Sinking an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be quite a feat for any vessel or aggressor. Not only because they each carry an air force greater than the air forces of most countries, and pack a punch with more power than anything most countries could ever hope to bring to bear, but also because they’re really, really hard to sink. American carriers are the biggest warships ever built and move fast enough to outrun submarines.
But that didn’t stop one Soviet sub from trying.
In March 1984, the USS Kitty Hawk was part of Team Spirit 1984, a massive naval exercise in the Sea of Japan, along with the navy of South Korea. The carrier’s 80 aircraft and eight escorts were so engaged in the exercise that they didn’t detect a Soviet Submarine chase the Kitty Hawk into the area. The submarine, K-314, was noticed by the carrier much later than it should have been. The Kitty Hawk turned on its engines to outrun and outmaneuver the Soviets.
It was the height of the Cold War, and both ships were carrying an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Games like this could have ended with a spark that ignited World War III. Instead, it ended in one of the most unforgettable naval engagements of the entire Cold War.
The 5,200-ton Soviet Victor I-class attack submarine chased the American carrier for a week or so until the Yellow Sea began experiencing some pretty foul weather. K-314 would eventually lose sight and all contact with the Kitty Hawk and the other American ships. The skipper of the sub, Captain Vladimir Evseenko, decided to rise up to periscope depth and assess the situation from 10 meters below the surface. What he saw surprised him – the American carrier strike group was only four or five kilometers from his boat.
And the submarine and the Kitty Hawk were approaching one another very, very fast. At those speeds, it would be very difficult for any two ships to avoid a collision. Capt. Evseenko ordered an emergency dive as fast as he could, but it was all for naught. The 80,000-ton Kitty Hawk hit the sub at full speed.
“The first thought was that the conning tower had been destroyed and the submarine’s body was cut to pieces,” recalled Evseenko. “We checked the periscope and antennas – they were in order. No leaks were reported, and the mechanisms were ok. Then suddenly another strike! In the starboard side! We checked again – everything was in order…. We were trying to figure out what happened. It became clear that an aircraft carrier had rammed us. The second strike hit the propeller. The first one, most likely, bent the stabilator.”
“I was on the bridge at the time of the incident, monitoring one of the two radars,” Capt. David N. Rogers told reporters aboard the carrier. “We felt a sudden shudder, a fairly violent shudder. We immediately launched two helicopters to see if we could render any assistance to them but the Soviet sub appeared to have suffered no extensive damage.”
The carrier ran over the submarine’s stern, a point in the Victor I-class where the submarine’s sonar is blind due to the sounds of its own engines. The submarine, it turns out, failed to turn on its navigation lights. The Kitty Hawk suffered no damage when running over the sub. The Soviet Union had no response.
Navy officials were quick to point out that in a wartime setting, a Soviet submarine would never have gotten so close to a carrier strike group. In peacetime, losing a Soviet submarine’s location was fairly common. Ramming an adversary, during war or peace, has never been all that common.
But Hitler’s gamble wasn’t entirely crazy. He had real reason to believe that an invasion of Russia could succeed, giving the Third Reich all of the Soviets’ great treasure. To win the war, the Allied Powers had to make sure that Russia didn’t fall.
This meant that the Soviet Union would have to be supplied with massive amounts of planes, tanks, oil, barbed wire, soap, and a thousand other necessities. The British concentrated their outbound logistics on two major routes, the Meditteranean which allowed supplies to reach Malta and the Arctic route which gave access to the U.S.S.R.
German Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe forces maintained bases on the northern edges of Norway, allowing them to conduct constant patrols against Allies in the Arctic. Frequent storms caused ice to collect on ships, especially in the winter.
The summer brought its own danger as the Arctic Circle experiences periods where the sun doesn’t set. In some of the northernmost parts of Norway and Finland that the convoys had to pass, the sun doesn’t set for up to three months. During those portions of the year, the convoys were susceptible to being spotted and attacked during every hour of every day for the entirety of the approximately 10 to 15-day trip each direction.
That was hell. There is no other word I know for it. Everywhere you looked aloft you saw them, crossing and recrossing us, hammering down and back, the bombs brown, sleek in the air, screaming to burst furiously white in the sea. All around us, as so slowly we kept on going, the pure blue of the sea was mottled blackish with the greasy patches of their bomb discharges. Our ship was missed closely time and again. We drew our breaths in a kind of gasping-choke.
Carse and the convoy beat off multiple Messerschmitt attacks until one was able to drop a bomb that headed directly for the TNT-loaded ship. Miraculously, a last-second wind gust blew the bomb off to the side of the ship. The resulting concussion damaged the ship but failed to detonate the explosives the ship was carrying. Carse and the convoy continued along their route.
“Russia is indebted to the brave Scottish men who risked their lives in dangerous conditions to deliver vital aid and equipment to the eastern front,” he said. “It was a journey against all odds. Many have never returned. Their sacrifice and heroism comprise a proud chapter in our shared history.”
Author’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the United Kingdom maintained two sea supply routes into Russia, the Meditteranean and the Arctic. In fact, the Mediterranean route did not give access to Russia, but to Malta.
“Let’s talk about peeing in space.” — Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo-Award Winning Author
During the space race of the Cold War, NASA scientists were so excited to get a man into space, they failed to come up with elegant means for him to relieve himself. As a result, the first American in space, Alan Shepard, was forced to pee in his spacesuit.
At that point in time, NASA wasn’t even considering female astronauts. In fact, women weren’t admitted into the astronaut program until the late 1970s — and it wasn’t until 1983 that Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. “By this point,” observed Robinette Kowal, “the space program was built around male bodies.”
This exclusion wouldn’t be comical except for the fact that male astronauts literally lied about their penis sizes, causing failures in early pee-sheath engineering.
That’s right, our early heroes of space exploration refused to use “small” condoms and would instead pee all over themselves. I don’t blame men for this. I honestly blame toxic masculinity, penis shaming, and lazy men who refuse to learn how to give sexual pleasure to their female partners — but I digress.
The urine-condom technology developed enough to allow for a vacuum to suction the pee out into space, which apparently not only takes some timing skillz but looks pretty cool. The urine will boil violently, then the vapor passes immediately into the solid state and becomes a cloud of very fine crystals of frozen urine that might even catch the light of the sun…
NASA continued to try to contain men’s pee with condoms and bags. After the accident aboard Apollo 13, the astronauts couldn’t use the regular urine vent but the alternate system caused droplets to float around the ship. Mission Control told the crew to stop dumping pee. According to Robinette Kowal, “it wasn’t meant to be a permanent ban, but the crew didn’t understand that. So they were stashing pee in every bag or container possible.”
The fastest option was to store it in the collection bags they wore in their suits. Poor Fred Haise kept his suit on for hours and got a urinary tract infection and a kidney infection.
Male astronauts switched over to the Maximum Absorbency Garment as well because it was more comfortable and less prone to resulting in pee floating around the cabin. This is a great example of how diversity encourages innovation, folks.
Robinette Kowal’s Twitter thread doesn’t stop there. She goes on to cover modern malfunctions, farting in space, the effect of gravity on urination urges, official and unofficial erections in space, and menstrual periods.
(Apparently NASA engineers tied Sally Ride’s tampons together like a bandolier? Guys, if you have period questions, just ask women.)
Today, the International Space System efficiently collects urine and recycles 80-85% of it to astronaut drinking water. Peggy Whitson, an astronaut who hit her “radiation limit” after logging 665 days in space (an American record), suggests that engineers will find a way to create a closed-loop system and recycle all of their water.
So see some International Space Station innovation in action, check out this video of Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti demonstrating their toilet.
On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched a counteroffensive against the Allied powers. The sneak attack began with a massive assault of over 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, aimed to divide and conquer the Allied forces. Some English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms to slip past the defenses.
After just one day of fighting, the Germans managed to isolate the American 101st Airborne Division and capture a series of key bridges and communication lines. Over the next two days, Patton’s Third Army would batter through miles of German tanks and infantry to reach the trapped paratroopers.
The fighting continued through the beginning of Jan. 1945 when Hitler finally agreed with his generals to pull back the German forces.
Here are 18 photos from the historic battle that show what life was like in the winter Hell.
1. American and German troops battled viciously for Belgian villages that were destroyed by artillery, tank fire, and bombs.
2. The battle was fought across a massive front featuring forests, towns, and large plains.
3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.
4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.
5. Troops who weren’t so lucky stood out in stark contrast to the white ground during the Battle of the Bulge.
6. Troops were often separated from their units due to the chaotic nature of the battle. They would usually find their way back on foot.
7. Each side lost about 1,000 tanks in the battle and the burned out wrecks littered the countryside.
8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.
9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.
10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.
11. The soldiers could also fall prey to the elements. The extreme cold and sometimes rugged terrain posed challenges for the defenders.
12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.
13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.
14. Until the Third Army was able to open a land corridor through the siege of Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers relied on air drops for resupply.
15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.
16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.
17. As more Allied troops were sent to reclaim the lost territory in Jan. 1945, they were forced to pass the remains of those already killed.
18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.
Let’s face it, seagulls are pretty damn annoying in the best of times. Now, we have an even better reason to dislike “sky rats.”
On May 18, 2016, a B-52H Stratofortress with the 5th Bomb Wing was forced to abort its takeoff run. According to a report by NBCNews.com, the plane later burst into flames and was a total loss. The reason behind the destroyed plane was finally incovered by an Air Force investigation.
According to the investigation report, seagulls killed a BUFF – and it’s not the first time the military’s lost a plane to birds.
The accident report released by Global Strike Command noted that the crew observed the birds during their takeoff run, and the co-pilot felt some thumps — apparent bird strikes. Then, “the [mishap pilot] and [mishap co-pilot] observed engine indications for numbers 5, 6, and 7 ‘quickly spooling back’ from the required takeoff setting. The MP also observed high oil pressure indications on the number 8 engine and a noticeable left-to-right yawing motion. Accelerating through approximately 142 knots, the [mishap pilot] simultaneously announced and initiated aborted takeoff emergency procedures.”
The crew then tried to deploy a drag chute. The chute – and the plane’s brakes – both failed, though, and that caused the B-52 to go off the runway. The crew carried out emergency shutdown procedures and then got out of the plane. One suffered minor injuries, but the other six on board were not injured.
Bird strikes on takeoff have happened before. One of the most notorious bird strike incidents took place in September 1995 when a Boeing E-3B Sentry was hit by two Canada geese on takeoff from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. The plane crashed after briefly going airborne, killing all 24 personnel on board.
Another one took place in 2012, when Air Force Two absorbed a bird strike, according to a report by the London Daily Mail.
During World War II, Hitler personally ordered the construction of massive, steel-plated towers that bristled with anti-aircraft guns, tearing planes from the sky like King Kong on angel dust. For modern Germans, these nearly indestructible towers provide a unique problem: They don’t want to waste well-engineered buildings and materials, but they’re not super into maintaining relics of Nazi triumph.
So the Germans have found interesting ways to re-purpose the old fortresses.
A German flak tower under construction in 1942 as part of Germany’s defenses against Allied bombing raids. Some of the expensive towers have been re-purposed in the decades since the end of the war.
(German Military Archives)
The strategy of constructing the towers was questionable to begin with. It required massive amounts of concrete and steel for the walls that, in some cases, are over two feet thick. Construction in Berlin was completed in six months and additional towers were built in Vienna and Hamburg before Germany was defeated. Construction took so much material that rail shipments had to be rearranged around them, slowing the flow of needed materiel and troops to battlefields and factories.
Just the Zoo Tower in Berlin required 78,000 tons of gravel, 35,000 tons of cement, and 9,200 tons of steel. The towers were built in pairs. For each primary tower devoted to anti-aircraft operations there was a second tower that had some anti-aircraft weapons, but also sported communications and other support equipment.
But the towers, once completed, were nearly impregnable. They relied on no single support pillar, and nearly every structural support was so strong that they were almost impossible to destroy from outside. When Germany was conquered, Soviet forces who took Berlin had to lay siege out of range and negotiate a surrender of the towers.
But there was one major shortfall to the towers. They were designed to stop air raids on Berlin, and it was dangerous to attack the city within range of the towers. So, planes simply flew outside of their range or approached them en mass, fielding so many planes that the Germans simply couldn’t get all of them at once.
German soldiers man a flak gun on a tower in World War II. The massive towers were a significant obstruction to air raids on three German cities, but were part of a questionable military strategy.
(German Military Archives)
Plus, Germany lacked proximity fuses during the war, meaning their flak weapons were less effective than those used by the Allies — at least, when the Allies were willing to use the fuses and risk their capture.
After the towers finally surrendered, engineers worked to destroy them, but quickly found that massive amounts of explosives were needed and, even then, many would still stand. The Zoo Tower, mentioned above, survived two attempts at destruction. The first attempt used 25 tons of explosives and the building shrugged it off.
The third attempt, powered by 35 tons of dynamite, finally did the job.
Outside of Berlin, some of the towers survived destruction attempts while a few were simply left in place. Instead of destroying them, locals decided to re-purpose them over the years.
At first, Germans simply stripped the towers of valuable materials and left the steel-reinforced buildings in place. But, over the years, the brilliant German engineers found ways to make use of buildings with excellent thermal insulation and structural integrity.
A storehouse for art in Vienna, Germany.
(Photo by Bwag)
In Vienna, one of the six towers is now an aquarium maintained by the Aqua Terra Zoo. Visitors can see over 10,000 fish and other aquatic organisms in the tower. On the outside of the tower, visitors can use the climbing wall that has been added.
Another Vienna tower has been turned into an antenna for cellular phones, and one is used to store art in controlled conditions.
In Hamburg, two towers have been re-purposed. One holds nightclubs and businesses and the other provides energy storage for part of the city.
Solar collectors cover the tower and work with butane and wood burners to heat large water tanks inside the tower. The thick concrete walls provide insulation and the water is pumped to nearby buildings, heating them during the cold months. The tower is also used to generate electricity for 1,000 homes.
While most of the towers in Berlin were destroyed to one degree or another, in one case, the rubble was simply covered over with dirt, forming two hills in a public park for visitors to sit on.
Check out the YouTube video below from Real Engineering to learn more.
Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.
The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.
For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.
At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.
That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.
The P-51 is one of the only aircraft to shoot down an Arado Ar 234 in flight. It did so thanks to a group of P-47 Thunderbolts that forced the jet-powered bomber into a speed-bleeding turn. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant)
One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.
A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.
Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.
In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.
Taiwan is planning a series of new, large-scale combat drills to boost military readiness for the possibility of armed conflict with mainland China.
Taiwan’s military announced Jan. 9, 2019, that new drills are “being drafted based on newly adopted tactics for defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” according Maj. Gen. Yeh Kuo-hui, chief of the Ministry of National Defense’s Operations and Planning Division, the Associated Press reported, citing Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
2019’s exercises will include a month of combat readiness training in the first quarter, another month-long live-fire exercise in the second quarter, joint anti-landing operations in the third quarter, and joint anti-airborne maneuvers in the fourth and final quarter, Focus Taiwan reported.
China claims absolute, indisputable sovereignty over Taiwan, an autonomous democratic territory perceived in Beijing as a renegade province. “We make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to achieve reunification, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in a message to the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has an 3-million-member army and the world’s second largest defense budget. Taiwan lacks the numbers, but it does have a technologically capable fighting force, which the island hopes could repel a Chinese invasion.
Beijing has previously warned Taipei that efforts to bolster its military capabilities are pointless.
“I want to stress that it is a dead end to deny reunification by using force,” Wu Qian, spokesman for the Chinese defense ministry, stated in late December 2018, stating that the People’s Liberation Army will continue to conduct exercises and operations near Taiwan.
The Chinese military carried out 18,000 military drills in 2018 and China’s armed forces are expected to continue to ramp up training in response to perceived threats to Chinese national interests. Taiwan’s military is doing the same.
“We want to assure citizens that the military is constantly beefing up its combat preparedness and stands ready to fight for the survival of the Republic of China (Taiwan),” Taiwan’s military spokesman Chen Chung-chi said recently.
In 2019, for the first time ever, the Council on Foreign Relations listed Taiwan as a potential flashpoint on its annual Preventive Priorities Survey, although it was ranked as a Tier II concern beyond other possible conflict zones, like the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US aircraft carriers are a “tremendous expression of US national power,” and that makes them a target for adversarial powers, the US Navy’s top admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.
“The big thing that is occupying our minds right now is the advent of long-range precision weapons, whether those are land-based ballistic missiles, coastal-defense cruise missiles, you name it,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that the systems wielded by adversaries are “becoming more capable.”
Chinese media has recently been hyping its “carrier-killer” DF-26 ballistic missiles, which are reportedly able to hit targets as far as 3,500 miles away. China released footage of the Chinese military test-firing the missile in January 2019.
DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
The purpose is to send “a clear message to the US about China’s growing missile capability, and that it can hold at risk US strategic assets, such as carriers and bases,” Adam Ni, who researches China at Macquarie University in Sydney, recently told the South China Morning Post.
“There’s two sides, an offensive part and a defensive part,” Richardson said Feb. 6, 2019, stressing that the Navy’s carriers are adapting to the new threats. “The advent of some of new technologies, particularly directed energy technologies coupled with the emerging power generation capabilities on carriers, is going to make them a much, much more difficult target to hit.”
Speaking with the crew of the new supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford on Feb. 5, 2019, Richardson said, “You are going to be able to host a whole cadre of weapons that right now we can just start to dream about. We’re talking about electric weapons, high energy laser, high-powered microwave [and] very, very capable radars.”
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The expensive billion carrier is expected to be deployed in the next few years.
“Rather than expressing the carrier as uniquely vulnerable, I would say it is the most survivable airfield within the field of fire,” Richardson said Feb. 6, 2019, in response to questions about carrier vulnerability. “This is an airfield that can move 720 miles a day that has tremendous self-defense capabilities.”
“If you think about the sequence of events that has to emerge to be able to target and hit something that can move that much, and each step in that chain of events can be disrupted from the sensing part all the way back to the homing part, it’s the most survivable airfield in the area,” he said.
Richardson said the carrier is less vulnerable now than at any time since World War II, when the US Navy was putting carriers in action, and those carriers were in combat taking hits. “The carrier is going to be a viable force element for the foreseeable future.”
US carriers are particularly hard, albeit not impossible, to kill.
“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who served as an aircraft-carrier engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers, told Business Insider previously.
US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Battle of Stalingrad is widely considered the turning point for the Soviets on World War II’s Eastern Front, and maybe the entire war. From the rubble of Stalingrad came hundreds of small stories each more difficult to believe – yet, still true.
Another eerie, true story to come from the fighting there was the music the Red Army played as propaganda as the two sides fought over the now-infamous city.
In “Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943,” Antony Beevor describes how the NKVD, the Soviet secret police and forerunner to the KGB, set up loudspeakers throughout the city. For weeks, the Soviets played a tango they believed conveyed a sinister mood: “The Tango of Death”
Interspersed with the music was the sounds of a ticking clock and messages in German about how hopeless their position in the city really was or that a German soldier died every seven seconds.
These musical programs were also driven around on vans throughout the city streets. They began with quotes like “Stalingrad, mass grave of Hitler’s army!” then go into the music, clock, and demoralizing quotes. Often times, the ends would be punctuated by the firing of Katyusha rockets at Nazi positions.
The propaganda effect may not have worked the way it was supposed to, but the constant bombardment of audio sure did. The Nazis became increasingly exhausted in “Counting Sheep, the Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams,” Paul Martin quotes German soldiers at Stalingrad, who suffered from extreme exhaustion waiting for the Soviet broadcasts to end.
Doing the math, if a song is roughly four minutes, it will play 15 times in an hour, 360 times in a day, 2,520 times in a week – or 58,680 during the 163-day Battle of Stalingrad. Beevor also notes that the Red Army’s favorite song to play for the visiting Germans was “Zemlyanka” by Aleksey Surkov.
Just in case the Germans found “Tango de la Muerte” more than a little upbeat, that is.
Over the years, many researchers and scientists have scoured government documents at the National Archives in search of proof that life exists beyond Earth.
The National Archives and Records Administration is actually home to several collections of documents pertaining to unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or “flying disks.” And over the decades, those resources have been thoroughly probed and scrutinized for even a hint of more information and proof of alien existence.
One set of documents, known as Project Blue Book, includes retired, declassified records from the United States Air Force (USAF), currently in the custody of the National Archives. It relates to the USAF investigations of UFOs from 1947 to 1969.
According to a US Air Force Fact Sheet, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Project Blue Book during this time period. Of those, 701 remained “unidentified.” The project — once headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — officially ended in 1969.
The subject of UFOs has long fascinated National Archives staff members as well. In a July 15, 2017, National Archives The Text Message blog post, “See Something, Say Something”: UFO Reporting Requirements, Office of Military Government for Bavaria, Germany, May 1948 archivists Greg Bradsher and Sylvia Naylor share a brief history of Project Blue Book, the project’s alternative names over the course of its existence, and some information on the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, UFO incident.
All of Project Blue Book documentation is available on 94 rolls of microfilm (T1206) with the case files and the administrative records. These records are available for examination in the National Archives Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Motion picture film, sound recordings, and some still pictures are maintained by the Motion Picture Sound Video Branch and the Still Picture Branch. There is even a Project Blue Book webpage so researchers can access online more than 50,000 official U.S. Government documents relating to the UFO phenomenon.
Richard Peuser, chief of textual reference operations at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, said the agency has seen a steady amount of interest in files dealing with UFOs, responding to “a few hundred or so requests” over the years.
“Sometimes the same person would write multiple times hoping for a different answer,” Peuser continued. “Many felt that the records were too benign and that the Government [must be] ‘hiding’ the real stuff. Often there were allegations of coverup, of deliberately hiding or destroying the documents.”
Peuser said, “The National Archives still gets a fair amount of inquiries relating to UFO’s and folks have come in looking for other records in accessioned US Air Force records in particular. So, Roswell, Area 51, Majestic-12, Projects Mogul, Sign, Grudge, and Twinkle continue to fascinate and draw researchers to examine our holdings for aliens.”
The National Archives catalog yielded 37 catalog descriptions, organized under flying saucers, saucers, flying UFO phenomena, UFOlogy, or UFOs.
Over the years, as records have been processed and cataloged at the National Archives, other documents have come to light.
Just a few years ago, as archives technician Michael Rhodes was processing hundreds of boxes of Air Force records, he came across a drawing in the corner of a test flight report document that caught his eye.
The drawing — Rhodes said in the July 8, 2013 National Archives Pieces of History blog post, Flying Saucers, Popular Mechanics, and the National Archives — caught his attention because of its striking resemblance to the flying saucers in popular science fiction films made during that era. Researchers can look through the entire series in person or read the Project 1794 Final Development Summary Report of 1956 online.
The National Archives online catalog includes a series of records from the Federal Aviation Administration that document the sighting of a UFO by the crew of Japan Airlines Flight 1628 while in Alaskan airspace. National Archives records include simulated radar imagery and an article that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine on May 24, 1987, about the incident.
Records in this collection also include notes from interviews with the three crew members who spotted the UFO and are available in the online catalog. The records were discovered as part of the Alaskan digitization project, according to Marie Brindo-Vas, a metadata technician at the National Archives in Seattle, Washington.
Another interesting record from National Aeronautics and Space Administration files includes the Air-to-Ground transcripts from Gemini VII. Found in the National Archives online catalog, the records include the transcript of a conversation between Houston control and astronauts who “have a bogey at 10 o’clock high.” Bogey was often the term used to refer to UFOs. The conversation goes on to explain that the astronauts are seeing in a polar orbit “hundreds of little particles going by from the left out about 3 or 4 miles.”
The National Archives also has audiovisual records pertaining to UFOs such as the video of Maj. Gen. John A. Samford’s Statement on “Flying Saucers” from the Pentagon, Washington, DC, on July 31, 1952, in which the military leader discusses the Army’s investigation of flying disks. Another video issued by the Department of Defense highlights USAF Lt. Col. Lawrence J. Tacker and Maj. Hector Quintanilla, Jr., discussing Project Blue Book and the identification of UFOs.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum possesses a document relating to UFOs composed by Ford when he was House Minority Leader and Congressman from Michigan. The original document is located in Box D9, folder “Ford Press Releases – UFO, 1966” of the Ford Congressional Papers: Press Secretary and Speech File at the Ford Library.
In this memorandum, then-Congressman Ford proposed that “Congress investigate the rash of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects in Southern Michigan and other parts of the country.” An attached news release to that memorandum goes on to say “Ford is not satisfied with the Air Force explanation of the recent sightings in Michigan and describes the “swamp gas” version given by astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek as flippant.”
In October 1969, the then-Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, saw a UFO over the skies of Leary, Georgia. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library in Atlanta, Georgia, has the full report that he submitted into the International UFO Bureau.
As more documents are searched, processed, and declassified, what evidence might be found of alien and UFO existence at the National Archives? That remains to be seen, but based on past history, it’s clear that researchers and UFO enthusiasts will continue to dig for more information. The widespread fascination with the possibility of the existence of alien life forms and UFOs continues to arouse great passion and controversy all over Earth.
People say “chivalry is dead” like that’s a terrible thing.
In the popular imagination, chivalry seems to harken back to some mythical era when armored knights rode about the land going on quests, saving maidens, and fighting evildoers.
But chivalry is really a word “that came to denote the code and culture of a martial estate which regarded war as its hereditary profession,” Maurice Keen writes in “Chivalry.”
He argues that medieval chivalry had a major part in molding “noble values,” and, as a result, has had an impact felt long after troubadours and jousting tournaments fell out of fashion. The romantic notion of the daring, pure-hearted knight errant lingers on, even today.
It’s difficult to speak broadly about the medieval era in Europe, given that it encompasses several centuries and an entire continent. Generally speaking, however, in many cases, knights and medieval warriors served as a local lord’s private military. That meant that sometimes, regional conflicts set a group of armed toughs tearing through the countryside and doing whatever the heck they wanted.
Codes of chivalry didn’t take hold in vacuum. There was no uniform “code of chivalry,” and those codes that existed were often far more religious in nature than our modern concept of “hold the door for ladies.” They also cropped up in part to keep knights and warriors from acting on their worst impulses and attacking or extorting weaker individuals.
Starting in the late 900s and lasting till the thirteenth century, a movement known as the Peace and Truce of God rose in Europe. Basically, the Church imposed religious sanctions in order to halt the nobility from fighting among themselves at certain times and committing violence against local noncombatants. You can think of these as rules for knighthood.
One 1023 oath, suggested by Bishop Warin of Beauvais for King Robert the Pious and his knights, gives us a good sense of some of the unexpected rules warriors might be asked to adopt, in response to their often violent behavior.
It includes some rather unusual injunctions and “illustrates the kind of oath that parties were expected to swear after having been caught breaking the peace,” according to Daniel Lord Smail and Kelly Gibson, who edited the sourcebook “Vengeance in Medieval Europe.” A main idea behind the movement was to use spiritual sanctions to give people a break from all the conflict and fighting that plagued certain areas at some points during the Middle Ages.
With that in mind, here are some of Bishop Warin of Beauvais’ proposed rules for knights, which indicate some truly bad and largely unchivalrous behavior on the part of medieval warriors:
1. Don’t beat up random members of the clergy
Bishop Warin of Beauvais barred knights from assaulting unarmed clerics, monks, and their companions, “unless they are committing a crime or unless it is in recompense for a crime for which they would not make amends, fifteen days after my warning.”
Gunald of Bordeaux also condemned anyone who “attacks, seizes, or beats a priest, deacon, or any other clergyman who is not bearing arms — shield, sword, coat of mail, or helmet — but is going along peacefully or staying in the house,” according to Fordham University’s medieval sourcebook.
Instead of formally cursing the offenders, Gunald vowed to excommunicate any attackers “unless he makes satisfaction, or unless the bishop discovers that the clergyman brought it upon himself by his own fault.”
2. Don’t steal livestock or kill farm animals for no reason
The oath includes an injunction against making off with bulls, cows, pigs, sheep, lambs, goats, donkeys, mares, and untamed colts.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
It also came out against seizing mules and horses at certain times of the year: “I will not exact by extortion mules and horses, male and female, and colts pasturing in the fields from the first of March to All Souls’ Day, unless I should find them doing damage to me.”
However, the bishop of Beauvais allowed that knights could kill villagers’ animals if they needed to feed themselves or their men.
In Gunwald’s proclamation, he also announced that any knight who robbed a poor person of a farm animal would be formally cursed.
3. Don’t assault, rob, kidnap, and torture random people
This rule should have probably gone without saying, but Bishop Warin of Beauvais felt that he needed to include it in the oath.
The bishop wanted knights to swear against mistreating male and female villagers, sergeants, merchants, and pilgrims. This abuse he cited included robbery, whipping, physical attacks, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom.
4. Don’t burn down or destroy houses unless you have a good reason
Arson was a big no in the bishop of Beauvais’s oath — for the most part.
Exceptions were made in the event a knight discovered “an enemy horseman or thief within” a certain house.
That sounds harsh, but Kaeuper writes that, while wrath was a sin, “vengeance is a cornerstone of the chivalric ethos, the harsh repayment justly given for an dimunition of precious honor.”
“Nocturnal fire” by Egbert van der Poel (1621–1664)
Knights were also warned against plundering and stealing from the poor, even “at the perfidious instigation” of a local lord.
Kaeuper cite’s Alan of Lille’s declaration that knights achieved the “highest degree of villainy” by supporting themselves by looting from impoverished people.
5. Don’t assist criminals
Knights had a bad rap in certain parts.
Kauper writes that Alan of Lille once said that knights had the “cruel nature of marauders” and that “soldiers have been made the leaders of pillaging bands; they have become cattle-thieves.”
Photo by Glenn Brunette
Considering such a borderline criminal element, it’s not surprising that the Bishop Warin of Beauvais wanted knights to swear not to harbor and assist any “notorious public robber.”
He allows that, if a criminal comes to a knight for protection, that the knight should either make amends for the wrongdoer, force him to make amends within fifteen days, or deny him protection.
6. Don’t attack women — unless they give you a reason
The oath included a stipulation telling knights not to assault noblewomen traveling without their husbands. It also expanded protection to those attending them, along with widows and nuns, in general.
However, this shield was revoked if a knight “should find them committing misdeeds against” him.
7. Don’t ambush unarmed knights from Lent to Easter
A major part of the Peace and Truce of God movement was declaring that fighting should not take place during certain parts of the year.
Photo from Public Domain
Yale Law School’s Avalon Project features a 1085 decree from Emperor Henry IV, which declares that peace should be observed every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on apostles’ feast days, and from the ninth Sunday before Easter until the eighth day after Pentecost, among other times.
In a similar vein, Bishop Warin of Beauvais ordered medieval warriors not to attack unarmed knights “from the beginning of Lent until the end of Easter.”
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is probably known best for his legendary actions in World War II where he led Marines at Guadalcanal and in Korea when he and his men broke out from the Chosin Reservoir.
But Puller originally enlisted in the Corps to fight in World War I.
He was eventually assigned to train new Marines and then sent officer school — which combined to keep him away from the front lines of The Great War.
But in 1919 he was offered a deployment to Haiti if he came back to active duty.
The trip was described to young Marine officers as a sort of consolation prize after their trip to France was canceled. Writing about Puller and another Marine officer in Counterinsurgency and the United States Marine Corps, Leo J. Dougherty III wrote:
They saw service in Haiti as a means of compensation for not having served in the World War, and, as then Capt. William H. Rupertus told the young second lieutenants, as a way to “make money and have some fun.”
But Haiti was a real war zone.
Most of the recent Marine Corps officer training graduates were sent to Haiti as American noncommissioned officers who held officer ranks in the Gendarmerie d’Haïti. This was basically a police and counterinsurgency force whose enlisted ranks were filled with local soldiers but whose officers were mostly Marine Corps officers and noncommissioned officers.
The first commander of the Gendarmerie d’Haïti was then-Maj. Smedley Butler, another Marine Corps legend. And the Marines and their gendarmerie fought tooth and nail against determined Caco rebel attacks.
The rebels would hit targets — usually government buildings and forces — and then escape into the jungle.
To catch the rebels, Puller and other gendarmerie officers led their men on hard marches through the jungle and into the mountains, fighting off ambushes along the way.
Puller — who was deployed to Haiti from 1919 to 1924 — later estimated that he fought in about 40 engagements against the Caco rebels in Haiti and learned a lot of lessons, which helped him later in Nicaragua.
Puller was promoted to second lieutenant in 1924 and deployed to Nicaragua for the first time in 1926.
Nicaragua had been racked by political turmoil for over a decade despite an American intervention in 1912, causing instability in Latin America and headaches for American fruit companies. The Marines arrived in 1927 to protect American interests in the country.
In 1928, Puller arrived and again led a local force, this time it was an element from the Guardia Nacional of Nicaragua. These government forces and their Marine mentors were tasked with disrupting rebel operations.
During his first tour of Nicaragua, Puller served for over two years and was awarded a Navy Cross for leading his men through five major engagements from February to August of 1930. Puller’s element was successful in each of the engagements, killing nine of the enemy and wounding more.
After a year break for training at Fort Benning, Puller returned to Nicaragua and commanded local forces once again. He received a second Navy Cross for actions taken in 1932. Puller was leading 40 Nicaraguans alongside Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William A. “Iron Man” Lee.
The men forced their way into rebel territory a full 80 miles from their base and any reliable reinforcements or lines of communication. Rebels ambushed them, and Puller was in the center of the first attack. When a Nicaraguan fell right next to him and Lee was hit with what were thought to be mortal wounds, Puller quickly rallied the men and got them fighting against the 150 or more rebels.
Despite the fact that they had been ambushed by a numerically superior force, the Marines and Nicaraguans were able to throw off the attack. They killed 10 of the enemy.
Puller led his men back to their base to the south, a full hundred miles away.
But on Sept. 30, 1932, 10 days after the first ambush, the rebels attempted two more attacks designed to wipe out Puller and his men. Both attacks were rebuffed with heavy losses for the rebels, allowing the American-Nicaraguan patrol to arrive at the base on Oct. 31.
Lee survived his wounds and later fought in World War II where he became a prisoner of war. He was awarded the Navy Cross three times for his actions in Nicaragua.
Puller would later take a series of staff and command positions, including a deployment to guard Americans in China, before leading Marines throughout the Pacific in the World War II and Korea battles that made him an icon of the Corps.