That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

“Is Stalin a man of genius, or not?”

The reply that came during a seance, according to a defendant’s testimony given at a Kyiv court on March 10, 1948, was that the Soviet dictator was no such thing.

Coming at a time when Josef Stalin’s cult of personality was at its height, such a conversation was sure to attract attention. Especially because the founding father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, was allegedly the one replying from beyond the grave during the conjuring, more than two decades after his death.

Other court evidence revealed that during one of the seances “Lenin” predicted from the afterlife that war was coming — six countries would soon free the Soviet people from Stalin’s yoke.


When asked about the future of Soviet power, an unidentified Russian revolutionary responded that “it won’t exist, with the help of America.”

Such “conversations” were revealed in archived documents of trial testimony and interrogations carried out by the Soviet State Security Ministry (MGB), which included the secret police.

Aside from Lenin, the court heard from a number of early Soviet A-listers, some of whom might have cause to slander Stalin.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Lenin and Stalin.

There was archrival Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940 on the Soviet leader’s orders. And Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, who died under mysterious circumstances after a public argument with her husband in 1932.

Others speaking from the grave included the writers Maxim Gorky and Aleksandr Kuprin, as well as famed rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

Their questioners were not members of the Bolshevik inner circle, but ordinary residents of the north-central Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva who had never even belonged to the Communist Party.

For their role in conjuring up voices from the past, Ilya Gorban, his sister Vera Sorokina, and his lover Olga Rozova were arrested and accused of anti-Soviet acts and the “creation of an illegal religious-mystical group of spiritists.”

Wandering soul

Gorban was an unaccomplished artist when he moved to Bila Tserkva from Kyiv in early 1947, a year before the trial.

The 44-year-old native of the Poltava region had designed museum exhibits and prepared posters and portraits of Lenin for demonstrations. He was wounded during World War II while manning an anti-tank gun near Orel.

He had married and fathered a child. But the marriage ended in divorce and his daughter lived with her mother.

Gorban settled into his new life in Bila Tserkva with his sister, Vera, and got a job at the local industrial plant as a sculptor.

A book lover, he frequented the city library and soon entered into a romance with 39-year-old Olga Rozova, a library employee.

Rozova was married. But her husband — Andrei Rozov, a journalist with a newspaper in Voronezh — had been accused of belonging to an “anti-Soviet Trotskyite terrorist organization” in 1938 and imprisoned for 10 years.

While at work, Gorban had a conversation with colleague Mikhail Ryabinin, who asked the sculptor if he believed in the afterlife and the existence of spirits.

Gorban said he did not, but he did take Ryabinin up on his recommendation that he read the Spirits Book — written in 1856 by Frenchman Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail under the pen name Allan Kardec and considered one of the pillars of spiritism.

Pointed ‘discussions’

The doctrine of spiritism, or Kardecism, centers on the belief that the spirits of the dead survive beyond mortal life and can communicate with the living. The communication usually takes place during seances conducted by a person serving as a medium between this world and the otherworld.

Gorban read it with fascination and proposed that Ryabinin organize a seance. His friend declined, however, saying according to case files that “all these sessions with plates — they are nonsense and baby talk. I contact the spirits at a higher level.”

Gorban’s sister agreed to try, however, and together they conducted a seance based on what they had learned.

They lit candles and sat at a table with a sheet of paper in the center. On the paper the letters of the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words “yes” and “no” were drawn in a circle.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

A seance board similar to the one used in Bila Tserkva

A saucer with an arrow from the center to the edge was set over the paper.

The idea was to call on the spirts of a particular person and, if he or she appeared, to ask them questions. If all went well the saucer, beneath the hands of participants, would begin to rotate freely and without force, spelling out answers by pointing to the appropriate symbols on the paper.

Family affair

Altogether, Gorban and his sister conducted 15 to 20 seances in the summer and autumn of 1947. At times they reached out to people outside the Soviet circle. The spirits of deceased relatives were often conjured up, including the siblings’ mother, who allegedly gave the pair everyday advice. They even got a hold of Alexander Pushkin, but the Russian poet “cursed” them.

Gorban’s girlfriend, Olga Rozova, began to join the sessions, and the group conjured up a late writer who began to compliment her.

“I suspected that this was a trick of Gorban’s, with whom I had been in an intimate relationship,” she recalled during her courtroom interrogation. “The whole session was of a purely personal, amorous character.”

Some sessions were held at Rozova’s apartment, which was inside the library. A friend of hers who headed the local school library, Varvara Shelest, took an interest and also started attending the sessions.

The last seance, according to testimony of group members, was held in December 1947.

They asked Lenin’s spirit about the monetary reforms enacted that year, which included the denomination of the ruble and the confiscation of personal savings.

Knock on the door

A couple of months later Chekists — agents of the feared secret service — came for them.

Rozova was detained on Feb. 19, 1948; Sorokina and Gorban were taken away the next day.

The case was transferred to the authorities in Kyiv, and the trial began on March 6, just two weeks after the suspects were detained.

From the MGB’s point of view, the seances were evidence of the formation of an “illegal religious-mystical group” — which on its own could have led to imprisonment. But the authorities took things one step further by adding the more serious “anti-Soviet” charge.

“This seance had a sharply anti-Soviet character,” read one file. “This deliberate slander pertained to one of the leaders of the [Communist] Party and government.”

When initially questioned, the three did not appear to hide that they had participated in seances. Gorban and Sorokina wrote them off as an attempt to have fun; Rozova said there was no intended goal.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Joseph Stalin, Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin.

But ultimately their confessions were recorded by their interrogators — the sessions were driven by anti-Soviet sentiment and were just a “convenient screen” for “slanderous agitation.”

In his interrogation report, Gorban was quoted as saying he had “tried to defame and slander the Soviet powers and the leaders of the Party and government” to expose the “talentlessness” of Soviet leaders to his alleged accomplices.

Disgruntled by postwar poverty, it was Gorban who had directed the movements of the saucer, according to the documents.

Harsh ruling

During their trial, those alleged admissions were recanted. Each of the three defendants declared that they did not believe in the otherworld or spirits. When queried about their religious beliefs, each answered that they were atheists. And their sessions, they said, were for entertainment.

“I didn’t think that our sessions were anti-Soviet,” Sorokina testified. “What we did was, of course, not good, but I was, am, and will remain a Soviet person.”

As for the saucer, Gorban said, he had no idea how it moved. All admitted to partial guilt, according to the court files.

The ruling in their case came on March 10, after just two court sessions.

The three were found guilty of anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation, and of participation in a counterrevolutionary organization.

Gorban was sentenced to 25 years in a labor camp; Rozova and Sorokina to 10 years each. Gorban would have been executed had the verdict come a year earlier — but the death penalty had recently been suspended.

The mystery of ‘North’

The role of Gorban’s colleague in all this was not forgotten. A criminal case was opened against Ryabinin — the man who had suggested Gorban read the Spirits Book — the same day the others were sentenced.

It is unclear, however, what might have happened to him.

Rozova’s friend, Shelest, also remains a mystery. Despite her attendance at the group’s seances, she was apparently never detained.

According to the case files, she disappeared shortly after the others were nabbed. Material related to her was transferred to a different case, a common step intended to avoid the search for the accused slowing down the investigations of those detained.

When it later emerged that the others had been arrested as part of an underground sting operation, Shelest’s name was not listed among the targets. And when the MGB informed other Soviet authorities about the eradication of a group of spiritists in Bila Tserkva, it made mention only of an informant — codenamed “Sever” (North) — who had attended some of the sessions.

But Shelest’s name did pop up. During their trial the three defendants claimed it was Shelest who initiated most of the “political” questions posed to spirits — including Trotsky, Alliluyeva, and Gorky. Rozova said she had suspicions that Shelest had manipulated the saucer’s movements.

In requesting a pardon in 1954, one year after Stalin’s death, Rozova wrote that “at the trial it became clear to me that Shelest had been tasked with creating an anti-Soviet crime from our seances.” She further argued that Shelest continued to live in Bila Tserkva, yet no one was trying to question her.

Around the same time a prosecutor wrote that while Sorokina and Rozova were “addicted to spiritism because of their curiosity and irresponsibility,” their actions did not result in serious consequences. The two, the prosecutor argued, should be released.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled that while the verdicts handed down against Gorban, Sorokina, and Rozova were correct, their sentences were too harsh.

Sorokina and Rozova were released on Feb. 22, 1955, seven years after their arrest. The decision came too late for Gorban, who died in 1950 while incarcerated at a labor camp near the Arctic Circle.

In 1992 — less than one year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union — all three were rehabilitated.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these morale patches caught the Navy’s attention

One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they’ll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.

Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.


That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

It’s not as if this is the military’s first Trump joke.

Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft’s in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.

Related: 13 of the best military morale patches

Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the “Make (blank) Great Again” joke, using an image of the President’s 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy’s top brass, with or without the “p*ssy” joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Trump signed signature red “MAGA” hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn’t distribute the hats, troops already brought them.

The Pentagon’s Uniform Code of Military Justice states “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.” This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy’s ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.

More: 13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

It’s possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it’s much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump’s revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President’s detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.

The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don’t seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it “more than patriotism” and “inappropriate.”

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)

The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them “old news” but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nuclear investigators found uranium at a secret facility in Iran

Nuclear investigators have found uranium particles at a facility that had not been declared by Iranian government, Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Associated Press (AP), and the BBC reported, suggesting the country’s further departure from the 2015 nuclear deal.

“The agency has detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said in a confidential report published Nov. 11, 2019, according to AFP.

The particles had been mined and had undergone initial processing, but not enriched, AFP reported.


The report did not name the facility that had been producing the particles, the BBC and AFP reported. However, anonymous diplomatic sources told AFP that the samples had been taken from a facility in Tehran’s southwest Turquzabad district.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Uraninite is the most common ore mined to extract uranium.

Iran has previously claimed that the Turquzabad site is a carpet cleaning factory that has no other purpose.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly warned about Iran’s undeclared nuclear archives, told the UN last year that the Turquzabad site contained “a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.”

Many Iranians mocked Netanyahu’s claim and took selfies in front of the facility to refute his claims at the time. Iran has repeatedly said that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

The IAEA has not yet responded to Business Insider’s request for comment on the report and clarification on the location of the uranium found.

Separately, the IAEA’s report also confirmed that Iran had been enriching uranium and using centrifuges in Fordo, an underground site in the country’s northwest, the AP reported. The nuclear deal had ordered the Fordo site to be a research center, but it is now home to 1,000 centrifuges, the AP said.

The IAEA also said Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium had grown to 372.3 kg (820.78 pounds) as of Nov. 3, 2019, according to the AP. The nuclear deal limited the stockpile to 202.8 kg.

Iran said last week that it was now enriching uranium to 5%, higher than the 3.67% mentioned in the deal, AFP reported. The IAEA report said the highest level of uranium enrichment is currently at 4.5%, the news agency said.

Iran has over the past few months taken incremental steps away from the 2015 nuclear deal in what appears to be an attempt to stand up to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and increased sanctions on the regime under his “maximum pressure” campaign.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

The ministers of foreign affairs of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, France, China, the European Union, and Iran, March 30, 2015.

(United States Department of State)

The country prompted suspicion earlier this month when it attempted to impede an IAEA investigation into its nuclear facilities.

Country authorities forbade an unnamed IAEA inspector from entering the Natanz uranium enrichment facility — claiming that she had triggered an alarm at the entrance — and briefly held her, Reuters reported.

The inspector later had her travel documents and nuclear accreditation taken away, the news agency reported. The IAEA has disputed the claim that the inspector triggered an alarm, and said Iran’s treatment of her was “not acceptable,” the BBC and AFP reported.

Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert in US-Iran negotiations from 2013 to 2014, told Business Insider earlier this year that Iran is looking for “leverage” amid the sanctions and the EU’s inability to bring Washington and Tehran back to the nuclear deal.

“The Iranians have showed us since May 2018 [when the US pulled out of JCPOA] that their first priority is to take small steps that demonstrate they can take bigger steps, but not to do things that fundamentally change” the geopolitical landscape, Nephew said.

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

Read more:

Military Life

6 ways to kill time while at ‘Mojave Viper’

If you’re a Marine or sailor and your unit receives orders to deploy, then you’re also looking at spending a little over a month training in the Mojave Desert. Every year, Marines from all over the U.S. and Japan take a trip to Twentynine Palms, California, where they eat, sleep, and sh*t war games against role players pretending to be the bad guys.

During your stay at “29 stumps,” you’ll get to blow up a lot of stuff, eat plenty of MREs, and sweat your ass off in the process.


Although you’ll have plenty of training to do, you’ll also find yourself bored as hell between activities as you sit in the middle of the desert at Camp Wilson.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
This isn’t an establishing shot for the next Transformers movie,t’s your home during your stay in Mojave Viper.
(Photo by Marine Cpl Michael Dye)

Instead of twiddling your thumbs, try the following to keep your mind occupied. You’ll thank us later.

www.youtube.com

Play “knock down the other guy”

Between training revolutions, you’ll have no form of entertainment. Idle minds wander — this is when you’ll come up with new games to play with your fellow brothers. Everyone has a flak jacket and SAPI plates, right? It might be time to enjoy a semi-violent game of “knock down the other guy.”

Sleep, sleep, and then sleep some more

Do you really need any more explanation?

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Search for cell service

Cell towers don’t cover most areas of the camp. However, there are a few cell-phone companies that extend service into select spots. We’ve discovered tiny, three-square-foot pockets of service and, once we left that magic spot, we got nothing.

It’s possible to find a signal, you just have to hunt for it.

Work on your six pack

While in Twentynine Palms, you’re going to sweat, which also means you’re losing weight. While you’re waiting to do whatever your platoon commander has planned for the day, you should knock out some crunches and planks. After a few weeks of training, you’re going to rotate home — those six-pack abs will be good for your dating life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQXRuN8_rcg

www.youtube.com

Document how much fun you’re having with a funny YouTube video

Marines can have fun just about anywhere at any time because of the dark sense of humor they proudly inherit from the grunts who came before them. To pass the time while you’re out in the blistering heat with nothing to do, make a video. Document how much fun you’re having.

Watch a movie on your phone

You better have the entire film downloaded to your iPhone or Andriod. Even if you find a little pocket of signal out there, it won’t be enough to download an entire movie — just sayin’.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened to Argentina’s lost submarine

The loss of the submarine ARA San Juan this past November is the most significant loss of a submarine since an explosion sank the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk in 2000. All 44 sailors aboard the German-designed Type 209 diesel-electric submarine were lost when it went on eternal patrol.


That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

ARA San Juan pierside.

(Photo by Martin Otero)

It took over four months, but the story of what happened to the San Juan was finally revealed in August of 2018. According to a report by TeleSurTV.com, the submarine suffered a fire in her forward battery compartment on Nov. 15, 2017, after seawater went down the submarine’s “snorkel.”

The crew of the sub fought the fire for two hours as the submarine descended. The vessel then reportedly imploded, instantly killing all 44 sailors on board. Claims that the submarine was in poor material condition were denied by the Argentinean Navy. A massive rescue effort, which included a Lockheed P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the United States Navy, went on for weeks before the search was called off.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

USS Cochino (SS 345) departing on her last mission. One civilian engineer was killed when she was lost, as well as six sailors from USS Tusk (SS 426).

(U.S. Navy)

In the years after World War II, the United States lost two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines. In 1949, USS Cochino (SS 345) suffered a pair of battery explosions that sank the ship despite a 14-hour effort to save the vessel. One civilian engineer on the Cochino and six sailors from USS Tusk were lost.

In 1958, USS Stickleback (SS 415) was taking part in a training exercise when she lost power, broached the surface, and was rammed by the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534). Efforts by the crews of both vessels, plus the submarine USS Sabalo (SS 302), the destroyer escort USS Sturtevant (DE 239), and the submarine rescue ship USS Greenlet (ASR 10) to save the Stickleback failed. The sub sank, but all aboard were rescued.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Russia has to address to thaw relations with the US

The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve.

A White House statement on April 19, 2018, said John Bolton, who took over from H.R. McMaster on April 9, 2018, made the remarks in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov.


“At the first meeting between the two in their current roles, they discussed the state of the relationships between the United States and Russia,” the statement said.

“Ambassador Bolton reiterated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to have better relations, but that this will require addressing our concerns regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the reckless use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria,” it added.

Several global issues have raised tensions between Washington and Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations between the two countries.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of a widespread cyberhacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election vote.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
Donald Trump campaigning for president.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The United States and Europe have slapped sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. military has assailed Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and says it holds Moscow responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it supports Britain in a dispute with Russia over the March 4, 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.

Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election, said it had nothing to do with the Skripal poisonings, and claimed the allegations of a chemical attack in Syria are false.

The 69-year-old Bolton, a former UN ambassador, has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign-policy circles for decades. Among his more controversial stands, he has advocated for preemptive military strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.

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

Lists

6 of the most outrageous WWIII video games, ranked

Predicting the future through popular fiction is always a headache. One specific (and inevitable) war, however, has been the setting for many works of exploratory fiction. Everyone has come up with their own unique twist on how the World War Trilogy is going to end because global audiences demand an over-the-top-ending to their trilogies.


Video games set in a fictional World War III span the range of plausibility and, accordingly, audience reception. Early games, like 1981’s Missile Command, were simple enough as to not raise eyebrows and breathtaking, modern games, like Battlefield 4 and Arma 3take a more down-to-earth approach.

But then there are the absolutely ridiculous games that hinge on insane premises, like that the next World War will involve us fighting our would-be robot overlords by the distant year 2010.

6. Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Yes, we were not-so-subtly pointing at this game. To the Terminator franchise’s credit, they were pretty optimistic about how advanced future technology would be back when the series kicked off in 1984.

But when this game references its own timeline as being “13 years after Judgement Day,” which, according to the films, was on Aug. 29, 1997, they effectively put all of one year between the game’s release and the over-the-top, dystopian futurescape… there’s just no excuse for that silliness.

We could forgive the game’s plot if it wasn’t so bad… even by 2009 standards.

5. Chromehounds (2006)

Like some of the other games on this list, alternate history is used to explain away inconsistencies. Chromehounds is a giant robot simulator that pits three fictional nations against each other that are totally not based on America, the USSR, and the Middle East.

You could customize your mech and choose a nation to fight under in real time against other players. The game was enjoyable while it lasted, but the servers shut down in 2010.

The world needs more customizable mech simulators.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)

Compared to many of the other first-person shooters set in WWIII, Call of Duty: MW3 upped the ante. Sure, the story follows many of the standard tropes for WWIII — some Russian guy is evil, Europe gets invaded again, and *gasp* nuclear war is threatened.

What made 2011’s installment of Call of Duty so spectacular was that, during the single-player campaign, you got to live out all the action in various roles throughout the world. You play as several characters, all with unique backstories, while you hunt down the big bad.

The ending is just so, so satisfying.

3. Homefront: The Revolution (2016)

Based off the premise that North Korea takes over the world, this game is set in an alternate history where the hermit kingdom’s tech industry isn’t as laughable as it is in our timeline. The game places you in a Red Dawn-esque world where you need to start an underground resistance against Communist invaders.

The game wasn’t without faults — mainly in the narrative and character-development departments — but immersive open-world gameplay, complete weapon customization, and a level of difficulty that made you think through every action made the game stand out.

Wolverines!!!

2. Raid Over Moscow (1984)

Cold War-era games about the Cold War were the best. Originally released on the Commodore 64, Raid Over Moscow‘s story begins when three Soviet nukes launch and you’re the only space-pilot able to stop it. You fight your way through to the Kremlin (which, apparently, was the missile silo for all of the USSR’s nukes) before blowing it up. The most unbelievable thing about this game is that it goes out of its way to explain that America can’t just nuke them back because all US nukes were dismantled.

At the time, the game was fairly controversial. European nations were uneasy about selling a game that directly portrayed the destruction of the Kremlin. Unfortunately for them, the controversy only made European citizens want the game more.

Ahh, the good ol’ days when people feared 8-bit graphics could start an international incident.

1. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2001)

No WWIII game comes close to offering the same level of enjoyment and ridiculousness as Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. To cut a very long and very confusing story short, Albert Einstein creates a time machine to kill a young Hitler. This leads the Soviets to grow unchecked and, in their liberty, research mind-control technology. And that’s just the first game.

This time around, you need to fight a psychic Rasputin stand-in — or you could choose to play as the Soviets. This game and its expansion pack, Yuri’s Revenge, are considered classics. You’ll need to play through it to understand, really.

The silly live-action cutscenes just make the game that much more hilarious.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.


Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.

Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”

Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.

Then, he slowly faded from history.

Coming to America

Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)

“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”

No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.

Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.

Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”

Black sailors

Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.

According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.

Also read: This was the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor

Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.

Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.

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United States Navy poster featuring Medal of Honor recipient, Joseph Noil. (Naval Historical Center Online Library)

“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.

Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.

Related: This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.

Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.

Noil’s service

Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.

His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.

Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.

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USS Powhatan

The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.

Shipmates

For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.

Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers

Related: These were America’s first African-American paratroopers

Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”

Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Hospitalized

She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.

“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”

No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.

“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.

More reading: First African-American Marines finally get their own monument

There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.

“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”

Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”

“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.

Lost then found again

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Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Robin Braun observes the wreath presentation by Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at the headstone ceremony April 29, 2016 for Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil at St. Elizabeths Hospital Cemetery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood)

Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”

“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”

Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.

Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.

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American and Canadian flags are placed at the newly erected headstone of Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood)

Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can shooting plastic explosives really set them off?

James H. asks: How realistic is the idea presented in video games of shooting explosives to set them off?

Given that their main and really only purposes is violently exploding, you might be surprised to learn that most explosives utilized by the military are shockingly stable. So much so, in fact, that, contrary to what is often depicted in movies and video games, plastic explosives like C-4 won’t explode if you shoot them or set them on fire. In fact, C-4 won’t even explode if you shoot it while it is currently on fire.

Indeed, beyond the benefit of being able to shape the explosive in a variety of ways to accomplish a given destructive goal, one of the main reasons plastic explosives like C-4 are utilized so extensively by the military is precisely because they are largely inert and can be handled without specialized equipment.


Further, creating C-4 is noted as being a relatively simple process that involves mixing a plasticizer with a conventional explosive (in this case usually cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, often referred to as “RDX” or “Royal Demolition Explosive”- or for the non-Brits “Research Department Explosive”). While exact ratios vary somewhat, for reference in its C-4 the U.S. military currently uses a mixture of 91% RDX, 5.3% of the plasticizer dioctyl sebacate, 2.1% of the synthetic rubber Polyisobutylene, and 1.6% mineral oil or, for civilian use, motor oil, giving such C4 its telltale odor of, well, motor oil.

Commonly likened to ordinary modeling clay in texture and consistency, C-4 and most other plastic explosives can be shaped, stored and molded just as easily. The key difference being that, unlike modeling clay, a mere half kilogram of C-4 can turn a typical vehicle into a pile of scrap metal. The key to making this happen, though, is attaching some form of blasting cap.

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As the name suggests, these blasting caps rely on a smaller, controlled explosion which will in turn cause the explosive components within the C-4 to go off, resulting in the C-4 producing a wave of gasses, including nitrogen and carbon oxides, that rapidly expand out at upwards of 18,000 mph. So fast is this effect that it actually creates something of a temporary vacuum around the core blast area. This results in a second, much less violent, wave of air collapsing in on the vacuum after the initial blast.

Not keen to just rely on theory, the US Army has conducted countless sensitivity tests on C-4 and other plastic explosive compounds, shooting them with bullets of varying calibres and even putting them within feet of things like hand grenades to see if that explosion or subsequent shrapnel could set the C-4 off. The Army has even conducted tests to see if things like fire will cause C-4 to explode, all with little effect. In fact, it turns out C-4 not only remains stable while on fire but it actually burns quite slowly, making it a good fire starter if you don’t mind the poisonous fumes.

While you might think soldiers would be scared to use this compound in this way, both because of perhaps worrying about an accidental explosion or from the noxious gasses given off, amazingly, during the Vietnam war using small chunks of C-4 as tinder to light campfires, or even as the sole source of the fire itself, was indeed a thing many soldiers did, despite military brass advising against it owing to the poisonous gasses given off.

Further, beyond its use as an explosive, fire starter, and badass modeling clay, it turns out that when eaten in extremely small amounts, C-4 is known to produce a mild high likened to being drunk, something soldiers in Vietnam also took advantage of.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that when consumed in anything other than extremely tiny quantities, C-4 can cause a host of health problems, as noted in a case study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2002 where a soldier decided to swallow about a cubic centimeter of the substance… Potential resulting complications of mimicking this moronic act include “generalized seizures, lethargy, coma, muscular twitching, hyperreflexia, myalgias, headaches, vomiting, mild renal injury, and haematuria (blood in your pee).”

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Inserting blasting caps into blocks of C-4 explosive.

Back to the extreme stability of C-4- as they often do, the show Mythbusters took the idea of testing this to its logical extreme, shooting a piece that was currently on fire with a high-explosive incendiary round. The C-4 stubbornly refused to explode even then, despite the incendiary round giving a nice little blast on impact.

There is one caveat to all this, however. It turns out there is a way to set off C-4 by shooting at it. How? While there are a variety of designs for blasting caps, some may be set off via being hit with a bullet, thus providing the needed energy to cause the C-4 itself to explode. Why this is an extremely unlikely scenario in the real world is because these blasting caps are typically very small (think a half used pencil) and anyone trying to shoot at them would presumably want to be a fair distance away just in case they were successful.

This all becomes an even less likely in real world scenarios given that you don’t put the blast cap in the C-4 until you yourself are preparing to actually make it go boom.

So, in the end, while there are certainly many unstable explosives that will happily release their destructive power if you were to shoot them, it turns out plastic explosives and pretty much the majority of explosives used by militaries and for industrial use the world over are almost always shockingly stable precisely because these organizations aren’t keen on deploying explosive devices that might go off unexpectedly.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of shooting at explosive devices, during WWI there are documented instances of soldiers using shotguns to destroy thrown hand grenades before they could reach their target. For example, in Leroy Thompson’s U.S. Combat Shotguns book, he notes the following account where a group of soldiers acted in concert in this way: “Their first warnings were German ‘potato masher’ hand grenades lobbing through the air. Few landed as most of them were exploded in the air by the experts in the outposts. Upon the failure of the grenade attack, the enemy launched a mortar attack. Again the trapshooters proved their worth, deflecting the slowly arching bombs. Finally, a vast grey wave of the Kaiser’s best surged forward.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

A Super Bowl ad honors first responders with true rescue stories

There are at least 11 NFL players that would be dead now had it not been for the lifesavers that came to their rescue. An ad set to air during Super Bowl LIII pays tribute to them and the many, many like them who risk their lives to save others.


“The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here” is comprised of 11 players and a coach who share their rescue stories as they came close to death in natural disasters, car accidents, and more. One iteration of the campaign aired during the NFC and AFC Championship games, but an all-new one is set to air during the big game.

included in the campaign is a microsite, AllOurThanks.com, that houses a dozen stories, told by the NFL players who were rescued, as they offer their thanks to the first responded who saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The stories were directed by Peter Berg, the Emmy-nominated director of Friday Night Lights and 2013’s Lone Survivor.

“The idea of acknowledging first responders is something I believe in,” Berg told USA Today. “It’s something that I don’t think ever gets old.”

Raiders Quarterback A.J. McCarron would be dead now after a jetski accident as a child. The Packers’ Clay Matthews wouldn’t be here because of a bicycle accident. For the Texans’ Carlos Watkins, it was a car accident. The videos also feature the players family and other loved ones – as well as some of the first responders who actually rescued these players.

The website, launched by Verizon, allows anyone to give thanks to a first responder by uploading a photo along with your first name and last initial. The beautiful, heartfelt thank-yous play on a rotating ticker at the bottom of the page as the ad reads “First responders answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

In a military exercise, try not to really shoot anyone


There are a couple things that everyone going into a military exercise absolutely has to get right. First, get good training and look for ways to improve both personal and unit performance. Second, and perhaps more importantly, don’t really shoot anyone.

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Hint: U.S. Navy pilots aren’t supposed to do this to U.S. Air Force pilots. (Photo: Public Domain)

Guess which thing Navy Lt. (j.g.) Timothy Dorsey, an F-14 pilot, messed up while shadowing an Air Force RF-4C Phantom over the Mediterranean on Sep. 22, 1987?

Dorsey and his radar intercept officer, Lt. Cmdr. Edmund Holland, were taking part in an exercise testing the defenses of the Navy carrier USS Saratoga against enemy attacks. The Air Force had provided a jet and aircrew, Capt. Michael Ross and 1st Lt. Randy Sprouse, to act as the opposing force.

Ross took off from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and began searching for the carrier. The unarmed jet would need to get within visual distance of the Saratoga and read off its hull number to count a “kill” against it in the exercise.

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The RF-4C Phantom was a reconnaissance plane and typically carried only cameras. (Photo: US Air Force)

The exercise orders called for Dorsey and another F-14 to be unarmed as well, but both Navy jets were actually carrying live missiles. The Navy pilots would have to simulate an attack on the opposing force jet to win.

The Air Force crew faced trouble early on when its equipment for hunting the Navy carrier and its fleet electronically malfunctioned. Ross and Sprouse began conducting a visual search instead. The Navy jets got lucky early when the combat controllers sent them after a radio contact that turned out to be the RF-4C refueling from an Illinois Air National Guard KC-135 tanker.

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A Navy F-14 prepares to link up with a tanker for fuel. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Gaddis)

Dorsey’s flight joined up on the tanker and picked up fuel. Ross and Sprouse flew away first and returned to searching for the carrier. Dorsey and Holland, obviously believing that they had spotted their quarry, pursued the Phantom.

The Air Force jet found the carrier, but also knew that a Navy jet was on its tail. Sprouse, the backseater on the Phantom, alerted Ross to the Navy presence.

“There`s a Navy F-14 sitting on our left wing at about 8 o’clock,” Sprouse said.

“Okay, he’s a good guy,” Ross said.

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The USS Saratoga’s hull number was 60. There, now no one has to be shot down to get it. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Meanwhile, Dorsey was tracking the Air Force jet’s progress toward the carrier. When the RF-4C got to about 15 miles from the Saratoga, Ross initiated a diving turn at the carrier, simulating the start of an attack run. Dorsey called out the threat to Holland and they alerted the Saratoga.

So far, everything is good. The Air Force is simulating an attack on the carrier, the Navy is simulating the protocol for attacking a threat to the carrier.

The Saratoga responded, “Red and free on your contact.” And that was where everything got messy. Dorsey, relatively new to the Saratoga and with only a couple hundred hours of flight time under his belt, was under the impression that “red and free” was a command to fire that was only used in real-world, “Shoot that guy right now!” situations.

Still, he hesitated and asked for guidance.

“Jesus, do they want me to shoot this guy?” he asked.

The phrase, “red and free,” was commonly used around the Saratoga in exercises. Holland, thinking that Dorsey still understood that everything was taking place within the limits of the exercise, not an actual fight, responded with, “Yes. Shoot!”

Dorsey armed one sidewinder and attempted to fire, but the missile failed. So, he fired another and this one slammed into the back of the recently-fueled Air Force jet.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
Again: These aren’t meant for friendly jets. (Photo: Public Domain)

Holland later said of that moment, “I heard a ‘whish’ sound from the right side of the aircraft, and I looked out and I said, ‘What was that?’ I saw the front end of an F-4 and the back end was in flames. I said, ‘You shot him down!’ and I was absolutely amazed.”

It was Holland’s shock and sudden questions that alerted Dorsey to the fact that he had done something very wrong.

Ross and Sprouse, meanwhile, we’re going through their own sudden crisis. They mistakenly believed that they had collided with the F-14 that was tailing them. The RF-4C was shaking violently and parts of it were on fire.

Ross gave the order to eject.

“I’m gone,” Sprouse said as he pulled the ejection handle. Both airmen got clear of the dying jet and Holland radioed for an at-sea rescue.

“Mayday! Mayday! Got a kill on a Fox 4!”

For obvious reasons, Navy commanders immediately started asking what had happened. Ross and Sprouse were fished out of the water and questioned by Navy lawyers. They both gave full statements before the commander of the Saratoga, Navy Capt. David Frost, told them what really happened and apologized. (Probably something like, “oh, by the way, we shot you down. Sorry. Okay, who’s up for some great Navy chow?”)

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Probably some awkward dinner conversation on the Saratoga that night. Photo: US Navy

Sprouse and Ross received medical attention, Navy uniforms, and a swag bag. They were given the best dinner on the ship and good spots to sleep until they could be sent back to the Air Force.

Dorsey was grounded but allowed to stay in the Navy. He made it to the rank of captain in the reserves as an intelligence officer and then an inspector general. In 2012, he was recommended for promotion to admiral. When Congress heard about his 1987 incident, they declined to vote on his promotion, effectively rejecting it.

Many suspect that Dorsey wouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the Navy if it weren’t for the fact that his father was James Dorsey, a prominent figure in the Naval aviation community. In 1987, Dorsey was the captain of the USS America, a supercarrier.

Ross’s injuries from the shootdown appeared slight when he was rescued from the ocean, but grew steadily worse as he aged. He received 32 surgeries and became fully disabled.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘We would have lost’: Did U.S. lend-lease aid tip the balance in Soviet fight against Nazi Germany?

On February 24, 1943, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft with serial number 42-32892 rolled out of a factory in Long Beach, California, and was handed over to the U.S. Air Force.

On March 12, 1943, the plane was given to the Soviet Air Force in Fairbanks, Alaska, and given the registration USSR-N238. From there, it flew 5,650 kilometers to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, one of some 14,000 aircraft sent by the United States to the Soviet Union during World War II under the massive Lend-Lease program.


This particular C-47 was sent to the Far North and spent the war conducting reconnaissance and weather-monitoring missions over the Kara Sea. After the war, it was transferred to civilian aviation, carrying passengers over the frozen tundra above the Arctic Circle. On April 23, 1947, it was forced to make an emergency landing with 36 people on board near the village of Volochanka on the Taimyr Peninsula.

On May 11, 1947, 27 people were rescued, having spent nearly three weeks in the icebound wreck. The captain, two crew members, and six passengers had left earlier in an ill-fated effort to get help. The body of the captain, Maksim Tyurikov, was found by local hunters about 120 kilometers from the wreck in 1953. The others were never found.

The plane spent 69 years on the tundra before a Russian Geographical Society expedition rescued it in 2016 and returned the wreckage to Krasnoyarsk.

“I knew that its place was in a museum,” Vyacheslav Filippov, a colonel in the Russian Air Force reserve who has written extensively about the Lend-Lease program’s Siberian connection, told RFE/RL at the time. “It was not just some piece of scrap metal. It is our living history. This Douglas is the only Lend-Lease aircraft that remains in Russia.”

An estimated 25 million Soviet citizens perished in the titanic conflict with Nazi Germany between June 1941 and May 1945. Overcoming massive defeats and colossal losses over the first 18 months of the war, the Red Army was able to reorganize and rebuild to form a juggernaut that marched all the way to Berlin. But the Soviet Union was never alone: Months before the United States formally entered the war, it had already begun providing massive military and economic assistance to its Soviet ally through the Lend-Lease program.

From the depths of the Cold War to the present day, many Soviet and Russian politicians have ignored or downplayed the impact of American assistance to the Soviets, as well as the impact of the entire U.S.-British war against the Nazis.

A Soviet report by Politburo member Nikolai Voznesensky in 1948 asserted that the United States, described as “the head of the antidemocratic camp and the warrior of imperialist expansion around the world,” contributed materiel during the war that amounted to just 4.8 percent of the Soviet Union’s own wartime production.

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A map of lend-lease shipments from the United States to the U.S.S.R. from 1941-45.

The Short History Of The Great Patriotic War, also from 1948, acknowledged the Lend-Lease shipments, but concluded: “Overall this assistance was not significant enough to in any way exert a decisive influence over the course of the Great Patriotic War.”

Nikolai Ryzhkov, the last head of the government of the Soviet Union, wrote in 2015 that “it can be confidently stated that [Lend-Lease assistance] did not play a decisive role in the Great Victory.”

Such assessments, however, are contradicted by the opinions of Soviet war participants. Most famously, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin raised a toast to the Lend-Lease program at the November 1943 Tehran conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

“I want to tell you what, from the Russian point of view, the president and the United States have done for victory in this war,” Stalin said. “The most important things in this war are the machines…. The United States is a country of machines. Without the machines we received through Lend-Lease, we would have lost the war.”

Nikita Khrushchev offered the same opinion.

“If the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war,” he wrote in his memoirs. “One-on-one against Hitler’s Germany, we would not have withstood its onslaught and would have lost the war. No one talks about this officially, and Stalin never, I think, left any written traces of his opinion, but I can say that he expressed this view several times in conversations with me.”

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act on March 11, 1941.

The Lend-Lease act was enacted in March 1941 and authorized the United States to provide weapons, provisions, and raw materials to strategically important countries fighting Germany and Japan — primarily, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China. In all, the United States shipped billion (8 billion in 2020 money) worth of materiel under the program, including .3 billion to the Soviet Union. In addition, much of the billion worth of aid sent to the United Kingdom was also passed on to the Soviet Union via convoys through the Barents Sea to Murmansk.

Most visibly, the United States provided the Soviet Union with more than 400,000 jeeps and trucks, 14,000 aircraft, 8,000 tractors and construction vehicles, and 13,000 battle tanks.

However, the real significance of Lend-Lease for the Soviet war effort was that it covered the “sensitive points” of Soviet production — gasoline, explosives, aluminum, nonferrous metals, radio communications, and so on, says historian Boris Sokolov.

“In a hypothetical battle one-on-one between the U.S.S.R and Germany, without the help of Lend-Lease and without the diversion of significant forces of the Luftwaffe and the German Navy and the diversion of more than one-quarter of its land forces in the fight against Britain and the United States, Stalin could hardly have beaten Hitler,” Sokolov wrote in an essay for RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

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British Matilda tanks are loaded onto a ship for transportation to the U.S.S.R. as part of the Lend-Lease program.

Under Lend-Lease, the United States provided more than one-third of all the explosives used by the Soviet Union during the war. The United States and the British Commonwealth provided 55 percent of all the aluminum the Soviet Union used during the war and more than 80 percent of the copper.

Lend-Lease also sent aviation fuel equivalent to 57 percent of what the Soviet Union itself produced. Much of the American fuel was added to lower-grade Soviet fuel to produce the high-octane fuel needed by modern military aircraft.

The Lend-Lease program also provided more than 35,000 radio sets and 32,000 motorcycles. When the war ended, almost 33 percent of all the Red Army’s vehicles had been provided through Lend-Lease. More than 20,000 Katyusha mobile multiple-rocket launchers were mounted on the chassis of American Studebaker trucks.

In addition, the Lend-Lease program propped up the Soviet railway system, which played a fundamental role in moving and supplying troops. The program sent nearly 2,000 locomotives and innumerable boxcars to the Soviet Union. In addition, almost half of all the rails used by the Soviet Union during the war came through Lend-Lease.

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A monument in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the American pilots who flew almost 8,000 U.S. planes to Alaska and to the Soviet pilots who flew them on to Siberia as part of Lend-Lease.

“It should be remembered that during World War I, the transportation crisis in Russia in 1916-17 that did a lot to facilitate the February Revolution [which lead to the abdication of the tsar] was caused by a shortage in the production of railway rails, engines, and freight cars because industrial production had been diverted to munitions,” Sokolov wrote. “During World War II, only the supplies brought in by Lend-Lease prevented the paralysis of rail transport in the Soviet Union.”

The Lend-Lease program also sent tons of factory equipment and machine tools to the Soviet Union, including more than 38,000 lathes and other metal-working tools. Such machines were of higher quality than analogues produced in the Soviet Union, which made a significant contribution to boosting Soviet industrial production.

American aid also provided 4.5 million tons of food, 1.5 million blankets, and 15 million pairs of boots.

“In order to really assess the significance of Lend-Lease for the Soviet victory, you only have to imagine how the Soviet Union would have had to fight if there had been no Lend-Lease aid,” Sokolov wrote. “Without Lend-Lease, the Red Army would not have had about one-third of its ammunition, half of its aircraft, or half of its tanks. In addition, there would have been constant shortages of transportation and fuel. The railroads would have periodically come to a halt. And Soviet forces would have been much more poorly coordinated with a constant lack of radio equipment. And they would have been perpetually hungry without American canned meat and fats.”

In 1963, KGB monitoring recorded Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov saying: “People say that the allies didn’t help us. But it cannot be denied that the Americans sent us materiel without which we could not have formed our reserves or continued the war. The Americans provided vital explosives and gunpowder. And how much steel! Could we really have set up the production of our tanks without American steel? And now they are saying that we had plenty of everything on our own.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.

Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.

WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.


That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup

World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.

The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.

Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.

More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.

They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.

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