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.

Intel

This Navy admiral pulled an ‘Undercover Boss’ on his sailors

Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas took part in an “Undercover Boss”-like segment for a local news channel where he dressed up as a junior enlisted seaman.


When the world’s saltiest “E-3” arrives with a camera crew, it’s like a “Hello, my name is Matt” moment, but the sailors play along. The admiral attempts to scrape rust and load an amphibious landing vehicle under the careful watch of petty officers before the big reveal.

Check out the video below:

Articles

8 weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.


And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.

Here are eight examples.

1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.

The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.

On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.

In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.

Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.

It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”

Here’s the Navy version:

3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.

The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.

These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.

Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).

shellback ceremony Photo: Wikimedia Commons

4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.

Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.

Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.

5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.

Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.

This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.

Volunteer or not, it’s a ritual which the brass has endured plenty of bad press over, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.

6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.

The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
Photo: MCB Hawaii

Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.

These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.

7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.

Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.

While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”

That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.

8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.

Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.

Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).

According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

MIGHTY TRENDING

General Charles “CQ” Brown confirmed as America’s first black service chief

General Charles “CQ” Brown has officially been confirmed as the next Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the branch’s highest military position, following a unanimous confirmation from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The historic vote secured Brown’s position as the 22nd Chief of Staff in Air Force history, and the first black service chief in the history of our nation.

Brown rose through the ranks as an F-16 pilot with more than 2,900 hours in the cockpit and at least 130 flight hours in combat environments. Brown’s talents in the cockpit eventually led him to serving as an F-16 pilot instructor before moving on to a variety of command positions, including his recent role as the commander of Pacific Air Forces.


Throughout his impressive career, General Brown has repeatedly stood out among his peers. First commissioned in 1984, Brown went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science and was singled out at Air Command and Staff College as his class’ distinguished graduate in 1994. He has commanded Air Force Weapons School, two fighter wings, the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command, and also served as the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command.

The historic 98-0 Senate vote to confirm Brown saw Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the process–an unusual move as the Vice President historically serves as s tie-breaker in hotly contested votes. Instead, Pence said he attended to confirmation because of its historic significance.

Twitter

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Vice President Pence wasn’t the only leader to extend their congratulations to General Brown. Chief of Space Operations and fellow service chief, Gen. Jay Raymond also congratulated Brown on his confirmation.

“Gen. Brown is an innovative leader who clearly understands the complex and evolving strategic environment we face today as a Department,” Raymond said. “He clearly understands the importance of leading across all domains to compete, deter and win — especially in war-fighting domains like space. I am thrilled with Gen. Brown’s confirmation. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett took to Twitter to point to Brown’s credentials and accolades as a military leader.

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Brown’s confirmation comes at a challenging time for America, as protests regarding racial injustice continue to take place in cities all around the nation, following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody.

Earlier this week, Brown released a heartfelt video in which he described the challenges of being a black man in America, and an officer in the United States Air Force–a dichotomy Brown described as having to lead two distinct lives.

“I’m thinking about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove [that my supervisors’] perceptions and expectations of African Americans were invalid,” he said in the video. “I’m thinking about the airmen who don’t have a life similar to mine, and don’t have to navigate through two worlds. I’m thinking about how these airmen see racism, where they don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen to them, or whether they’re empathetic.”
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The officer responsible for Floyd’s death has been charged with second degree murder and the other three officers involved in the incident have also been taken into custody–but the incident itself has served as a pivot point for many Americans who have used Floyd’s death as an impetus for positive change in their community and nation. Protests throughout the country calling for racial equality have garnered support from service leaders in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps–but it was the Air Force that first spoke out about race in recent weeks.

On June 1, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright published an Op-Ed on his social media accounts outlining his concerns as a black man and the senior enlisted leader of America’s Air Force.

“Like you, I don’t have all of the answers, but I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation. A future where Black men must no longer suffer needlessly at the hands of White police officers, and where Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts. Trust me, I understand this is a difficult topic to talk about…
Difficult…not impossible…
Difficult…but necessary.”

Following CMSAF Wright’s post, the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David Goldfein, also released a statement and the two leaders released a number of videos and participated in town hall discussions about race within their branch.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY HISTORY

These Jewish assassins targeted former Nazis to avenge the Holocaust

The reprisals against German members of the Nazi party didn’t end after the Nuremberg Trials. It was a well-known fact that many high-ranking members of the party survived World War II, the trials, and the Red Army’s wrath. The Jewish people that were left did their best to seek justice, but none were as dedicated as the Nokmim – “The Avengers.”


Without a doubt, the most famous of the Nazi hunters after World War II was Simon Wiesenthal, who ferreted out some 1,100 Nazi war criminals. Wiesenthal was a survivor at the Mauthausen death camp when it was liberated by American troops in 1945. As soon as his health was restored, he began to work in the War Crimes Section of the United States Army, gathering evidence to convict German war criminals.

The operative words here being evidence, convict, and war criminals.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

The Nokmim, as they were called, were not about to let anyone who committed those crimes against their people just walk free for lack of what a court determined was sufficient evidence. Wiesenthal would get the biggest names who escaped justice – those like Adolf Eichmann. The Nokmim would get the SS men, the prison guards, the Gestapo foot soldiers whose names might not be in history books.

As former anti-Nazi partisans who had fought in an underground movement for years before the war’s end, they were no strangers to killing.

“We had seen concentration camps,” Vitka Kovner told the Yad Vashem Magazine of her time fighting Nazis in occupied Lithuania. “And after what we witnessed there, we decided that even though the war was over, we had to take revenge for the spilling of Jewish blood.”

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
Vitka Kovner-Kempner (far right) was a resistance fighter in the Vilna ghetto in modern-day Lithuania.
(Jewish Women’s Archive)

With that goal in mind, they acted. Former Nazi SS officers and enlisted men were found hanged by apparent suicides for years after the war’s end. Brakes on cars would suddenly become inoperative, causing deadly accidents. Former Nazis would be found in ditches, victims of apparent hit-and-runs. One was even found in his hospital bed before minor surgery with kerosene in his bloodstream.

One extreme plan even involved killing six million Germans as retribution for the Holocaust using a specially-designed, odorless, colorless poison, but had to settle for poisoning the bread at a prison camp for former SS men using arsenic. That plan may have killed up to 300 of the convicts.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
Some of the leaders of the Nakmim movement would later lead brigades in Israel’s 1948 Independence War.

But the group was comprised of more than just partisans. It may have even included British Army volunteers of Jewish descent who could move freely through the postwar world. No one knows who exactly was part of the group, but it was clear that their reach extended worldwide.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine ‘Hero of Nasiriyah’ is retiring

While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.

According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.


According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.

(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)

According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.

He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.

(USMC photo)

Since then, LeHew has held a number of senior NCO assignments. LeHew has also an obstacle in the Crucible named in his honor. In the opinion of this writer, LeHew also makes the short list of people who deserve having a ship named after them.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force replaces chem light with a glowing crayon

Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.


Articles

This is the most powerful sidearm ever issued by the US military

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.


Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.

When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance
(Warner Bros.)

There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.

Walker was killed leading troops through Huamantla, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. Colt, who was bankrupt when he met Walker, rebuilt his business and reputation beginning with the Colt Walker 1847.

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.

Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.

Articles

4 reasons why Maverick would be a sh*tty Top Gun instructor

It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.


“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the US Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.

While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.

From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.

Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:

1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!

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Mav barely even showed up at his graduation from Top Gun, so how on God’s Green Earth could he one day become an instructor? (Photo from Top Gun YouTube screengrab)

Far from it.

In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.

In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.

Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?

2. He’s definitely not a team player

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“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Photo Top Gun Youtube screengrab)

This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.

Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.

Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.

3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic

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Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.

It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.

At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.

Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.

4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways

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The Navy retired the F-14 Tomcat, made famous by Top Gun, 11 years ago (Photo Top Gun)

Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.

The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.

With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.

OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Survey says we need civilians to rally around our military families

The 2019 Blue Star Families lifestyle survey just dropped, and according to the results, most of us shouldn’t be shocked. With numbers well into 40 or 50 percent feeling the effects of displacement and isolation across several categories, you’re not the only one thinking there’s no one to ask a favor of. Why are we staying silent with our struggles? What is stopping us from living this life to the fullest?


Examining the “why” behind the results is what we’re after here. Lighting the path forward, one foot in front of the other is how change takes place. Whether you have something to give, or in the season of receiving, this is a fight you can help win.

Of over 11,000 survey participants, 40 percent feel they don’t belong within the local community, and 47 percent feel the local community lacks in understanding, support, respect or appreciation. Let’s take these connected issues one layer at a time.

Where do military families “belong?” Examining the physical geography of our “where” is one indicator as to why a separation of town and base is palpable. Life within guarded gates has a purpose, but it’s vital that we all absorb the mindset of becoming the area’s “newest locals” seriously. When the community participates exclusively in life inside the gates, our cultures, our talents, and our connections fail to dissipate into the local community. We become invisible citizens.

Everything from work to happy childhoods to wringing every drop of opportunity a nomadic life has to offer hinges on our ability to acclimate and do it well. When we become less determined to replicate the same life repeatedly, and more open to new experiences or chapters, it becomes much easier to find a place to be.

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“I jump right into a routine, it’s awkward at first, but is a must for my sanity, this is the brave part of living this life,” says Laurie Boarts, Army spouse laying roots even with a short 14-month assignment.

39 percent of participants feel as if they have no one to talk to.

The military world is incredibly connected-virtually. Face to face connection is dying a slow death in all generations following the “boomers” making this issue something civilians and military have in common.

Making new friends (as an adult), trying new things, and putting yourself out there are all high-ranking fears for anyone. Yet, they are all critical components of a successful military life.

“I don’t expect the local community to understand the nuances of military life, I just focus on being myself and communicating openly,” says Boarts, who utilizes her busy schedule as a mom to find common ground in the crowd.

Is your calendar full of new local groups to try out? Have you walked into your kid’s first hockey practice openly admitting you have no idea where all those pads go and laughingly asked for help? The results of this survey gave us something to rely on- the person next to you is likely looking for a friend…so say hello. If collectively, every military community member decided they were fed up with not knowing their “neighbor,” we’d all be better for it.

63 percent within this community are experiencing stress due to finances.

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Life is expensive, and with over 77 percent of spouses stating they are underemployed in salary, hours or employment in general, it’s no wonder why we feel the squeeze. There is, however, one perk that a free work calendar does allow for- participating in the community.

Did we just go full circle? Yes, we did. Tired of cooking meals but don’t have the budget for a restaurant? Invite your neighbors, or those lonely eyed acquaintances from library storytime over for a potluck barbeque on Saturday. Not only is a fruit platter less than a steak dinner, but it’s also real-life humans to talk to, to check in with and bond over the results of this survey with.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What will happen to the foreign ISIS fighters in Syria?

October 2019, US President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to pull the remaining US troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.

The move sent the fragmented country into a spiral, disrupting one of its few areas of stability. By withdrawing support from Kurdish forces in the area — which had helped the US combat ISIS — Trump opened them up to an oncoming offensive by Turkey.

Justifying the decision. Trump argued that US forces in the region had already “defeated” ISIS, and that therefore there was no need for them to stay in Syria.

This was, at best, only partly true.


While US-allied forces this year deprived ISIS of the territory it once controlled, the group still has as many as 18,000 fighters quietly stationed across Iraq and Syria, according to The New York Times.

Additionally, Kurdish-led fighters, known as The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had maintained control of tens of thousands of former ISIS members and their families, including about 70,000 women and children in a compound in the Syrian city of al-Hol, according to the Atlantic. Of those detainees, 11,000 of them are foreign nationals, according to the BBC.

The SDF has said it is holding more than 12,000 men suspected of being ISIS fighters across seven prisons it operates, estimating that more than 4,000 of those prisoners are foreign nationals, the BBC said.

The fate of those prisoners remains uncertain, particularly in the wake of the US pullout.

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ISIS

Turkey has taken over parts of Syria, and with it, ISIS prisoners

On Oct. 22, 2019, Russia and Turkey took advantage of the power vacuum that had been created and signed an agreement to expand their control in Syria and minimize Kurdish territory.

As part of the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards entered the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, pushing Kurdish forces back to 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border.

Turkey says it will use the reclaimed area to create a “buffer zone” along its border and will use the land to resettle more than 1 million Syrian refugees displaced by the war.

But as Turkey gains land in Syria, it has also taken on the task of figuring out what to do with former Islamic State detainees, many of whom are now under its control. Turkey has faced criticism in the past for its porous border, which allowed foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the Islamic State to begin with.

But Turkey doesn’t want to deal with them, and neither does the rest of the world 

According to a 2016 report by the World Bank, foreign ISIS fighters have been recruited from “all continents across the globe,” though it named Russia, France, and Germany as the top Western suppliers of ISIS’ foreign workforce.

Data from the Institute for the Study of War also indicated that significant portions of foreign fighters also came from European countries like the UK, Belgium, and France between December 2015 and March 2016.

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(ISW)

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, and warned that Turkey would not become “a hotel” for militants.

On Nov. 11, 2019, Turkey began deporting foreign nationals said to be linked to ISIS back to their home countries.

One of those foreign nationals was from the US, a spokesperson for Turkey’s interior minister said, though according to the BBC the man remained stranded at the Greek border after choosing not to return to the US. On Thursday morning, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said that the man would be brought to the US.

Turkey’s interior minister added the country was planning to deport “several more terrorists back to Germany” this week, and that legal proceedings against two Irish nationals and 11 French citizens captured in Syria were underway. A spokesperson for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that three men, five women and two children were being returned to Germany this week.

But many of those countries have not put a concrete policy in place for what to do with ISIS foreign fighters or their families that remain in displacement camps in Syria, or have refused to allow them to return.

Trump said in his statement in October 2019 that he discussed the issue of repatriating foreign fighters with France, Germany, and other European nations but they “did not want them and refused.”

Foreign nationals abroad are traditionally entitled to consular services abroad, though many European nations have been cautious about offering help to citizens who joined ISIS on national security grounds. Under international law, it is illegal to strip people of their citizenship if it will leave them stateless.

In April 2019, Germany approved a bill stripping dual nationals of their citizenship if they traveled overseas to fight in a foreign terror group, though the law does not apply to women and children. In June 2019, France passed legislation stating that it would repatriate French jihadists on a case-by-case basis.

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There are concerns that ISIS may take advantage of the uncertainty to regroup

But the UN has stood firm on pushing countries to take responsibility for their citizens.

“It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes — whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime — should face investigation and prosecution, with due process guarantees,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in June 2019.

“Foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards,” she added.

The UK is currently debating what to do about those who left the country to join ISIS. In February 2019, it stripped British-born Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria to become an ISIS bride at the age of 15, of her citizenship, citing national security risks. Begum has appealed the decision, and the UK government is said to be considering options for repatriating British members of ISIS held in prison camps in Syria.

As the West works through the complicated process of absorbing foreign fighters, Islamic State militants in Syria appear to be taking advantage of the chaos.

Last month, the SDF said ISIS fighters committed three suicide bombings on its positions in Raqqa as Kurdish fighters moved from their posts to respond to Turkish assault. And SDF General Mazloum Kobani has warned on Nov. 13, 2019 that the West should “expect” major attacks from Islamic State fighters who may be looking to capitalize on the chaos in order to regroup.

“The danger of the resurgence of ISIS is very big. And it’s a serious danger,” he told Sky News.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Which is the better long-distance round: 5.56 or 7.62?

Unless you’re an avid shooter, there tends to be only a handful of ammunition types a person can list off the top of their heads, and even fewer if we’re talking specifically about rifles. Although there’s a long list of projectiles to be fired from long guns, the ones that tend to come to mind for most of us are almost always the same: 5.56 and 7.62, or to be more specific, 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39.


National militaries all around the world rely on these two forms of ammunition thanks to their range, accuracy, reliability, and lethality, prompting many on the internet to get into long, heated debates about which is the superior round. Of course, as is the case with most things, the truth about which is the “better” round is really based on a number of complicated variables — not the least of which being which weapon system is doing the firing and under what circumstances is the weapon being fired.

This line of thinking is likely why the United States military employs different weapon systems that fire a number of different kinds of rounds. Of course, when most people think of Uncle Sam’s riflemen, they tend to think of the 5.56mm round that has become ubiquitous with the M4 series of rifles that are standard issue throughout the U.S. military. But, a number of sniper platforms, for instance, are actually chambered in 7.62×51 NATO.

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The new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle chambered in 5.56 during the Marine Corps’ Designated Marksman Course

(Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)

So if both the 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39 rounds are commonly employed by national militaries… determining which is the superior long-range round for the average shooter can be a difficult undertaking, and almost certainly will involve a degree of bias (in other words, in some conditions, it may simply come down to preference).

For the sake of brevity, let’s break the comparison down into three categories: power, accuracy, and recoil. Power, for the sake of debate, will address the round’s kinetic energy transfer on target, or how much force is exerted into the body of the bad guy it hits. Accuracy will be a measure of the round’s effective range, and recoil will address how easy it is to settle the weapon back down again once it’s fired.

The NATO 5.56 round was actually invented in the 1970s to address concerns about the previous NATO standard 7.62×51. In an effort to make a more capable battle-round, the 5.56 was developed using a .223 as the basis, resulting in a smaller round that could withstand higher pressures than the old 7.62 NATO rounds nations were using. The new 5.56 may have carried a smaller projectile, but its increased pressure gave it a flatter trajectory than its predecessors, making it easier to aim at greater distances. It was also much lighter, allowing troops to carry more rounds than ever before.

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7.62×39 (Left) and 5.56×45 (Right)

(WikiMedia Commons)

The smaller rounds also dramatically reduced felt recoil, making it easier to maintain or to quickly regain “sight picture” (or get your target back into your sights) than would have been possible with larger caliber rounds.

The 7.62x39mm round is quite possibly the most used cartridge on the planet, in part because the Soviet AK-47 is so common. These rounds are shorter and fatter than the NATO 5.56, firing off larger projectiles with a devastating degree of kinetic transfer. It’s because of this stopping power that many see the 7.62 as the round of choice when engaging an opponent in body armor. The 7.62x39mm truly was developed as a general-purpose round, limiting its prowess in a sniper fight, however. The larger 7.62 rounds employed in AK-47s come with far more recoil than you’ll find with a 5.56, making it tougher to land a second and third shot with as much accuracy, depending on your platform.

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Hard to beat the ol’ 5.56 round.

(Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Julio McGraw)

So, returning to the metrics of power, accuracy, and recoil, the 7.62 round wins the first category, but the 5.56 takes the second two, making it the apparent winner. However, there are certainly some variables that could make the 7.62 a better option for some shooters. The platform you use and your familiarity with it will always matter when it comes to accuracy within a weapon’s operable range.

When firing an AR chambered in 5.56, and an AK chambered in 7.62, it’s hard not to appreciate the different ideologies that informed their designs. While an AR often feels like a precision weapon, chirping through rounds with very little recoil, the AK feels brutal… like you’re throwing hammers at your enemies and don’t care if any wood, concrete, or even body armor gets in the way. There are good reasons to run each, but for most shooters, the 5.56 round is the better choice for faraway targets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea snubs Trump on returning Korean War dead

North Korean officials did not show up to meet US officials to discuss returning the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War on July 12, 2018, and it’s essentially a slap in the face to President Donald Trump.

When Trump made history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June 2018 under the stated aim of denuclearizing the rogue state, Trump didn’t get many concrete promises out of Pyongyang.

But one thing Kim agreed to in writing was “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”


“The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations,” Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University told Business Insider. “It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic. “

But North Korea did not immediately repatriate any bodies. By blowing off the meeting, as South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, North Korea has shown it can be difficult even over symbolic gestures of kindness.

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Thousands of 100-year-olds asked Trump to get the bodies back?

After the summit, Trump really pressed the idea that returning the bodies was a significant achievement by making some dubious claims.

Trump said “thousands” of parents of Korean War soldiers asked him to get the remains back, but the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, meaning those parents would have been born around the 1920s, and approaching 100 years old today; it seems likely this figure includes surviving relatives of the deceased who are still seeking closure.

Later in June 2018, he claimed 200 bodies had been returned, but provided no evidence. North Korean officials have said they have identified the remains of about 200 US soldiers, so it’s unclear why North Korea would still be meeting if it had returned the bodies.

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North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.

(KCNA)

North Korea sticking it to Trump

North Korea’s latest snub follows Kim Jong Un electing to go to a potato farm rather than meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean media bashing the US’s stance on denuclearization as “gangster-like.”

While Trump likely played up the demand by living US parents of Korean War veterans for their remains, returing the bodies would undoubtedly improve relations and build trust.

Kim has not agreed to take any steps towards denuclearization, and there’s ample signs that North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear weapons.

But Kim did agree to bring back the bodies. Sending the bodies back would demonstrate that North Korea can be trusted to some degree, and cost Pyongyang nothing in terms of military posture.

North Korea called for a US general to negotiate with them the return of the remains of US soldiers as soon as July 15, 2018, Yonhap reported.

If North Korea drags its feet on making good on an explicit promises to deliver a symbolic and kind gesture, it doesn’t bode well for the larger goal of denuclearization.

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