That time Uncle Sam brought the Vietnamese bombs for Christmas - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Uncle Sam brought the Vietnamese bombs for Christmas

By 1972, American efforts in Vietnam were being drawn down. In Paris, North Vietnamese negotiators were unwilling to settle for peace as they felt victory was within their grasp. President Nixon had other ideas.


The Air Force was going to bring the communists to their knees.

This led to the development of a new plan, Operation Linebacker II. Linebacker II would not be limited in its objectives like its predecessor. The new objective was the strategic destruction of North Vietnamese infrastructure. Some 200 B-52s, along with numerous types of tactical aircraft, prepared to strike at the heartland of North Vietnam – Hanoi and Haiphong.

Bomb Damage Assessments after Linebacker II.

Arrayed against the Americans was one of the most formidable air defense networks ever conceived.

The North Vietnamese had over 100 MiG fighters ready to launch at a moment’s notice. They also had over 20 SAM sites in the vicinity of the target area, along with all manner of anti-aircraft artillery and a vast radar network.

Dec. 18, 1972, aircrews took to the skies, intent on destroying their enemy.

A veritable clash of the titans ensued. Massive SA-2 missiles, the size of telephone poles, soared into the sky after the intruding bombers — oftentimes in four-to-six missile salvos. At one point, bomber crews tracked 40 missiles in the air at one time.

Despite the frenetic fire from the North Vietnamese, only three B-52s were lost on the first night along with a single F-111 on a mission against Radio Hanoi.

The B-52 crews also got in on the action. Not only did they drop tens of thousands of pounds of bombs on enemy targets, but SSgt. Samuel Turner, a tail gunner on one of the B-52s, shot down an attacking MiG-21 — the first since the Korean War and the first for a B-52.

The tail gunner’s station inside a B-52D Stratofortress. The four rear-facing Browning .50 caliber machine guns were below the gunner and aimed remotely, similar to the configuration of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress in WWII.

Just as the B-52s were entering the threat area, Turner’s radar screen lit up with two bogeys at 6 o’clock low. One MiG came in hot pursuit, closing fast on the bomber from behind. When his instruments indicated the bogey was in range Turner let loose a long burst from his quad .50s. A terrific explosion lit up the night and Turner’s radar now showed only one threat. After seeing his wingman obliterated, the second MiG disengaged.

After a successful second night of bombing, in which no American aircraft were lost, disaster struck on the third night.

Using the same tactics for the third night in a row, the bombers flew into a maelstrom. Six B-52s were sent earthward along with a Navy fighter. Reeling from the loss but intent to carry on the mission, the Air Force quickly revamped its tactics.

The fourth day of missions saw the loss of two B-52s and another Navy fighter, but the Americans were putting their experience to good use. For the next three days, the Air Force bombers pounded North Vietnamese targets without the loss of any B-52s. Each bomber demolished entire grid squares.

B-52s pounding North Vietnamese targets during Linebacker II.

On the seventh night, Christmas Eve, the Americans got an early Christmas present and another morale boost. A1C Albert Moore became the second B-52 tail gunner to score a kill on an enemy fighter. He is also the last known aerial gunner in history to accomplish such a feat.

In similar fashion to the MiG that attacked Turner’s B-52, a lone bogey charged the bomber from 6 o’clock low. The eighteen-year-old Moore steadied himself, called out his target, and let loose a burst.

He missed.

He fired another burst. This, too, failed to connect with the encroaching fighter.

Desperate to protect his crew and with scant few seconds remaining before the MiG began firing itself Moore unleashed a torrent of bullets from his guns. Unable to see the MiG directly, he watched as its radar signature grew to three times normal size and disappear.

A fellow tail gunner saw the action and confirmed that Moore had destroyed the enemy aircraft.

On Christmas Day, the Americans took a tactical pause to evaluate their efforts, give their weary crews some rest, and signal to the North Vietnamese that it was time to come back to the negotiating table.

The North Vietnamese instead restocked their supply of SAMs and prepared to do battle once again.

Undeterred, the bomber crews came back with a vengeance. Employing new tactics and hitting more targets, they wore the North Vietnamese down.

In the days after Christmas, four more B-52s were shot down, but the pressure on the North Vietnamese was intensifying. Their defenses were crumbling.

After the losses on Dec. 20, the Air Force had called for more attacks against SAM sites and radar stations. Both bombers and fighters struck with deadly precision, crippling the North’s ability to defend itself.

By the final day of bombings on Dec. 29, the communists were only able to muster 23 SA-2 attacks throughout the entire mission.

From Dec. 18 to Dec. 29, American aircraft flew over 1,500 sorties, dropped over 15,000 tons of bombs, and succeeded in bringing the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. The 11 Days War, as it came to be known, was just the success the United States had been looking for in the war in Vietnam. The only question on many veterans’ minds at that point, though, was why hadn’t they employed strategic air power sooner?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Space Force just got its first leader

Vice President Mike Pence swore in Air Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond as the highest-ranking military leader of the newly created U.S. Space Force in a ceremony that recognized the arrival of the nation’s newest military branch.

Raymond was formally designated the first chief of space operations in a formal ceremony sponsored by the White House and held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It came less than a month after the Space Force, by law, became the sixth independent branch of the U.S. military, marking the first time since 1947 that a new military branch had been created.


“The first decision the president made after establishing the Space Force was deciding who should be its first leader,” Pence said. “I was around when the President made that decision and I can tell you, he never hesitated. He knew right away there was no one more qualified or more prepared from a lifetime of service than General Jay Raymond to serve as the first leader of the Space Force.”

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond addresses the audience in the Executive Eisenhower Office Building Washington after being sworn in as the first chief of space operations by Vice President Mike Pence, Jan 14, 2020.

(Photo by Andy Morataya, Air Force)

The Space Force was established Dec. 20 when President Donald J. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act. He also appointed Raymond to lead the Space Force. Although directed by its own military leadership, the Space Force is nested within the Department of the Air Force.

Raymond noted the historic nature of the moment. “Not only is this historical; it’s critical,” he said. “That is not lost on me or the outstanding Americans who serve with me.”

The Space Force’s overarching responsibility is training, equipping and organizing a cadre of space professionals who protect U.S. and allied interests in space while also providing space capabilities to the joint force. The Space Force’s mandate includes developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, refining military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces for use by combatant commands.

A major reason for creating the Space Force is the importance of space for both national security and everyday life. It is the backbone that allows for instant communication worldwide, precision navigation and global commerce. The U.S. Space Force will ensure the country’s continued leadership in space, Raymond said. Equally important, he added, is avoiding conflict in space.

“We want to deter that conflict from happening,” he said. “The best way I know how to do that is through a position of strength.”

Among those attending the ceremony were Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper, Deputy Defense Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard; Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations; and Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Faculty members and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy wait to receive “first contact” from the cadet-designed FalconSAT-6 satellite after its successful launch into space, Dec. 3, 2018.

(Photo by Joshua Armstrong, Air Force)

“We are moving forward with alacrity and in accordance with presidential direction, the law, and DOD guidance,” Barrett said about the establishment of the new U.S. Space Force. “Directing this effort is the incomparably qualified leader, General ‘Jay’ Raymond. As a career space officer, he’s the perfect person to guide this lean, agile, vital Space Force.”

Raymond was the natural choice for the job. He is the commander of the U.S. Space Command; the nation’s unified command for space.

Before his new role, Raymond was the commander of Air Force Space Command, which carried the nation’s primary military focus on space, managing a constellation of satellites, developing policy and programs and training frontline space operators. Air Force Space Command was redesignated as the U.S. Space Force under the recently passed NDAA.

More broadly, the Space Force is responsible for maintaining the United States’ space superiority, even as space becomes more crowded and contested. The NDAA, which created the Space Force, also directs that the Space Force “shall provide the freedom of operation in, from, and to space, while providing prompt and sustained space operations.”

(Charles Pope is assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs. Air Force Maj. Will Russell contributed to this report.)

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hot cocktails to drink this winter

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing up some whiskey, lemon, cloves, honey, and cinnamon — otherwise known as the hot toddy. But hot winter cocktails are not limited to the toddy alone. If you find yourself in a mood for a fortifying warm cocktail when the mercury falls, but want a drink that’s a bit more adventurous — and perhaps the main ingredient of which is something besides whiskey — there are plenty of excellent options. (We see you, hot buttered rum and boozy hot chocolate) To venture out into different territory, and to provide you with some hot alcoholic drinks to get you through winter, we spoke to a squad of New York City bartenders and asked them to share their hottest hot cocktail recipes. From variations on the classic hot toddy and the best damn boozy hot chocolate you’ll ever try to a fancy mulled wine and rum punch that really packs a punch, here are seven warming cold weather cocktails to try.


1. The Hot Teddy

Remember when your mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you’re going to need to disregard that bit of advice in order to make this next level hot toddy. Amir Babayoff, head bartender at Ophelia in New York City, starts with the rich and layered Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon and adds a touch of French fortified wine for added complexity. Next, some Pineau des Charentes is brought in to bring out the softer part of the drink thanks to notes of peaches, prunes, plums and toasted nuts. Next comes caffeine-free orange and ginger tea. He adds Panella (unrefined sugar cane) with a blend of five winter spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom to finish it with a sweet complexity. Is it an easy cocktail to whip together? Definitely not. But the end result is very much worth the effort.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz Barrell Whiskey
0.5 oz Pineau De Charente
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Island Syrup
Angostura Bitters
5 oz Hot Water
1 Ginger/Orange Spiced Tea Bag

Directions: Prepare two copper mugs with hot water. Empty one and add 5 oz Hot Water, Tea Bags, Syrup, Lemon Juice and Bitters. Add Bourbon and Brandy to Mug #2 and rinse. Light Mug #2 on fire and pour from mug to mug. Pour into a Snifter and garnish with Cinnamon Stick, Orange Peel and Star Anise.

(Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)

2. Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate

Boozy hot chocolate is a pretty unbeatable winter drink. This version is a lighter, spicier play. “The traditional Italian hot chocolate is usually a rich and indulgent treat that’s perfect for a cold day,” says Anthony Henriquez, Beverage Director at Lumaca in New York City. “But it might not be the best before or after a meal.” This version removes the heavier ingredients and the allspice. The remaining cinnamon and chili flavors blend well with the caramel notes of tequila (they use Chamucos). Topped off with some freshly roasted marshmallows, it’s enough to make you forget about the cold for a few minutes.

Ingredients:
3 cups hot milk
3 tbs cocoa powder
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tbs cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 oz Chamucos Tequila

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a snifter, garnish with two roasted marshmallows.

3. Nightcap

Now, this drink is not for novices. But for those accustomed to using a flame or amateur mixologists ready to raise their game, the Nightcap is worth the effort. Maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy. “When creating this cocktail, we knew we wanted to include absinthe but wanted to experiment with chartreuse since it’s high-proof and knew it would add a very rich, floral flavor” says NR bar owner, Shigefumi Kabashima. “We heat an iron rod over a flame to mix the cocktail with in order to cut the edge of the chartreuse and burn off some of the alcohol.” The drink also has butter, which caramelizes and adds to the cocktail’s rich flavor.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. Green Chartruse
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
.25 oz. fresh ginger
.25 oz. honey
.5 oz. water
tsp butter
5 dashes absinthe

Directions: Combine all ingredients except for butter in a small heat-proof vessel and carefully heat iron rod over a flame for about one minute. Once the iron is heated, stir the cocktail ingredients carefully in heat proof vessel. Remove rod from and pour into heat-proof cocktail glass, and add in teaspoon of butter.

(Photo by Gaby Dyson)

4. Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is a classic winter warmer. This one is fortified with a bit of brandy for an extra kick. “I believe that the Mulled wine we make at Valerie just hits the mark for the season,” says Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie in New York City. “With a little fresh ginger, honey bonded Apple Brandy, and the constant temperature it is what we want to serve you to warm you up.”

Ingredients:
1 (750ml) bottle Cabernet-Sauvignon
½ cup Lairds Bonded Apple Brandy
1 Orange (sliced)
6 whole Cloves
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Star Anise
3 Whole Allspice
¼ cup Honey Syrup
¼ cup Ginger Syrup

Directions: In a medium sauce pot, bring all ingredients to a simmer (not boil). Reduce heat and leave for 10 min. Cool, and store in Cambro. Pour 5oz from thermos into mug. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel and grated cinnamon

5. Hot Fig-Rum Punch

This Hot Fig Rum Punch created by Ryan Gavin, Bar Manager, Gran Tivoli Peppi’s Cellar, has an old-school winter vibe that compliments the season. That was intentional. “I wanted to showcase the versatility of tropical flavors in how they combine well with the more traditional seasonal ingredients such as ginger and fig,” Gavin said. While he says that the punch is warming and wintry, he says the fruity notes from the rum and pineapple “evoke festivities of an exotic nature.” Damn right they do.

Ingredients:
.3 oz. Fig Vin Cotto
.5 oz. Pineapple syrup
.3 oz. Lactic Acid Solution (10%)
1.5 oz. Santa Teresa Rum
4 oz. Hot water
1 oz. Ginger turmeric teabag
Heat on steam wand

Directions: Build and server in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with a quarter fig on skewer

6. Coffee & Cream

Spiked coffee makes a great pick-me-up for the colder months. Gavin’s Coffee Cream is a decadently delightful variation with a chilled sweet vanilla cream crown that floats on top of the drink. “We were aiming for some sort of elevated Irish coffee style of drink that would show off not just the delicious espresso but some nutty and rich notes from the brandy and Vin Santo,” Gavin says. “By adding the Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, we were able to elevate the natural coffee flavor and bring the sweetness up to that magical point that is lip smacking, but not too syrupy.”

Ingredients:
.75 oz Brandy
.75 oz Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
.175 oz Vin Santo
1 oz Espresso
2 oz Hot Water
.75 Vanilla Cream
Glass: Footed 6 oz

Directions: Build and layer all ingredients in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with cacao and bee pollen.

7. The Rum Hot Toddy

Simple and sweet, this Toddy variation is anchored with some stellar spiced rum for an added layer of warmth. “We make our Hot Toddy using Santa Teresa 1796 Rum,” says Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer of the Rum House. “It’s rich, smooth and has hints of warming spices, that added with a hint of honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon is perfect for a winter warmer on a cold evening.”

Ingredients:
2 oz El Dorado Spiced Rum
.25 oz fresh lemon juice
.50 oz Demerara syrup
Hot water from a tea kettle
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
Slice of fresh ginger
3-4 gloves
Cinnamon stick

Directions: Fill your Toddy glass with hot water from the kettle and cover the top with a plate to keep warm while preparing the drink. Place lemon peel, orange peel , cloves, fresh ginger and Demerara into a mixing glass use a muddler to lightly extract the juices from the zest’s and ginger. Add rum and lemon juice stir with a bar spoon. Dump water from your Toddy glass, and double strain the cocktail to remove the pulp. Add 3-4 ounces of hot water on top of liquid and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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

Lists

3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Marines from the special operations community have been kicking ass and taking names for years. From hunting down Taliban fighters for questioning to tracking the highest value targets — they’re on the job.


While people know that the Marines have two different special forces units, most don’t understand the differences between them.

Both Marine Recon and Marine Raiders go through a similar training pipeline, but their differences may surprise you.

Related: 5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

In many ways, these badasses are similar, but here are three key differences between the two elite units.

3. Their MOSs are different — but not by much.

Every job in the military has a different MOS, or military occupation specialty, designation. Marine Raiders have use MOS 0372 while Recon uses the designation of 0321.

You might’ve noticed that the first two numbers of these designations are same. If you have the numbers “03” at the beginning of your MOS designation, that means you’re a part of the Marine Infantry — and not a POG.

These Recon Marine conduct target practice and immediate action drill while on stationed on the MEU.

2. Their proud history is different.

The Marine Raiders were established during World War II for special operations, but were disbanded after the war came to a close. Soon after, the Korean War kicked off and decision-makers said  “oh sh*t” to themselves as realized they needed to create another elite unit to continue kicking ass.

So, in March 1951, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon was formed and, just two years later, was later expanded into a company, made up of several divisions. The company conducted highly successful missions throughout the Korean War, eventually becoming what’s known today as United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.

In 1987, United States Special Operations Command was formed, composed of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Detachment One — which was made up of some of the best Marines, including some Force Reconnaissance, and would eventually become the Marine Raider Regiment. In 2006, MARSOC was formed as part of SOCOM.

At this time, Force Reconnaissance is still fully operational, but many were chosen to become MARSOC.

These Marine Raiders take time out for a quick photo op during operations in World War 2. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

1. Their missions are different

Marine Recon conduct amphibious assaults, deep recon and surveillance, and battlespace shaping in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force.

Marine Raiders support their governments’ internal security, counter subversion, and reduce violent risks from internal and external threats against the U.S.

Also Read: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

Check out Nick Koumalatsos‘ video below for a detailed summary of these key differences.

(Nick Koumalatsos| YouTube)
Humor

6 ways Austin Powers is way more operator than you

In 1997, Britain’s biggest playboy and best special agent Austin Powers rocked movie-goers with his bad teeth and groovy personality.


Completely backed by the powerful Ministry of Defense, Powers stopped at nothing to take down his most villainous arch-enemy, Dr. Evil, who commonly held the world hostage while putting his pinky in his mouth.

Kinda looks like Putin. (Source: New Line/ Screenshot)

Against all odds, Powers continually did his part to finish his mission, regardless of what planet or time period it took place in.

Related: The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

So check out six ways Austin Powers is more operator than you’ll ever be.

6. He volunteered to be cryogenically frozen.

Austin was so patriotic to his country he agreed to be frozen stiff until Dr. Evil returned.

What an awful facial position to be frozen in. (Image via Giphy)

5. He has a car that can freakin’ time-travel.

While you’re driving in a hybrid, he’s chasing down terrorists jumping through time.

James Bond has nothing on Austin. (Image via Giphy)

4. Austin is known for taking out his enemies with a judo chop.

It doesn’t have to look awesome, it just needs to be effective.

He’s the only spy who can take a person out with toothpaste. (Image via Giphy)

3. Women find him completely irresistible.

In fact, some women have been known to explode because of his insanely good dance moves.

Admit it. You can’t resist him either. (Image via Giphy)

2. He’s practically rocket- and fall-proof.

Just as long as Austin has someone to stand in front of him bracing the impact — he’s good to go.

The secret to staying alive is using a female villain as a shield. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: Newly released video shows just how operator Keanu Reeves can be

1. He can detect if there is a mole in the area.

Some operators train for years gaining the experience to find a government mole. Austin Powers found one in just a few moments.

Nothing gets passed Austin. Nothing. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any more? Comment below.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Macedonia has to change its name before joining NATO

NATO approved its newest member on Feb. 6, 2019, after Macedonia agreed to change its name to secure admission.

All 29 members of NATO signed the accession protocol for Macedonia, beginning a process of ratification that is likely to result in the Balkan state joining the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since it became independent 28 years ago. But every application had been blocked by neighboring Greece because of a regional dispute over Macedonia’s name.


Greece agreed to stop blocking Macedonia if it formally renamed itself the Republic of North Macedonia. Lawmakers in both countries in June 2018 agreed to the deal, known as the Prespa Agreement, which is due to take effect soon.

Permanent representatives of the 29 members of NATO signed the Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia in Brussels.

(NATO)

Greece objected to the name Macedonia — which the country adopted in 1991 when Yugoslavia collapsed — because Macedonia is also the name of a region of Greece. Politicians in Greece argued that the name suggested the country had ambitions to one day rule Greek Macedonia as well.

Greece also argued that Macedonia was wrongly associating itself with the historical figure Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III of Macedon, even though he came from modern-day Greece.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak in January 2019 that the name change could happen in “a matter of days.”

The name Alexander spread through Europe in the 4th century thanks to Alexander the Great.

According to NATO’s processes, all 29 members, including Greece, would need to ratify the accession.

Any country could technically veto it. But that’s unlikely, as the only one to object had been Greece until the Prespa Agreement:Macedonia would change its name, and in return Greece would stop blocking its NATO membership.

If the other 29 members ratify the accession, Macedonia would then pass its own ratification legislation, at which point it would become a NATO member.

The decision to change the name split the country. An advisory referendum in late 2018 was rejected because of low voter turnout. The country’s parliament later agreed to the change.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described Feb. 6, 2019, as “a historic day.”

The latest country to join NATO was Montenegro in 2017. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine have expressed interest in joining.

Countries aspiring to join NATO have to demonstrate that they are in a position to further the principles of the 1949 Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

They are also expected to meet certain political, economic, and military criteria, including spending a minimum proportion of gross domestic product on their militaries.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These married Ironman athletes just graduated together from Navy Boot Camp

Over the last five years, two professional athletes moved from Brazil to the United States, competed in an Ironman World Championship, married and graduated with honors from Navy boot camp.


Silvia Ribeiro, 40, and Rafael Ribeiro Goncalves, 39, were both born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they met while training for the same team. After years of triathlons and in sports, they said they felt it was time to offer their services to their new home, according to a recent Navy news release.

“I want to give back to the U.S. and what it represents,” Ribeiro Goncalves said in the release. “I spent my whole life competing or being part of projects that require really high performance, but it was always for myself.”

He added he realized later in life that what “really gets me going is when I’m part of something bigger than myself. Once I realized that, the military was the obvious choice.”

One year later, on Jan. 24, the couple graduated with honors from Recruit Training Command. Ribeiro earned the United Service Organization Shipmate Award for “exemplifying the spirit and intent of the word ‘shipmate'” while her husband was awarded the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award for his enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork.

The couple moved to the U.S. in 2015 after their friendship blossomed into love as they spent long periods training on the bike, running and swimming.

“It was so hard in the beginning as we literally arrived with two boxes of belongings, our bikes, a couple of suitcases and only ,000-,000,” Ribeiro said in the release. “It was rough in the beginning but we went for it and competed professionally in triathlons.”

She proposed to Ribeiro Goncalves as he crossed the finish line at the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Their friends showed up with just a day’s notice to their wedding wearing swim parkas and cycling gear.

Several years later, Navy boot camp separated the couple for two months. They were assigned to separate divisions and recruit interaction directives keep them from talking to each other despite their barracks being less than 1,000 yards apart. To stay somewhat in touch, they used a mutual friend to relay updates on how each other was doing.

“The toughest part was to be away from him and not knowing how he was doing,” Ribeiro said. “We were training together and doing everything together, so it was very hard not having him by my side doing things together. He is everything for me.”

The two have a strong history of athleticism that came in handy with their time at boot camp.

Ribeiro Goncalves was on the Brazilian national swim team for 10 years, winning the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) 400-meter individual medley World Cup medals in 1998 and 2000. Ribeiro was a professional volleyball player who later became a professional triathlete.

“The main thing they teach us in boot camp is how to work under stress,” Ribeiro said. “I had no problems dealing with this because being professional athletes, we’re always under stress and we’re always tired. There was no single day where we were both not moaning about how tired we were when we used to train for the triathlons, so that helped us a lot.”

The two ran into each other once during their training, before they were supposed to go to a Navy Recruit Training Command board for evaluation for awards.

“They told me my uniform would be inspected too,” Ribeiro said after completing a 3-mile pride run with her division, “so when I turned the corner into the hallway, I was busy looking over my uniform and when I looked up — he was in front of me. I almost had a heart attack.”

She said they exchanged looks, and then they both winked at each other.

“We talked with our eyes: ‘I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.’ It was so hard not to cry,” she said.

Their success was not surprising to their friends.

Sailors Graduate From Recruit Training Command

“For them, it’s go hard or go home,” said Jim Garfield, who was Ribeiro’s sports agent. “It’s 110 percent for them and they are also so appreciative of the opportunity to be here, to be citizens, and to be together.”

They advised future couples going through Navy boot camp to remember it’s only temporary, which is “nothing compared to your whole life.”

“A strong relationship makes everything better,” Ribeiro Goncalves said. “I was looking forward to the day I would see her again.”

Ribeiro Goncalves will stay at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois attending his “A” School as a damage controlman, and Ribeiro is going to San Antonio, Texas to begin her “A” School training as a Reserve hospital corpsman. Once they’re done with their training, they plan to reunite at Ribeiro Goncalves’ first duty station once their training is complete.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 Chinese weapons that will set tone for World War III

A war probably isn’t coming. It’s not in America’s best interests. Or China’s. Or Russia’s. But the military can’t just opt out of preparing for a conflict, just in case. If the U.S. stumbles into a war with China, that country has an ever-growing arsenal of weapons that will force the U.S. military to adapt — especially the Navy.


Chinese hypersonic glide vehicles could allow conventional missiles to become a much larger threat.

(果壳军事, CC BY-SA 4.0)

1. Hypersonic missiles

China’s primary hypersonic missile play is the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, but the country is testing a variety of hypersonic components and has even tested an anti-ship ballistic missile that flies at hypersonic speeds during its final approach to the target.

Glide vehicles, like the DF-ZF, can be fitted to a variety of current missiles, extending their range by up to 50 percent while improving speed. Most of the focus on these weapons so far has been on the strategic level, as hypersonic missiles can carry nukes and bypass most existing defenses, but the missiles are also a huge threat on the tactical level, as they limit the effectiveness of current Navy fleet defenses.

If China and America go toe-to-toe in the Pacific, these hypersonic missiles will greatly threaten the fleet at sea as well as shore installations of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

The Type 072A LST gives Chinese naval commanders a lot of options.

(樱井千一, CC BY-SA 3.0)

2. Type 072A LST

The Chinese Landing Ship, Tank Type 072A is part of a larger family of landing ships, but it’s really the crown jewel of the fleet — and China owns 15 of them. They can carry up to 10 tanks as well as a hovercraft, four landing craft, 250 soldiers, and a helicopter.

All that cargo can be quickly offloaded on most beaches and the ship’s 30mm gun can defend it throughout the process, allowing an armored or infantry company to disembark from each ship directly into combat. For U.S. troops racing China to occupy strategic islands or to defend American-held ground, these ships mean that China can always quickly exploit any toehold it gains.

The Chinese AG-600, the world’s largest seaplane.

(Alert5, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. The AG-600, that massive new seaplane

China’s massive new seaplane, the world’s largest by most metrics, including payload, has generated a lot of buzz. It is new, ugly, and a great tool for logistics in areas like the South China Sea. The weapon has few sensors and no weapons, but it has ability to take off from shallow water while carrying up to 13 tons of supplies. So, it could be just the ticket for re-supplying far-flung troops on islands or ships at sea with no carrier on which to land.

There has been widespread speculation about its suitability in an anti-submarine role. While it does have a lot of the traits of a large reconnaissance platform, mostly high range and payload, China’s own media has downplayed the possibility of it serving as an anti-submarine aircraft.

4. Golden Eagle CR500

Not all that much is known yet about the Golden Eagle CR500, but it’s an unmanned helicopter that can carry air-to-ground missiles. The rumor mill gives it a six-hour endurance and a maximum payload of four missiles. If everything works out, this and similar projects give China the capability to hunt U.S. forces ashore from relatively small ships.

Instead of needing to land a company to recon in force or wait for reconnaissance teams to sweep potentially occupied islands, they could send a couple of small ships carrying these bad boys and fly over the islands, engaging targets they find immediately.

5. CH-7 Drone

China’s newly unveiled CH-7 drone appears to be a direct ripoff of the Navy’s X-47B — and it probably is. But the Navy put combat drones on the back burner after pushback from U.S. pilots, potentially allowing China to take the technological edge. The CH-7, like the X-47B, is a carrier-based stealth drone capable of penetrating contested airspace, conducting reconnaissance and, if necessary, fighting its way free.

If it works even a fraction as well as the X-47B, the CH-7 could give China the ability to strike U.S. forces ashore and to disrupt jet formations without risking their own pilots. This could be a game-changer since one of the biggest limits on China’s large military and civilian aviation dreams is its lack of pilots.

6. H-20 Stealth Bomber

China’s new stealth bomber is still under wraps, technically, but information is leaking out and it appears to be a flying wing like the B-2 Spirit. If its radar absorption, spoofing, and infrared masking is anything like the B-2’s, that means that China might be able to fly through American defenses and strike at radars and missile sites in order to open up the skies for conventional aircraft.

The H-20 is nuclear-capable, but its the door-kicking ability of the plane that actually tips the scales in a conventional conflict. U.S. defenses rely on a distributed network of sensors and interceptors, but you can still open a gap to the heart of a carrier strike group with just a few good hits on Ticonderoga cruisers and Arleigh-Burke destroyers.

Chinese Type 56 Corvette

(樱井千一, CC BY-SA 3.0)

7. Type 056 Jiangdao Stealth Corvette

Corvettes are small ships, but what they lack in size and muscle they can make up for in versatility. The Type 056 is no exception, as it displaces only 1,365 tons while capable of carrying four anti-ship cruise missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, and two torpedo tubes as well as a 76mm main gun and two 30mm guns in support. And they can zip around at 35 mph.

They’re cheap and potent, even if they’re not the kind of big capital ships that fill propaganda ads. They’re lethal enough to pick off amphibious forces and smaller ships, potentially interrupting landings or helping force an opening during a fight between fleets. China commissioned its 41st Type 056 a few months ago.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first and only female Buffalo Soldier joined the Army disguised as a man

Before women were allowed to join the military, Cathay Williams decided that she wouldn’t let her gender, or the color of her skin, get in the way of her ambitions. She became the first known African American woman in American history to join the armed forces by disguising herself as a man.


Williams was born into slavery in the year 1842 in Independence, Mo. She was a house slave for William Johnson, a planter in Jefferson City, Mo. During the beginning of the Civil War, Williams was claimed to have been “freed” by Union soldiers, but was forced to work for the Federal Army as a paid cook and laundress.

During her time serving in the Federal Army, she gained an insight into military life by answering directly to two Union Generals, one of whom was General Philip Sheridan. After the war ended, Williams did not have the means of supporting herself, but she wasn’t about to let her newly garnered freedom get snuffed out like a flame.

In 1866, Cathay Williams became the first African-American woman to enlist in the U.S. Army. She posed as a man, enlisting under the pseudonym William Cathay. (Image from U.S. Army)

In November 1866, Williams disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the U.S. Army as William Cathay. Full-on medical exams weren’t mandatory at the time, and Williams was able to pas a quick, general health check before filing in among the ranks.

She was found fit for duty and assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry, Company A, an all-black regiment in St. Louis, Mo. which, eventually, became a part of the renowned Buffalo Soldiers. Apparently, the only two people knew her secret — a friend and a cousin — both of whom served alongside her in the same regiment. They never divulged her charade.

Williams traveled with her regiment and helped protect miners and immigrants from Apache attacks at Fort Cummings, Mo. Unfortunately, military service took its toll on Williams. She was in and out of the hospital for most of her service due to neuralgia (pain caused by a pinched nerve). Surprisingly, it was six months after her first hospitalization when they found out that she was a woman.

After the truth was revealed, Williams was discharged from the Army honorably on October 14, 1868. Little of her life is known after she was discharged, except for her attempts to get a pension for the disabilities that she incurred from military service.

Sadly, Williams never received compensation for her medical issues. The Pension Bureau claimed her illnesses were pre-existing and, because she was a woman, her service was not considered legal, disqualifying her from pension pay.

She may not have intended to become a prominent figure in history, but one thing is for sure, Cathay Williams will forever be regarded as the first and only female Buffalo Soldier to have served in the U.S. Army.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Germany scuttled its own navy in sneaky scheme

In June 1919, the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet was sitting at anchor at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The cruiser Emden sent out the message, “Paragraph 11; confirm.” Then, all 74 of the warships in the natural harbor attempted to scuttle themselves en masse, and 52 successfully destroyed themselves before British sailors were able to beach them or stop their sinking.


21st June 1919: The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow

www.youtube.com

It’s important to remember for this story that wars have two ending points. There’s the armistice that stops the actual fighting, and then a lengthy peace process will usually result in a full treaty ending the war. After the armistice ended World War I fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, a large portion of the German navy was interned for the treaty process.

The navy had been largely sidelined during the war thanks to a British blockade, so it was largely intact that November. And the Allied powers, in order to ensure that Germany went through with the peace process, demanded that the nation’s most powerful and modern fleet be sequestered at a neutral port.

But, no nearby neutral port agreed to accept the ships, and so 70 of Germany’s best vessels were sent to the British harbor at Scapa Flow, a natural harbor that housed one of the British fleets. Four other German ships would later meet them there.

Three German ships, the Emden, Frankfurt, and Bremse, enter Scapa Flow on November 24, 1918.

(Royal Navy)

When the German ships were officially handed over on November 21, literally hundreds of ships and thousands of people were present to watch the event. Over 190 Allied ships escorted the first batch of 70 German ships to surrender, making that day the largest concentration of naval power in the history of mankind, even if 70 of the ships had breech blocks in their guns to prevent a sudden return to hostilities.

But the fleet languished there for months. Morale on the German ships was bad during the war and worse while they were confined to ships on short rations in British territory. And the German commander had an order from his superiors to prevent the seizure of the ships by any means necessary.

The German navy seems to have believed that the ships would eventually be returned, Britain wanted to see them scrapped, and the rest of the Allies wanted to divvy them up. But as the negotiations in France made it clear that Germany would not get the ships back, German Adm. Ludwig von Reuter planned for how to destroy his own fleet.

A German destroyer largely flooded at Scapa Flow in 1919.

(Royal Navy)

He knew that the deadline for Germany to sign the treaty or face a resumption of hostilities was June 21, 1919. So, at 10:30 a.m., after he saw the bulk of the British fleet at Scapa Flow depart for maneuvers, he sent out the innocuous-sounding signal to scuttle the fleet, “Paragraph 11; confirm.”

He didn’t know that the deadline had been extended to June 23, but this actually worked out well for him. The British commander had plans to seize the German ships on June 23 if the German diplomats still hadn’t signed the treaty by then.

And so the ships suddenly began to sink. The German sailors raised their German navy flags from their masts for the first time since they had arrived in the harbor. British sailors in the harbor quickly alerted their own fleet as to what was happening, and the fleet rushed back to save what it could.

The sight they met when they re-entered the harbor was surreal. As Sub-Lieutenant Edward Hugh Markham David said when he wrote to his mother of the events:

A good half of the German fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the ‘Bayern’ the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later, in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went.

The German admiral proceeded to the British flagship and declared that he had “come to surrender my men and myself. I have nudding else.”

British sailors were quickly dispatched to the sinking ships to re-close the valves and pump water out. Some British sailors nearly drowned in this endeavor, but they saved 22 of the ships as 52 settled into the mud at the bottom.

A salvage crew works on the largely underwater German battleship Baden after the Scuttling at Scapa Flow. The partially submerged ship at the left is the cruiser Frankfurt.

(Royal Navy)

The British sailors were under orders to only kill those Germans who refused to close valves when ordered or who resisted British actions to save the vessels. Nine German sailors were killed, but there is some controversy over whether all these sailors had resisted or not.

Still, it was the single largest loss of naval power in one day in human history, even though it was a calm day and no battle had actually taken place.

Salvage operators bought some of the ships in the later decades. One man, Ernest Cox, successfully ran the salvage of 30 ships before calling it quits. But many of the vessels sunk that day still remain on the harbor floor where they are now popular spots for divers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force opens first center to treat ‘invisible wounds’

The 96th Medical Group opened the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base.

More than 120 people attended the event and toured the new facility, including Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, 96th Test Wing installation commander, Brig. Gen. Evan C. Dertien and members of the local community.

Hogg, the guest speaker for the ceremony, thanked everyone who helped standup the center and also reaffirmed the Air Force’s commitment to providing ‘Trusted Care’ to our military members.


“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” she said. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible. Today, we make good on that commitment.”

The center will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions, and psychological injuries.

“The center is ready to treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from our sister services who carry the weight of invisible wounds,” said Hogg. “Our goal is to eliminate barriers to care. We want to treat our service members with dignity through every phase of their recovery.”

The IWC, modeled after the best practices of the Intrepid Spirit Centers, will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof, providing treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion, using a combination of conventional and complimentary therapies.

Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force surgeon general, speaks to the audience during a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)

“We’re here for you, we’re ready to serve you,” said Dertien. “The facility and the capabilities we are building here have the impact and the potential to change people’s lives. This sends the message that we can talk about invisible wounds. It’s okay to ask for help.”

Art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy, and mental health services will also be included in treatment.

“Having all these services under one roof, complimenting each other, provides treatment and healing in ways that are only now being recognized,” said Hogg. “The providers will also address physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being to further ensure positive health outcomes.”

Hogg shared positive accounts from wounded warriors she met at Intrepid Spirit Centers on military installations around the country. She attributed their success to the mind and body approach to treatment and community involvement. She also noted patient, caregiver and family education is key component in the healing process.

“We learned the best outcomes occur when a host of people are involved in the healing process,” she said. “Complete healing and reintegration requires healing the patient as well as the family.”

Dr. Thomas Piazza, Invisible Wounds Center director, talks with Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group (A) before a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)

The ceremony concluded with a good news, momentous announcement for the military community.

Hogg said the Department of Defense recently accepted a proffer from Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, to build an Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin AFB, making it the tenth of its kind and the first on an Air Force base. Plans for the ground breaking are underway, and officials expect a completion of the facility in 2020.

Fisher described these facilities as “centers of hope,” and adds that these center are not built by the government, but by donations from the American people. He said that thought is reassuring because Americans believe this is the right model to treat invisible wounds, according to Hogg.

“Fisher is determined to continue his mission to build Intrepid Spirit Centers,” said Hogg. “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Smalls was a slave.

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

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

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

They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.

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

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

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

Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.

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

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

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

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

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

And he did.

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

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

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

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

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

On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.

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