Your grandparents and great grandparents fighting in World War II were hit with just as much safety rules as troops are today, it’s just those rules rarely make it to the history books.
But they weren’t always given their safety rules in boring briefings. When the 1940s War Department and Department of the Navy really wanted to drive safety rules home, they made snazzy safety videos and posters.
The Navy used “Ensign Dilbert,” a soup-sandwich who always breaks safety rules, to highlight the grisly results of incompetency in aviation.
And Dilbert does some truly stupid stuff. He mishandles his weapons, tows aerial targets into ground crews, and even accidentally kills a civilian his first flight of the day. And the Navy isn’t afraid to show the (PG-13) bodies of his victims.
The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.
But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.
In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.
When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.
The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.
Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.
AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.
According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”
The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.
In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.
To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:
Before the Civil War, the major holiday that came at the end of November wasn’t Thanksgiving. It has nothing to do with turkey, pilgrims or pumpkin pie. Instead, it had everything to do with kicking the British out of the Eastern seaboard.
The big holiday before the Christmas season some 150 years or so ago was Evacuation Day, and every November 25, groups of Americans tacked on sharp, specially-made cleats and climbed a greased-up flag pole.
All because the British Army thought they were hilarious, but were actually just sore losers.
In September 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed between representatives of King George III of the British Empire and representatives of the newly-formed United States of America. That treaty not only recognized the new country’s independence, but also set the boundaries between the two dominions in North America, as well as settling a lot of other issues.
The British were so salty about losing the war for American independence that they refused to pose for the official treaty-signing portrait, and the painting was just left unfinished. Today, the 1783 painting “Treaty of Paris” by Benjamin West is a monument to the massive British butthurt that was so strong in the days following the war’s end.
In New York City, Gen. George Washington was set to enter the city on November 25, 1783, but was delayed until the last remaining British flags were taken down. Before departing, British regulars went out to Manhattan’s Battery Park and nailed the Union Jack to the top of a flagpole.
Then, they greased up the flagpole in an effort to ensure the flag would still be flying by the time they departed and the city was lost over the horizon. It didn’t work. Quick-thinking Americans crafted some heavy-duty cleats and ascended to the top of the pole to remove the old British flag and replace it with the new Old Glory.
In fact, it was Continental Army veteran John Van Arsdale who climbed to the top and removed it – while the British troops were still in the harbor. Ever the salty sore losers, the British fired a single cannonball towards people gathered on Staten Island. Luckily, it didn’t hit anyone.
Van Arsdale’s epic ascent up to the top of the lubricated flagpole was so inspirational that it sparked a repeat annual performance, complete with a celebration that included food, booze and everything else that comprised a good old-fashioned 1700s ruckus.
Every November 25 for the next 80 or so years was “Evacuation Day,” centered around a re-enactment of Van Arsdale’s ascent, sometimes featuring a competition of multiple poles for who could rip down the Union Jack the fastest.
After the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the official holiday of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has been celebrated for decades before Lincoln’s recognition, dating back to George Washington’s call for a national day of Thanksgiving and prayer. Washington’s day of Thanksgiving wasn’t a regular annual holiday.
Lincoln wanted to bring the country together in the spirit of national unity and called for the fourth Thursday of every November to be an official Thanksgiving holiday to thank God and the Union Army for its victory at Gettysburg.
As time went on, the British butthurt subsided and relations between the United States and its erstwhile mother country warmed up considerably. People soon forgot about Evacuation Day and focused more on the Thanksgiving holiday.
When the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi dropped, netizens were quick to dub it “Bayghazi,” a portmanteau of the location of the now-infamous embassy attack and the name of director Michael Bay. But the film deserves more credit than that for a number of reasons, but mostly because it manages to celebrate the human elements of an otherwise overly-politicized event.
“We all think we know Benghazi,” Bay says. “But we all only really know so much. There was a great human story in Benghazi that was never told. It’s an inspirational movie, even though it’s tragic.”
The movie is a faithful retelling of the events on the ground during that day in the Libyan port city, as written in journalist Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which he co-authored with the surviving security contractors who were on the ground. The way Zuckoff writes the story in the book lends itself to Michael Bay’s directing style.
“The book, when I read it, it was an amazing human experience,” Michael Bay says. “It’s my most realistic movie. I think it opens eyes to what they really go through. It’s a collection of 36 Americans coming together, figuring out how the hell to survive. It starts at 9:42 and we follow the waves and the adrenaline and the ebbs and flows for 13 hours.”
The movie is rife with commentary, damning of the military’s failure to act in support of the CIA annex in any way. Fighter planes remain motionless on flightlines while bureaucrats make late night phones calls to plan meetings, but the movie is inspirational, thanks to its exceptional cast. With the help of the real military veterans-turned CIA security contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi that night, they all deliver exceptional performances.
“There’s such a responsibility in this particular story,” says John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva, one of the CIA contractors and former Navy SEAL. “Not only because it’s so highly politicized, but also because it’s so intense and is a story not really being told. For me, there was a great responsibility to make sure we told it right, especially since it’s about these six guys who are the definition of heroes.”
The real-life defenders of the Americans in Benghazi, the members of the annex security team who were on the ground, are unanimous in what they hope audiences will take away from the film: The truth.
“They got it right,” says Marc “Oz” Geist, one of the contractors at Benghazi. “When you watch the movie, you’re seeing the guys, you’re seeing the team,” Kris “Tanto” Peronto adds. “They did an excellent job. That shows a lot of work.”
“You have a group of people who overcome what most would consider insurmountable odds,” Geist continues. “There are positives that comes from that. It’s not a negative thing. You’re gonna have troubles, you’re gonna have things go bad. We lost four people and that’s tragic, but that’s not the defining moment. The defining moment is that we never lost because we never quit.”
The film has all the hallmarks of its director’s signature style: slow shots of dialogue between characters contrast fast-paced action with explosions; a weak leader gets usurped when the “right thing to do” becomes apparent, even though it isn’t “by the book;” and what starts as a rescue turns out to be an epic battle for survival. Yet all of it is a faithful retelling of the Benghazi story, seconded by the guys who were there that night, right down to the funny one-liners of comic relief (called “Tantoisms” by the Benghazi team).
The portrayals of the team are realistic and intense. Anyone who’s ever met Navy SEALs, Marine Scout Snipers, Army Rangers, or any other special forces operators will recognize the personalities portrayed on screen by Krasinski, James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”).
“It’s about the human spirit and the will to win,” the directors said. “No one ordered them to go. They volunteered and they volunteered at the drop of a hat. At a time when there’s so much crap going on in the world, you are appreciative that people like this exist.”
Chief Special Warfare Officer Joseph John Schmidt III has been living dual lives.
As a member of the , the 42-year-old boasts a chest of ribbons and medals during his 23 years in the , including a valor citation for combat overseas. To his East County, California, neighbors and Coronado shipmates, he’s been the married father who has given pep talks to special-needs children in Los Angeles and toured the country recruiting for the elite Special Warfare teams, even serving as the face of the program on its website.
Schmidt is also Jay Voom, the actor in at least 29 porn flicks during the past seven years, from “Apple Smashing Lap Dance” to “Strippers Come Home Horny From the Club.”
He has spent most of his time in front of the camera engaging in sex with his wife — porn megastar Jewels Jade — for her website and film-distribution service. But he also has coupled with XXX actresses Mena Li and Ashden Wells, according to marketing materials found by The San Diego Union-Tribune and confirmed by Jade.
Schmidt declined to comment for this story.
The Coronado-based Special Warfare Command has launched an investigation, and a commissioned officer has been assigned to handle the case.
Major qions include whether Schmidt violated rules mandating that obtain advance approval from their commanders for ode work and whether the brass has been quietly condoning his film work. The investigation began only eight months before Schmidt had planned to retire, and disciplinary action could affect his rank and pension benefits.
“We have initiated a formal investigation into these allegations. There are very clear regulations which govern ode employment by ( Special Warfare) personnel as well as prohibitions on behavior that is discrediting to the service,” said Capt. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the .
In an interview this week, Schmidt’s wife of 15 years claimed that many high-ranking have long known about her husband’s movies and seemed to tolerate his moonlighting. She also alleged that the invited her to the commandos’ Coronado campus to sign autographs for after she was named a 2011 Penthouse Pet of the Month.
officials said Schmidt did not fill out mandatory paperwork to seek clearance from his chain of command for work as a porn actor. The command did grant formal permission for Schmidt to sell herbal supplements as a side business.
The ‘ rules for secondary employment have the force of a “punitive instruction,” which means violators can be tried under the Uniform Code of Justice for lack of compliance.
The has a long history of punishing active-duty service members and even veterans who do everything from writing unauthorized memoirs, to taking side jobs without permission, to engaging in work seen as detrimental to the ‘s reputation.
Like other branches, the bans activities that prejudice “good order and discipline or that is service discrediting,” risk potential “press or public relations coverage” or “create an improper appearance.”
For instance: After she posed nude in a 2007 Playboy magazine spread, Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart received a formal reprimand, was removed from her position as a training instructor and was demoted.
During a 1980 probe of seven servicewomen who appeared naked in Playboy, investigators also discovered that a male Marine major had posed in Playgirl. The punished the women with involuntarily discharges and gave the major a formal reprimand, allowing him to remain in the service.
also are barred from employment that discloses secret tactics and techniq markets the ‘s active-duty status or involves a contractor doing business with the Department of . Many high-profile misconduct cases have fallen into these categories.
In 2012, for example, the formally reprimanded members of Team Six for helping Electronic Arts design the video game “Medal of Honor: Warfighter.”
Similar non-disclosure rules extend into a ‘s retired years. In 2014, former Matt Bissonnette was forced to repay the federal government $4.5 million for writing an unauthorized, first-hand account of the slaying of terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Paying the bills
Schmidt’s unlikely entry into the skin trade turns on a very different kind of moonlighting gig he took while serving as a in Virginia.
He and his wife founded the Norfolk-based real estate company Schmidt and Wolf Associates in 2005, according to Virginia state documents. Within two years, losses at multiple rental properties created nearly $1.8 million in personal debt, according to the couple’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
Three properties had both first and second mortgages, and bankruptcy records show the pair had resorted to using credit cards to finance loan repayments. Schmidt’s pay was less than $60,000 per year at the time, according to the federal filing.
Jade appeared in dozens of porn films after her 2001 debut in “Escape to Sex Island,” but she had left the industry by 2003 to become a wife and mother, attend school for her nng degree and run the real estate firm.
As business losses deepened, she became a stripper to make ends meet, logging long weeks in Las Vegas and sending money home. Then she reluctantly returned to making sex films for the cash, she said.
“It’s helped our family. It got out of a lot of financial isswe were going through,” Jade said. “I could take care of the child. I could try to get out of financial debt.”
When the family rotated to Coronado in early 2009 for her husband’s service, she stayed in the porn business. Jade said it wasn’t by choice. She discovered that once a woman becomes a name in the porn video and Internet trade, with millions of fans worldwide, she’s spotted nearly everywhere she goes.
“Once you’re recognized and you build a brand and you’ve got your fans who know who you are, when you go to try to find a job, you can’t get another job,” she said.
Jade said she tried to get a management job at a luxury hotel in San Diego last year. Before she finished her employment interview, a fan recognized her, the gossip quickly spread through that office and she realized she couldn’t work there.
She’s currently ranked 79th globally for brand recognition by FreeOnes, a website often used by porn directors to book stars based on their popularity. To maintain that level of stardom in the industry, she said actresses need certain side ventures to lend credibility to their personal brand and to give fans a way to follow their careers. So she launched a website and a pair of online film-distribution lines she said are loss-leaders, driving Internet traffic but rarely turning a profit.
To reduce the cost of running these side businesses, she and other porn actors rely on “content trade” — donating time to one another’s self-made films. To further cut expenses, Jade said she recruited her husband to help out as an unpaid performer.
She alleges that many of his fellow watched the videos online.
“They knew about it at work,” Jade said. “He got called in and they said, ‘Look, keep it on the low, don’t mention the name and blah, blah, blah.’
“He was always pretty open about it with the command. I mean, honestly, all of his buddies knew about it. Everybody knew about it,” she said.
Although some past and present have sought to turn their battlefield valor into profit, Jade insisted that she and her husband never asked anyone to alert the media about his porn moonlighting. Other retired have turned to politics or business to earn a buck or make a name tied to the elite service’s reputation, but she said that is impossible for her husband in the porn trade.
“He’s too old,” Jade said. “I’m sorry, but no. You’re never going to be able to contract for a number of different reasons, but mostly because he’s too old. The older gwho are still barely running in the industry got in when they were 20, built a huge name and are still kind of filming grandpa porn.”
While Jade has alluded to an unnamed husband who’s a in several interviews and on social media, the Union-Tribune has found no reason to suspect that she or Schmidt ever used his career to market their films or herbal products.
He has helped to promote her work, however.
In a 2013 appearance with Jade on the “Dr. Susan Block TV” show, he spun on a stripper pole while wearing a Santa hat. The marketing for the Internet event played on current events, including the late 2012 massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and America’s ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“America treats sex, not violence, as the biggest threat to families and the nation,” the ad reads. “As long as we do that, we can expect more massacres, at home and abroad. As long as we sanction invasions, executions and drone strikes that kill children while humiliating a decorated general not for bombing innocents but for having an affair, why should we be surprised when one of our troubled young men picks up a few of his mom’s prized -style gand mass-murders a bunch of kids on his own?”
Jade said she and her husband never saw the ad and were shocked when it was shown to them. She said they would never endorse any statement against the or the nation’s war policies or inject her husband into political causes.
To Jade, the newly announced investigation into her husband’s porn work exposes the hypocrisy of a she believes is addicted to porn.
She said fans once sent her a photo of their armored vehicle in Iraq decorated with her name on it — misspelled — thanking her for helping them stay motivated through their combat deployment.
Jade said that when she was summoned to headquarters to sign autographs as a Penthouse Pet, she allegedly recognized local strippers there giving buzz cto recruits.
And when her husband was a rookie , superiors tasked him with toting the unit’s porn cache on a deployment.
“It’s very ironic,” she said. “Very hypocritical.”
The hasn’t set a deadline for when the investigation is expected to wrap up.
U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”
It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.
Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”
However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”
He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”
In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.
Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.
“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”
Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.
“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.
On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.
Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”
“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.
“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”
In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”
The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.
“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”
There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.
He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.
“The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,” Mattis said.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the secretary continued. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
Defense press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today that Mattis spoke several times during his confirmation process about military service and unit cohesion and how those are predicated on the core values of trust and mutual respect.
All Held Accountable
“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.
The secretary will meet with uniformed and civilian leaders in the days ahead and ensure that they are taking all appropriate actions to maintain good order and discipline, the captain added.
“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating…web sites and other services are looking into the matter, as well,” Davis said.
“Our values extend on- and off-duty, and we want personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct to promptly report matters to their chain of command,” the captain said.
Davis said service members who might feel uncomfortable reporting alleged online misconduct to their chain of command have alternative avenues that include family support services, equal opportunity offices, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the inspector general and law enforcement.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.
“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.
Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.
David Balme, the Royal Navy Officer who seized a top-secret Enigma machine and codebook while storming a captured German U-Boat has died at the age of 95.
Lieutenant Commander David Balme, who died on Sunday, was credited with helping to shorten the Second World War by two years after he led the boarding party that raided U-110, east of Cape Farewell, Greenland in 1941.
David Edward Balme was born in Kensington, west London, on October 1, 1920. He joined Dartmouth Naval College in 1934 and served as a midshipman in the Mediterranean in the Spanish Civil War before being reassigned to the destroyer Ivanhoe in 1939. Balme was appointed to the destroyer HMS Bulldog, which he described as a ‘happy little ship’, as her navigator in the early 1940s. It was while he was serving on this ship that he came across the German submarine.
On May 9, 1941, U-110, under the command of Kapitanleutnant Fritz Julius Lemp, had been attacking a convoy in the Atlantic south of Iceland together with U-201, when Lemp left his periscope up too long. Escort corvette HMS Aubretia sighted it and rushed to the scene and began depth charging. HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway followed and U-110 was forced to surface. HMS Bulldog immediately set course to ram the U-Boat at which Kplt. Lemp gave the order “abandon ship”. However unlike the U-Boat commander would suspect, the U-Boat did not sink and according to the former crew, he tried to swim back to U-110 in order to destroy the top-secret machine and code-books which were still left but he wasn’t seen again.
Lieutenant Dabid Balme was then ordered to ‘get whatever’ he could from the U-110. After rowing across to it, he made his way to the conning tower and had to holster his pistol in order to climb down three ladders to the control room. Recalling the incident many years later, he said: ‘Both my hands were occupied and I was a sitting target for anyone down below.’
He was said to have had no idea what the ‘funny’ instrument was when he initially picked it up – but his mission enabled British intelligence experts to secretly intercept and decipher signals sent from Germany to its submarines for the remainder of the War.
Sir Winston Churchill later credited the code-breaking operation, which sometimes cracked 6,000 messages a day, with saving lives across Europe and giving Britain the crucial edge in battle.
But the top-secret nature of their work meant Lt Cmdr Balme’s role in the operation’s success stayed on the classified list for decades.
The ‘typewriter’, which was actually an ‘unbreakable’ code machine designed by the Germans to protect military communications, proved invaluable to Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.
After the war, Lt Cmdr Balme married his wife Susan in 1947 and they had three children. He was said to enjoy hunting and was also a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. His significance in the Allie’s victory was not revealed until the Seventies, when the secrecy shrouding Bletchley Park and the code-breakers’ work finally began to lift.
He was presented with a Bletchley badge and a certificate signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and local MP Julian Lewis. Last night Dr Lewis paid tribute to the former sailor, who kept the U-boat commander’s cap and binoculars as souvenirs.
He said: ‘Having learned of the vital capture of the Enigma coding equipment from the U-110 when studying wartime history I was delighted to discover that the brave young officer responsible was one of my constituents.
The SS Meredith Victory might be the luckiest and most important ship of the entire Korean War. The Merchant Marine vessel carried men and materiel that saved US troops in the Pusan Perimeter, protected the supplies around Inchon harbor, and pulled off the “Christmas Miracle” – the largest single ship rescue evacuation of refugees in history.
Merchant Mariners might be history’s biggest unsung heroes. The Korean War in 1950 was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.
In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.
The unsung heroes of the Merchant Marine were part of the Inchon Landing force as well. If it weren’t for them, the whole thing might have fallen to the bottom of the ocean. The day before the landings at Inchon, a massive typhoon hit the coast of the Korean Peninsula, just off of which lay the United Nations invasion fleet. Hurricane-force winds slammed the boats supporting the invasion. Among them was the SS Meredith Victory, a merchant marine ship carrying men and supplies for the landing. Were it not for the ship’s crew’s skill at saving the ship, the entire invasion might never have happened.
The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.
But that’s not the last time history called the Meredith Victory. By the end of 1950, the Chinese had intervened in the war and were pushing UN forces back to the south. Along with those retreating troops came thousands of North Korean refugees fleeing the repressive Communist regime. By the time the Meredith Victory arrived in Hungnam Harbor, the docks were packed with refugees and soldiers fleeing the Chinese.
“The Koreans on the dock, to me, that’s what we were there for, that was our job. The problem was how we [were] going to get them aboard,” remembered Burley Smith, a Merchant Mariner, the third mate aboard the Meredith Victory. “There were too many people and not enough time to get them all loaded. It looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
North Korean refugees crowd the harbor at Hungnam, December 1950.
By this time, the Army had already left, and the Chinese were being held back by Naval gunfire. The crew of the Meredith Victory began loading passengers aboard this ship meant to house 59 people. The crew worked around the clock, loading the masses of people on to her decks. They managed to get all 14,000 onto the ship and safely away from the harbor before the Army blew the port facilities.
The ship traversed the coast of Korea, on the lookout for mines, enemy submarines, and North Korean fighter planes. By the time the ship got to Geoje Island, every single refugee was alive – and five more were born along the way. It was a Christmas miracle.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants the bomb you’ve been tinkering with at home. DARPA’s latest initiative is identifying emerging threats by mining everyday technologies. According to the agency’s press release, this effort, called Improv, “asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.” So DARPA wants that homemade bomb you’ve been building in your garage.
This means they want to see what you can make out of everyday household items so they can prepare a countermeasure. This kind of thinking is meant to tap into the natural resourcefulness and creativity of humans.
“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies,” said program manager John Main, who will oversee the new effort. “Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”
The agency is looking to see how everyday household materials can be used to threaten U.S. national security. It may sound odd to think of American wreaking havoc with common materials, but it isn’t unheard of. In 1996, Timothy McVeigh purchased only enough ammonium nitrate to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre, a formula commonly used to grow corn. This did not raise any eyebrows in Kansas. McVeigh later used the fertilizer to blow up Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people.
“U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies,” DARPA said in a press release. “Increasingly, off-the-shelf equipment… features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats.”
To enter, interested parties must submit a plan for their prototype for the chance at a potential $40,000 in funding. Then, a smaller number of candidates will be chosen to build their device with $70,000 in potential funding. Finally, top candidates will enter the final phase, which includes a thorough analysis of the invention and a military demonstration.
The Department of Defense would like remind potential contributors that they should only build weapons within the bounds of their local, state, and federal laws.
The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.
“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.
Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.
The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.
BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.
“They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”
The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.
Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.
NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.
Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.
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The Skeleton Army rioting in Worthing in 1884 (public domain).
When we think of the Salvation Army today, we likely think of thrift store clothing, department store Santas and the incessant ringing of a tiny bell as we struggle to find a few coins in the freezing cold.
But the Salvation Army isn’t just collecting your pocket change and old, outdated clothing for fun. It’s a worldwide force of more than 1.7 million members who use military ranks to bring Christian salvation to the poor and needy. Make no mistake, the Salvation Army was designed to wage war against sin – and it does.
Today’s Salvation Army might seem a lot like many other Christian charities, and it might well be. Whether you like that or not all depends on your beliefs. In the SA’s earliest days, however, there were many who very much disliked its mission, and one part in particular.
While the United States was off fighting to end the evils of slavery in the Civil War, two Londoners in England founded the Salvation Army to end the evils of sin. William Booth became the army’s first general and his wife Catherine became the mother of the Salvation Army.
Their mission was to convert the prostitutes, gamblers, and boozehounds in London’s East End to their version of Christianity. The unique way the organization was formed pretty much established it as a kind of church within itself.
The early Salvation Army’s soldiers would march in protest against England’s rampant alcoholism and in favor of sexual abstinence. But like all armies on a mission, they were bound to meet an enemy army.
The Salvation Army’s opposing force would even come to real-life blows with the Christian group.
What started out calling itself the Unconverted Salvation Army soon morphed into The Skeleton Army in the lower middle class neighborhoods of London, like Whitechapel and elsewhere in England, with the idea of opposing the Salvation Army wherever they turned up.
The Skeleton Army counterprotested Salvation Army marches and even produced literature in the form of leaflets to help spread its message. Most of these leaflets were dubbed obscene at best and at worst, libelous and blasphemous.
Their beef with the Salvation Army seemed to be its opposition to alcohol and support of not having sex. Soon, 21 English cities feature Skeleton Army units on the march against their Christian enemies.
Everything about the Skeleton Army was designed to mock the Salvation Army in some way. They wore badges and carried flags that pictured a skull and crossbones. Its motto of “Beef, Beer, and Bacca” was supposed to mock the SA’s “Soup, Soap, and Salvation.”
Where the Salvation Army found success, the Skeleton Army was almost right there behind it. It even found city officials willing to back the Skeletons. English towns rose up to throw off the occupation of the Salvation Army as Skeletons disrupted SA meetings by throwing dead rats at the soldiers in worship.
The confrontations came to a head in Worthing, England in 1884. As the Salvation Army marched, local police tried to keep the peace between the Skeletons and the marchers, but things boiled over rather quickly. 4,000 Skeletons met the Salvation Army on the “battlefield” or Worthing, throwing bricks, rocks, glass, eggs and whatever else wasn’t nailed down.
Battles between Skeletons and the Salvation Army raged for more than a decade, with the Skeletons trying to turn back the Salvationists at every turn. The Salvation Army won out eventually, as Skeletons slowly faded into history and the Salvation Army slowly made its way into the parking lot at Sears around Christmastime.