While spies typically try to hide as much of their communication as possible, there is one method of intelligence communication that is literally broadcasted so that everyone for thousands of miles around can listen in to the messages, but no one else can understand the message.
The Secret Radio Stations Used to Communicate with Spies
These were known as “numbers stations,” an apt name since they exist solely to broadcast number sequences to spies operating in the area. Governments dispatch their spies with books of codes, and then the numbers broadcasted are used with these books to assemble messages years after the spy was dispatched.
These are typically done with “one-time pad” encryption where the message cannot be cracked without the book of numbers. The list of numbers is compared to a single line of numbers in the book, and comparing the numbers will give the spy the message intended for them. But, importantly, each line in the book is used a single time.
So, someone listening in cannot piece together messages through careful listening or tracking, only through stealing the book, if they can find it. So, governments can broadcast their numbers in the clear, usually from a radio station bordering the country they are spying in, without worry.
America has suffered spies that listened to these stations, like Ana B. Montes, one of the highest ranked spies in U.S. history. But we’ve also used the method ourselves especially during the Cold War. Our allies in Britain had done so, running a station in Cyprus for years.
Some spies during the Cold War, including some from the U.S. and Britain, were captured with their code books intact. America had its own numbers coup in the 1980s when it turned a source in the Soviet Government that fed them the codes used to instruct communists in the U.S. at the time.
To listen in yourself, you need to live in range of a broadcasting station and to have a “shortwave” radio, a receiver that listens to high-frequency signals. Few places still track the broadcasts.
Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.
During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.
Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.
“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor
According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.
“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”
Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.
“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.
“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”
The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.
The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?
Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.
According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 refueling “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.
The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.
All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system of refueling. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.
The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).
Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.
After a mission had been planned out, the pilots of the Japanese “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.
On Apr. 11, 1945, just 10 days into the battle of Okinawa, a Japanese kamikaze pilot reportedly named Setsuo Ishino began his final mission at the young age of 19.
Ishino flew with 15 other pilots on their mission to directly nose dive into the USS Missouri — known as the Mighty Mo — and kill as many Americans as possible.
Around noon, the Mighty Mo spotted the inbound aircraft on their radar and fired their massive anti-aircraft weapons in defense.
The well-equipped battleship nailed Ishino’s plane, but somehow the motivated pilot regained control of his fighter and managed to crash into the USS Missouri, causing hot debris to rain all over the deck.
The surviving crew cleared the wreckage and discovered Ishino’s dead body inside the plane. The deckhands planned on tossing the Japanese pilot overboard until Capt. William M. Callaghan, Missouri’s commanding officer ordered his men to render the enemy a proper burial.
While not unheard of, there really wasn’t a precedent for rendering military funeral honors for an enemy.
Nonetheless, the ship’s medical staff prepared Ishino’s body, respectfully wrapping him up in his flag. As the lifeless body slid overboard, the crew members saluted and the Marines fired their weapons toward the sky, giving the Japanese kamikaze pilot full military honors.
It happens every single time a veteran sits down to watch a movie with friends and family. The civilians grab a bag of popcorn while the veteran starts biting their lower lip. The civilians start to enjoy themselves and the veteran starts offhandedly remarking on how “that’s not how it actually happens.”
Before you know it, the veteran hits pause and proceeds to give a full-length presentation on why the film is a disaster because they put the flag on the wrong side of the soldier’s uniform.
Most of what makes a military film bad isn’t intentional, of course. No one wants to spend millions on making a bad movie. But when done right, as so many have been before, troops and veterans will keep it on their top ten film list. So, Mr. Hollywood Producer, when you set out to make the next military blockbuster, use the following advice:
I’m 100% certain that Dale Dye just knifehands his way into the wardrobe department and just makes his own characters because no one has the guts to tell him no — and I’m okay with this.
Hire a good military adviser (and listen to them)
This may come as a shock to some veterans, but there are people on film sets whose entire job is to point out what would and wouldn’t happen in the real military. They’re called military advisers. The great military films are made or broken by how much the cast and crew decide listen to said adviser.
On a magnificent film set, like Saving Private Ryan, for example, everyone from Steven Spielberg to the background extras listened to every single word Dale Dye spoke. A good adviser knows they’re not on set to interrupt the creative team’s ideas. If they speak up to say something is wrong, it’s for a good reason.
I mean, just because it’s a war film doesn’t mean you can get sloppy when writing characters. HBO managed an entire company of fully-developed soldiers over the span of one miniseries.
Writing that reflects reality
When there’s something fundamentally wrong with a film, it can often be traced back to the writer. One of the first things they tell up-and-coming screenwriters is, “you can make a bad movie from a good script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” And the best writers are those who can make is something feel authentic and realistic, no matter how extraordinary the setting.
Military films are no exception. The fact is, no two troops are the exactly same. This goes for every character in the film. Every character, lead or background, should be fully dimensional and the audience should have a reason to care if they get unexpectedly shot in Act 2B.
It’s funny because “get this guy” can apply to damn near every military film.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
Don’t expect a three-act character arc in the matter of one deployment
While we’re still poking fun at writers, let’s talk about the all-too-common problem of trying to turn real stories into scripts by shoehorning their actions into the Aristotelian structure. For those unfamiliar, this is your basic story of a random nobody becoming a legendary hero. Luke Skywalker did it — but it took him three movies, the loss of his mentor, and multiple failures to finally become a Jedi master.
Don’t expect to apply that same structure to a biopic that begins with a troop being a nobody at basic training and ends with them becoming a battlefield legend. In fact, some of the greatest war films rely on something simple, like “we need to go get this guy” to carry the story. A good story doesn’t need to be humongous in scope to be compelling.
Just because it’s technically apart of a military uniform, don’t assume people actually wear it…
Use authentic wardrobe
Despite how it may seem, there is no law that states that you must mess up uniforms if you’re to use them in a film. In fact, there’s actually a Supreme Court ruling that states you can use real uniforms in the arts — so there’s no excuse.
Use a military adviser and give them a say in the wardrobe department. Or, if you want to keep it simple, hire at least one veteran from whichever branch as part of the wardrobe team.
I know I keep coming back to it, but look at the D-Day scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ The largest amphibious landing and one of the biggest moments in military history — told entirely through the sole perspective of Captain Miller.
Retell the big scenes with smaller moments
It’s called a “set piece.” It’s the huge, elaborate moment that costs a boat-load of cash to capture. It’s what fits perfectly in the trailers. These are the scenes that action sensations, like The Fast and the Furious films, are known for. And yet, they often leave us feeling like something’s missing when done in military films — the personal touch
And that’s what really makes military movies different — sure, there are explosions in war, but it’s an intensely personal moment for the troops fighting. The gigantic scenes will sell much better if they focus on the fear in someone’s eyes more than flying a telephoto lens over the battlefield.
While Poland is sometimes mocked for sending horse cavalry against tanks in World War II (it was actually horses against an infantry battalion, but still), the U.S. launched its own final cavalry charge two years later, breaking up a Japanese attack in the Philippines that bought time for the cavalrymen and other American troops.
The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting in them was treacherous.
It came in April 1942 as part of the months-long effort to defend the Philippines from the Japanese invasion. The first Japanese attacks on the islands took place on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack (though it was December 8 on the calendar because the international dateline falls between the two). Just two days later, the week of troop landings began.
The Americans on the Philippines weren’t ready for the fight, and U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had to lean hard on his elite troops to protect the rest of the force as they withdrew to one defensive line after another. And cavalry was uniquely suited for that mission since it could ride out, disrupt an attack, and then quickly ride back to where the rest of the defenders had fortified themselves.
But, like the rest of the American forces there, they faced a daunting enemy. The Japanese invaders were nearly all veterans from fighting in Korea or Manchuria, but few of the American defenders had seen combat. And the Japanese forces were better armed.
So much so that, unlike Poland, the American cavalry really did once charge tanks from horseback. Oh, and it worked.
The cavalry scouts were exhausted from days of acting as the eyes and ears of the Army, but a new amphibious operation on December 22 had put Japanese forces on the road to Manila. The defenders there crumbled in the following days and completely collapsed on January 16, 1942. If the 26th couldn’t intercept them and slow the tide, Manila would be gone within hours.
The American and Filipino men scouted ahead on horseback and managed to reach the village of Morong ahead of Japanese forces. The village sat on the Batalan River, and if the cavalrymen could prevent a crossing, they could buy precious hours.
The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting them was treacherous.
But as they were scouting the village, the Japanese vanguard suddenly appeared on the bridges. The commander had no time, no space for some well-thought-out and clever defense from cover. It was a “now-or-never” situation, and the 26th had a reputation for getting the job done.
The men and horses surged forward, pistols blazing, at a vanguard of Japanese infantry backed up by tanks. But the American cavalry charge was so fierce that the Japanese ranks broke, and they dodged back across the river to form back up. It was so chaotic that even the tanks were forced to stop.
“Bent nearly prone across the horses’ necks, we flung ourselves at the Japanese advance, pistols firing full into their startled faces,” First Lt. Edwin Ramsey, a platoon leader, later wrote. “A few returned our fire but most fled in confusion. To them we must have seemed a vision from another century, wild-eyed horses pounding headlong; cheering, whooping men firing from the saddles.”
And so the cavalrymen held the line, dismounting after the first charge but preventing the Japanese crossing.
They took heavy losses that day before falling back to the rest of the American force after reinforcements arrived. And then they were isolated on the Bataan Peninsula. As the American forces began to starve, they butchered the horses and ate the meat. But even that wouldn’t be enough.
On April 9, 1942, the U.S. forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered to the Japanese. At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos were killed in the death march that followed.
When people think of the Vietnam War, they think of helicopter-borne Marines or soldiers taking on Viet Cong guerillas. They think of F-105s and F-4s going “downtown” to Hanoi, or ARC LIGHT B-52 missions. They don’t think about tanks slugging it out.
That’s the Arab Israeli-Wars, over on the other side of the continent of Asia.
Well, contrary to many people’s preconceptions, there was tank-versus-tank action in the Vietnam War. Not exactly on the scale of the Arab-Israeli wars, but when you’re the one being shot at, you’re dealing with a significant action.
Ben Het was a special forces camp overlooking one of the many infiltration points into South Vietnam from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Among the units there were Operational Detachment Alpha A-244, which consisted of 12 Green Berets. They were backed up by a number of Montagnard tribesmen, a battery of 175mm howitzers, and M48 Patton main battle tanks, and had the mission of tracking movements by North Vietnamese troops in the area. When they found the enemy, they particularly liked calling in air strikes by F-4 Phantoms and A-1 Skyraiders.
On March 3, 1969, the North Vietnamese attacked the camp with a force that included PT-76 amphibious tanks. These tanks had a 76mm gun, but were lightly armored. In that battle, the M48 tanks engaged the PT-76s. While one M48 was damaged, with two crewmen dead, at least two of the North Vietnamese tanks were also destroyed, along with a BTR-50 armored personnel carrier.
The North Vietnamese were beaten back, and the Green Berets proceeded to evacuate their dead and wounded. Below, listen as retired Maj. Mike Linnane discusses his perspective of the Battle of Ben Het.
But as hard as it is to sing, when it is done right, it is one of the most rousing pieces of music one can hear. Whether the singer goes the traditional route or decides to add a little bit of flourish, the song can get you right in the feels.
Here are some of the more memorable renditions of the national anthem.
You can argue she has one of the top five Super Bowl halftime shows ever. (That catch is legendary)
But in 2016, Lady Gaga put her talented voice to work and delivered a rousing version of the anthem. What followed was a clinic to young singers on how to add personal flair to the song while still not taking attention away from the song itself.
Ok, I know… this version didn’t take place at a sports event. In fact, it was probably the farthest from a sporting event that it could be. In the days after 9/11, with flights in and around the States shut down, many Americans found themselves stranded overseas during one of the darkest moments in American history.
In London, many found themselves wandering around and milling about tourist spots.
The Queen, breaking royal tradition, allowed the Star-Spangled Banner to be played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Make all the Royal Family jokes you want, but this was one of the classiest moves of all.
After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Bostonians and the rest of the country rallied together in unity. One of the best examples of this was the first Bruins game after the bombing. After a touching tribute to the victims, Rene Rancourt, the Bruins long-time singer, started singing the anthem.
Two lines in, he did what most singers don’t do…. He stopped.
Realizing the crowd was taking over out of emotion, Rancourt let them run with it.
There are times when we truly come together as Americans, and this was one of them.
At Super Bowl XXV, America and her Allies were ten days into the air assault portion of the Gulf War. The biggest military engagement since Vietnam, Americans were rightfully worried for the aviators flying sorties over Iraq and the troops who were preparing for the inevitable ground assault to liberate Kuwait.
In fact, ABC didn’t even air the halftime show, instead cutting to an ABC News Special Report with Peter Jennings.
This was also a unique time. With the combination of media attention because of the war, the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the growth of global television, this Super Bowl was one of the first broadcast around the world, reaching over 750 million people.
Enter Whitney Houston.
Wearing a simple tracksuit and backed by the Florida Orchestra, Houston started off strong and only got stronger. Known for her powerful vocals, she gave us one of the most tremendous renditions of our anthem our country has seen to this day. The nation went crazy for it, to the point it was released as a single and got to #20 in the Billboard Top 100. (Houston donated the proceeds to charity).
This is the benchmark singers are measured against when taking on the Star Spangled Banner.
The national anthem is definitely not easy to sing, but when it’s done right, there’s nothing better.
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — For more than four decades, the amphibious assault vehicle has been key to getting Marines ashore and into the fight.
US Marine Corps AAVs are large, tracked vehicles capable of operating in the water and on land that are essential for getting Marines onto the beach in an assault, and Insider recently had the opportunity to climb inside.
The AAV replaced the older Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) and is expected to eventually be replaced by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), but for now, the AAV is the go-to vehicle for amphibious assaults.
Over the past month, the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California have been training with their Japanese partners to execute an amphibious assault in the latest iteration of Iron Fist.
“AAVs bring a lot to that fight,” 2nd Lt. Nicholas Pierret, an officer in charge on a live-fire range, told Insider as the gunners practiced putting fire down range.
An AAV is a lightly-armored, fully-tracked amphibious landing vehicle specifically designed to get troops from ship to shore, as well as take troops inland to continue the fight.
Although Marine Corps AAVs are more than 40 years old, these 30-ton tracked vehicles are still the “the number one vehicle” to perform the amphibious assault task, Pierret told Insider.
These heavy “amphibious tractors” are commonly called “amtracs” or “tracks” by Marines.
Each AAV can carry around two dozen Marines and their gear.
The standard operating procedure for these vehicles is three operators — the crew chief, the driver, and the rear crewman — and 21 infantry.
It is currently the only operational Marine Corps vehicle capable of operating on land and in the water.
AAVs can run at a maximum speed of around 45 mph on land but only about 8 mph in the water, where they maintain an exceptionally low profile with over 75 percent of this amphibious armored personnel carrier submerged.
The AAV has a V-8 diesel engine that powers two water jets that propel it through water. In combat, it can push through waves up to 10 feet high. The ride can be rough, and there are no seat belts. It’s not uncommon for people to throw up.
AAVs are armed with significantly more firepower than the infantry units they carry ashore.
The amtracs, as the Marine’s call them, are equipped with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher and M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, weapons operated by the crew chief.
“Those are heavy firepower assets. Infantry has nothing that compares,” Pierret explained.
AAVs can be outfitted with additional weaponry as needed.
For example, the Marines have AAVs outfitted with Mk 154 Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLICs) that can fire a rocket-propelled explosive line charge filled with C4 to eliminate mines and improvised explosive devices.
These AAVs can clear an entire lane out to a distance of about 100 yards.
In addition to these assets, the Marines inside all have their service weapons.
Each of the infantrymen riding in the AAV will dismount with their M4 service rifle.
Besides bringing extra firepower to the fight, another thing AAVs are really good for is logistics.
“They can carry supplies, ammo, MREs,” Pierret told Insider, referring to the sealed Meals Ready to Eat that troops eat in the field. “An AAV is also a very good casualty evacuation platform.”
On land, additional gear can be stored externally.
Marines can also live inside an AAV if necessary.
An amphibious assault vehicle is big enough to serve as an armored battle camper when necessary. Some Marines are said to call it a battle RV.
Sgt. Juan Torres Jr., a section leader, told Insider that he once lived out of an AAV for almost a month and a half. “You’re out in the field,” he said, “This is your home.”
Marines can even shower in them.
Theoretically, there is supposed to be air circulating inside the vehicle, but when it’s packed with Marines and the engine is running, it gets really hot, one Marine told Insider.
“A couple days in the field, and we’re smelly,” they said.
AAV crews can shower in their tracks using five gallon jugs filled with water carried onboard or stored in the hull. The AAV can hold up to 171 gallons of any liquid.
It takes a ton of maintenance to keep these old amtracs operational.
A few hours of training can require as much as four times as much prep work and maintenance, Torres told Insider.
“The four hours of cool stuff we get to do adds up to about 16 hours of hard work and preparation if not more,” he said.
With all the dumb stuff that’s going on in the world today, it’s a damn good thing that the military never loses its sense of humor. In fact, we’re constantly busy coming up with new and hilarious ways to bash on rival branches in good fun.
So, get ready for a few jokes that we’re confident you’re going to repeat later… probably at the bar.
An old veteran walks into a grocery store. Immediately, the cashier stops him and says, “sir, your barracks door is open.” At first, he pays zero attention to her because he doesn’t live in the barracks. So, he continues shopping until he spots a man stocking some shelves. He tells him what the cashier said and asks what she could’ve meant.
He tells the veteran that his fly is open.
After completing his shopping, he goes back to the same cashier and says, “ma’am, you told me my barracks door was open. While you were looking, did you see a Marine standing at attention, saluting?”
The cashier replies, “no, sir. I just saw an old, retired veteran lying on two seabags.”
A sailor tells a joke to two Marines
A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that joke, you should know that I’m 6-foot tall, I weigh 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine.”
“The guy sitting next to me,” he continues, “is 6′ 2″, weighs 250 pounds, and he’s also a Marine. Now, you still wanna tell me that joke?”
The sailor says, “nah, I don’t want to have to explain it more than twice.”
The most popular origin story of the modern military salute dates back to the Roman Republic in 509 BCE. It’s a very compelling theory, but is it true? Let’s break it down.
It is said that during antiquity — sorry, the olden days — assassinations were common, so citizens and subordinates were required to approach officials with their fighting hand, the right hand, raised to demonstrate that it was not carrying a weapon. Others say that the Romans would slap their chest and raise their arm in tribute to demonstrate allegiance.
Not that this rules out the theories — they do make sense. Still, it wasn’t until the 1600s that English military records mention the salute, calling it a formal act that “was to be by removal of headdress.” In 1745, the procedure was amended to simply have troops “clap their hands to their hats and bow as they pass by.”
The British Army and, later, the Royal Air Force, would develop a salute with the palm facing outwards, but the Royal Navy began to turn their palm downwards, allegedly because the men working on ships had dirty palms and it was considered disrespectful to display them. One popular tale cites Queen Victoria as the one behind the downward-facing-palm, after she was saluted with a grimy hand.
When the United States declared its independence from the throne, we brought military customs across the Atlantic, and by the time of the Revolutionary War, the salute became the most expedient form of protocol. The USO reported that, according to the Armed Forces History Museum, today’s standard salute was in place by 1820.
That’s actually pretty solid, Angel.
Though there are a few variations between branches, overall, the United States military still maintains this salute today: right arm parallel with the floor, straight wrist and hand, middle finger touching the brim of the hat or the corner of the eyebrow, and palm facing downward or even inward.
The salute should be a smooth motion up and down the gigline, with the individual of lower rank raising their salute first and lowering it last. Oh, and remember, “any flourish in the salute is improper.”
In addition to superior commissioned and warrant officers, the following individuals are always entitled to a military salute: The President of the United States, officers of allied foreign countries (good luck learning their rank system), and Medal of Honor recipients — I actually didn’t know that one.
In America, the military salute is protected by the First Amendment. Anyone can salute anyone, really. You can salute a veteran when they’re in civilian attire… it’s just not mandatory or even customary. And it can actually be a little awkward if they’re not expecting it.
But in other countries, there are legal ramifications behind certain salutes. In Germany, for example, the straight-arm “Heil Hitler” salute is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail. It’s not uncommon for tourists to be detained for performing the salute for photos, and one man was sentenced to jail for teaching his dog Adolf to give the Hitlergruss on command. …Yeah.
Today, the salute is a gesture of mutual respect, given and reciprocated, and whether the origin stories are true, the salute nonetheless remains a symbol of honor — and reassurance that you’re not holding a weapon.
With the announcement of the B-21 Raider, the United States has begun the process of developing a replacement for the B-1B Lancer and the B-52 Stratofortress. But the United States is not the only country looking for a new bomber. Russia wants to get one, too.
According to a Facebook post by Scramble Magazine, the Tupolev design bureau is making major progress on the PAK-DA program. PAK-DA stands for, “perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal’ney aviatsii,” which is Russian for, “prospective aviation complex for long-range aviation.”
The magazine noted that Tupolev has reportedly already delivered a number of production models, including smaller-sized replicas for wind-tunnel tests and a full-scale mock-up. The PAK-DA will reportedly be a flying wing design similar to the B-2 Spirit, which first flew in 1990, with advanced features, like stealth technology and carrying all of its weaponry in internal bays.
According to Russian news, the Kremlin sees this as a potential replacement for the Tu-95 “Bear,” Tu-160 “Blackjack,” and Tu-22M3 “Backfire” bombers in service. Some estimates speculate that Russia is planning to introduce the plane into service as early as 2025, while others estimate 2030. The B-21 Raider is expected to have an initial capability in the 2020s, according to a 2016 Air Force release.
However, the upgraded Tu-160M2 version of the Blackjack will enter serial production in 2020, with the first flight scheduled to take place this year. 50 Tu-160s are on order for Russia, according to World Air Force 2018. The document also notes that the Russian Air Force has a total of 68 Tu-22M3 Backfires, 42 Tu-95 Bears, and 16 Tu-160 Blackjacks currently in service.
Compare these numbers to the United States Air Force’s bomber count. The USAF has a total of 75 B-52H Stratofortresses, 60 B-1B Lancers, and 20 B-2 Spirits on inventory. The Air Force plans to order 100 B-21s.
Fighter aces — those pilots responsible for taking down at least five other aircraft — are almost as old as aviation itself. Since World War I, young men have been willing to risk death to earn glory and become “knights of the air” or the “cavalry of the clouds.” There have been thousands of pilots who achieved ace status, many whom have racked up far more than five downings. None, however, have ever managed the singular feat of becoming a fighter ace on both sides in the same war.
That is, none except one…
Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on June 1, 1913. He joined the French Armee de l’Air in 1931 as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved ace status in both the French Air Force and under the collaborationist Vichy regime after the fall of France in 1940. With 18 kills to his name and as France’s fourth-highest-scoring ace of World War II, he remains the only pilot in history to become an ace on both sides of the same conflict.
When war came, he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS.406. On Nov. 23, 1939 he claimed his first kill, a Dornier DO.17 reconnaissance aircraft. Another DO.17 fell to his guns on March 2, 1940.
Pierre Le Gloan with his famous D.520.
All pilots in Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D.520. Le Gloan lost no time in taking full advantage of the use of a better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June he shot down four German and Italian bombers: two Heinkel 111 planes and two Fiat BR.20 bombers.
It didn’t end there. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on June 15. His squadron met a squadron of Italian CR.42 fighters. Attacking with enthusiasm, he shot down no less than three of them. Encountering another CR.42 and a BR.20 on his way back to base, Le Gloan attacked and shot down both of them.
Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter aces, and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.
On June 20, his squadron was transferred to Algeria, then a French colony. With the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy puppet government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command. To Le Gloan, it made no difference. He’d flown, fought, and killed for France. Now, he would do the same for Vichy.
His second fighting streak came in June and July of 1941. Fighting for Vichy and taking on Britain’s Royal Air Force, Le Gloan shot down five of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters, a Gloster Gladiator, and another aircraft that remains unidentified. He’d taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end, only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables), and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces. Le Gloan’s career would not, however, last much longer.
Neither would his life.
The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942. With Allied forces liberating North Africa and Field-Marhsal Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ pushing westward after the victory at El Alamein, the Vichy regime’s days were numbered. So were Pierre Le Gloan’s.
Soon, all former Vichy forces were siding with the Allies, including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. Reequipped in May 1943 with the American P-39 Airacobra, a new fighter might have given the newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan another winning streak. Might have, if not for a design feature on the Airacobra that wasn’t on the Morane-Saulnier or the Dewoitine: an external fuel tank mounted under the belly meant to be jettisoned when empty or if about to enter a dogfight.
Le Gloan had never flown a fighter with a drop tank. Over the sea on a routine patrol on September 11, 1943 he began to experience mechanical problems. As the Airacobra was not the finest fighter ever built — this wasn’t unusual for pilots who had to fly them. Comparing the Airacobra to the legendary Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang was like comparing a rent-a-wreck with a Ferrari. With smoke streaming from his aircraft, Le Gloan decided to return to base and land, forgetting to jettison the drop tank. It was a fatal mistake.
Le Gloan, in the midst of severe mechanical difficulties, might have been safer bailing out than trying to land, even if he had remembered to jettison the extra tank. As it was, he attempted to land. It would have been a difficult landing at the best of times in a malfunctioning aircraft and, his mind on other things, Le Gloan forgot to drop the tank. As he touched the ground, the undercarriage collapsed.
The drop tank, still full, ruptured instantly. As the Airacobra screeched along the runway, the mixture of aviation fuel and sparks caused the plane to erupt into a fireball. Pierre Le Gloan, 18-kill ace, only pilot ever to become an ace on both sides in the same war, was burned alive.
Today, his name is largely forgotten except to history buffs, aviation enthusiasts, and the townsfolk of Kergrist-Moelou. Deciding to either forget or gloss over his having flown, fought, and killed in the service of Vichy, the residents of Le Gloan’s hometown named a street after him. Even so, as time passes, fewer people who use it remember either the man or his remarkable place in military history.