Vietnam-era Marine and Hue City veteran John Ligato once remarked that the most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is the 19-year-old pissed off Marine. In the case of John J. Kelly, he couldn’t be more right.
Kelly joined the Marines in May 1917, just one month after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany. The Chicago native was soon in France with 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2d Division. That’s where he would earn the Army and Navy versions of the Medal of Honor — at the same time.
In October 1918, Kelly was in Blanc Mont Ridge in France, which the Germans occupied since 1915. The French were joined by two divisions of the U.S. Army and Major General John Lejeune’s 2d Division of Marines — including Pvt. John Kelly.
At the start of the near-monthlong battle, Kelly ran through no-man’s land, 100 yards ahead of an allied artillery barrage — straight toward a machine gun nest.
He chucked a grenade into the nest, killing one of the Germans. Then he took out the other using his sidearm.
The American advance at St. Etienne turned the tide of the Battle of Blanc Mont against the Germans. By Oct. 28, the area they occupied since the very start of the World War was now firmly in Allied hands.
Kelly was awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor by General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, in 1919. With the war over, Kelly left the military and returned to civilian life.
He returned to his native Illinois, where he died in 1957.
So, the American warfighter is one of the most technologically advantaged warriors in history.
But we could still make it better, right? No one wants a fair fight in war, and nature is full of animal superpowers that would give the U.S. a greater advantage.
Here are four that might be on the way:
1. Snow fox rangefinder
Snow foxes have achieved internet fame recently for their “built-in compass” that makes them more successful in hunting mice under the snow or dirt when they strike at a small range of compass directions to the northeast of their position.
But it’s not exactly a built-in compass, it’s more of a range finder. This Discovery Blog article does a good job of explaining it, but the snow fox can basically sense disturbances at a fixed distance from them along a fixed direction. This allows them to much more accurately sense the exact range of the mouse from their position and attack with precision.
As for targeting enemy forces that aren’t actively engaging them, soldiers still have to spot the enemy and either guess, hit them with a laser rangefinder, or compare the enemy positions to their position on a map and do the math. No magic hunting powers are on the table yet.
There are still software limits, though. Someone will have to teach the mechanical noses what elements are present one, two, or eight days after an enemy infantry patrol passes a given point or a fuel point has been disbanded.
The short answer is maybe. Troops currently can see infrared energy through bulky optics, but there’s a possibility for contact lenses that sense infrared radiation. Because it’s tied to ultraviolet detection, it’s explained at the end of entry 4, below.
4. Jumping spider and bat eyes that see four primary colors
Yes. Four of them. We are told that the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. But that’s not exactly true. Red, yellow, and blue correspond with specific wavelengths of light that stimulate humans’ three kinds of color receptors. Human corneas filter out light in another, otherwise visible band, ultraviolet. Some bats and spiders can see this band.
Soldiers who can see UV light would have much better night vision with none of the “tunneling” of most NV goggles. They would also be able to see insects better, helping troops avoid them, and fingerprints, helping with site exploitation.
Is it coming?
Maybe. The major technology breakthroughs have already come thanks to graphene, which can be used to make “ultra-broadband” photoreceptors. Basically, sensors that can detect infrared energy, visible light, and UV rays and combine them into one final image.
Best of all, graphene is thin enough that the possibility exists to make these receptors into contact lenses. But no one has currently commissioned graphene contact lenses for the troops. Still, fingers crossed.
The firm believes the Russian Federation will not survive the decade in its present form, after a combination of international sanctions, plunging oil prices, and a suffering ruble trigger a political and social crisis. Russia will then devolve into an archipelago of often-impoverished and confrontational local governments under the Kremlin’s very loose control.
“We expect Moscow’s authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia” the report states, adding, “It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form.”
Russia is the world’s largest country and its 8,000 weapons are fairly spread out over its 6.6 million square miles. According to a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists study, Russia has 40 nuclear sites, which is twice as many as the US uses to house a comparable number of warheads. This policy of dispersal makes it difficult for an enemy to disable the Russian nuclear arsenal in a single attack, but it also makes the Russian stockpile difficult to control.
The Bulletin report also found that the Russia was uncertain exactly how many short-range “tactical” or city-busting “strategic” nukes it has, nor what the weapons’ state of assembly or alert status may be.
Stratfor fears that the dissolution of the Russian Federation could cause an unprecedented nuclear security crisis. Not only could the command-and-control mechanisms for Russia’s massive and highly opaque nuclear arsenal completely break down. Moscow might lose its physical control over weapons and launch platforms as well.
“Russia is the site of a massive nuclear strike force distributed throughout the hinterlands,” the Decade Forecast explains. “The decline of Moscow’s power will open the question of who controls those missiles and how their non-use can be guaranteed.”
In Stratfor’s view the US is the only global actor that can formulate a response to this problem, and ever that might not be enough to prevent launch platforms and weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
“Washington … will not be able to seize control of the vast numbers of sites militarily and guarantee that no missile is fired in the process,” the Forecast predicts. “The United States will either have to invent a military solution that is difficult to conceive of now, accept the threat of rogue launches, or try to create a stable and economically viable government in the regions involved to neutralize the missiles over time.”
The forecast doesn’t go into detail about what kind of “military solution” might be appropriate. US Special Forces could conceivably transport fissile material out of the country or temporarily secure the most vulnerable sites, but those materials would have to be evacuated to another country, something that would undoubtedly raise tensions with whatever authority still rules in Moscow. In fact, the surviving Russian government would probably consider any US or allied military action to be an act of aggression.
Regardless of the extent of the collapse, Stratfor predicts a major security vacuum in Russia in the next decade.
Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.
(U.S. Army Military History Institute)
World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.
“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.
(United States Army Air Forces)
The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.
(U.K. National Archives)
This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:
We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.
(U.K. National Archives)
England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.
The first African-American to earn aviator wings in the Marine Corps and the first one to receive a brigadier general star in the Corps has been honored as the namesake of the Navy’s upcoming DDG 121, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. joined the Navy in 1950 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1952. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1988. Before his retirement, he was the senior-most aviator in the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.
During his time in Korea and Vietnam, Petersen flew over 350 combat missions. He flew more than 4,000 hours during his career and was shot down over Vietnam in 1968. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”
Ohio native John Clem might have been small in stature, but he was big of heart. After running away from home following the death of his mother in 1861, he tried and tried again to join the Union Army as a drummer boy. He was rejected because he was only nine years old — and looked like it.
Persistence eventually paid off, though. Even after the 22nd Michigan Infantry rejected the boy, he followed the unit wherever it went, and they eventually accepted him. The officers of the infantry unit all chipped in to pay him his regular salary until he was old enough to officially enlist.
Although there are claims he fought at the Battle of Shiloh, Johnny Clem’s first documented battle of the Civil War placed him at the epic Battle of Chickamauga in Walker County, Georgia. This would make him a veteran at just 12 years old. Contemporaries say he used a musket that was trimmed down to a size he could effectively use on the battlefield – and use he did.
Chickamauga did not go well for the Union Army. The battle saw the second-highest number of casualties inflicted of the whole war, second only to the Battle of Gettysburg. As the Union forces retreated, Clem was confronted by a Confederate colonel who demanded his surrender. Instead, the young Clem shot the enemy officer.
After the fighting, Clem was promoted to sergeant, becoming the youngest non-commissioned officer to ever serve in the U.S. Army. Clem was captured by a Confederate patrol later that year. The men confiscated his Union uniform and used him as propaganda, claiming the Union was so hard-pressed for men that they had to put uniforms on children.
Sgt. Clem was exchanged in 1863, in time to see more action with the Army of the Cumberland. He would be discharged in 1864, after being wounded in combat on two occasions. After the war, he finished high school and rejoined the Army. He attempted but failed to get into West Point but his service caught the attention of then-President Ulysses S. Grant, who gave Clem, now an adult, a commission in 1874.
2nd Lt. Clem initially went to the Army Artillery School but transferred to the Quartermaster Corps, where he spent the rest of his Army career. He was routinely promoted and was still in the service when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. He deployed to Puerto Rico to serve as quartermaster in occupied San Juan.
By 1906, he was Col. John Clem, serving as chief quartermaster at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. At age 64 in 1915, he was finally forced to retire. At this time it was custom for Civil War veterans who reached the rank of colonel to be promoted to brigadier general, so John Clem, the 9-year-old boy who forced the Union Army to take him as a drummer boy during the Civil War, retired as Brig. Gen. Clem.
He was the last Civil War veteran to retire from Army service. In recognition of that fact, he was promoted once more in 1916 to major general. He lived to see the United States join World War I but not World War II. He died in 1937 at age 85.
On Jan. 23, 1943, an Italian POW named Felice Benuzzi, who was being held by the British in Africa, escaped.
But for a very peculiar reason.
Once free of the wire, Benuzzi and two other prisoners who escaped with him spent the next two weeks working their way up the south side of the nearby 17,000-foot Mt. Kenya, their only map a sketch of the mountain they found on a can of Oxo corned beef.
Then they returned to the POW camp.
A member of the Italian Colonial Service, Benuzzi was taken prisoner when the British liberated Ethiopia in 1941 and was imprisoned beneath Mt. Kenya in Camp 354, a camp for civilian POWs. There he encountered the mountain, the first 17,000-foot peak he had ever seen. In his 1952 book about the camp and the mountain, No Picnic on Mt. Kenya, Benuzzi said he “fell in love” with the mountain the first time he saw it.
Not so the camp.
He quickly became bored with the routine and the inactivity of Camp 354, a huge camp that could accommodate up to 10,000 prisoners.
“The sole activity for this host of people was to wander round the camp… They just walk and stop when they see other people talking. Then they stay for a while and join in the conversation,” Benuzzi wrote.
He quickly decided he had to take some action — do something to stay sane. He had been a mountaineer in the Alps before the war, and he decided the something he would do was climb Mt. Kenya.
He recruited another prisoner, Giuàn Balleto, a doctor and (like Benuzzi) a mountaineer before the war, and the two men set about making, buying, and stealing the equipment and food they would need to tackle the mountain.
They hoarded what they could from their rations and stopped smoking so they could use the cigarettes to buy supplies and food from other prisoners. They made crampons from steel taken from a scrapped automobile and an oven cover, ice-axes from hammers, and ax-handles that doubled as tent poles.
At the last minute, they recruited a third man, Enzo Barsotti, a non-mountaineer who would help with the escape and climb, but would not be in on the attempt at the summit.
“The only reason we decided to [recruit] him,” Benuzzi wrote, “was because he was universally thought to be mad as a hatter, and mad people were what we needed.”
When they were finally ready, they simply walked out of the camp through a gate that opened into the camp gardens using a key they had stolen and copied, accompanied by another prisoner disguised as a British officer. The three men holed up in a shed near the gardens until dark, dug up the supplies and equipment they had hidden there earlier, and began working their way up the mountain.
They had also left a note for the camp commander explaining what they were doing and promising to return.
They spent a week climbing to about 14,000 feet where they established a base camp and where Barsotti, who was by then suffering from altitude sickness, remained while the other two men headed to the summit.
But as Benuzzi and Balleto continued on, a storm blew in and the limitations of their homemade equipment became obvious. They made it to over 16,000 feet but could go no farther. There, they left an Italian flag they made for the purpose and a piece of paper with heir names sealed in an empty brandy bottle.
They then headed back to the base camp and – after a brief rest – began their descent, finally slipping back into Camp 354 as part of a work party.
When they were discovered, they were each sentenced to twenty-eight days solitary confinement, but were released after seven days, Benuzzi wrote, because the camp’s commander “appreciated our sporting effort.”
After the war, Benuzzi continued in the Italian diplomatic service at several postings, including to the United Nations in New York and as ambassador to Uruguay. He died in Rome in 1988.
No Picnic on Mount Kenya is considered a mountaineering classic.
The United States was the “Arsenal of Democracy” in World War II, but even this arsenal had to get a little help from allies. The British, in fact, loaned us some of their planes during that conflict. Here are four planes we borrowed from the Brits.
1. Supermarine Spitfire
Yes, even though the United States had the P-40, P-38, P-47, P-51, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, and the F4U Corsair, they had to acquire the plane that won the Battle of Britain.
The American Spitfires mostly saw service in North Africa and Italy, according to SpitfireSite.com, until they were replaced by P-51s. United States Army Air Force Spitfires scored almost 350 kills during World War II.
The Spitfire is also notable for being the plane that got Jimmy Doolittle chewed out by Eisenhower.
2. Airspeed Horsa
Okay, this is technically a glider. Still, the United States needed a glider to bring in heavy gear for units like the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The Airspeed Horsa fit the bill with its ability to carry a lot of troops and gear, and the United States got 301 of the planes for D-Day, according to the book World War II Glider Assault Tactics.
3. Bristol Beaufighter
This was a multi-role heavy fighter, which packed a huge punch (four 20mm cannon, six .303-caliber machine guns). According to Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, the United States operated four squadrons of Beaufighters in the night-fighter role. These squadrons operated in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, eventually switching to the P-61 Black Widow.
4. De Havilland Mosquito
This plane was very versatile, used for photo reconnaissance, as a night-fighter, as a heavy fighter, and even as a light bomber. The Army Air Force used a number of these planes in all of those roles during World War II, but historynet.com noted that most of them were crashed because this airborne hot rod was difficult to fly.
America may have missed out — the Mosquito is considered a legend.
Even today, America’s importing warplanes: The A-29 Super Tucano is a Brazilian design, while the AV-8 Harrier was British.
Timothy McVeigh was a reserved, withdrawn teenager who was named “Most Promising Computer Programmer” among his high school classmates after he hacked into a government system using his Commodore 64. After dropping out of junior college he joined the U.S. Army and wound up in the infantry. While at Fort Benning he started reading up on sniper tactics, firearms, and explosives.
He was reprimanded by the military for purchasing a “White Power” T-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan protest against black servicemen who wore “Black Power” T-shirts around the army base.
McVeigh was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a vehicle crewman in the Desert Storm. He was a top-scoring Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunner while attached to the 1st Infantry Division.
As documented in his authorized biography, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh the Tragedy at Oklahoma City, he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and was happy about it. He said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army.
McVeigh wanted to transfer to United States Army Special Forces (SF) after the war, but he dropped out after he couldn’t keep up with the physical rigors of the program. Shortly after that, McVeigh decided to leave the Army. He was honorably discharged on December 31, 1991.
He wandered around working menial jobs after he transitioned out of the military, growing increasingly reactionary in his views. He left the Buffalo area because it was “too liberal” and set out looking for his former Army buddies. Along the way he wrote letters to newspaper editors that revealed his political views:
Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises,” they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. Is a Civil War imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.
McVeigh also wrote to Representative John J. LaFalce (D-NY) complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:
It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can’t even carry Mace in her purse?
While visiting friends in Michigan, McVeigh complained that the Army had implanted a microchip into one of his butt cheeks so that the government could keep track of him.
McVeigh worked long hours in a dead-end jobs. He couldn’t get any girls to go out with him. He started gambling obsessively. Unable to pay back gambling debts, he took a cash advance and then defaulted on his repayments. He was enraged when the government told him that he had been overpaid $1,058 while in the Army and he had to pay back the money. He wrote another angry letter to the government:
Go ahead, take everything I own; take my dignity. Feel good as you grow fat and rich at my expense; sucking my tax dollars and property.
He rented an apartment that had no telephone, which had the advantage of making it impossible for his employer to contact him for overtime assignments. He also quit the NRA, viewing its stance on gun rights as too weak.
In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas during the Waco Siege to show his support. At the scene, he distributed pro-gun rights literature and bumper stickers that read, “When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw.”
McVeigh also told a reporter that “the government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. . . . and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.”
He became a fixture on the gun show circuit and worked his way west until he got to Arizona. There he met Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols, two men who shared his radical views about the government. After growing weary of Fortier’s drug use, McVeigh and Nichols headed for Nichols’ farm in Michigan. While there they watched TV coverage of the Waco siege and both became enraged by the government’s heavy-handed attack on the compound there. They decided it was time for action.
McVeigh defined his struggle in a letter to a boyhood friend:
Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly. It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will. And I will because not only did I swear to, but I believe in what it stands for in every bit of my heart, soul and being. I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.
Working at a lakeside campground near McVeigh’s old Army post, he and Nichols constructed an ANNM explosive device mounted in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.
On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices opened for the day. Before arriving, he stopped to light a two-minute fuse. At 09:02, a large explosion destroyed the north half of the building. It killed 168 people, including nineteen children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.
On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on eleven federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. Among his statements while on Death Row was this:
If there is a hell, then I’ll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war.
He was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal prisoner to be executed by the United States federal government since 1963.
The US Central Intelligence Agency has a long history of involvement in political assassinations as real-life James Bonds. Most incidences came out during the old war when the Soviet Union battled with the US for control across the globe. Undercover CIA operations are, by their nature, difficult to unravel. Research into the agency’s work coupled with revelations from former employees has, however, exposed revelations where the agency tried to control several events.
A 19-page manual declassified in 1997 offers a chilling window into how the essential point of assassination is the death of a subject. It highlights that while it is possible to kill a man with bare hands, the simplest locally available tools are often the efficacious means of assassination. The script further goes on to recommend the most efficient accidents, blunt weapons, along with their pros and cons.
During the Cold War, the CIA plotted to assassinate eight global presidents, five of whom have died so far. Here’s a look at how the agency varied its role in cases in which poison was used.
The Poison Pen
Fueled by America’s rivalry with Cuba for over five decades, the CIA attempted to kill then-President Fidel Castro with a poisoned pen. While President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, documents by the National Archives steadily illuminate how Mr. Castro survived the geopolitics war.
Reports on plots to assassinate the Cuban President had become a recurring obsession for the American President. A 1967 document emphasized the extent to which the responsible agency officials almost succumbed to Kennedy’s pressure to do something about Castro and his regime.
Among the attempts described are an attempt to have the Cuban President ingest poison pills, which were given to members working on behalf of the CIA. The agency also tried to gift Mr. Castro a poisoned skin-diving suit and set up a spectacular seashell that would explode upon lifting.
The CIA got reports of a communist technique involving drugs that would allow them to control human minds. In retaliation, the CIA commenced its secret mind control program code-named the MK-ULTRA.
Sydney Gottlieb, a chemist and poisoner in chief who operated the program from the 1950s through the 60s, sustained the most comprehensive search in history for mind control. While universities and research centers funded some operations, Gottlieb conducted most experiments at American detention centers in Japan, the Philippines, and Germany – American-controlled territories at that time; hence, there was no need to worry about legal implications.
In his trials to establish a way to seize control of people’s minds, Gottlieb found a way to blast through the existing mind then insert a “new mind” into the resulting gap. Much of his work on the first was successful, but he didn’t make much progress on the second.
Essentially, the MK-ULTRA mind control program enhanced work that had begun in Nazi and Japanese concentration camps. Reports unravel how the CIA hired torturers working in the camps to document what they found and later build on the mind-control research program.
On the more extreme trials conducted by Gottlieb in American-controlled territories at that time, the CIA was capturing enemy agents or persons otherwise termed “expendables” and expose them to all sorts of drug poison experiments, electroshock, extremes of temperature, and isolation. All these were geared to find how to break the resistance of the human ego while demanding answers from their hard questions.
Worse still, Gottlieb was allowed unsupervised access to human subjects and subjected them to all sorts of torture he wanted – even to the extent of it being fatal. Although Gottlieb was in many ways a ‘humane’ person, he indeed turned out to be the most proficient torturer of his time.
In 2016, Israeli intelligence officers pulled off one of the most daring but greatest achievements in its history. Mossad discovered the location of where Iran kept its most secret documents related to its nuclear program. It was all kept in a warehouse in Tehran’s Shorabad District.
Then, in a single night, Israeli officers managed to enter the warehouse, steal a half-ton of top secret documents, and smuggle them all back to Israel. For two years the entire operation was kept secret from the world.
Until Israel wanted to show the world that Iran had been planning to build a nuclear weapon the entire time. The revelation may have been the catalyst for President Donald Trump’s subsequent pullout of the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal.
In February 2016, operatives from Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) were working in Tehran when they discovered the warehouse holding Iran’s most stunning nuclear secrets. The Mossad officers said the building looked like a “dilapidated warehouse” in a run-down neighborhood in Iran’s capital city.
They were able to break into the building, steal the documents, and escape back to Israel in one night. It took the Israelis more than a year to analyze the information, as most of it was written in Farsi. The trove of stolen documents consisted of 55,000 pages and another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.
Once analyzed, Israel shared the intelligence bonanza with the United States. Yossi Cohen, then head of Israeli intelligence, briefed President Trump. Cohen retired from his position in June 2021 and provided some insight into Israel’s effort to fight the Iranian nuclear program with Israeli television.
Cohen first joined Mossad after graduating from college in 1982. In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Cohen to the top spot at the agency. He told an Israeli television network that the intelligence raid in Tehran took two years to plan, during which the facility was under constant surveillance.
Around 20 Mossad agents, of which none were Israeli citizens, were involved in the planning and execution of the raid and subsequent theft. When the raid finally went off in January 2016, Cohen and Mossad’s leadership watched the raid on TV from Tel Aviv.
The agents had to break into the warehouse, then crack 30 or more safes. Everyone survived the raid, although some had to be exfiltrated from Iran in the days and weeks following the break-in.
According to the BBC, the level of detail the ex-Mossad chief divulges to local media is remarkable. No other intelligence head has ever explained so much about a secret operation in so much detail.
Cohen said the agency was filled with excitement as they all watched the agents remove a half-ton of classified Iranian documents from the warehouse. Since Israel has discussed the information operation publicly, it’s unlikely to do much harm to ongoing Israeli intelligence operations.
Later in the interview, Cohen touches on other Mossad operations in the ongoing shadow war between Israel and the Iranian Islamic Republic, including sabotaging the Natanz Nuclear Facility, where Iran is working to enrich much of its uranium.
The Mossad head told a journalist that he would be able to show her around the Natanz facility and acknowledged that many top Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated – without admitting to any involvement.
“If the man constitutes a capability that endangers the citizens of Israel, he must stop existing,” Cohen said. He added that someone could be spared “if he is prepared to change profession and not harm us any longer.”