsolescence; that is, none of the needles would remain in orbit longer than five years. (Or so they thought, more on this in a bit.)

Thinking more long term, several groups of scientists, including the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) demanded access and consultation in this and other such projects in the future. Ultimately an agreement was reached which granted the scientists the ability to participate in the planning and evaluation of space projects.

Of course, this particular issue quickly became moot as shortly after the second group of needles was dispersed, the military deployed its own first communication satellite system in 1966, making the needle system, while effective, obsolete. With this deployment of one object instead of hundreds of millions, the furor died down and people, for the most part, forgot about West Ford.

That said, while the project is largely forgotten, its effects are not with the consultation provisions of the original West Ford agreement with the IAU included in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, an agreement entered into by ninety-nine countries, that was designed to protect against the militarization and degradation of outer space. Among other things, in a nutshell, it provides that no country can claim ownership of space nor any celestial bodies; all countries will avoid contaminating both and are liable for any damage they cause; no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be deployed or placed in orbit or on any celestial body; and no military bases may be placed on any celestial bodies, including the Moon, something that unfortunately saw a planned military installation by the U.S. fully scrapped, as we covered in our article: That Time the U.S. was Going to Build a Massive, Death Ray Equipped, Military Moon Base.

On the bright side, the treaty also includes a Good Samaritan law that provides that astronauts are “envoys of mankind in outer space and [all] shall render to them all possible assistance in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing.”

Going back to the needles, in case you’re wondering, despite the planned obsolescence, as of 2019, a few dozen clumps of them remain in orbit and are closely tracked to make sure they don’t cause any problems with all the other stuff floating around our little beautiful home space craft known as Earth.

Bonus Facts:

  • Given AM radio signals can propagate for thousands of miles via the aforementioned skywaves, particularly at night, this can become a major problem as there are only a little over 100 allowed AM radio frequencies (restricted to keep signals interfering too much with one another), but around 5,000 AM radio stations in the United States alone. As a result, at night, AM stations in the United States typically reduce their power, go off the air completely until sunrise the next day, and/or possibly are required to use directional antennas so their specific signal doesn’t interfere with other stations on the same frequency. On the other hand, FM stations don’t have to do any of this as the ionosphere doesn’t greatly affect their signals, which has the side benefit (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of severely limiting the range of the FM signals, which rely on groundwave propagation.
  • Speaking of Radio and space, while not a job ever mentioned by my school career counselor, it turns out “Space DJ” is a thing, if you work at NASA, going all the way back to 1965 during the Gemini 6 mission on December 16th, likely initially as a joke. During this mission, astronauts Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford were woken up by a recording of singer Jack Jones and Hello Dolly. This musical wake-up call quickly became a regular occurrence intended as a way of bolstering morale while allowing astronauts a few minutes to wake up slowly before having to respond to ground control. Over the years, wake-up calls became one of NASA’s most beloved traditions, with the role of picking the songs given to the mission’s Capsule Commander (CAPCOM)… Yes, just to be clear, not only do these people get to put CAPCOM for NASA on their resume, but they can also add in “Space DJ”. Thanks Career Councilor…
    If you’re wondering, the songs chosen over the years have been wildly eclectic, ranging from classical music by composers like Bach and Beethoven to Metallica and the Beastie Boys. Thanks to the extensive records NASA keeps, we not only know every song played for astronauts in orbit since 1965, we also have the astronaut’s responses to some of the more unusual choices played. For example, for a 2008 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, officially designated as STS-123, CAPCOM played a brief snippet of the theme song from the presumably epic film Godzilla VS Space Godzilla as well as part of the Blue Oyster Cult song, Godzilla, for Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, signing off by saying:
    Good morning Endeavour. Doi san, ohayo gozaimasu, from mission control here in Houston, take on today like a monster.
    An amused Doi responded that he was “happy to hear Godzilla,” before himself signing off to get to work. According to Fries’ extensive archives, Godzilla’s iconic theme song is apparently a popular choice for Japanese astronauts, as are the themes from other well-known films like Star Wars, Star Trek and Rocky.Predictably, songs with a space theme are also popular choices, with David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man being noted as some of the most commonly played.In addition to songs, NASA has, at various points, played private messages recorded by the astronauts’ loved ones (including the occasional singing of “Happy Birthday” where applicable) and even occasional messages from celebrities. Notable examples of the latter include personalised greetings from William Shatner, Paul McCartney and Elton John, a skit performed by Jim Henson involving Miss Piggy, and even a song sung by Darth Vader set to backing music from The Beatles.Perhaps best of all was the crew of Atlantis on November 25, 1991 being woken to none other than Patrick Stewart stating (with Star Trek: The Next Generation theme music playing in the background),
    Space: the final frontier. This is the voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Its ten-day mission: To explore new methods of remote sensing and observation of the planet Earth… To seek out new data on radiation in space, and a new understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body… To boldly go where two hundred and fifty-five men and women have gone before!Hello Fred, Tom, Story, Jim, Tom, and especially Mario — this is Patrick Stewart, choosing not to outrank you as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying that we are confident of a productive and successful mission. Make it so.
    As for today, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, this wake-up call tradition has partially been left in the dustbin of history, though occasionally is still observed on the International Space Station, and presumably will be reinstituted as a regular activity once NASA begins sending people to space themselves again.

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

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