You’ve probably heard of the term “backpack nuke” before — perhaps in the context of a video game like Call of Duty, or an action-packed television show like “24.”
But what you may or may not have realized is that backpack nukes are the farthest thing from fiction, and from the 1950s to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1989, they sat ready to be deployed by America’s black-ops nuclear hit squads — dubbed “Green Light Teams” — should the unthinkable happen and the Cold War turn hot.
Only members of the US military’s elite were selected to join GLTs, where they would be stationed near Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, inside South Korea, and even near Iran in the late 1970s.
Navy SEALs, Force Reconnaissance Marines, Army Special Forces and more were all among the top recruits for the GLT program. If a candidate’s application to the GLT program was successful, they were sworn to secrecy, unable to tell even their own spouses of their mission. Had the Soviet Union heard of the existence of these teams, it would have likely created a similar program of its own as a counter, removing all value of possessing GLTs.
These operatives were trained in local languages and dialects, and told to dress like ordinary citizens, allowing them to blend in without anybody the wiser. The vast majority of their training, however, came in the form of instruction on how to use backpack nukes at the Atomic Demolitions Munitions School at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.
There, GLT selectees were taught how to detonate nuclear weapons, and how to bury them or disguise them so that these weapons wouldn’t be discovered and defused before they could do their job.
The weapon of choice for each GLT was the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The warhead used in each SADM was taken from a US Army program dubbed the “Davy Crockett Weapon System.” The Crockett was actually a recoilless rifle-fired projectile tipped with a W54 nuclear warhead with a yield of 10-20 tons of TNT.
The W54 was modified to detonate with a yield of anywhere between 10 tons of TNT to 1 kiloton, though in testing, it was proven to be able to achieve over 6 kilotons. Weighing just 51 pounds when nestled inside the SADM, it could be hefted onto an operative’s back and carried for long distances almost inconspicuously.
Should the combat environment or the mission change, GLTs could also parachute or swim their SADMs into enemy territory without fears of the backpack nuke prematurely blowing up. And when the nukes were in their detonation zones, they could be disguised as anything.
Citizens of Eastern Europe or North Korea could potentially walk by beer kegs, trash cans, or even mailboxes without being any the wiser that a primed SADM sat in side, ready to unleash unholy hell upon them. Operatives were also trained to bury their backpack nukes as deep as 9 ft underground to make them undiscoverable.
SADMs could be placed near lakes or rivers to create artificial dams as obstacles for advancing Soviet forces, or in cities,
Though the SADM came with a timing mechanism to allow for a delayed detonation sequence so operatives could escape the region, GLT operatives knew that should they be called into action, they were essentially running a suicide mission. They would still have to protect the device from being detected by enemy forces, and that would necessarily involve the GLT staying nearby, armed with submachine guns, grenades and pistols.
The US military was able to keep the existence of its GLTs a closely-guarded secret until near the end of the Cold War, when their mission was somewhat accidentally disclosed to the public. Upon finding out that a number of GLTs were positioned in West Germany, local officials immediately asked the US government to remove all SADMs from German sovereign territory.
By 1989, the SADMs were retired altogether and permanently deactivated, never having been used in combat. All active GLT operatives were brought in from the cold and returned to the US, and just a few short years later, the fall of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War – thankfully, with nary a nuke being detonated in anger by either side.
People who love military documentaries can never seem to get enough of them. But there are only so many good ones out there.
There’s a reason every new history or military channel on TV turns into “The World War II Channel” for the first two years of their existence. Military history documentaries are awesome. We found six cool docs for the motivated viewer to watch on Veterans Day when the History Channel repeats its programming every eight hours.
And the cool thing is, you don’t have to have that pricey cable subscription to watch them. All these can be found on Snagfilms.com, which presents them completely free of charge.
The President and Magic Johnson celebrate 11/11/11 with world’s first NCAA game on an active aircraft carrier. Filmmaker Steven C. Barber and his entertainment company Vanilla Fire Productions were granted permission to shoot a documentary on the Veterans Day event The Carrier Classic held on 11/11/11 in San Diego, California. Barber funded this documentary and had full access to the Morale Foundation founders and participants in order to show this amazing event and the outstanding work and dedication the Morale Foundation has done with the U.S. military.
Kelsey Grammer narrates this amazing story of the young men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (once known as JPAC) that embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions in order to bring our fallen service members home. The Battle of Tarawa finally has some closure after 69 years. US remains were flown back in a C-130 with a C-17 transfer back to Honolulu. DPMAA Team members are the unsung heroes that until now have been unrecognized and have worked in the shadows. That is about to change.
Narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris, “Return to Tarawa” follows the journey of World War II veteran Leon Cooper. Cooper — a U.S. Navy landing craft officer who in 1943 fought in the bloody battle — returns to the site in 2008 to investigate disturbing reports about the current state of the fabled “Red Beach.”
National Geographic presents “Arlington: Field of Honor,”a portrait of one of America’s most sacred places. Once little more than a potter’s field, Arlington National Cemetery has become a national shrine and treasury of American history. Now, discover how this revered site came to be, and how it serves as the final resting place for both the famous and obscure, from John F. Kennedy to the Unknown Soldier.
One thousand miles from anywhere lay a lonely outpost of coral and sea called Midway. It was here in 1942 where the U.S. and Japan fought one of the greatest naval battles of World War II and changed the course of history. And it is here again where Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard now leads a team of experts and four World War II veterans on the voyage of their lives. They’re on a race against time to do the impossible: find at least one of the five downed aircraft carriers. Join them as they pay their final respects to their fallen comrades.
“Honor Flight” is a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwestern community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to ﬂy thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the war. The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives. As the Honor Flight trip unfolds, Orville, Julian, Joe, Harvey and others share their stories and wisdom. While the program is meant to give something back to these humble heroes, the goodness they embody and their appreciation for life transforms everyone they meet.
The FBI and the CIA had different approaches to interrogating terror suspects in the days after the 9/11 attacks. The FBI’s Ali Soufan was one of only a handful of agents who spoke Arabic at the time, but he had a method of developing a rapport with suspects to get information from them that proved itself time and again.
The CIA tortured suspects, often at a so-called black site in a third country, like Poland. One captured terror suspect, Abu Zubaydah, was the subject of both of these techniques, and a perfect experiment on just how effective torture was in gaining intelligence.
Zubaydah was captured in a raid in March 2002. The CIA, FBI and Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence raided a safehouse after the U.S. paid $10 million for a tip on his whereabouts. Ali Soufan was called in to interrogate the captive — the first real high-value jihadi arrested after Sept. 11.
Although not a member of al-Qaeda, Zubaydah planned a series of attacks in Jordan and some Israeli targets. He was also close to Osama bin Laden, and so was considered a high-value target.
Abu Zubaydah was wounded in the raid on the al-Qaeda safehouse. He was taken first to a Pakistani hospital and then to another country for a long debrief. It was FBI agent Ali Soufan who started interrogating the captured militant. Zubaydah, almost immediately, gave up information and details about a plot in a NATO country.
The terrorist ended up doing another stint in the hospital for wounds related to the initial raid. Soufan was there with Zubaydah during the entire period. With their rapport established, the militant continued cooperating with the FBI. It was Zubaydah who gave up Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI didn’t even know KSM was a member of al-Qaeda.
Then, the CIA took over interrogating Abu Zubaydah, using a contractor who didn’t agree with Agent Soufan’s methods. Soufan was incredulous, since the contractor had never interrogated a suspect and knew nothing about Islamic extremists or al-Qaeda.
Once in the hands of the CIA, Zubaydah was put into “stress positions” (where a great amount of weight is placed on one or two muscles, leading to pain and then muscle failure) and stressful situations. Extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation and other techniques were performed on the captive. Soufan argues that stress measures and torture will only force compliance, not cooperation.
One of Zubaydah’s peers, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, was captured by the United States in November 2001. After his capture in Afghanistan, the Libyan national was taken to another country, much like Abu Zubaydah was. Al-Libi was tortured for information. Eventually, he gave up serious “information” linking Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to Osama Bin Laden. He said the two were developing weapons of mass destruction to use on the United States and its western allies.
This information was included in then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech to the United Nations about the urgency of a war with Iraq. Powell remarked that Iraq was creating weaponized anthrax using mobile production centers on the backs of semi-trucks. No other intelligence agency believed this was true.
The CIA believed it because they had tortured Ibn Sheikh al-Libi to say it was true. The United States invaded Iraq anyway, and found no evidence of the weapons of mass destruction or that they had ever existed. When the CIA asked al-Libi why he told them about a link between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, the militant told them he gave up that info because he was being tortured and that’s what he knew they wanted to hear.
For eight years, the United States struggled to build a parliamentary democracy in Iraq, and would have to return once that government was threatened by the Islamic State — all because of a lie based on torture.
As long as the CIA was torturing Abu Zubaydah, he revealed no useful information. As soon as Soufan and the FBI took over the interrogation once more, Zubaydah immediately gave up actionable information.
The history of the War on Terrorism might have been entirely different if the CIA had only hired people who knew what they were doing.
American troops are obsessed with coffee. If there’s a military unit whose coffee pot isn’t the hardest-working machine in the building, I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad the coffee is (even though good coffee is preferable), that beautiful, dirty-brown water is what really fuels the U.S. military’s bureaucratic inner workings — and always has.
Long before Rip-Its became the official beverage of the Global War on Terror, coffee was the only game in town and it was so important during the Civil War that it might have been the reason the North won the war.
The South wished they had the ability to brew coffee the way the North did. The Union blockade of the Confederate States meant that real coffee was in very short supply, and ground troops were unlikely to receive any of it. The Confederate Army tried everything they could to replace the magic bean, including replacing it with alternatives, like roasted acorns, malted barley, actual beans, cottonseed, potato peels, and the ever-present chicory root.
But there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. As Union troops realized when they had to start subsisting on what they could capture from Southerners, coffee was only available through Uncle Sam. As you go back through historical records, they more than made their feelings known — and businesses, government, and families soon responded.
“Coffee Call” by Winslow Homer.
1. Civil War diaries use the word “coffee” more than any other.
That’s right — more than words like “bullets,” “war,” “cannon,” “Lincoln,” and even “mother,” troops had one thing on their minds: black gold. In letters written back to their families, much of the discussion was focused on the quality of the coffee that day or the hope that they would have coffee the following. Even around the campfire, much of the talk centered around the quality of that day’s joe.
2. This rifle with a grinder in the butt stock.
In the 1860s, the Sharps Rifle Company created a carbine with a small grinder in its butt stock, which was immediately useless for most intended purposes. It was actually designed to grind grain for horses in cavalry units, but the very fact that people immediately thought of using it as a coffee grinder tells you just how important coffee was to the average troop. I bet Sharps Rifle Company wishes they had thought of marketing it that way.
When there’s no room for Jeb to fit, but Jeb sits anyway.
3. There was no water too putrid to make coffee.
As long as troops had the beans to brew it, coffee was going to happen. Not only were troops happy to use their canteen water to make coffee, they would also use free-running water, water from puddles, and even the sediment-filled water of the Mississippi River – also known as Mississippi Mud.
The best part of Civil War is Folgers in your cup.
4. The officers noticed the effects it had on the men.
Many Union officers ensured their men got at least a cup of the stuff in the morning before a battle, with many often having it ready for them after the battle, some demanding the men keep it in their canteens, and even going so far as to hire boys to run coffee to men in critical positions.
Then-Sgt. William McKinley was one such runner, who made it all the way to the White House riding that brave Civil War act during the Battle of Antietam. Hell, a monument was even erected for it.
The last time that the United States faced a national health crisis as deadly as the COVID-19 pandemic, antibiotics did not exist.
Neither did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the first case of the Spanish flu arrived in the United States at an Army camp in Fort Riley, Kansas, in the spring of 1918, World War I dominated the headlines.
That pandemic resulted in roughly 50 million deaths worldwide in 1918-19, and about 500 million people were infected. Approximately 675,000 Americans died.
“The flu was a disaster,’’ said Carol Byerly, author of “Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I.’’ “It killed more people in the military than the war did, and so they tried to understand it. They didn’t understand viruses at the time.’’
More than 1,400 National Guard Medical Services personnel were sent overseas, leaving only 222 NGMS officers at home to assist with controlling the spread of influenza and pneumonia, according to the National Guard Bureau. (By comparison, a high of 47,000 National Guard members supported the COVID-19 response in May.) In 1918, most of the National Guard’s members — more than 12,000 officers and nearly 367,000 soldiers — served in World War I.
“[In] 1918, the pandemic hit, and most of the medical services were deployed overseas,’’ said Dr. Richard Clark, historian of the National Guard Bureau. “The National Guard mobilized its medical forces to augment stateside military forces to help with the military bases.’’
The National Guard previously had not assisted with such a widespread health emergency. For more than three months, beginning in September 1858, the New York National Guard helped alleviate a disturbance during a yellow-fever quarantine on Staten Island. In late 1910 and early 1911, the Michigan National Guard enforced a quarantine of smallpox patients at a state asylum. Those missions did not provide medical support, though.
“The thought of using [the National Guard] in a medical capacity to respond domestically had not really been thought about until that point,’’ Clark said.
The military’s role in spreading the Spanish flu is undeniable. As soldiers moved between camps in the U.S. or were deployed to France, the number of infections increased. Some Army camps, such as Camp Devens near Boston, were particularly hard-hit. When ships carrying troops returned from overseas, more soldiers got sick.
War-bond parades left citizens susceptible to infection, too, including one in Philadelphia, attended by 200,000 people, that resulted in a spike of cases. Despite the rising totals, the pandemic was downplayed.
“Every day, you read the newspaper, and a couple of cases were developed in the city, and officers were saying, ‘It’s no big deal,’’’ Dr. Alex Navarro, the assistant director for the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. “[Then] there would be hundreds and hundreds of cases, and this is something very serious. Very rapidly, they had to deal with the threat.
“The one major issue was that there was a shortage of doctors and nurses, as well as some medical supplies like surgical gauze and masks, so the war effort definitely hindered that medical response.’’
Some preventive measures, including social distancing and mask laws, were put into place. The military tried quarantining camps and limiting troop mobilizations, but those restrictions were not sustainable during wartime, Navarro said. They even stopped the draft in October, a month before World War I ended, Byerly said.
“They didn’t want to stop the draft,’’ Byerly said. “They didn’t want to reduce crowding on the ships and in the training camps. They didn’t want to send more nurses and doctors to the soldiers, but that is what you have to do in order to take care of your personnel.’’
A total of 43,000 U.S. service members died because of the pandemic. More than a quarter of the Army’s soldiers, about 1 million men, became infected, and at least 106,000 Navy sailors were hospitalized, according to Byerly. The National Guard has no records of how many of its members died or were infected.
While the National Guard’s role in combating the Spanish flu a century ago was minimal, a valuable lesson came out of that pandemic, Clark said. Officials began preparing to offer more support during national health emergencies. The wisdom of that decision is being felt a century later.
“We’re not going through something new,’’ Clark said.
“History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it rhymes, so the lessons of the past should not be taken as a one-for-one example or a guide to what we need to do today. Many of the details, much of the context is very, very different, but what you can use the past as a guide for is for critical thinking about the situation. … What is the same, and what is different?’’
The attack on Pearl Harbor, which catapulted the US into World War II, happened 77 years ago on Dec. 7, 2018.
The Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii killed more than 2,400 American sailors and civilians and wounded 1,000 more.
Japanese fighter planes also destroyed or damaged almost 20 naval ships during the attack.
But the US sailors and civilians didn’t standby without putting up a fight.
Here are 7 Pearl Harbor heroes you’ve never heard about.
Phil Rasmussen during flight school.
1. Phil Rasmussen, who raced into his plane to attack Japanese Zero fighters.
Lt. Phil Rasmussen was one of four American pilots able to get in the air and engage Japanese fighters during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
When the attack was launched, Rasmussen was still in his pajamas when he ran out to the flight line and jumped in an then-old Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighter plane — the only US planes the Japanese hadn’t yet taken out.
Once in the air, Rasmussen shot down one Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter planes, and damaged another before he was targeted by two more.
The two Japanese fighters shot up his plane, and took out his radio, hydraulic lines and rudder cables, but he was able to fly away and hide in the clouds before landing without brakes, a rudder or tailwheel.
Rasmussen received the Silver Star for his actions, and retired from the Air Force in 1965.
2. Doris Miller, who fired a machine gun at attacking fighters.
Cook Third Class Doris Miller was stationed on the USS West Virginia battleship when the Japanese attacked.
Awake at 6 a.m., Miller was collecting laundry when the attack was launched. He went to his battle station, which was an anti-aircraft battery magazine in the middle of the ship, only to find it had been taken out by a torpedo.
Miller then went to the deck, where he was assigned to carry away wounded sailors before he was ordered to the bridge to help the mortally wounded Mervyn Sharp Bennion (who later received the Medal of Honor).
After helping deliver ammunition to two .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun crews, and without any weapons training, he manned one of the guns himself and fired until the ammunition was spent.
“It wasn’t hard,” Miller later said.
“I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”
He received the Navy Cross for his actions, the first ever given to an African American.
Miller was killed in 1943 while serving on the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo.
3. Annie G. Fox, who worked ceaselessly to care for the wounded.
First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox was the head nurse at the hospital at Hickham field, which was Hawaii’s main army airfield and bomber base, when the attack on Pearl Harbor was launched.
Fox “administered anesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency, and her fine example of calmness, courage and leadership was of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact,” according to her Purple Heart medal citation.
Fox was the first US service woman to receive the Purple Heart, which she received for her actions during the attack.
At the time, the US military awarded Purple Hearts for “singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.” When the requirement of being wounded was added, her Purple Heart was replaced with the Bronze Star, since she had not been wounded.
Fox was promoted to the rank of major before retiring from the service in 1945.
USS Pennsylvania still in dry dock after the Pearl Harbor attack.
(US Navy photo)
4. George Walters, a crane operator who warned sailors of the incoming attack.
George Walters was a civilian who operated a huge crane next to the USS Pennsylvania battleship at Pearl Harbor.
He was 50 feet up in the crane when the attack was launched, and was one of the first Americans to see the Japanese planes coming, and alerted the sailors aboard the Pennsylvania.
Walters then repeatedly swung the crane back and forth to shield the ship from Japanese fighter planes as US sailors aboard the Pennsylvania attempted to return fire.
But the sailors manning the guns on the battleship had trouble seeing the Japanese planes because they were in dry dock.
“The water had been pumped out, dropping their decks to a point where the high sides of the drydock blocked most of the view,” author Walter Lord wrote in his book “Day of Infamy.”
So Walters used the crane’s boom to point out incoming Japanese planes.
“After a 500-pound bomb exploded nearby, damaging the crane and stunning Walters, he nearly fell from the crane. But Walters had moved the crane just in time to avoid a direct hit from the bomb, which left a 17-foot crater,” according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
Walters has since been credited by many with helping save the ship. He operated cranes until 1950, and retired in 1966.
Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill, who saved shipmates from Japanese fighters.
(US Navy photo)
6. Edwin Hill
Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill was stationed on the USS Nevada battleship when the attack on Pearl Harbor began.
As Japanese planes fired down on the ship from above, Hill jumped into the harbor’s waters and climbed ashore to release the Nevada from its mooring. He then jumped back in and swam towards the Nevada, which was moving to open water, and climbed back aboard the battleship.
But with the Nevada alone in the water, the ship was an obvious target, and would have blocked the harbor if destroyed.
With Japanese fighters attacking the Nevada, Hill directed other sailors to take cover behind the gun’s turrets. Many of the sailors later credited him with saving their lives.
When Hill tried to drop anchor during the second wave of attack, a Japanese bomb hit the bow and he was killed.
Hill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has just released the draft master plan for how the agency intends to improve the campus of its West Los Angeles facility after years of encroachment, misuse, and neglect. The plan follows a landmark legal ruling last year following a lawsuit that alleged that VA was violating the covenant of an 1888 deed whereby the United States acquired title to the West LA Campus by misusing parts of it for commercial purposes in lieu of caring for and serving veterans.
The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. Vets Advocacy and We Are The Mighty have joined forces in a grassroots campaign to assist the veteran community in voicing how they’d like to see VA services provided at the West LA VA campus.
“With the proper veteran input, the West LA VA redevelopment plan has the potential to serve as a 21st Century blueprint for VA campuses nationwide,” said Jonathan Sherin, a psychiatrist and veteran advocate who has been a key facilitator of the planning effort.
The new master plan for the West LA Campus will help VA determine and implement the most effective use of the campus for veterans, particularly for homeless veterans, including underserved populations such as female veterans, aging veterans, and those who are severely physically or mentally disabled. Focus areas include considerations surrounding vet housing (both temporary and permanent), vet services, and historic preservation.
The draft plan divides the campus into four zones labeled (1-4 respectively) “Healthcare Excellence,” “Coordinated Care,” “Veteran Housing,” and “Recreation.” Details of each zone can be found in the document.
“This draft master plan provides the VA with a stronger foundation to build a 21st century healthcare campus and vibrant community for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “It also helps to ensure we will have the housing and healthcare resources needed to sustain the mission of ending veteran homelessness.”
Now that the draft master plan has been published, veterans have 45 days to review it and provide inputs, thereby helping to ensure the plan meets the needs of those it is designed to assist. The master plan can be viewed and downloaded and comments can be submitted at #VATHERIGHTWAY.
These days, military documentaries are all over TV. Some are feature-length films and others are TV series. They cover everything, from discussing various weapon systems to describing famous, historical battles. But there was one series that kicked this whole genre off — that was Victory at Sea. The 26-episode limited series was a smash hit that won an Emmy and a Peabody Award. But it wasn’t just award-winning, it was groundbreaking.
According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, Navy veteran Harry Salomon was working with Samuel Eliot Morison to compile what would eventually become the fifteen-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II when he got the idea to do a TV documentary. In the process, Salomon discovered just how much footage was available — over 11,000 miles of film, shot by all of the warring powers.
Inspired, Salomon talked with his old college roommate, who then worked for NBC. His friend was all for the idea and helped him get the green light for the series in 1951. The United States Navy, coming off the Revolt of the Admirals and fighting the Korean War, agreed to support the venture. NBC offered a $500,000 budget for the series — in 1951 dollars. In today’s money, that’s just under $4.84 million.
The series covered all aspects of the sea battles in the Second World War, including the anti-submarine campaign fought by escort carriers like USS Mission Bay (CVE 59)
Eventually, the 11,000 miles of film was cut down to a grand total 61,000 feet — just over 11.55 miles. Richard Rodgers, best known for his work on Broadway and in Hollywood, composed a stirring score, Leonard Graves signed on to do narration, and the series was underway. All aspects of the conflict were covered, from the chilly Arctic waters to the heated battles in the paradise of the South Pacific.
The stirring soundtrack provided by Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame) comes through, especially when covering dramatic moments, like the kamikaze campaign.
The 26-episode series made its premiere in October of 1952. NBC aired the series without commercial interruption. It was a huge hit.
Not only did the naval campaigns of the Second World War get exposed to a wider audience, but an entire new TV genre was launched. Today, the series is under public domain and can be seen on YouTube.
Watch the first episode of the show that gave rise to the military documentary genre below!
From November 1947 to December 1948, Camp Pine, which would evolve into Fort Drum, hosted the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division for Exercise Snowdrop. The exercise was the largest over-snow airborne maneuver that the Army had undergone at the time and was designed to validate equipment, logistics and tactics for airborne operations in a sub-zero combat environment like the one that the paratroopers would experience if the United States were to go to war with the Soviet Union. Sadly, not all of the soldiers that participated saw the exercise through to its end.
During Snowdrop, building T-2278, a two-story wooden building, served as an officer barracks. The building housed many WWII veterans like Lt. Robert Manly, Lt. Wallace Swilley, Lt. Rudolph Feres and Capt. Francis Turner. Swilley had earned two Purple Hearts during the war, and Feres and Turner each earned three Bronze Stars.
In the early morning hours of December 10, 1947, the officers in building T-2278 were awoken by thick smoke and loud shouts from the second-floor hallway. The shouts came from Turner, who was first alerted to the fire by the smoke at approximately 0230 hrs. “Turner could have escaped at that point, having done his duty to warn his fellow Soldiers, but he did not,” said Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum Garrison Commander. “Ignoring his own safety, Capt. Turner chose to remain in the building to ensure each officer heard his alarm and to help the wounded among them to escape. Only after every wounded man was out of the building — which by this time was completely engulfed in flames — did he turn his attention to his own safety.”
Survivor accounts lead Army historians to believe that, after Turner ran through the building to alert his comrades of the danger, he attempted to jump to safety from a second-story window. Tragically, his wedding ring got caught on a nail in the window and Turner was left hanging amidst the searing flames. He was eventually rescued by Pine Camp firefighters, but was left with severe burns; nearly 90 percent of his body had suffered third-degree burns.
Thanks to Turner, six officers escaped the flames unharmed. In addition to Turner, four other officers were injured but managed to escape. Capt. Robert Dodge, Lt. Robert Manly, Lt. Wallace Swilley, and Lt. Rudolph Feres died in the building. While the other injured officers were treated and sent home, Turner had been so badly burned that he remained at Pine Camp hospital for treatment. After 18 days, he succumbed to his wounds.
Many factors contributed to the tragedy of the Pine Camp barracks fire. First, the roving fire watchman saw smoke but believed that the fire was in a different building. Second, the fire department took about 45 minutes to arrive on site. Third, two-thirds of the firefighters had less than three months of experience. Fourth, the barracks fire was determined to be a quick and violent “flash-fire” that burned rapidly and with very little notice. It took three hours, three fire engines, and 1,950 feet of water line to extinguish the blaze.
The cause of the fire remains a mystery. Duane Quates, an archaeologist with the Fort Drum Cultural Resources Branch, speculates that the fire could have been started by a faulty boiler or a careless cigarette. “This fire is the only structural fire on Fort Drum that had fatalities,” Quates said. “Every other structural fire may have had injuries, but they never had fatalities.” He also noted that the fire was a catalyst for modern fire safety measures like self-closing doors, permanent escape ladders, and heat raiser alarms.
On August 19, 1948, the four widows of the Pine Camp barracks fire sued the United States, claiming that their husbands’ deaths were the result of negligence due to a faulty heater. Their cases were dismissed by a Northern New York District Court judge who stated that the government was not liable for injuries that service members sustain while on active duty under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The next year, Lt. Feres’ widow, Bernice Feres, brought her case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Again, the case was dismissed. Feres persisted and, the next year, she appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The rulings of the previous courts were upheld and her case was dismissed again. This series of cases led to the controversial Feres Doctrine, which prevents service members from collecting damages for injuries sustained while on active duty and prohibits family members from filing wrongful death suits in the case of a service member’s death. To this day, service members and their families continue to challenge the Feres Doctrine.
On August 27, 2013, Fort Drum dedicated a historic marker to the memory of the men killed in the Pine Camp barracks fire. Still, knowledge of the fire and Turner’s heroic actions are largely unknown. Years of historical research into the event continues today. Joseph “Sepp” Scanlin, the Fort Drum Museum director, says that the museum remains dedicated to its efforts for Turner to receive a military award for his actions during the fire.
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”
The U.S. Navy’s Nimitz Class aircraft carriers are some of the most powerful weapons systems known to man, floating cities that can take strike warfare capability to the far reaches of the planet, places unreachable by other military assets. With an embarked air wing these carriers are manned by 5,500 sailors (and a few Marines) and home base for more than 80 airplanes.
Here are the places that make these 97,000 ton ships work:
Pri-fly (short for ‘primary flight control’) is also known as “the tower.” Pri-fly is where the Air Boss sits and controls all of the goings-on on the flight deck as well as the airspace within a 10-mile radius of the carrier.
The bridge is a few levels below Pri-fly in the carrier’s superstructure. The bridge is where the Captain sits along with the navigator and all of the officers of the deck and the rest of the watch team charged with steering the ship and staying away from hazards. During flight ops it’s the bridge team’s responsibility to keep a favorable flying wind across the flight deck.
3. Flight deck
The Navy likes to refer to the flight deck as “4.5 acres of sovereign and mobile American territory.” The flight deck is where aircraft launch courtesy of steam catapults and land — one every minute — with the assistance of steel arresting cables. The movement around the flight deck is choreographed by the “handler” in Flight Deck Control who manages the limited real estate and makes sure aircraft get where they need to be either to fly or get worked on.
4. Ready rooms
Flight briefs are conducted in ready rooms, but these spaces are also where squadron aviators congregate to discuss other business or to relax and watch a movie.
The paraloft is where the aviators’ flight gear like helmets and survival vests is stored. This is the final stop for crews before they walk one level up to the flight deck.
6. Crew berthing
Sleeping quarters cram as many as 96 sailors together, but still provide a bit of privacy and a place to get away from the stress of the workday.
The carrier’s intelligence center is where classified mission planning takes place. Intelligence officers give aviators the latest details about the enemy’s whereabouts and weapons systems status using state-of-the-art hardware and software.
The Carrier Air Traffic Control Center is where controllers sit at radar displays and guide airplanes safely back to the ship just like controllers do for airliners at civilian airports.
9. Hangar bay
The hangar bay is where airplanes are parked for major maintenance and where gear is staged, including ordnance. Things get from the hangar bay to the flight deck on one of the three huge elevators along the edge of the carrier.
10. Mess decks
Sailors have to eat, and a good carrier’s supply department takes pride in serving chow that’s nutritious and delicious. Mess decks have a variety of offerings to suit the tastes of entire crew, everything from corndogs to surf and turf.
Carriers have impressive medical resources, including surgical and dental facilities. (Need a vasectomy? The ship’s surgeon has got you covered.)
12. Reactor spaces
The Nimitz Class carrier’s two reactors are what puts the nuke in nuclear power. This amazing energy source allows the carrier to sail for up to 25 years before refueling.
At the end of World War II, Germany was divided in half, leaving West and East Germany. The West was controlled by NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations controlled the East. The former capital of Berlin was torn in two, split between communists and capitalists.
As you might expect, life under a communist regime is hell and people were looking for a way out. After the Berlin Wall and Inner German border (IGB) were created and heavily guarded, only an estimated 5,000 escapees managed to sneak out and into the freedoms of Western civilization throughout the 28 years of the Wall’s existence.
In the early days of the Cold War, defecting wasn’t that difficult. It was estimated that, before the Berlin Wall and the IGB were erected, nearly 3.5 million East Germans defected to West Germany. Legal loopholes, a lack of physical borders, and little effort to keep East Germans meant that all it took to get away was to hop a train.
All of this changed on August 13th, 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up. By August 24th, the order was given to kill anyone attempting to leave East Germany.
2. Wearing uniforms
One of the most iconic images of the Cold War was captured when an East German Soldier, Conrad Schumann, leaped over concertina wire on August 15th, 1961 as the Wall was being created.
Speaking of black markets, special passports that allowed access past guards were also forged. There were certain citizens that were authorized to cross the border, legally, for various reasons. While actual passport holders were required to come back by nightfall, escapees with a fake passport and little interest in returning to a Soviet sh*thole said, “scheiß drauf” and never returned.
Many options for avoiding the Berlin Wall, such as passage through the Spree or Havel Rivers, were downright dangerous. While the guards would detain or shoot as you tried to sneak across the Wall, you ran the risk of drowning if you opted for a river crossing. In fact, many people drowned in escape attempts, but that wasn’t as dangerous as this option.
There were many tall buildings located near the Wall. Escapees would climb up to the highest floor needed and, boldly, jump. Many survived, some were wounded, but others weren’t as lucky.
As the years went on, the Wall grew, making this passage impossible.
The largest mass escape from East Berlin was when 57 people made their way through a tunnel, aptly named afterwords, “Tunnel 57.”
The tunnel systems were elaborate and ran deeply underground to prevent detection.
6. Hiding in trunks
The final illegal journey from East Germany to the West was done by an American man who smuggled a father and his little girl in his vehicle just days before the Wall fell.
Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.
“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.
The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.
According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.