The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers - We Are The Mighty
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The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

A sudden flash. A mushroom cloud. A sudden expanding pressure wave. In the event of a thermonuclear attack, seeing these things means its probably too late to survive. So the U.S. developed warning systems to give Americans a heads up before the bombs landed. But that begs the question: What do you do if you have just an hour or so until your city blows up?


Coordinating protection and relief for civilians in war falls to civil defense workers, and America’s civil defense program underwent an overhaul after World War II. Many of the funding and legislative changes were focused on responding to atomic and nuclear threats.

But hearings in 1955 revealed that civil defense was, uh, let’s say, far from robust. How far?

Well, Administrator Val Peterson told Congress that Americans should learn to dig holes in the ground and curl up in them to escape nuclear fallout. But he did also offer that the government could dig trenches next to highways for about .25 per mile and then cover the trenches with boards and soil for additional protection. In some areas, the boards and dirt could be replaced with tar paper.

Even at the time, the public realized a huge shortcoming of this plan: Ditches don’t last. They have to be dug for a specific attack, and the diggers would need at least a few days notice to provide shelter for a significant portion of a city.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers
(Seattle Municipal Archives)

 

And people in the 1950s were also familiar with pissing and pooping. These trenches would have no sanitation, water, or food, and people would have to stay in them for days. At the time, it was believed that a few days might be enough time for the radioactivity to fall to safe-ish levels. We now know it’s a year or more for the longer-lasting radioactive isotopes to get anywhere near safe.

But meanwhile, even a few days in trenches is problematic. For the first few hours, radiation is at peak strength, and any dust that makes its way from the surface into the trench is going to have levels of radiation high enough to threaten imminent death. This dust needs to be washed off as quickly as possible, something that can’t happen in a trench surrounded by more radioactive dust with no water.

Oh, and, btw, canned food and bottled water will become irradiated if not shielded when the bomb goes off.

But there was another plan that, um, had many of the same problems. This called for laying long stretches of concrete pipe and then burying it in a few feet of dirt. Same sanitation and supply problems, worst claustrophobia. But at least less irradiated dust would make it into the civilians huddling inside.

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle

 

Most of this information was learned by the public in 1955 during those public hearings. Though, obviously, portions of the hearings were classified, and so the public wouldn’t learn about them for decades. One of the items that came out in closed session was that the irradiated zone from a hydrogen bomb would easily stretch for 145 miles with the right winds. A serious problem for the farmers who thought they were safe 40 miles from the city.

Things did get better as the Cold War continued, though. Government agencies, especially the Federal Civil Defense Administration, encouraged the construction of hospitals and other key infrastructure on the perimeters of cities where it would be more likely to survive the blast of a bomb (though it still would have certainly been irradiated if downwind of the epicenter).

Educational videos gave people some idea of what they should do after a bomb drop, though, like digging trenches next to highways, most of the actions an individual could take were marginal at best. Those old “Duck and Cover” cartoons from 1951? Yup, ducking and covering will help, but not enough to save most people at most distances from the bomb.

What you really need to do is find a nice, recently dug trench.

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4 reasons why fighting with a lightsaber would actually suck

In the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is a selling point. It hearkens back to the cinematic classics of Akira Kurosawa by putting the duels of feudal samurai into a sci-fi setting. When we watch Jedi go toe-to-toe on-screen, it sets our imaginations ablaze. And when it comes to merchandise, there are lightsaber toys flying off the shelves, as every kid wants to get their hands on that ultimate blade.


While this weapon is all-powerful and completely practical in both fiction and our imaginations, in reality, there are a number of headaches that would come with using a high-powered energy blade in contemporary combat.

1. Lightsabers are useless against guns

Let’s get the obvious shortcoming out of the way: range. A lightsaber’s max effective range is about three feet out from the user’s hand. Blasters, on the other hand, reach much further.

We can cut the lightsaber a bit of slack since the blasters in Star Wars aren’t shooting at the speed of light, or even at a fraction of the muzzle velocity of an M4. Wired recently calculated the speed of blaster rounds at 34.9m/s (or 78mph) — similar to a Major League Baseball pitch. So, it’s feasible that our heroes can deflect the lasers at a constant rate like they do in the films, but you’d definitely tire yourself out, like a baseball batter constantly swinging at fastballs.

But we’re not fighting anyone who uses blasters, so… they’re basically only useful against other lightsabers.

2. You can’t really practice with lightsabers

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Imagine how troops practice with their weapons. There’s dry training (training that doesn’t involve actually firing the rifle) and time at the range where you fire at a designated target. This becomes a little more challenging when you’re using a weapon that only has two settings: “off” and “able to slice through feet of hardened steel.”

Any practice with a lightsaber would need to be done with a fake. By practicing with a real one, you’d run the risk of chopping off your buddy’s arm.

Your only options are this ball thing or some rocks…

3. It’s worthless if you don’t have the force

Without any Jedi training, anyone who picks up a lightsaber would probably chop off their hand. Or they’ll drop it and watch it burn a hole through to the core of the planet.

And even Jedi Masters aren’t that great at fighting…

4. There’s no safety on a lightsaber

Let’s look at the basic build of a lightsaber: There’s handle that you hold onto, the extremely deadly blade, and the button that turns it on. Nowhere on the device is there any kind of safety mechanism.

If you bump into a chair and accidentally hit the button while it’s holstered, your leg gets cut off. If you’re fighting a Jedi, they could (spoiler alert) turn it on with the force and it’ll impale you. Imagine how many lightsaber battles would’ve been ended sooner if, while duelists lock sabers and stare each other down, someone just force pushes their adversary’s lightsaber.

But they’re still cool… I guess…

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US Air Force pilot landed his F-35 safely after a mid-air power failure

The day started like any other Thursday fly day. We briefed, put on our flight gear and stepped to the jets. Startup, taxi, takeoff and departure to the airspace all went as planned.

Upon reaching the outer limits of Salt Lake City airspace, I felt the cabin pressurize, the air conditioning stop and a warning tone annunciate in my headset and on the panoramic cockpit displays.

While maintaining aircraft control and keeping a safe distance from my flight lead, I looked at my Integrated Caution and Warnings, or ICAWs, and saw that I had an “IPP FAIL” warning along with an advisory telling me that I was now using the auxiliary oxygen bottle instead of the Onboard Oxygen Generation System, better known as OBOGS.


In the F-35 Lightning II, loss of the Integrated Power Package, or IPP, means loss of OBOGS, cabin pressurization, cooling functions to many vehicle systems, backup generator power and numerous other functions.

From my emergency procedures training, I knew the first steps in the 11-step checklist were to descend below 17,000 mean sea level, manually turn on the backup oxygen system, bring the throttle to idle for five seconds and actuate the flight control system/engine reset switch. These critical steps made sure I wasn’t exposed to any physiological effects from the cabin depressurizing or losing the OBOGS and hopefully reset the IPP without further troubleshooting.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

A US Air Force F-35A from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, takes off during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Unfortunately, these initial actions did not reset the IPP, so I radioed my flight lead to let him know what was happening. He confirmed that I had completed the initial checklist actions, gave me the lead and backed me up in the checklist. I saw no other abnormal indications other than the IPP warning, so I began the process to manually reset the IPP. At this time, there was no urgent need to land, so we maintained our flight plan to the airspace with hopes a successful reset would allow us to continue our mission.

I began the reset procedure, and after a few minutes, the IPP FAIL went away, indicating the jet believed I had a successful reset; however, things did not seem right in the cockpit. The air conditioning seemed weak and I did not feel or see the cabin pressurize as expected. Realizing this, I pushed my power up to military power, or MIL, and within a few seconds got a second IPP FAIL warning.

After the second failure, my flight lead and I concurred that we needed to return to base quickly. It was a warm day in September, and degraded aircraft cooling could be an issue. He took the radios and began coordinating with Salt Lake Center Approach while I finished up with the checklist.

I turned my cabin pressure switch to RAM, or ram air, which allows for outside air cooling for flight critical systems and also turned off my nonessential avionics to reduce the cooling load. We declared an emergency, approach cleared us to our normal recovery pattern and we began to prepare for landing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

A US Air Force F-35A, from the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during Operation Rapid Forge, July 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope)

As we pointed to our recovery point, another ICAW annunciated, indicating degraded cooling to my flight control system. This ICAW was expected when the IPP failed; however, when I opened the checklist, I initially went to the failed cooling page, which told me to land as soon as possible. I told my flight lead, we pointed directly to the field for a visual straight-in approach, and I began to dump fuel — something I should have considered prior to this point due to still having roughly 13,000 pounds of fuel; well above what I wanted to land with.

We switched to the supervisor of flying, or SOF, frequency and updated him on our plan. The SOF backed us up and made sure we were all on the same checklist. This was when I realized that I needed to reference the degraded cooling checklist, which was right next to the failed cooling checklist. It did not change our game plan, but it was something I could have handled better during the emergency procedure.

As I flew to a 5-mile final, my flight lead told me to focus on flying a good final and adhering to all normal checklists. The last thing either of us wanted was to make an emergency situation worse by flying a bad approach.

At 5-mile final, I put my gear handle down and the gear extended normally. Seconds after putting my gear down, I heard another warning tone and saw another ICAW, this time indicating some serious cooling issues had occurred to my voltage converters, which are critical for several aircraft functions that allow us to land. This ICAW starts a worst-case, 14-minute timer for gear, brake and hook actuation.

I did not have time to reference my checklist since I was already on 5-mile final, so I told my flight lead to confirm checklist steps with the SOF, primarily for immediate concerns and after-landing considerations. The landing was normal, and I elected to taxi clear of the runway and shutdown as soon as possible since I now had multiple cooling issues.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Overall, IPP FAILs are not common in the F-35, but they do happen from time to time and we train frequently to emergency procedures in simulators to handle them correctly. As a young wingman in a single-seat fighter, I learned — and confirmed — five good lessons that I believe are applicable for any airframe and pilot:

  1. Always maintain your composure and accomplish each phase of flight or emergency procedures one step at a time.
  2. Take your time and maintain control of your aircraft before digging into a checklist.
  3. Use the resources around you to back up your diagnosis and decisions. This will allow you to focus on the highest priority tasks. In this case, I had an awesome flight lead who took the radios and trusted my ability to handle what I was seeing. The supervisor of flying backed me up on checklist management and our game plan, and Salt Lake Approach Control got us where we needed to go in an expedited manner.
  4. Checklist management is critical, especially in a single-seat, single-engine aircraft with hundreds of different checklists. I believe this was something I could have done better as we made our recovery back to Hill AFB.
  5. Once you are on final and prepared to land, focus on making a good approach and landing a bad aircraft, as to not make a bad situation worse. My flight lead did a great job reminding me of that and making sure my mind was in the right place as we approached final.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Being a conscientious objector isn’t what you think it is

The rigors of combat and the expectations of a soldier on the front lines may directly conflict with a person’s religious or moral beliefs. If a person is firm in their convictions and they’ve proven they’re serious about their beliefs, they may apply to be recognized as a conscientious objector.

Being opposed to war is not a Get Out of War Free card. Simply read the stories of Medal of Honor recipients Cpl. Desmond Doss, Cpl. Thomas W. Bennett, and Specialist Joseph G. LaPointe and you’ll learn that being a conscientious objector doesn’t even mean you’ll be taken off the front lines.

Additionally, conscientious objection is too often confused with pacifism and cowardice — but this is far from the case. Watch Hacksaw Ridge (if you don’t want to read the book it’s based off, The Conscientious Objector) and you’ll quickly see what we mean.


What the status actually does give a troop is a way to aid their country while remaining faithful to any beliefs that prevent a troop from personally engaging in combat.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

The 1-A-0 status was the classification for the Medal of Honor recipients, like Cpl. Doss, who still saved the lives of countless men but were religiously opposed to fighting their enemy.

To be labeled as a conscientious objector, a troop must prove to the military that their convictions are firmly held and such beliefs are religious in nature. The status is not given for any political, sociological, or philosophical views or a personal moral code.

Potential recruits in today’s military cannot enlist with any conscientious objections. Such an issue is plainly addressed in a question presented to all recruits at MEPS. It asks,

“Do you have any religious or morale objections that would hold you back from participating during a time of war?”

In an all-volunteer military with many applicants who aren’t conscientious objectors, answering this to the affirmative could bar them from enlistment.

It’s also not entirely uncommon for troops who are already serving to become conscientious objectors, typically when faced with a combat deployment. Troops are then sent in front of a board to determine if their beliefs are genuine or not. If approved by the board, the troop is then classified as either a 1-0 Conscientious Objector, which honorably discharges them from service, or as a 1-A-0 Objector, which leads to a travel to non-combatant duties and prevents them from handling weapons.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Conscientious objectors could also opt to do Civilian Public Service — where they’d stay stateside and perform duties as firemen, park rangers, and hospital workers.

In the past, the U.S. military has needed men to fight and has employed conscription policies to fill out the ranks. If you were selected to serve, decided you didn’t agree with the war (on whatever grounds), but were not recognized as a conscientious objector, you faced fines or jail time for refusing to enter service. No conflict saw more applications for conscientious objector status than the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately for the many who were opposed to the war, a political footing doesn’t exempt you from service. While previous wars saw exemptions for Anabaptists, Quakers, Mennonites, Moravians, and various other churches, disagreeing with U.S. policy wasn’t going to keep you from the fight.

Those who think conscientious objectors are just afraid to fight may be surprised to learn that many folk with religious objections will often opt to be 1-A-0 objectors and enter the service as a non-combatant, like a construction or medical work, as was seen with most Amish men drafted during WWII.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 real life consequences that movie fights totally miss

Although we’re not always keen to admit it, the way we see the world and how we function in it tends to be largely informed by the pop-culture we consume along the way. The movies and TV shows we watch as kids not only help us to perceive a world beyond our views out the window, they have a habit of planting the seeds of foolish thought in our brains Inception-style; leaving us with a skewed idea of things like what really goes on in a fight, thanks to how often we see them depicted inaccurately on screen.

In fact, if you’ve never had the misfortune of suffering a nasty injury on one of your limbs, getting knocked out, or being in close proximity to an explosion, you might be harboring some pretty unrealistic ideas about just how deadly each can be. It might sound silly to suggest that people can’t tell the difference between something Wolverine can do and something your average Joe can… but many of these movie tropes have become such deep-rooted parts of our cultural lexicon that it starts to get difficult to discern truth from fiction. That is, unless you’ve been there first hand.


The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

This is actually how Chuck Norris babysits people’s kids.

Being knocked out is totally fine

It’s Batman’s bread and butter, it helped Marty McFly’s mom gets handsy with her time traveling son, and it’s the most common workplace hazard for henchman and thugs, but the truth is, getting knocked out could seriously mess you up.

Movies may make it seem like getting knocked out with a single blow is basically the same thing as racking out for an impromptu nap, but here in the real world, blunt force trauma to the head tends to come with some serious repercussions. The Riddler’s henchman may come to in a few hours and complain of feeling groggy, but if you’re ever knocked out for hours, you’ll almost certainly wake up in the ICU of your local hospital, surrounded by some very concerned family members (and hopefully you’ll still know your name).

Head trauma that’s sufficient to knock you unconscious actually creates a neurochemical reaction in the brain that causes cell death that can potentially affect you for the rest of your life.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Seems legit.

Fire is apparently the only dangerous part of explosions

Watching a protagonist walk toward the camera while a slow-motion explosion unfolds in the background might be one of the most overused (and somehow still rad) shots in cinematic history… but it’s also totally ridiculous. Movies treat explosions like it’s the fireball you have to be worried about, but the most dangerous part of an explosion is usually invisible to the naked eye: the shockwave.

Way back in the first “Mission Impossible” movie, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt actually managed to seemingly ride the shockwave of an exploding helicopter (that was foolishly made out of dynamite, apparently) onto a speeding train. The shot is incredible, and it actually makes the superhero-like sequels make a lot more sense, since Ethan Hunt must actually be dreaming in a coma from that point on, while surgeons try to do something about the soup that used to be his organs.

Anyone that’s ever thrown a grenade can tell you that explosions are far faster and more dangerous than they’re depicted in movies. Most happen so quickly that we perceive them as little more than a thunderous impact and sudden poof of smoke, but it’s the shockwave that will literally liquify your inside parts (like your brain). In the medical community, they call this internal mushification “total body disruption,” which may not sound as cool as “internal mushification” but is apparently just as deadly.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

I mean, the bleeding has already stopped. This guy might actually make it if he quits now.

Flesh wounds are no big deal

There’s no faster way to show us how badass a movie hero really is than to watch him dismiss a gunshot to the arm as “nothing but a flesh wound.” John Mcclane loses enough blood in the “Die Hard” movies to keep the Red Cross from chasing down donations for at least a year, but somehow those injuries never seem to slow him down at all.

These “flesh wounds” usually exist only so the female lead’s character arc can develop from annoyed at the hero to empathetic: “You’re hurt!” She exclaims as she runs to check the flap of skin hanging off of our hero’s tricep.

“It’s nothing,” he grimaces as he loads another seemingly infinite magazine into his weapon. As Jesse Ventura said in “Predator,” and probably at least once as Governor of Minnesota, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”

The problem is, you can absolutely die from a wound on your arm or leg. In fact, you can die pretty damn quickly if you rupture an artery. When it comes to unchecked bleeding, what you really don’t have time for is ignoring it.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL’s ‘Power Bottom’ — 5 least entertaining teams to watch

Like it or not, the NFL’s ratings are pretty much the same in 2018 when you look at them year over year. The ratings do dip at times, depending on the teams and the time of day. And really, I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to spend three hours on a Thursday night watching the Jets and Browns pillow fight — especially because there’s no guarantee that Cleveland will lose every game in spectacular fashion this year.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers
That job is taken.

But just because a team wins games doesn’t mean they’re fun to watch. This problem is most evident in college football. I’ve been raised as an Ohio State fan, but that doesn’t make the game exciting. I remember spending Saturday afternoons watching the zoomed-in-completely-yet-still-too-far-away telecast as Ohio State puts 900 points on someone like Dartmouth College. It’s just a boring day when you already know the outcome.

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, these are the ones that actually make me wish they were blacked out, just so I could watch a different, interesting game. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Bengals fan — and the only reason the Bengals didn’t make this list is because it’s kind of exciting to see how they’re going to blow their lead every week. Will it be a well-timed fumble? Will they just stop scoring points in the second half? Who knows?


The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers
Or maybe it’s an Andy Dalton pass that does it!

It’s a race to the bottom here, but some other teams deserve a mention, especially the Houston Texans and New York Giants. By the time they played each other, they were both 0-2. Somebody had to stand out, but they sure waited until the fourth quarter to do anything to make anyone care.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

This is the only Bills-related thing I want to see every week.

5. Buffalo Bills

If the Bills were a flavor, they’d be vanilla. Watching the Bills is like opening a Neapolitan Ice Cream box and finding out someone ate the two good flavors and didn’t throw the rest away. Even watching them blow out the Vikings got old after a while. At least the Vikings were fun against the Packers.

It’s hard to believe the Bills gave up two second round picks to get Wyoming’s Josh Allen because they also have nothing for Allen to work with. The team’s sound reasoning is that “he is Buffalo.” Great call. No wonder the Bills’ fans are the best part about the team.

NBC’s Chris Simms was excited for Allen because his Wonderlic intelligence test score was the highest in the league, despite the fact the Wonderlic means nothing. Dan Marino scored a 15 to Allen’s 37, but my guess is the Bills would love to have a Marino. EJ Manuel complained that the Bills didn’t let him grow as a player, and there might be something to that. Many former Bills players saw limited success until they left the organization – Marshawn Lynch, Sammy Watkins, London Fletcher, Ronald Darby, and even all the way back to Antoine Winfield.

The Bills went to the playoffs last year, so obviously they have to change their entire team. You might as well sign Colin Kaepernick, Buffalo. At least it would give people something to talk about — aside from Vontae Davis retiring in the middle of a game.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

(NFL Memes)

4. New England Patriots

They may have gotten their asses handed to them in the Super Bowl last year, but this is still the New England Patriots we’re talking about, right? Right? The most interesting thing that’s happened watching the Patriots in 2018 so far is the look on Dolphins fans’ faces as their 3-0 ‘Fins get annihilated by the person they hate the most for four quarters.

The problem with that game is that the rest of us couldn’t stand to watch New England beat a lifeless Dolphin team. It sure wasn’t fun watching the Pats score two field goals they didn’t need to stay on top of the Texans. Every minute the Patriots have played after halftime of week one has pretty much been garbage time.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

The headline on Chargers.com on October 2nd reads “Philip Rivers Off to Best Start of His Career,” which tells you what it must be like for Chargers fans, waiting 15 years only to have Rivers’ “best start” be 11 touchdowns and a 2-2 record.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

The Bills may be a vanilla team, but if you’re going for consistent blandness year after year, look no further than the Chargers. They’re the plain yogurt of the NFL. As a matter of fact, since the Chargers went 13-3 in 2009, their record has been around 50-50 on average. Of all the teams in the NFL, they’re Charlie Browniest. They’re even at number three on this list.

Charger fans might ask about their recent two-point win over San Francisco, but that only proves my point. Sure, they won by just two points, not only did the Chargers only score field goals in the whole second half, their game-winning field goal was the only one they scored in the fourth quarter and they did it with more than four minutes left on the game clock. The Garoppolo-less 49ers didn’t even get past midfield in their last possessions.

If you thought the Chargers were forgotten in San Diego, remember that LeBron James plays for the Lakers, the Dodgers are in the National League Division Series, and the Rams are f*cking explosive. I’m really not sure why LA wanted the Chargers.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Just leave the ball there. It’s not like you were doing anything with it.

2. Indianapolis Colts

At least the Jets are getting fined for crude touchdown dances. The 1-3 Colts are headed to face New England in what will probably be the game I’m forced to watch in the afternoon on television after I get home from watching fun games at the bar. Which is totally fine, I like a good nap in the afternoon — but even the Indianapolis Star is calling the game a “joke.”

Sure, the Colts lost a squeaker to the Texans in overtime on week four, but you had to sit through three quarters of Colts football to catch that end, so of course no one saw it (unless you were watching the Red Zone). What’s interesting about Colts games? Their kicker. 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri just broke the all-time field goal record after 20 years and four Super Bowls and shows no sign of stopping.

That’s about it.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Larry Fitzgerald, headed to the locker room, probably to call Vontae Davis.

1. Arizona Cardinals

The winless Cardinals are not only the worst team in the league right now, but they’re also the hardest to watch. They didn’t even score a touchdown until week three and even then they didn’t do anything for the rest of the game. They don’t need to win games to be interesting, I mean, watching Cleveland is still fun, even when we’re reasonably sure they aren’t going to win, but at least Cleveland thinks they can.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

That engine is practically in a Browns uniform.

Arizona averages a whopping 9.2 points per game, making the Rams blowout their most interesting game just because we all wanted to see if LA could keep them scoreless while putting up 34 points. A Madden simulation would have been more interesting.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Given we know that even Neanderthals would bury their dead (even including objects with the bodies) and various human hunter-gatherer groups likewise used to bury or cremate people at specific sites that functioned as sort of pilgrimage locations for these nomads, it should come as no surprise that since the dawn of known warfare soldiers have pondered the question of what to do with the bodies of their fallen comrades and enemies. So what did various groups actually do throughout history?


A thing to note before we continue is that there is a definite gap in the memory of history in regards to this one specific matter and historians only have sparse reports of what happened to the dead of many groups after battles. You might think solving this problem would be simply a matter of locating famous battle sites and doing some digging to glean a little more insight, but it turns out even this is notoriously difficult as we’ll get into shortly.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

That caveat out of the way, on the more definitive front, it’s noted that the ancient Greeks made an effort to respect the usual burial customs of the dead after a battle and collecting the bodies of the fallen wasn’t uncommon. For example, following the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC between Philip II of Macedonia and the Athenians, both sides buried their dead in accordance with the religious customs of the period; this was seemingly done both out of respect for the valor the dead showed in battle and to appease the gods.

With the exception of the Spartans, most ancient Greek societies also made efforts to bury their dead near the city they hailed from if time allowed it, though for the sake of practicality, mass graves or the like were sometimes utilizedinstead. In this case, cenotaphs were sometimes erected near their home city in honor of the fallen.

As noted, an exception to this are the Spartans who often buried fallen soldiers on the battlefield they were killed. Also somewhat unique was that rather than stripping the dead of valuables, as per Spartan tradition, each fallen Spartan was buried with their weapons and armor and their final resting place was marked by a simple tombstone with their name and an inscription that read (translated) “In War”.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

This was a special honor among the Spartans. If one were to die outside of battle, no such tombstone would be given and the person would simply be buried in an unmarked grave. The one exception to that was if a woman died in child birth, she too would be given the honor of a tombstone.

As for the Romans, most soldiers paid a small stipend each month to pay for funeral expenses should they fall in battle. As you might expect from this, the Romans made a conscious effort to recover the bodies of those who died and, if time allowed it, would bury or cremate them individually. If this wasn’t possible, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle would be collected and given a mass cremation or burial. In the event the bodies couldn’t be recovered, a cenotaph would be erected to serve as a monument to the individual.

The same cannot be said of later wars where there seems to have been an almost callous disregard for the fallen, and looting of the dead and dying was commonplace. For example, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066 shows soldiers piling up the bodies of the dead and stripping them of their valuables. It’s believed that following this the bodies were quickly cremated or buried in nearby mass graves.

It should be noted here, however, that with the rise of Christianity, mass cremation, at least for a time, seems to have gone the way of the dodo in some regions, in favor of mass graves.

That said, despite the countless battles that occurred throughout Medieval Europe, archaeologists have had an extraordinarily difficult time actually finding any of the bodies. As one paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archeology, aptly titled “Where are the dead of medieval battles?“, notes:

Only a handful of mass graves from late medieval battles in Western Europe have been subject to large scale excavation to modern standards. The principal reason is that these, and indeed even early modern battlefield graves, have proven extremely elusive, most being identified by chance. Despite a few successes, no combination of prospecting techniques yet provides a consistently effective method of locating such small archaeological features set almost anywhere within a site covering many square kilometres…

Looking at much better documented times, looting of the dead was also extraordinarily common during the extremely deadly Napoleonic Wars, with soldiers and locals alike pilfering what they could find after battles. For example, consider this account from a British general following the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807:

The ground between the wood and the Russian batteries, about a quarter of a mile, was a sheet of naked human bodies, which friends and foes had during the night mutually stripped, although numbers of these bodies still retained consciousness of their situation. It was a sight that the eye loathed, but from which it could not remove.

And yes, as noted there, the severely wounded weren’t spared the indignity of being robbed of their worldly possessions as they lay dying. And worst of all, this was done not just by their enemies, but comrades as well. In fact, there are firsthand accounts from wounded soldiers who went on to survive their injuries detailing the shock of waking up completely naked.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Illustration of Battle of Heilsberg.

Here’s a snippet of one such quote from a French soldier called Jean Baptiste de Marbot:

Stretched on the snow among the piles of dead and dying, unable to move in any way, I gradually and without pain lost consciousness…. I judge that my swoon lasted four hours, and when I came to my sense I found myself in this horrible position. I was completely naked, having nothing on but my hat and my right boot. A man of the transport corps, thinking me dead, had stripped me in the usual fashion, and wishing to pull off the only boot that remained, was dragging me by one leg with his foot against my body. The jerk which the man gave me no doubt had restored me to my senses. I succeeded in sitting up and spitting out the clots of blood from my throat. The shock caused by the wind of the ball had produced such an extravasation of blood, that my face, shoulders, and chest were black, while the rest of my body was stained red by the blood from my wound. My hat and my hair were full of bloodstained snow, and as I rolled my haggard eyes I must have been horrible to see. Anyhow, the transport man looked the other way, and went off with my property without my being able to say a single word to him, so utterly prostrate was I.

After being stripped of their belongings the dead, and occasionally still barely living, would often be buried in mass graves (sometimes with bodies from both sides unceremoniously thrown in). In general, this was either accomplished via the soldiers themselves doing it, or in many cases members of the local populace given the gruesome task. However, there are accounts of battles where thousands of bodies were simply left to the elements. For example, General Philippe de Ségur states in 1812:

After passing the Kologa, we marched on, absorbed in thought, when some of us, raising our eyes, uttered a cry of horror. Each one instantly looked about him, and there lay stretched before us a plain trampled, bare, and devastated, all the trees cut down within a few feet from the surface, and farther off craggy hills, the highest of which appeared misshapen, and bore a striking resemblance to an extinguished volcano. The ground around us was everywhere covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, with broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards dyed with blood.
On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half-devoured corpses…

It should also be noted here that beyond any possessions the bodies may have had on them before being stripped, the bodies themselves were also of value. For example, human scavengers would come through and rob the dead of their teeth, which would then be used to make dentures.

The Napoleonic Wars, and in particular the Battle of Waterloo, were such a boon to the British dental industry in this way that dentures were known as “Waterloo teeth” in the UK over a decade after it ended. Teeth from soldiers were highly sought after owing to predominately coming from relatively young men who still had reasonably good teeth, unlike many others that came from the more wizened dead.

In one account, one Astley Cooper met just such a tooth hunter and noted:

Upon asking this Butler, who appeared to be in a state of great destitution, what might be his object, he said it was to get teeth…but when I came to question him upon the means by which he was to obtain these teeth, he said, ‘Oh Sir, only let there be a battle, and there’ll be no want of teeth. I’ll draw them as fast as the men are knocked down.

Even more grimly, the bones of the dead of some of these battles were later collected and pulverized into fertilizer which was sold for a modest price across Europe. To quote an article from the The Observer written in 1822:

It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, by actual experiment on an extensive scale, that a dead soldier is a most valuable article of commerce; and, for aught known to the contrary, the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread. It is certainly a singular fact, that Great Britain should have sent out such multitudes of soldiers to fight the battles of this country upon the continent of Europe, and should then import their bones as an article of commerce to fatten her soil!

The remains of soldiers were also sometimes collected for use in souvenirs of major battles. For example, poet Eaton Stannard Barrett wrote, “I know one honest gentleman, who has brought home a real Waterloo thumb, nail and all, which he preserves in a bottle of gin.”

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Moving across the pond and slightly more recently in history, markedly more respect was shown for the dead during the American Civil War where teams of soldiers were tasked with burying the dead of both sides in simple mass graves, with great care being taken to ensure most soldiers received a proper burial.

Finally, to discuss WW1 and WW2, individual units were largely responsible for the disposal of their own dead with both Axis and Allied forces having their own rules for how this should be handled. For example, during WW2 Colonel Walther Sonntag of the Wehrmacht’s Casualty Office issued a comprehensive guide for military graves officers detailing how mass graves should be constructed.

Amongst other things the guidelines indicated that mass graves should be made as close to railway lines as possible and feature pathways with the intention being that they’d eventually be turned into war cemeteries. As the war raged on, these guidelines were largely ignored for the sake of practicality, leading to, as Der Spiegel puts it, “a surfeit of grave steles”.

As for the Allies, during WW2 burying the dead largely fell to individual soldiers, but some units dedicated to the task did exist, for example the United States Quartermaster Graves Registration Service. Tasked with finding and burying every fallen American soldier, the Quartermaster Graves Registration Service have been hailed as some of the unsung heroes of the War due to the general lack of recognition they’ve received since it ended.

Graves Registration units were exceptionally committed to their task and undertook their duties with a solemn sense of duty and determination, going to extraordinary lengths to identify bodies and perform the appropriate burial rights depending on the fallen soldier’s religious affiliation. When appropriate, GRS units would bury civilian, allied and axis casualties they came across, making sure to bury them in well-marked graves, the locations of which would be passed onto the relevant authorities.

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

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5 ways to explore Okinawa

Comprised of more than 100 islands in the East China Sea, Okinawa is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures with a population of 1.44 million people (as of May 2018).


A year-round warm climate and overall tropical landscape, Okinawa is considered a leading resort destination and home to multiple U.S. military installations. Here are five ways to explore the archipelago.

Eat and drink

There is no shortage of places to enjoy good food in Okinawa and nearly every type of international cuisine is represented.

“You have to try Coco’s Curry House, Arashi, Pizza In The Sky, Yoshi Hachi, Sea Garden, Gen, Thai In The Sky and Little Cactus,” KT Genta, a Navy spouse who was previously stationed in Okinawa shared.

Craving a good cup of coffee? Stop into Patisserie Porushe, and be sure to order a croissant to go with it.

The traditional spirit of Okinawa is Awamori, which dates back to the dynastic era, and is made by combining water, test and rice malt with korokoji mold and steamed rice. Get a free tour and tasting at Chuko Distillery.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Historical sites and landmarks

The history of Okinawa is robust — from dynasties to American rule — and the various historical site and landmarks throughout the prefecture tell the region’s story. Be sure to visit:

Okinawa Peace Memorial Park – Located on Mabuni Hill, Peace Memorial Park was a heated battleground during WWII.

Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters – During WWII, Japanese forces constructed an elaborate series of underground tunnels that were used as military headquarters.

Katsuren Castle Ruins – Just a couple in-ruin walls remain at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Tower of Himeyuri – The emotional monument honors the Himeyuri medical corps of female students who perished in WWII.

Ikema Ohashi Bridge – A 4,675 ft. bridge with panoramic views of the ocean, it connects the islands Miyako-jima to Ikema-jima and was formerly the longest bridge in Okinawa.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Beaches and water sports

Trademarked by cerulean shaded waters, Okinawa’s beaches are world-renowned for enjoying a sun-soaked day on the sand or diving in to admire the marine life. Both public and private beaches pepper the coastline, and with hundreds of beaches to choose from across the main and more remote islands, there is a stretch of sand for everyone to enjoy.

Northern Okinawa Island – Uppama Beach, Kanucha Beach, Ie Beach

Central Okinawa Island – Zanpa Beach, Ikei Beach

Southern Okinawa Island – Aharen Beach, Nishibama Beach

Not only does Okinawa offer residents and visitors pristine beaches, the underwater views are attractive for avid divers and snorkelers. Top spots include Manza Dream Hole, Zamami Island and Kabira Bay.

Cultural arts

Okinawa is a destination with deep-rooted cultural history, thus a strong appreciation for traditional and performing arts.

Yachimun – The Okinawan name for pottery is Yachimun and can be traced back to more than 800 years.

Bashofu – Made from the fibers of a Japanese banana-like tree call the Basho, Bashofu is a thin textile that is woven and dyed to make into garments.

Kumiodori – Originating in the early 1700s, Kumiodori is an ensemble dance that has been inscribed by the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Sanshin – The literal translation of Sanshin is “three strings” and is a musical instrument that looks a bit like a banjo.
The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Must-see sights

“There is so much to do,” Genta said. “Head to Cocoks for pedicures, hike Hiji Falls, explore Bise Village, which is a peaceful seaside town with sand roads lined with Fukuhi trees, or just drive and get lost. There are so many hidden gems on the island.”

Other must-see spots include Churmai Aquarium, Pineapple Park, Orion Beer Factory, Urashima Dinner Theater, Kokusai Street and Fukushu-en Garden.

This is just a small sampling of ways to explore Okinawa. It’s important to note that one could live their entire life in Japan’s tropical oasis and not see or do everything, so be sure to make the most of your time and have fun!

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‘Kilroy Was Here’ was the WWII-era viral meme

Kilroy, the bald guy with the long nose hanging over a wall, may be the world’s first viral meme. While it didn’t originate with U.S. servicemen in World War II, it resonated with them. And Kilroy has had staying power all over the world well after WWII.


The graffiti originated with a British doodle called “Mr. Chad,” who commented on rationing and shortages during the war. Often accompanied by the phrase “Wot? No Sugar”, “Wot? No engines?”, or anything decrying the lack of supplies in Britain at the time. “Eventually,” etymologist Eric Shackle writes, “the spirit of Allied unity merged, with the British drawing appearing over the American phrase.”

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers
The infamous “Kilroy was here” graffiti on a piece of the Berlin Wall located in the Newseum in Washington, D.C., USA. (Wikimedia Commons)

The little graffiti doodle became a national joke. GIs and civilians alike would compete to draw “Kilroy was here” in the most remote, obscure places. “Kilroy was here” suddenly appeared on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York, and even the bellies of pregnant women in hospitals.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

 

Kilroy the name is widely considered to originate from J.J. Kilroy, a welding inspector at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Quincy, Massachusetts. The New York Times told the story of how Kilroy, tired of co-workers claiming he didn’t inspect their work, began writing “Kilroy was here” with a crayon, instead of making the usual chalk mark. When these ships came in for repairs in worldwide ports, wartime workers would open sealed compartments to find the doodle. This random appearance would be an amazing feat from the repair crews’ perspective since no one would have been able to access these areas.

 

For years, rumors and theories abounded about the origin of the name. In 1946, the American Transit Association held a contest, offering a full-size street car to anyone who could prove they were the real Kilroy. J.J. Kilroy entered and corroborated his story with other shipyard workers. The ATA sent the trolley to Kilroy’s house in Halifax, Mass. where he attached the 12-ton car to his home and used it as living space for his nine children.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Feature image: Engraving of Kilroy on the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 top international gang threats to the U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new transnational organized-crime task force on Oct. 15, 2018, furthering a crackdown on crime that he said has been a Trump administration priority since Day 1.

“The same day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump ordered me to disrupt and dismantle these groups,” Sessions said in remarks delivered in Washington, DC.

The Justice Department, following Trump’s lead, has intensified its efforts against the transnational gang MS-13, which started in the US and is now based in Central America. Sessions designated the group a priority for the department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which he said had been able to hit it “from all angles.”


Sessions directed that task force, as well as Justice Department officials, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to name the top transnational criminal groups threatening the US. Subcommittees within the new task force will focus on the five groups named by those officials.

“I have ordered each of these subcommittees to provide me with specific recommendations within 90 days on the best ways to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets,” Sessions said.

Below, you can see the five groups on which the Justice Department’s new task force will focus.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

An MS-13 suspect bearing gang tattoos is handcuffed.

MS-13

Trump has inveighed against MS-13 throughout his time in office.

Often calling its members “animals,” Trump has claimed MS-13 has turned US communities “into blood-stained killing fields,” accused child migrants of being members (though the number of unaccompanied minors with suspected links to the gang is minuscule), and falsely claimed to have seen ICE agents “liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13.”

The gang started among migrants from Central America, El Salvador in particular, who fled civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them ended up in Southern California, where, without family networks or other connections, they gravitated toward gangs.

Deportations returned many members to their home countries in the 1990s and 2000s, where the gang blossomed in the post-conflict environment.

The gang’s influence has since spread throughout the region, including to the US, where it often carries out extortion, robberies, and other crimes in areas with large migrant communities, like the Washington, DC, suburbs or Suffolk County on Long Island.

Though MS-13 members have committed particularly heinous crimes, experts have said the Trump administration misunderstands the reach and power the gang.

“Our research found that MS-13 is hardly a lucrative network of criminal masterminds,” Steven Dudley, a senior fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, wrote in early 2018. “Instead, it is a loose coalition of young, often formerly incarcerated men operating hand to mouth across a vast geographic territory.”

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

The Jalisco New Generation cartel, or CJNG

The Mexican organized-crime group CJNG is the youngest group on the list compiled by the Justice Department. It is believed to have sprung from one faction of the Sinaloa cartel, which is also on the list, around 2010.

Based in the southwest state of Jalisco, the CJNG has grown rapidly since then, expanding throughout the country. It often violently forces out competitors and has corrupted numerous law-enforcement officials.

It has focused on synthetic drugs like crystal meth, and it has helped push up homicide rates along Mexico’s Pacific coast, fighting for control of ports needed to bring in precursor chemicals needed to make those drugs. The CJNG has expanded into other criminal enterprises; in some parts of Mexico it is believed to be fighting for a piece of the lucrative oil-theft trade.

Perhaps the group’s most high-profile crime was shooting down a Mexican army helicopter over Jalisco in May 2015. The shoot-down killed six soldiers, who were among 15 people killed in wave of violence in the state that day. (Mexican authorities said in 2018 they caught the suspects responsible for bringing down the helicopter.)

In the years since, the CJNG and its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, aka “El Mencho,” have become high-profile targets. The capture of a number of CJNG financial operators, including the wife of “El Mencho,” in recent years likely indicates Mexican authorities are trying to go after the gang’s money. (Though the wife was released on bail in September 2018.)

The group also appears to be facing competition at home. A group called the Nueva Plaza cartel, believed to be led by a one-time confidant of Oseguera, is thought to be challenging it on its home turf in Guadalajara, with backing from groups like the Sinaloa cartel.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted by soldiers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as he is extradited to New York, January 19, 2017.

(Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office)

The Sinaloa cartel

Over the past two decades, the Sinaloa cartel has risen to the top of Mexico’s narco hierarchy, operating throughout the country and around the world, linking coca fields in South America and drug labs in Mexico to consumers in the US, Europe, and parts of Asia.

Formed in the western state of the same name, the Sinaloa cartel emerged in the 1990s, after the breakup of the powerful Guadalajara cartel. Led by cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel muscled rivals out of valuable territories, including cities bordering the US.

In the process, the cartel helped stoke dizzying bloodshed in Mexico, making its cities some of the most violent in the world.

The cartel’s outlook has been cloudy since Guzman’s January 2016 arrest, which came about six months after he broke out of jail for the second time. Rumors of a looming third breakout appeared to be snuffed out in January 2017, when Mexican officials whisked him to New York and turned him over to the US.

Since then, the Sinaloa cartel appeared ready to crack up. Guzman’s sons and presumed heirs to the cartel were kidnapped by rivals in late 2016, and in early 2017 they were challenged by Guzman’s former right-hand man and his son.

But Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a shadowy cartel chieftain who helped form the group with Guzman and is backing Guzman’s sons, appears to have reestablished some of the cartel’s “cohesion” and avoided a major fracture.

The Sinaloa cartel is better understood as an alliance of factions rather than a hierarchical cartel — a organizational structure that is believed to give it some resiliency in the face of law-enforcement pressure.

With Guzman absent, the group is believed to have continued operating with a lower profile, led by experienced smugglers like Zambada. A sophisticated narco tunnel — a smuggling method pioneered by the Sinaloans— was recently discovered in Tijuana, where the group is still active despite a challenge from the CJNG.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas-Guillen.

The Gulf clan

The Gulf clan, or the Gulf cartel, was long one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups moving cocaine from South America to the US and meting out shocking violence along the way.

Gulf cartel’s formation can be traced to the mid-1980s in northeast Mexico, where criminal elements and officialdom have long intertwined. Around that time, it began cutting deals with Colombian traffickers and soon vaulted from a relatively small-time marijuana and heroin business to a billion-dollar cocaine smuggling operation.

The cartel also corrupted government officials, federal and local police forces, and attorneys general. In the late 1990s, it also began developing a military wing, recruiting former Mexican special-forces soldiers to help form a group of enforcers known as the Zetas.

The cartel, and the Zetas in particular, soon diversified into numerous criminal enterprises and expanded to target non-drug-related businesses and natural resources. The Zetas have also carried out some of Mexico’s most brutal crimes.

The Gulf cartel and the Zetas began to split in the late 2000s, sparking inter- and intra-cartel fighting that still makes northeast Mexico one of the country’s most violent regions.

In recent years, the Gulf cartel has “lost strength and has experienced rapid turnover in leadership,” the DEA said in its 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. But the group remains influential in northeast Mexico, moving drugs into South Texas and controlling distribution hubs in US cities like Houston and Atlanta.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Hezbollah posters in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War.

Lebanese Hezbollah

Hezbollah, or the “Party of God,” is the only group on the Justice Department’s list with its origins outside the Western Hemisphere.

It emerged after Israel’s 1982 invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, which came amid a civil war in the latter country that ran from 1975 to 1990.

A Shiite Muslim political party and militant group, Hezbollah receives significant support from Iran and has fought with Iran in Syria to support that country’s dictator, Bashar Assad.

That campaign has improved Hezbollah’s operational capabilities and added to its weapons stockpiles, now believed to include weapons like guided missiles, armed drones, and anti-tank missiles.

Israel has launched strikes in Syria to deter Iran and Hezbollah and has increased its readiness to counter Hezbollah and Iranian action there. Hezbollah’s growing role in Lebanon and its expanding military capabilities have led experts to warn a future war between it and Israel could be bigger and more violent that the 2006 Lebanon War.

The US, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, has pushed Lebanon to cut Hezbollah’s access to its financial sector.

The group has also been active in the US and the Western Hemisphere for some time, though its focus there is believed to be on money laundering.

People in the region with links to the group are almost all considered not to be active members but rather “associates,” though at least one man has been accused of conducting surveillance in the US in support of potential Hezbollah attacks.

The US has also accused numerous Venezuelan officials of links to Hezbollah, including through an alleged black-market scheme to sell passports. Though some intelligence officials have said those allegations are overstated.

Hezbollah-linked actors in the region’s “activities have largely been involved in logistics support, providing funds back to Lebanon to Hezbollah itself,” Adm. Kurt Tidd, the former head of US Southern Command, told the Senate in early 2016.

The threat to the US

“Transnational Criminal Organizations — whether they are gangs, drug trafficking cartels or terrorist groups — are a scourge,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will lead the new task force, said alongside Sessions on Oct. 15, 2018. “They sow violence and sell poisonous drugs. They bribe public officials and fuel corruption. They terrorize law-abiding citizens.”

While the groups named are responsible for violence and criminal activity in the US and the region, experts have differed with the Trump administration’s assessment of them.

Former Justice Department officials have told Business Insider that Sessions overstates the influence of and threat posed by MS-13.

While the gang’s members have committed heinous acts in the US, their crimes mostly target immigrant communities. Though the group’s members in the US have contact with leaders in Central America, the organization itself is decentralized and largely involved in crimes like extortion, drug possession, and homicide, as it isn’t powerful or organized enough for transnational drug-trafficking.

Mexico’s cartels also have a presence in the US, as the DEA has documented. But what they do in the US appears to be vastly different from what they do in Mexico.

“The cartels use gang members. They use individuals that are living here in the United States to basically do the distribution and the logistics here in the United States,” Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider in 2017.

Even as violence in Mexican border cities has risen over the past decade, violence in US cities next to them has been below-average. And incidents of cartel-related violence in the US have usually been limited to people with ties to the cartels (though there have been cases of mistaken identity).

Hezbollah is also active in the US, but it appears largely focused on fraud and money laundering. Throughout the region, the group’s activities appear limited to financial and logistical support for the organization based in Lebanon.

Intelligence officials have also disputed assertions by US politicians that the Venezuelan government is collaborating with Hezbollah and other militant groups.

“The whole Hezbollah line has been distorted for political purposes by the more extreme elements of the US right wing,” a former CIA senior official told Reuters in early 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

MacGyver meets Bourne: 3 experts weigh in on improvised weapons for self-defense

In theater, improvisation — or simply “improv” — is the art of spontaneously performing an unscripted scene. Performers might have props and/or prompts to work from, but the point is for an actor or comedian to build confidence and courage on the stage by figuring it out as they go.

We do the same thing in everyday life, reacting to and overcoming unexpected or unforeseen circumstances using the tools we have at our disposal. And the more we improvise in small ways, the more confident and comfortable we become in our ability to make quick decisions and problem solve when the situation turns serious.


The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Richard Dean Anderson as Macgyver.

(Photo courtesy of Paramount Television)

What would you do if your life — or the life of a loved one — was at stake and you didn’t have a weapon? The answer: channel your inner MacGyver and improvise. Utilizing an improvised weapon should never be the primary choice in self-defense; carrying a firearm along with appropriate defensive handgun training is a much more reliable option.

However, there are times when you may be without your primary defensive weapon and need to get creative. Traveling by air to a shady location and can’t take a gun or knife? Grab a cup of hot coffee from a gas station — it can be thrown in an attacker’s face should the need arise. The goal of an improvised weapon is to create distance or break contact and get away.

For some of us, the closest we’ll ever get to an improvised self-defense situation is using a shoe to squash a sinister and suspicious spider. But there are bad people in the world who are intent to do harm, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll never be a target. Confidence in utilizing improvised weapons requires the right mindset. Some would argue this is paranoia, but paranoia is a state of worry or fear — the opposite of a confident and prepared state of mind.

To gain a deeper perspective, we sought out the experts.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Clint Emerson is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and author of “100 Deadly Skills.”

(Photo courtesy of Clint Emerson)

In addition to being a retired U.S. Navy SEAL with over 20 years of experience, Clint Emerson is also the author of “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation.”

Emerson explained that self-defense is based on your environment and what you have access to. What you might be able to use to defend yourself at home, work, and other frequented locations should be thought about ahead of time, not mid-crisis.

“If you’re to the point that you’re reaching for anything around you to use as an improvised weapon while a threat is on you, it’s gone too far,” Emerson said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “They’re already too close, and that’s a bad day.

“You always want distance,” he continued. “If you have to pick up a baseball bat or you’re down to using your hands, things went wrong and you’re too close.”

If you don’t have a firearm in your home, Emerson suggests utilizing wasp spray or oven spray. Wasp spray can shoot a stream up to 30 feet and has the chemical strength to stop a threat long enough to allow you to escape. While oven cleaner is similar, it doesn’t provide the distance. Emerson said that the chemical agents are not natural and are therefore stronger than mace spray. He cautions, however, that this is for the home only. Carrying these as a form of self-defense outside the home could result in serious legal consequences.

In the case of close-quarter threats, Emerson recommends a pen made by Zebra, model F701, which can be found at most office supply stores. The stainless steel pen features a pointed tip and can be taken anywhere, even on an airplane. Its design and durability make it an ideal improvised weapon. Emerson said it’s important to practice your grip and defensive motions with it to better prepare yourself in case you’d ever need to use it. A solid grip combined with proper placement lend good puncture capability and can cause serious damage. Remember that the goal is to break contact and get away.

“It’s a mindset, a daily mindset that needs to become a natural part of us,” Emerson said. “We put our seatbelts on without even thinking about it — we just do it. Creating good habits now is better than being caught off guard in a bad situation or natural disaster. Staying prepared helps eliminate the element of surprise and that increases our chance of survival exponentially.”

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Jeff Kirkham was a U.S. Army Green Beret who now runs ReadyMan, an organization focused on survival skills. Kirkham is also the inventor of the Rapid Application Tourniquet (RATS).

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Kirkham)

Jeff Kirkham served almost 29 years in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret. He’s also the leader of ReadyMan, an online resource for information, training, skills, and products to equip people for life, survival, emergency, and tactical situations. ReadyMan focuses on mindset, situational awareness, kidnap avoidance, escape restraints, and more.

Kirkham’s strongest piece of advice is to avoid — do everything in your power to be aware and not be a targeted victim — and the best way to do that is through training.

“The key to successful self-defense training is finding something that inspires you,” Kirkham said. “There are many great instructors out there and when it comes to training, something is better than nothing.”

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WHAT IS READYMAN?

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In close-encounter situations, Kirkham said the best weapons are the ones we always have with us: hands, feet, knees, and elbows. Training to utilize the weapons we were born with will provide the confidence to engage the threat. Outside of that, anything in your hands can be a weapon — a pen, a book, a laptop case. It doesn’t have to be amazing, you just need to think and do whatever it takes to get away.

Everything is fair game when it comes to saving your life or avoiding injury. Kirkham classifies fingernails and teeth as secondary weapons and advised not to underestimate their power or be timid in their use. A dog can be another important asset, Kirkham said. Whether you obtain a trained protection dog or have one for a pet, man’s best friend can be a valuable protection source. Even a small dog can be enough of a distraction to buy time to escape.

To find out where you rate on the scale of preparedness, ReadyMan offers a Plan 2 Survive self-assessment. It encompasses everything from financial stability to survival situations and natural disasters and is a great way to evaluate yourself and become better prepared.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Fred Mastison is an international firearms instructor and expert in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, and executive protection.

(Photo courtesy of Fred Mastison)

Rounding out the expert panel is Fred Mastison of Force Options USA. Mastison is an Army veteran and professional instructor in the fields of defensive tactics, firearms, executive protection, and close-quarter combatives. He also holds a seventh-degree black belt in Aikijitsu. Mastison trains law enforcement and civilians internationally.

Mastison echoed Emerson’s sentiment that when it comes down to being close enough to have to utilize an improvised weapon, things have gone too far. Situational awareness, avoidance, and distance are vital. However, when things get sideways, violence of action is key.

“If you can utilize a sharp object, like a pen, you would want to strike the face,” Mastison said. “The eyes and the bridge of the nose are very sensitive areas — if all you have are your hands, gouge the eyes or bite. The key is to do it with intent and force to break contact and escape.”

The common thread among this panel of experts is clear: situational awareness is vital. The proper mindset, training, and a clear understanding of your surroundings can help you avoid becoming a target. There are a variety of classes available for developing physical and mental self-defense tactics — seek them out. Being prepared and vigilant is crucial to our survival, whether it’s a human threat or natural disaster. It is up to each of us individually to be proactive and prepared, to be ready to protect ourselves instead of relying on someone else to save us.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

A military kid is learning about her dad’s life and experiences through the eyes of her mom.

Ever since Britt Harris first met her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, eyes have played an important part of her story.


The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

Chris and Britt Harris. Courtesy photo.

From the beginning, she couldn’t help but notice his baby blues, so different from her own hazel eyes. The North Carolina natives fell in love and married in October 2016. A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Chris deployed to Afghanistan the next summer.

Then came the eyes of the nation on her when her 25-year-old husband was killed in a vehicle explosion on August 2, 2017, making her a Gold Star wife. Just one week earlier, Britt thrilled him with the news that they were expecting their first child.

Unit connection

Britt’s grief felt all-encompassing, but she still wanted to feel connected to her husband’s unit. She included them in her gender reveal, shipping confetti poppers with the appropriate color to Afghanistan. The men and women celebrated amidst a shower of pink in a now-viral video.

When her daughter, Christian Michelle, arrived on March 17, 2018 — the day Chris’ unit returned — Britt knew the story wasn’t over. So she arranged for a photoshoot featuring Christian, herself and Chris’ fellow soldiers.

With the same otherworldly blue eyes as her father, Christian quickly captivated millions. The moment wasn’t just for show, however; the men and women who served alongside Chris (he and Britt are only children) are viewed as family.

“We still see each other. We get lunch, or send texts, or social media,” says Britt, 28. “It makes me feel like I’m still part of the group even though I don’t have Chris anymore.”

Yet thanks to Christian’s uncanny resemblance to Chris — especially his eyes — Britt still does, in a way. Christian loves doing handstands now, the result of toddler gymnastics classes.

“She does them everywhere we go,” Britt laughs. “She dances all day, every day.”

Pageant platform

Living as a single mom in Moore County, North Carolina, was never Britt’s original plan. But she has plenty of new accomplishments to list since her world came crashing down in 2017, including hiking Kilimanjaro in Africa and starting a PhD program in psychology at Liberty University.

“My husband was really adventurous and he was always the person to push me to do something new,” Britt says. “When he passed away, I didn’t have anyone to push me anymore, so I started pushing myself to try new things.”

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

And in going after those firsts, Britt now holds the title of Mrs. North Carolina Universal 2020. Though this year’s national pageant fell victim to quarantine, she still plans to compete in 2021. Her platform will be bringing awareness to families of the fallen.

“A lot of people don’t even know what Gold Star means,” Britt said. “I’ve met veterans who don’t know what Gold Star is.”

The publicity that pageants offer could majorly change that, giving Britt a wider audience to educate on the definition and needs of Gold Star families, perhaps even affecting future related legislation.

“The pageant world isn’t really a place where widows go,” she said. “I’m hoping out of curiosity people will read up on Gold Star or ask when I give my interviews so I can speak more about it.”

Road trips

Besides getting ready to eventually compete in a national pageant, 2020 has held another rookie experience for Britt and Christian: being the recipients of a Gold Star canine training program.

Ridgeside K9 Carolinas recently boarded Atlas, the Harris’ one-year-old Blue Heeler, and professionally trained him to be a well-behaved family dog. The Harrises were the first selected for this free service for families of the fallen.

“Atlas is a very high-energy dog that was by no means a ‘bad dog,’ but I certainly needed help teaching him obedience,” Britt said. “He’s very patient and well-behaved now. He listens and the stress of chasing him and him avoiding and ignoring my calls and demands is long gone!”

Now, Atlas could happily join Britt and Christian on their road trips to places where Chris visited. Britt documents each trip in photos.

“I want to show the re-creations of her in the places Chris went, to walk where he walked, to feel close to him,” she says. “I want her to feel connected to him and the things he enjoyed.”

As a Gold Star wife, Britt understands that Chris is physically absent. But he — and those blue eyes he passed on to the daughter he never met — will always be a part of their lives.

Follow Britt at https://www.instagram.com/britt.m.harris/ to keep up with her and Christian’s future adventures.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

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

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