The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.


Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.

When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.

He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.

As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.

A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.

As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.

He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.

As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”

Robert Smalls was a slave.

His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.

As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.

They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.

Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.

When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.

You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.

Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.

Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.

Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.

In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).

In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.

After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.

And he did.

He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.

Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”
The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.

In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).

After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.

On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Tolkien’ trailer depicts WW1 influence on ‘Lord of the Rings’

World War I veteran John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937 and followed it up with The Lord of the Rings (1954-1944), books that would shape fantasy epics forever. The stories take place in Middle Earth, a medieval-esque land inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, orcs, and trolls, as well as sorcerers and wizards and witches and all manner of magics.

Thanks to sexy Legolas Peter Jackson, everyone has heard of Tolkien’s creations, but not everyone knows where he drew his inspiration from. Finally, the biopic Tolkien will tell the author’s tale.


TOLKIEN | Trailer 2 | FOX Searchlight

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Watch the trailer:

Tolkien was a language scholar, specializing in Old and Middle English, which explains how he was able to invent his own languages for Middle Earth so perfectly. In 1915, Tolkien completed his studies at Oxford and became a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. After training, he finally embarked for France in June 1916 and saw action almost immediately at the Battle of the Somme.

His service during World War I would heavily influence his writing, which the trailer alludes to brilliantly as the great dragon Smaug manifests in the flames of war.

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Tolkien would lost two friends in the Battle of the Somme, a heavy toll for anyone to bear. Tolkien would also suffer from ‘trench fever’ — a typhus-like condition — that would heavily debilitate him for the rest of his service.

Also read: How Tolkien’s war experience would influence ‘Lord of the Rings’

The journey from warrior to artist is a fascinating one, and Tolkien is one of the greatest. He had already begun writing some of his earliest tales, and after the war he sought employment as an Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary and later as an Associate Professor in English Language at the University of Leeds.

Based on the trailer, the film appears to celebrate Nicholas Hoult’s Tolkien, from his early education, love of language, and close friendships; to the war; and, of course, to his relationship with Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins.

For fans of his work, the film looks promising.

For anyone who knows the toll that war can take, the film looks familiar — and perhaps promises a way “back again.”

Tolkien is directed by Dome Karukoski and will open on May 10, 2019.

MIGHTY FIT

Data shows performance divide on Army Combat Fitness Test

It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.

The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.


So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)

Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.

Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.

Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.

Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.

Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.

Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.

Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.

CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.

Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.

“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”

Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”

“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”

Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.

“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”

The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.

“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.

The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.

“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the secret story of South Dakota’s nuclear missile silo explosion

Bob Hicks was spending a cold December night in his barracks 53 years ago at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City when the phone rang.


It was the chief of his missile maintenance team, who dispatched Hicks to an incident at an underground silo.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
The personnel access hatch at a nuclear-missile silo site in South Dakota. Image from Library of Congress.

“The warhead,” the team chief said, “is no longer on top of the missile.”

Hicks eventually learned that a screwdriver used by another airman caused a short circuit that resulted in an explosion. The blast popped off the missile’s cone — the part containing the thermonuclear warhead — and sent it on a 75-foot fall to the bottom of the 80-foot-deep silo.

The courageous actions Hicks took that night and over the next several days were not publicized. The accident was not disclosed to the public until years later, when a government report on accidents with nuclear weapons included seven sentences about it. The report listed the accident as the nation’s first involving a Minuteman missile.

Further details are reported publicly for the first time here, drawn from documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by the Journal and others, and from Hicks himself, who is now 73 years old and living in Cibolo, Texas.

When Hicks was sent to the accident on Dec. 5, 1964, he was only 20 years old, and the cryptic statement from his team chief was the only information he was given.

“That was enough,” Hicks recalled, “to cause me to get dressed pretty quickly.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
A Minuteman I missile prepared for test launch. Photo from USAF.

Explosion

The trouble began earlier that day when two other airmen were sent to a silo named Lima-02. It was 60 miles northwest of Ellsworth Air Force Base and 3 miles southeast of the tiny community of Vale, on the plains outside the Black Hills.

Lima-02 was one of 150 steel-and-concrete silos that had been implanted underground and filled with Minuteman missiles during the previous several years in western South Dakota, where the missiles were scattered across 13,500 square miles. There were hundreds more silos in place or soon to be constructed in North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska, eventually bringing the nation’s Minuteman fleet to a peak of 1,000.

The original Minuteman missiles, called Minuteman I, were 56 feet tall and weighed 65,000 pounds when loaded with fuel. The missiles were capable of traveling at a top speed of 15,000 miles per hour and could reach the Cold War enemy of the United States, the Soviet Union, within 30 minutes.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
A static display of ICBMs. From left are the Peacekeeper, the Minuteman III, and the Minuteman I. USAF photo by R.J. Oriez.

Each missile was tipped with a thermonuclear warhead that was many times more powerful than either of the two atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Japan during World War II. One government agency reportedly estimated that the detonation of an early 1960s-era Minuteman warhead over Detroit would have caused 70 square miles of property destruction, 250,000 deaths, and 500,000 injuries.

The two airmen who visited the Lima-02 silo on Dec. 5, 1964, were part of a young Air Force missile corps that was responsible for launching and maintaining the missiles. The two airmen’s names are redacted – as are many other names – from an Air Force report that was filed after the accident.

Read more: 6 weapons that allow the US to strike anywhere in the world

At noon that Saturday, the airmen received orders to troubleshoot and repair the Lima-02 security system. They made the long drive and arrived at 2 p.m.

The rectangular, north-south aligned, 1-acre silo site was surrounded by a chain-link fence that was topped with strands of barbed wire. The unremarkable-looking place consisted mostly of a flat expanse of gravel. Toward the south end were several low-slung tops of underground concrete structures.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
There were 150 silos located in South Dakota during the Cold War. They were man-less sights surrounded by 8 foot cyclone fences topped with barbed wire. Inside concrete and metal structures housed and protected the Minuteman missiles. This is Delta-09 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Photo from National Park Service.

One of the structures was a 3½-foot-thick, 90-ton slab that covered the missile and would have been blasted aside during a launch. A couple of paces away from that was a circular, steel-and-concrete vault door, about the diameter of a large tractor tire. The door concealed a 28-foot-deep shaft leading to the underground work area known as the equipment room.

Working in 24-degree conditions above ground, the airmen began a series of steps with special tools and combination locks that allowed them to open the massive vault door. Next, they climbed the ladder down to the equipment room, which encircled the upper part of the silo and missile like a doughnut.

The airmen worked in the roughly 5 feet of space between the steel launch tube and the equipment-room wall, among racks of electronics and surfaces painted mostly in pale, institutional green. Though the launch tube was between them and the missile, the missile was not much more than an arm’s length away.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
A ladder extends into a 28-foot-deep shaft toward the equipment room that encircles the upper part of an underground missile silo. Image from Library of Congress.

According to the Air Force report on the accident, one of the airmen removed a fuse as part of a check on a security alarm control box. The report says the airman was “lacking a fuse puller,” so he used a screwdriver to pry the fuse from its clip.

When the fuse was re-inserted, the report says, it was supposed to click. The sound of a click indicated good contact with the holder. But there was no click, so the airman repeated the procedure. Still not certain he heard a click, he pulled the fuse out a third time and pushed it back into the holder again.

“At 1500 hours MST,” the report says, referencing 3 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, “simultaneously with the making of this contact, a loud explosion occurred in the launch tube.”

‘Broken arrow’

Hicks arrived at the silo later and heard a simpler story from his team chief. According to that story, it was merely the removal of the fuse with a screwdriver – not the pushing-in of the fuse – that caused the problem. Hicks said the metal of the screwdriver contacted the positive side of the fuse and also the fuse’s grounded metal holder, causing a short circuit that sent electricity flowing to unintended places.

“It would be just like you taking your car battery and you touch a screwdriver to the positive terminal on the battery and you touch the frame of the car,” Hicks explained in a recent interview. “You have just put voltage potential on your entire car.”

Hicks and the accident report agree that the wrong tool was used. In the language of the report, “The technician did not use the authorized, available tool to remove the fuse.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Racks of electronics in an underground equipment room in the upper part of a missile silo. Image from Library of Congress.

The resulting short circuit might not have been problematic had it not been for some wiring in one of the missile’s retrorockets that was later found to be faulty. According to Hicks, some weakly insulated or exposed wiring may have been in contact with the metal casing of a retrorocket, allowing for a jolt of electricity that caused the retrorocket to fire.

The retrorockets were housed below the cone of the missile. They were supposed to fire when the missile was in outer space, to separate the third and final fuel stage from the cone, allowing the cone and its warhead — which were collectively called the “re-entry vehicle” — to fall toward the target.

When one of the retrorockets fired inside the missile in the Lima-02 silo, pressure built up in the space where the retrorockets were housed, and the cone of the missile — which was about 5 feet tall, nearly 3 feet in diameter at its base, and about 750 pounds in weight — burst off and fell down in the few feet of space between the missile and the silo wall.

The cone hit the wall of the silo, bounced back toward the missile and grazed it in two spots along the second fuel stage, hit two of the three suspension cables that supported the missile, and finally crashed to the concrete floor of the silo and came to rest on its side. Luckily, the cone did not do enough damage to the missile to cause the missile to explode.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
A diagram outlining the different sections of a Minuteman I ICBM. Image from USAF.

Neither of the airmen immediately knew what had happened. The bureaucratically written accident report says they “expeditiously evacuated” after hearing the explosion, as the silo filled with gray smoke.

In later years, Buddy Smith, who now lives in Texas and is a friend of Hicks, received training about the South Dakota accident before working in the missile fields of Wyoming.

“I wasn’t there,” Smith said of the explosion, “but I know there were two technicians who ruined their underwear. ‘Cause that ain’t supposed to happen.”

Bob Dirksing, who was Hicks’ roommate at Ellsworth and now lives in the Cincinnati area, said the two airmen who were in the silo when the explosion happened were lucky to survive.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Dirksing said. “If the short had gone to the missile instead of to the retrorockets, it would’ve been a completely different story. I’m sure there would’ve been fatalities. The boys who were down there would’ve been fried.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Nuclear weapon test Bravo (yield 15 Mt) on Bikini Atoll. Photo from US Department of Energy.

The explosion triggered a flurry of activity over the next seven hours. A potential “broken arrow” was declared, which is military-speak for an accident involving a nuclear weapon. A strike team was deployed to set up a 2,000-foot cordon around the silo, including a roadblock. Medics were dispatched to the scene. Three sergeants were flown in by helicopter.

The sergeants went down to the equipment room after the smoke cleared and made two observations: Everything was covered in gray dust, and the missile was missing its top.

A radiation-monitoring team went down next and did not detect alarming radiation levels but did find the missile’s cone, which contained the warhead, damaged and lying at the bottom of the silo.

By about 10 p.m., the scramble to assess the situation was over. Nobody was injured. The missile was slightly damaged but otherwise intact. The warhead was safe inside its cone, although the cone was damaged. And except for some Vale-area residents who probably saw the commotion and wondered what was going on, the public knew nothing.

The emergency was over, and it was time to plan a salvage operation. Sometime before midnight at Ellsworth, the phone rang for Bob Hicks.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Minuteman I test silo. Image from USAF.

Into the silo

Hicks had enlisted less than two years earlier as a skinny, 6-foot-tall, 19-year-old farm boy from Somerset, Texas, a small town about 20 miles south of San Antonio. He was the youngest in a family of 13 children, which included six boys who served more than a combined 90 years on Air Force active duty from World War II to Vietnam and beyond.

After basic training, Hicks had been sent to nuclear weapons maintenance school in Colorado. By October 1963 – eight months after his enlistment – he was installing warheads and guidance packages atop Minuteman missiles in the silos of western South Dakota.

Also Read: North Korean nuke fears prompt interest in abandoned ICBM sites

The silos had been rushed into existence after a groundbreaking ceremony in 1962, with Americans still reeling from the shock of seeing the Soviets launch their Sputnik satellite in 1957. If the Soviets could put a satellite into orbit, American leaders reasoned, it would not be long until they could launch a missile on an arcing path through outer space to the United States.

When Hicks got the call about the accident on Dec. 5, 1964, he and another airman jumped into the specially equipped truck-and-trailer rig that they typically used to transport warheads. They sped into the night, traveling on the newly constructed Interstate 90 toward Sturgis. It wasn’t long before Hicks had to pull over when he saw a state trooper’s cruiser lights flashing in his rear-view mirrors.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Sputnik. Image from Wikimedia Commons user Lokilech.

“He said, ‘Ya’ll seem to be in a hurry,'” Hicks recalled.

Hicks did not divulge that he was en route to a potential nuclear disaster, and the trooper inquired no further.

But the trooper did mention some smoke emitting from one of the rig’s wheels. Hicks and his companion traced the problem to some bad brake hoses. They made an impromptu fix and sped off again toward Sturgis.

After passing through Sturgis and heading east, Hicks steered the rig north around the hulking, dark mass of Bear Butte and motored across the quiet countryside to Vale before finally reaching the silo.

There were perhaps a dozen people at the scene.

“As we later joked,” Hicks recalled in his slight Texas drawl, “They were standing around not knowing whether to scratch their watch or wind their butts.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Map showing the 44th Missile Wing of Ellsworth Air Force Base which was operational from 1963 until deactivation in the 1990’s. L2, encircled in pink, is the Lima-02 site. Map from National Park Service.

According to Hicks, the missile had not yet been rendered safe, and his team chief said somebody had to do it. Hicks volunteered.

When he saw the missile was fully upright, Hicks was relieved. If it had fallen against the silo, the missile might have been weakened to the point of a collapse and explosion. But that disaster had been avoided.

Incredible as it may sound to a civilian, Hicks said he spent no time worrying about the thermonuclear warhead. He had been convinced by his training that it was nearly impossible to detonate a warhead accidentally. Among other things, he said, the warhead had to receive codes from the launch-control officers, had to reach a certain altitude, and had to detect a certain amount of acceleration and G-force. There were so many safeguards built in, Hicks later joked, that a warhead might have been lucky to detonate even when it was supposed to.

That’s not to say his trip down the silo was without danger. The missile, which contained a load of fuel, had been grazed and damaged by the falling cone. And with only a few years of history behind the Minuteman missile program and no known nuclear accident involving a Minuteman until the one Hicks was confronting, he was heading into the unknown.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
A Minuteman II Missile resting in its launch tube. Image from National Park Service.

Nevertheless, he climbed down the shaft and into the equipment room that encircled the upper part of the underground silo. Next, he lowered the so-called “diving board,” which extended from the launch tube toward the missile and allowed Hicks to essentially walk the plank at a height of about 60 feet above the silo floor.

He also installed a work cage, which was a man-sized steel basket that could be hung from motorized cables on the inner wall of the launch tube. The cable assembly not only moved the cage vertically but could also move horizontally on a track around the launch tube, allowing airmen to access every part of the missile.

Hicks maneuvered the cage down the side of the missile and started the procedure to “safe” it. At each point between the missile’s three fuel stages, Hicks inserted a long metal rod with a socket-like head and turned the rod to break the electrical connections between the stages, rendering them incapable of firing.

With the missile “safed,” it was time to figure out what to do about the warhead.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
The Minuteman I missile in the Restoration Hangar at the National Museum of the USAF, broken into stages. Photo from USAF.

‘Up very slowly’

Hicks said there was a particularly high-ranking officer at the scene who’d been flown in by helicopter. After Hicks had rendered the missile safe, Hicks came back to the surface and heard the officer asking some other men how to retrieve the warhead.

Hicks heard no response, so he piped up. Cargo nets were sometimes used to move heavy equipment in and out of the silo, he said. He suggested that a net could be lowered to the bottom of the silo, and the cone with its warhead could be rolled into the net. The net could then be hoisted up on a cable by a crane.

Related: Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

The officer did not appreciate the boldness of Hicks, whose rank was airman second class.

“He said, ‘Airman, when I want an opinion from you, I’ll ask you,'” Hicks recalled.

Hicks retreated to his truck and awaited further orders. Later, Hicks said, he was recalled to the officer’s side and asked to explain the idea again.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Staff Sgt. Isaiah Miller, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron, uses a guided missile maintenance platform May 7, 2010, to remove bolts securing the reentry system on a mock-up of a Minuteman III missile during a maintenance training exercise at Malmstrom Air Force Base’s T-9 launch facility maintenance trainer. USAF photo by John Turner.

The cargo-net method was eventually chosen as the plan, but Hicks said the Air Force wanted the procedure to be practiced in another silo. The practice proceeded over the next couple of days.

Following the practice, the operation was green-lighted, and a crew assembled at Lima-02 on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 1964 – four days after the accident – to retrieve the damaged missile cone and its thermonuclear warhead.

First, some jagged edges on the cone that were caused by its violent separation from the missile were covered in padding, and the cone was hoisted about a foot off the silo floor while a mattress pad was slid underneath it. Next, two cargo nets, which were layered one on top of the other under the pad, were pulled up around the cone and hooked to the cable.

Then began the painstaking process of raising the cone up out of the 80-foot-deep silo, in the few feet of space between the missile and the silo wall, without hitting the missile and causing an explosion. The crane did the lifting, but three men also held tight to a hemp rope that was connected to the cone in case of any problems with the crane, cable or net.

“Up very slow,” reads a portion of a minute-by-minute account of the operation, as printed in the later accident report. “Dead slow. Stop. Up very slow. Stop. Up slow. Stop ”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Restoration crews install the Minuteman IA missile in the Missile Space Gallery at the National Museum of the USAF.

And on it continued like that for about two hours until the cone emerged from the silo late that afternoon. The cone and its inner warhead were placed on top of some mattresses, Hicks said, in a truck-and-trailer rig. There the cone and warhead sat overnight, in the trailer.

The next day – Thursday, Dec. 10 – a convoy assembled to escort the truck to Ellsworth Air Force Base. According to Hicks, he drove the truck, in part because nobody else at the scene seemed to know how.

The warhead was eventually transported to Medina Annex at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for disassembly. The written record is not as clear about the fate of the missile, but the accident report indicates it may have been removed from the silo the next day, Friday, Dec. 11.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Air Force Commendation Medal. Image from USAF.

Aftermath

Also on Dec. 11, 1964, the Air Force appointed a board of officers to investigate the accident. The board filed its report seven days later, on Dec. 18, and listed “personnel error” as the primary cause. The report said the cost of the damage was $234,349, which would equate to about $1.85 million in inflation-adjusted 2017 money.

Large sections of the report’s findings and recommendations are redacted, and the non-redacted portions do not disclose the fate of the two airmen who were at the silo when the explosion happened.

Several months after the accident, in March 1965, Hicks was selected as the maintenance man of the month for his division. A short article about the honor in the base newspaper did not disclose that a missile accident had occurred, but it vaguely referenced Hicks’ role in rendering a missile safe and transporting “damaged components.”

That same month, Hicks was awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for acts of courage. The written citation with the medal briefly summarized the accident and the role Hicks played in responding to it.

“By his personal courage and willingness to risk his life when necessary in the performance of dangerous duties,” the citation said, in part, “Airman Hicks has reflected credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

The accident did not scare Hicks away from dangerous jobs. Shortly after receiving his medal, he trained in explosive ordnance disposal and was eventually sent to Guam during the Vietnam War, where he disarmed and extracted bombs that failed to release from B-52 planes.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron flies with eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs connected to an external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam. USAF Christopher Okula.

Hicks went on to work for the Office of Special Investigations, which is the Air Force equivalent of the FBI. He retired from active duty during the 1980s and was hired to work as a civilian agent for OSI until his final retirement in 2005. Along the way, he and his wife, Janet, had two sons.

The missile silos in western South Dakota were decommissioned following the 1991 signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the United States and the Soviet Union. By 1996, all but one of South Dakota’s silos had been imploded. The last remaining silo, called Delta-09, is now host to an unarmed missile and is part of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which includes three attractions spread out along Interstate 90 east of Wall – the silo, a preserved launch-control center called Delta-01, and a visitor center.

The former Lima-02 silo site near Vale has passed into private ownership and is now home to a honey-extracting business. The fence that formerly surrounded the silo complex is still there, kept intact by the landowner.

Although South Dakota’s Minuteman missiles now belong to history, the United States still has 400 Minutemans ready to launch from silos in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska. Each of the missiles is a Minuteman III – two generations advanced from the Minuteman I that was in the Lima-02 silo in 1964.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
The doors have been painted at the Delta-01 launch silo. Photo from South Dakota Public Braodcasting.

The Minuteman III fleet is just one part of the US nuclear-weapons triad, which comprises 5,113 nuclear warheads in all, including some in storage and others that are deployed and ready for use from land, sea, or air.

To opponents of nuclear armament, that’s a lot of accidents waiting to happen. The US government has officially acknowledged 32 accidents involving nuclear weapons since the 1950s, while additional accidents, incidents, mishaps, and close calls have been uncovered by journalists and activists.

And accidents continue to happen. In 2014, three airmen were conducting maintenance on a Minuteman III missile at a silo in Colorado when an accident caused $1.8 million worth of damage to the missile – roughly the same amount of damage, taking inflation into account, as the 1964 accident in South Dakota. The few known details of the 2014 accident were revealed only after persistent requests for information from The Associated Press.

None of the accidents suffered by the nation’s nuclear-weapons program has ever caused a nuclear detonation. That there was not a detonation at Lima-02 in 1964 is an indication of the safety and reliability of the Minuteman missile program, according to Bob Hicks, who did not sour on nuclear weapons after the accident.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. DoD photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley.

Hicks views the nuclear triad as a necessary and effective deterrent against attacks from nations such as North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un is provoking worldwide anxiety about his development of nuclear weapons.

As the future of nuclear weaponry unfolds, the world may need more unflappable people like Hicks, who considers himself lucky rather than unfortunate to have been called to the site of a nuclear missile accident.

“A career is made up of opportunities,” Hicks said. “Being in the right place, at the right time.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Let’s talk about how John Wayne’s grandson is the Mandalorian’s stunt double

Along with Flash Gordon, Joseph Campbell, and about a million other things, George Lucas was inspired by The Searchers when he created Star Wars. The director even slid a few subtle references to the film into A New Hope.

The star of The Searchers, of course, is John Wayne, so it’s cool in a full-circle kind of way that his grandson is now officially part of the Star Wars universe.


The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

The Mandalorian

​Brendan Wayne got his start in the family business in a 2001 episode of Angel, and since then he’s appeared in a lot of movies and TV shows, from Fast Furious to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Sons of Anarchy.

In The Mandalorian, the younger Wayne appears in episodes three through six as one of the doubles for the titular character. The Wayne family is now officially part of a blockbuster world their paterfamilias helped inspire.

All in all, this is very cool, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention another less cool way the Wayne family inadvertently altered the course of Star Wars history in a way that many fans did not appreciate.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

The Mandalorian

George Lucas specifically cited John Wayne in the thought process behind altering the Han-Greedo standoff in A New Hope so that Han shoots second.

Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, “Should he be a cold-blooded killer?” Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, “Yeah, he should be John Wayne.” And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.

John Wayne was such an influential actor that he was synonymous with a certain rugged moral masculinity, something many fans would argue led Lucas astray when he altered A New Hope to make Solo more Wayne-like. Lucas tinkered with the scene yet again, it became one of the biggest stories on Disney+ launch day, though you could hardly blame John Wayne for either kerfuffle.

You also can’t blame Brendan Wayne, whose presence in episodes 3 through 6 of The Mandalorian is the kind of cool trivia that will make fans happy, not angry.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This USAF veteran and physician exposes what’s really happening to our nation’s ER staff

Emergency physician Emily (who asked us to not use her last name) was knee-deep in flu season in Texas when the initial reports of coronavirus began surfacing.

“I was highly skeptical. It sounded very similar to the flu,” the 36-year-old Air Force veteran shared with We Are The Mighty. “Information out of China was obviously pretty filtered and somewhat difficult to interpret. Once I began hearing reports from physicians in Italy, this was probably late February, I started to become a bit alarmed. This was not the flu. It was much, much worse. It was going to be bad.”
The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Emily at work.

In early March, Texas hospitals began preparations for the anticipated surge of COVID patients.

“PPE [personal protective equipment] shortages were rapidly apparent, and the supply seemed to change daily, making our personnel protection protocols constant moving targets,” Emily explained. “Testing capabilities also fluctuated wildly, again making for daily — sometimes hourly — changes in how we performed testing. Going into work was a completely different experience every day. We had to quickly adapt to being comfortable with extreme flexibility.”

As the days passed, extreme flexibility would be crucial.

“When shelter-in-place orders took effect in our area [and] as people began staying home and elective hospital procedures were cancelled, emergency department volumes plummeted, as did hospital revenues,” she explained. “This led to drastic changes in how emergency departments were staffed. Down-staffing was warranted, because there just weren’t as many patients to see, but it was – and is – still having significant effects on the pay for these frontline workers.”

Emily, who works in three different hospitals across three different healthcare systems on a PRN [as needed] basis, typically works “at least full-time, some months even more so.” With low emergency room volumes, she expressed feeling underutilized.

“The PRN employees have been the first to go,” she shared. “My shifts have been cut back drastically. I have cherished the extra time with my family and my children, even as I am itching to go back to work. To have the skills to be of use and not have the opportunity to use them has been an unusual form of torture.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Emily with her family.

She adds that COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the state of the U.S. healthcare system.

“Our healthcare system has been teetering on the verge of collapse for a long time,” she said. “The people who profit from our for-profit healthcare system are neither the doctors nor the patients. As I saw our system straining under the weight of COVID, I had hoped that it might finally break and give way to real and lasting reform. Instead, I have seen physicians losing their jobs for speaking out about their lack of PPE. I have seen physicians experiencing pay cuts, even as they work more, work harder, and in a more dangerous environment. When administrators who sit behind a desk feel empowered to dictate to their healthcare workers how often they have to reuse PPE, all the while handing out pay cuts to those exposing themselves to the greatest degree of risk, we have a serious problem.”

Through it all, and despite the gravity of the situation, Emily shares that coronavirus has provided her with professional clarity.

“COVID has been something of a crucible, reinforcing for me that emergency medicine is more of a calling than a job,” she said. “I have been fearful for my own personal safety as I have heard accounts of physicians falling ill, and even dying from complications of coronavirus. As a combat veteran, facing peril while in the line of duty is not foreign to me, but COVID has felt different — I never expected to be in danger while working in a stateside ER as a civilian. Despite the risk, I have felt an undeniable pull toward the Emergency Department, to use the skills I have spent years developing and the expertise I have gained from thousands of patient encounters to try and do some good. It has been good to feel like I can be of some use.”

Like Pat Sheehan in Louisiana, Emily stated that in the ER, healthcare workers are always on the front lines.

“The only difference now is that the world is finally paying attention.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

www.youtube.com

The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How you can help Navy SEALs fight veteran homelessness — and swim the Hudson!

On Saturday, Aug. 3, a team of over 30 Navy SEALs will swim across the Hudson River to honor military veterans and their families, as well as those who died during the 9/11 attacks and the wars that followed.

It will be the first Navy SEAL Hudson River Swim and Run — and the first ever legally sanctioned swim across the Hudson River. The event has the full support of New York City and state officials as well as the NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority of New York, New Jersey Police Department, and New Jersey State Police.

The benefit will help the GI Go Fund, which supports veterans and their families with housing, health care, employment services, and financial aid.

Swimming over two and a half miles in the currents of the Hudson is a great challenge — but that’s how the frogmen like it.


Former Navy SEAL Swims Across Hudson River

www.youtube.com

Former Navy SEAL Swims Across Hudson River

“We get nowhere in life by staying in our comfort zone. Results come when we get uncomfortable, challenge ourselves and push pass our perceived limits. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t apply that lesson, and I won’t get to where I need to be in life if that trend doesn’t continue,” shared Remi Adeleke, a SEAL embodying the idea of service after service.

There are nearly 38,000 homeless veterans in the United States. The SEALs, through GI Go Fund, are helping to give back to their community of service members — and they could use your support.

“The route we chose is important,” said Kaj Larsen, one of the Navy SEAL swimmers. “We are swimming to the Statue of Liberty because it is an iconic symbol of freedom, the same thing we fought for overseas. Ellis Island represents the diversity that makes us strong as a nation. And finally the Ground Zero memorial, which has deep significance for the country, the SEAL teams, and me personally.”

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Larsen and his team train beneath the Statue of Liberty.

Larsen was in First Phase of SEAL training on 9/11. His roommate LT Michael Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient, was from New York. His father was a New York firefighter and when Murphy was killed on June 28, 2005 in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings, he was wearing an NYFD t-shirt under his uniform.

“There is an inextricable connection between the SEAL community and New York. Our fates were intertwined on September 11, so it is an honor to come back here with my fellow SEALs and compete in this event and give back to the city,” said Larsen.

First the frogmen will swim from Liberty Park to the Statue of Liberty. From there they head to Ellis Island. Finally they swim to Battery park and run as a unit to the Freedom Tower and the site of a new memorial dedicated to Special Operations Forces.

At each stop they will perform a series of push-ups and pull-ups culminating in a ceremony at the SOF memorial.

So far they have raised over ,000 to benefit homeless and transitioning veterans in NYC, but they’re not stopping there.

Check out details about the event and help spread the word — or maybe pitch in a few bucks — right here.

Articles

The Navy is looking for a ship that was a hero of the American Revolution

A team of sailors and scientists from the United State, Great Britain and France searched for the wreckage of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard in early September in the frigid waters off the coast of England.


Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, sailors from Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center, sailors from the French Mine Clearance Dive Unit and members from Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration embarked on the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) to survey a late 18th or early 19th century-shipwreck in the North Sea.

The site is interesting to researchers since it’s considered a region of the sea where the final battle of John Paul Jones’ famous warship Bonhomme Richard went down. While some evidence from the site suggests the wreck researchers found could be Jones’s ship, other information suggests it sank much later.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom
Joe Gregory, an able seaman aboard the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), watches as the ship’s workboat is driven alongside Grasp during a magnetometer survey of a shipwreck site. Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command are aboard Grasp conducting a remote sensing survey of a shipwreck that may be that of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard was lost Sept. 23, 1779 following her victory over the much more heavily armed HMS Serapis. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

“The site has potential to be from the late 18th to early 19th century,” said George Schwarz, an underwater archaeologist from NHHC. “Although the site has some intriguing features, including a buried wooden hull, well-preserved organic artifacts and large concentrations of concreted iron objects, we also have later material on site such as sections of 19th century iron chain.”

Different Navy units surveyed areas around the shipwreck site using various pieces of equipment. NHHC used a magnetometer towed behind a rigid hull inflatable boat to map possible concentrations of iron along a predetermined grid over the site. NOMWC used unmanned underwater vehicles to survey other areas of the site and MCDU used a towed side scan sonar. MDSU 2 accompanied the mission and provided logistical and small boat support.

“The teams worked well together to collect seafloor and sub-seafloor features in and around the wreck,” said Schwarz. “These new data sets will aid considerably in the interpretation of the site, and we’re looking forward to future collaboration with project partners.”

Both NHHC and NOMWC often had to trade off using the RHI, but MCDU had their own and surveyed the site whenever weather and sea conditions allowed. The many hours they spent out on the water allowed them time to reflect on their mission and their part in it.

Acknowledging Bonhomme Richard was given to Jones and the U.S. Navy by France, one of the participating French scuba divers explained he’s glad to be a part of the survey mission.

The identity of the shipwreck under investigation is currently unknown but future surveys of the site are in the works. In addition to the wreck site surveyed, the teams conducted remote-sensing operations over an additional 2 square nautical miles, expanding the previously surveyed areas.

During the Revolutionary War, the French crown loaned Bonhomme Richard to the United States. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard’s crew was an early example of sailor toughness. The ship and her squadron were ordered to the United Kingdom to cruise for prizes off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and England.

About a month into her mission Sept. 23, 1779, she encountered a convoy of merchant ships underway from Flamborough Head, which immediately turned back once they caught sight of Jones and his ships. Jones pursued and around 6:30 p.m. engaged HMS Serapis, which had been covering the retreat. More than three hours later, Bonhomme Richard emerged victorious-but mortally wounded. Jones shifted his colors to Serapis, the wounded were transferred over and her riggings were repaired. Bonhomme Richard sank somewhere in the North Sea.

Her logs were not updated in her final hours and so her resting place remains a mystery.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis and interpretive services. The command is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Rangers vs. SEALS: Who’s had more impact in the War on Terror?

U.S. Navy SEALs — the elite Special Operations group with a name that has earned its reputation around the world. If people know the name of one elite unit, it’s probably the Navy SEALs.

U.S. Army Rangers — as old as American history itself, they have presented themselves as masters of both conventional and unconventional warfare time and time again. During the Global War on Terror (GWOT), they have evolved into a precision special operations force (SOF) and gained extensive combat experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Both are intensely involved in the GWOT, and both have had resounding successes and serious losses. As modern warfare continues to evolve, which one of these SOF units has delivered more impact in the War on Terror?

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Navy SEALs train at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

(Photo by John Scorza, courtesy of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)

When discussing the U.S. Navy SEALs, it’s important to distinguish between the SEAL Teams and SEAL Team Six. SEAL Team Six (sometimes referred to as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is tasked with executing a broad scope of special missions that often have a direct impact on the United States’ foreign policy and national security strategy. Most notably, they were responsible for killing Usama Bin Laden in 2011.

The other SEAL teams are under the purview of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and conduct special operations, often against terrorists and insurgents. This can be confusing since the vast majority of U.S. troops in foreign engagements from Afghanistan to Syria are fighting “terrorists,” but SEAL Team Six specializes in it.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Navy SEALs conduct operations in Afghanistan alongside Afghan partners.

(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)

In short, SEAL Team Six is conducting complex missions like hostage rescue; high-level, low-visibility reconnaissance; and direct-action raids against high-value targets (more in the vein of Delta Force, their Army counterpart). The other SEAL Teams have a different overall mission, though overlap does exist. The clear-stated mission on paper is to conduct maritime-based missions, but that is certainly not the end of it. Special operations units are versatile, and today’s SEALs are often training friendly foreign forces, conducting direct-action raids in and outside of large American engagements, or performing their legacy mission of carrying out maritime missions.

SEALs are currently conducting operations in war zones around the world; not all of the teams are relegated to Afghanistan and Syria. They have recently worked in the Philippines, Djibouti, Central America, and South America, to name a few places. They are not necessarily running direct-action raids in all these places. For example, conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) with a host nation could mean accompanying local groups on missions, or it could simply mean training them on basic infantry tactics and calling it a day.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

A Navy SEAL conducts training with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV).

(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)

Rangers, on the other hand, are more specific when it comes to geography. You’re not going to run into a Ranger platoon in the middle of Ethiopia, and Rangers aren’t going to be the ones tasked with hostage rescue missions off the Ivory Coast. For the most part, they go to places where there is a large American presence (or where the military wants there to be one), where the fighting is heavy and the missions are frequent, and they can roll up their sleeves and get busy. They are a precision strike force, but they are precise amid large military efforts.

While Rangers also conduct FID missions, especially in Afghanistan, their purpose revolves around kill/capture missions on a day-to-day basis.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to conduct an airfield seizure.

(75th Ranger Regiment)

Seizing an airfield is to Rangers as a maritime raid is to the SEALs. The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for its ability to take an airfield from enemy control, though this hasn’t actually been conducted for years. Most of the time, Rangers are conducting kill or capture raids in Afghanistan. In fact, they were credited with killing or capturing over 1,900 terrorists during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. They have had a presence in Syria as well.

As terrorism and insurgent-type tactics have been more common among the enemies of the United States (in contrast to conventional military tactics), the need for special operations units has skyrocketed. Rangers, SEALs, and other elite groups have found themselves bearing that weight, evolving rapidly, and fulfilling the needs of a constantly changing battlefield.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

A Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment conducts close quarters combat training.

(75th Ranger Regiment)

These units are required to have a breadth of skillsets, intensive training, and a specific state of body and mind — however, that doesn’t mean that every deployment is rife with firefights and explosions. Many Ranger deployments to Afghanistan have ended with no shots fired; many SEALs will deploy to countries around the world without conducting any raids.

So, who has the greatest impact on the GWOT?

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Rangers often use helicopters to get to their objective.

(75th Ranger Regiment)

Many of these conversations — Rangers versus SEALs versus MARSOC versus PJs versus Green Berets — devolve into a “which one is better” conversation. However, each has their task and function, and asking whether one is better than the other is like asking if a cardiac surgeon is “better” than a neurosurgeon — it depends on if you need heart surgery or brain surgery. The better informed find themselves asking: “Who is better at a maritime interdiction?” “Who can take this airport?” “Who has a presence in this area?” These are the practical questions that warrant practical answers, and those are the ones that matter on the practical battlefield.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief tells Trump to bring it on

A top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander in Iran says his forces are ready to confront U.S. forces should President Donald Trump act on his warning that Tehran will “suffer consequences” if it threatens the United States.

“Mr. Trump, how dare you threaten us?” Qassem Soleimani, who leads the IRGC’s elite foreign operations Quds force, was quoted as saying on July 26, 2018.


“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine…. Come. You will start the war, but it is us who will end it, ” Soleimani said in a speech in the central city of Hamedan.

He made the remarks in response to a July 22, 2018 all-capital-letters post on Twitter by Trump in which Trump warned Iran not to “threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

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

Soleimani called Trump a “gambler” and said his language belongs in “nightclubs.”

“We’re ready to stand against you,” Soleimani, who has been blacklisted by Washington, added.

Rohani said on July 25, 2018, that Trump’s “empty” threats did not deserve an answer.

Iran’s governmental IRNA news agency reported that, after Rohani mentioned “baseless comments” by “some U.S. leaders,” he told a cabinet meeting “there is no need for us to respond to any nonsensical comment and answer back to them.”

Soleimani said he’s responding to Trump “as a soldier.”

“Don’t threaten to kill us; we’re thirsty for martyrdom,” he was quoted as saying by the hard-line IRGC affiliated Fars news agency.

Following his Twitter warning, Trump suggested on July 24, 2018, that he’s ready to talk to, saying, “We’re ready to make a real deal.”

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

U.S. officials have been telling countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil by November 2018.

Iran has warned of equal countermeasures, with Rohani suggesting that the country could block Persian Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.

“The Red Sea, which was secure, is no longer secure today with the presence of American forces,” Soleimani said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Most sophisticated bomb-maker’ on planet killed by drone

Ibrahim al-Asiri, an Al Qaeda bomb-maker believed to have masterminded a plot to down a commercial airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2017, US officials confirmed to Fox News and CBS News on Aug. 20, 2018.

Al-Asiri is said to have made the underwear bomb that a Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate on a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit in December 2009. Al-Asiri was also involved in a plot to hide explosives in printer cartridges being shipped to the US. The first attack was unsuccessful because the attacker failed to detonate the device, and the other bombs were discovered after a tip.


Before his death, al-Asiri was believed to have been working on bombs that could be hidden inside laptops, CBS News reported.

Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, told CBS News that al-Asiri was a big reason for increased security at airports. “A good chunk of what you have to take out of your bag and what has to be screened is because of Asiri and his capabilities of putting explosives in very difficult to find places,” he said.

Morell described al-Asiri as “probably the most sophisticated terrorist bomb-maker on the planet.” He said in a tweet on Aug. 20, 2018, that it was “the most significant removal of a terrorist from the battlefield since the killing of [Osama] bin Laden.”

Fox News reported that in 2009, al-Asiri hid explosives in his brother’s clothes in an attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s interior minister; the brother was killed in the attack.

A report from the United Nations and statements from a Yemeni security official and a tribal leader had previously indicated that al-Asiri, a Saudi national and one of America’s most wanted terrorists, was killed in a drone strike in the eastern Yemeni governorate of Marib, The Associated Press reported.

Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has long been regarded as one of the most dangerous outfits, primarily because of al-Asiri’s bomb-making abilities.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This badass chair allows paralyzed vets to ski

TetraSki, a new technology was integrated into the 33rd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held in Snowmass Colorado from March 31 to April 5, 2019. The technology was integrated in the clinic for the second year in a row to help promote independence in skiing and life. The Tetradapt Initiative began over 10 years ago when founder and visionary, Jeffrey Rosenbluth, MD, of Tetradapt Community dreamed of helping people living with paralysis.

As a result of this initiative, people who are completely paralyzed can now enjoy downhill skiing and sailing in a new way. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic has grown to assist nearly 400 profoundly disabled veterans. The Clinic has provided Tetradapt Community with a platform to showcase their technology, bringing hope to veterans with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.


“We are honored to work with the VA. Many people are not involved in adaptive sports as they feel that they can’t get involved. The technology was not available in the past.” said Rosenthal.

“We want to help people with real complex physical disabilities enjoy normal activities.”

Tetra-ski: Advanced Technology at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

www.youtube.com

Dr. Rosenthal is currently the Medical Director of the Spinal Cory Injury Acute Rehabilitation program at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City, Utah and at South Davis Community Hospital, Bountiful, Utah, where he oversees Sub-acute and long term acute Spinal Cord Injury programs. He became interested in rehabilitation medicine and technology at the very beginning of his career. After graduating from New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York and completing his residency at University California (UC) Davis, Davis, California with a focus on rehabilitation medicine, Dr. Rosenthal landed his first job at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

His dreams of impacting the lives of those living with paralysis were coming true. He joined the University of Utah’s adaptive sports rehabilitation program and began developing the university’s very own TetraSki equipment.

“I fell in love with rehabilitation technology and what adaptive ski was doing for people. I was given the opportunity to work with veterans after completing my residency at UC Davis. I wanted to continue my work with veterans. Rehabilitation technology amazed me,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “That was the beginning.”

Hitting the slopes

A unique technology and the only one like it in the world, the TetraSki provides independent turning and speed variability through the use of a joystick and/or breath control, using a sip-and-puff technique. The sip-and-puff switch does not require hand availability and activates by simply sipping and puffing breaths of air in and out, causing the chair to be directed in whichever direction it is instructed. The TetraSki is ideal for individuals with the most complex physical abilities.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

Vietnam War Veteran Robert Johnson from Hines, Illinois, on TetraSki at Winter Sports Clinic 2019.

For the first time in adaptive sports, skiers can use the joystick and sip-and-puff functionality simultaneously. The feature allows users to enjoy downhill skiing in their own ski chair. A tether-to the instructor is used as an emergency brake but is not used for turning directions.

U.S Army and Vietnam Veteran Robert Johnson of Hines, Illinois experienced the TetraSki first hand at the Winter Sports Clinic, last year in 2018. Mr. Morris is a patient at the David Hines Jr. Veteran Affairs (VA) Hospital, Hines, Illinois and became involved with the hospital’s adaptive sports program 5 years ago. He is an appropriate candidate for Tetra-Ski and considered to be “more involved,” meaning, having more extreme impairment. When asked what he enjoyed most about Tetra-Ski he said,

“The TetraSki is amazing. I like to lean in and out when I ski. Individuals who don’t have as much coordination ability as I do would really love it! The sip-and-puff is very useful for those who are high level quadriplegics. The technology is perfect.”

After three years of development by the University of Utah Rehabilitation Research and Development team, three TetraSkis will be provided to nine national adaptive ski program partners for shared use during the 2018/2019 ski season, and VA is among the lucky group. Tetradapt Community works in coordination with the University of Utah’s best engineering, research, business and medical experts to design manufacture to deliver the state-of-the-art TetraSki equipment.

Money is not the goal

Tetradapt Community is nonprofit and does not plan to sell the TetraSki in the market place. The goal is to expose the technology to the public for fundraising purposes. The technology is leased to VA Adaptive Sports programs and other adaptive sports programs. The company has received funding from VA Adaptive Sports and other private organizations, receiving roughly between ,000.00- 120,000.00 dollars each year in funding.

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

TetraSki.

“We had a good idea and wanted to see it carried out in the market, not for profit but for people to see its commercial potential,” said Dr. Rosenthal.

The National Disabled Sports Clinics empower those with perceived limitations by participating in adaptive sports that improve their overall health and outlook. The clinic is made possible through a longstanding partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tetradapt Community hopes to continue to its involvement with the winter sports clinics and the VA is excited to create more awareness of the Tetradapt initiative, giving hope back to individuals with physical impairments. The therapy and joy that this technology provides to veterans is immeasurable. When asked what impact he feels the TetraSki will have on our veterans and the future Dr. Rosenthal commented,

“The technology requires a huge cultural and mind shift. “It’s a shockingly independent experience,”

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

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