The humble fleet oiler doesn’t get a lot of attention. Today’s version of this vessel, the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler, is still relatively slow (capable of reaching a top speed of 20 knots), but it is huge (displacing over 40,000 tons). It makes sense that the ship responsible for hauling gas enough to fuel an entire carrier strike group — both ships and planes — would be a lumbering sea giant.
During the Battle of the Coral Sea, however, one humble oiler did more than provide fuel for the ships in the fight.
That oiler, the USS Neosho (AO 23), saved the American carriers. The Neosho was a Cimarron-class vessel that joined the fleet in 1939. She wasn’t as big (displacing 7,500 tons) or fast (capping out at 18 knots) as today’s oilers, but she was still able to top off the fleet’s tanks.
USS Neosho (AO 23) refuels the carrier USS Yorktown (CV 5) before the Battle of the Coral Sea.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Neosho fulfilled her primary mission prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea, refueling USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Astoria (CA 34) afterplanes had carried out strikes against Japanese-occupied Tulagi. It was on the first day of the coming battle, however, that she would do much more than provide fuel.
At the time, the Navy was so short on hulls that she had only one escort, USS Sims (DD 409). A Japanese plane found the Neosho and her lone escort on May 7. The enemy pilot mistook the ship for a carrier. So, the Japanese carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, sent their air groups after the oiler. The Sims was quickly sunk and Neosho took seven bomb hits and had a Japanese plane crash into her.
USS Neosho (AO 23) pictured while taking the Japanese attack meant for the carriers USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Yorktown (CV 5).
The vessel stayed afloat for four days when Allied search planes finally found her. The destroyer USS Henley (DD 391) arrived on the 11th. The 123 survivors that were taken off of the oiler then learned that the United States Navy had turned back the Japanese — in no small part because the Neosho took a strike intended for Lexington and Yorktown.
The Neosho was scuttled, but two other fleet oilers have since borne the name.
Tradition has long been an essential part of the United States Marine Corps. It’s tradition that’s responsible for instilling a Corps-wide expertise with rifles. It’s the reason why a Marine squad has always been a baker’s dozen — and it’s why those thirteen personnel can put some real hurt on the bad guys.
Every Marine in a fire team will be packing a M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)
The traditional rifle squad had three four-man fire teams. Each fire team was made up of one Marine with a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, another Marine with an automatic rifle (formerly the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, now the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle), a third Marine to assist the automatic rifleman, and a fourth packing just a regular rifle.
The new squad will consist of an even dozen Marines and will be comprised of three-man fire teams. Bad guys shouldn’t think that this makes things easier, though. Every member of the fire team will pack an M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. That’s a lot of rock and roll inbound for the bad guys.
Big changes are coming in the shoulder-launched weapons area: The SMAW is out, and Carl is in.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
There will also be a change to the squad command structure. It used to be that there was a squad leader and that was it. Now, there will be an assistant squad leader (a second-in-command, if you will), as well as a new position for a “squad systems operator.” This Marine will operate quadcopter drones, with which each squad will be outfitted. One other thing: The Marines are leaving open the possibility of adding a rifleman to the new fire team organization should a mission call for it.
Other changes include replacing the shoulder-launched multi-purpose assault weapon (SMAW) with the latest multirole anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system (MAAWS), also known as Carl Gustav. Each battalion loses two 81mm mortars and four BGM-71 TOW missile launchers, but will have a total of 12 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.
“The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil,” Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21, 2018. “Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.”
Russia has troops stationed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.
Moscow and a few other nations have recognized the two separatist regions as independent countries.
Pompeo also repeated U.S. policy that Washington supports Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after a meeting with Pompeo that U.S. support for a peaceful resolution to Russian troops in Georgia “is of highest importance to our country and regional stability.”
Kvirikashvili added that Georgia’s membership in the military alliance would be a “clear added value for Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO promised Georgia eventual membership in 2008.
Kvirikashvili said U.S. involvement in infrastructure projects in Georgia, like the Anaklia deep-sea port on the Black Sea coast, would help attract economic interest to the area.
On May 17, 1987, a long-range luxury business jet approached the USS Stark, which was on a routine patrol in the Persian Gulf. The Iran-Iraq War was nearing its end, but attacks from both sides were still brutal and frequent. When Stark requested the plane identify itself, it instead fired two Exocet anti-ship missiles, killing 37 sailors and wounding another 21.
Most reports say the Stark was attacked by an Iraqi F-1 Mirage fighter.
The ship’s electronic surveillance systems didn’t see the missiles and neither did the radar, despite both systems being able to track the business jet. The jet made a few quick turns, coming closer with each turn. When it was 30 miles out, it fired and sped away. The second missile hit Stark 30 seconds after the first. The crew had no time to respond.
According to the Navy’s official investigation of the incident,Stark’s crew and officers believed the plane would “benignly pass them by.” The Tactical Action Officer took no action, even though he knew the Mirage fighter they believed the plane to be was capable of firing missiles from 38 miles away. The TAO tried to increase the ships readiness level in the minutes before the first missile hit, but by then it was too late.
There was plenty of blame to go around. The Weapons Control Officer was not at his station, the Fire Control Technician had already left the operations room on personal business, the automatic detector-tracker was off, the fire control radar was on standby, and the Mk-92 fire control radar was not locked onto the attacker until the missiles were already on their way.
The first Exocet penetrated the hull but did not explode, hitting right beneath the bridge. Its unspent fuel sparked a huge fire aboard the ship. The second missile hit the same spot, but this one exploded, blowing a 3×4.6-meter hole in the ship’s hull. Of the 37 sailors who died, 29 were killed immediately, two were lost at sea, and eight more died of their wounds.
Strangely enough, it was an Iranian helicopter and a Saudi Arabian ship that assisted the Navy in rescue and salvage operations.
Stark was still afloat and managed to hobble back to port in nearby Bahrain with the help of destroyers USS Waddell and USS Conyngham, along with the destroyer tender USS Acadia. Captain Glenn Brindel was relieved of command of the Stark, eventually taking non-judicial punishment and retiring early.
Iraq initially claimed the ship violated the war-zone area, but upon seeing the Navy’s evidence to the contrary, relented. They announced they would pursue their own inquiry into the incident and apologized to the United States after President Reagan called an emergency meeting of the National Security Planning Group.
“If this attack was carried out by Iraqi planes, then it ‘would have been the result of confusion by the pilots’,” the Iraqi Foreign Minister told the Guardian. It’s not known what became of the pilot but the Iraqi investigation found he thought the Stark was an Iranian tanker.
Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.
“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”
The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.
It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.
Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War
“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”
It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.
One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.
The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.
“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”
At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.
“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”
Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.
Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.
“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”
Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.
On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The US Army is preparing to field new night vision goggles and an integrated weapons sight that will change the way US ground forces go to war.
The new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B) and the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I) will make US soldiers and Marines deadlier in the dark by offering improved depth perception for better mobility and increased situational awareness at night, as well as the ability to accurately shoot around corners and from the hip.
The Army will begin fielding this capability late September 2019 at Fort Riley in Kansas, where this new technology will be delivered to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The night vision goggles offer higher-resolution imagery, as well as improved thermal capabilities, giving ground troops the ability to see through dust, fog, smoke, and other battlefield obscurants.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular.
(US Army photo)
The goggles wirelessly connect to the weapon sight, delivering Rapid Target Acquisition capability. With a picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can see not only what is in front of them, but also whatever their weapon is aimed at, allowing them to shoot from the hip or point their weapon around a corner.
“This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” according to the Army.
This system was tested with US soldiers, special operators, Marines, and National Guard personnel.
Sgt. First Class Will Roth, a member of the Army Futures Command Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, was skeptical when he first learned about this technology, he told the Army in a statement. “I couldn’t envision a time when soldiers would accept this product and trust it in the field,” he said.
His mind changed after he saw a Marine lie down on his back and fire over his shoulder at targets 50 to 100 meters away, relying solely on the goggles paired wirelessly to the optics on the Marine’s rifle. “He hit five out of seven. It gave me chill bumps,” Roth said.
“I decided this was an insane game changer,” he added. “I’m a believer, one hundred percent. Nothing else offers these kinds of capabilities.”
Senior Army officials are optimistic about the capabilities of this new technology.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, told Congress earlier this year, adding that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told reporters in October 2018 that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The ENVG-B and FWS-I mark the first deliverables of the US Army’s one-year-old four-star command, Army Futures Command, which is dedicated to the development of next-generation weapons and warfighting systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Players do their best work when they’re in a system that works for how they play. Sometimes, they fare better with the team that drafted them. Others break out when they get traded.
Sorry for this analogy. Football is back and I’m super stoked about it.
For example, Jim Brown was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1957 and played there his entire career. He might be one of the greatest backs of all time. Then there’s Marshawn Lynch, who did his best work after being traded to Seattle and will definitely be a Hall-of-Famer.
Benedict Arnold was definitely more of a Jim Brown.
As an American general, Arnold saw massive successes early on in the war. He captured Fort Ticonderoga with Ethan Allen, captured Lake Champlain for the nascent nation, led an invasion into Canada, and was instrumental at the Battle of Saratoga.
But that was in the past. Arnold was wearing a new uniform by 1781.
In January 1781, the revolution was still anyone’s game. The morale of the Americans was at its lowest and it would be another nine months before Generals Washington and Nathaneal Greene would force British General Cornwallis into Virginia’s Yorktown Peninsula and into a general surrender.
Some 63 miles north of Yorktown, the newly-minted British Brigadier was leading a force of American Loyalists against the capital of Virginia at Richmond. The city was virtually undefended and Thomas Jefferson – Patriot governor of the colony– fled. Arnold easily captured the city, barely firing a shot.
Arnold ordered the city be looted and burned the next day. They then went to the surrounding areas to wreak havok. Mills and foundries were destroyed, their arms and goods were captured by the British loyalist force. Arnold then took to destroying plantations and family homes, seizing crops and slaves.
The raid lasted a full 18 days.
When Jefferson and Samson Matthews gathered the Virginia militia and caught up to Arnold’s force with about 200 men. and caused the British force so much harm, Arnold had to retreat to Portsmouth and wait for reinforcements.
When the war ended later that year, Arnold found himself retired on half pay, refusing to believe the war could be over and that he’d chosen the wrong side.
Word finally got to George Washington that the traitor was spilling patriot blood in his home state. Washington sent French Marquis de Lafayette to kick Arnold out of Virginia and capture him if possible. Lafayette arrived in time to prevent another attack on Richmond from the newly-reinforced British under General Cornwallis, but he was too late to capture Arnold, who was already sailing for New York.
In the end, Richmond wasn’t prize enough for Cornwallis. He instead moved south, toward Yorktown. And you know how that ended up.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said his administration was considering a request for a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland.
Trump made the comments in Washington on Sept. 18, 2018, before a meeting at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland, and certainly it’s something we’ll discuss,” Trump said, adding that “we’re looking at it very seriously.”
Poland has requested the deployment several times and has offered up to billion in funding for a base. U.S. forces currently serve in Poland as part of NATO’s back-to-back rotation program.
President Donald J. Trump and President Andrzej Duda.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Poland has said a permanent U.S. presence is needed to counter Russian military activity in the region.
Russia has objected to the proposal, saying it views NATO expansion toward the east as a threat to stability in Europe.
Featured image: President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, and Mrs. Kornhauser-Duda.
The latest trailer for Black Widow has doubled-down on some dad bod cosplay, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, the newest preview for Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Marvel movie is looking more and more like a James Bond movie, which is great, but the real question is, when is Black Widow’s fake dad going to get his own movie?
In case you missed it, back in December, we got our initial glimpse of David Harbour as the “Red Guardian” in the first trailer for Black Widow. But weren’t we all a little distracted by Baby Yoda and holiday shopping back then? Yeah. I was, too. Now we can get back to what really matters: thinking about David Harbour as Red Guardian and wondering if he is really Black Widow’s dad. Technically speaking, in the comics, Red Guardian is a character whose real name is usually Alexei Shostakov. In some of the old comics, Alexei Shostakov was married to Natasha Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow. Obviously, Harbour’s version of this character isn’t married to Scarjo, and he acts way more like her dad. In all likelihood, he is not her dad biologically. But in terms of her Russian secret agent family, it seems like Red Guardian is about as dadcore as it gets.
To be clear, the reason why Red Guardian has a costume that emulates Captain America is that’s what Red Guardian was supposed to be: the Russian version of Cap. The old comic book backstory mostly suggests that unlike Cap, there was no super serum involved, so Red Guardian doesn’t have any superpowers. That is until David Harbour came along and added Dadbod to the list of superpowers possessed by the Red Guardian. In the new trailer (you can watch it above) Red Guardian describes what we’re seeing as “water weight,” and we totally get it. Same man. Same.
Not only will Black Widow finally give Scarjo’s titular character her long-overdue solo movie, but it also seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to court its not-so-secret core demographic, as DadBod Red Guardian follows in the footsteps of DadBod Thor. Lots of dads might want to be Cap or Falcon, but there are also plenty who would settle to be Red Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Pentagon is releasing a redacted version of the lengthy Niger ambush investigation that is expected to focus on the command and tactical decisions that led to the deaths of four members of the Army‘s Third Special Forces Group.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation is thousands of pages long. Pentagon officials said the report would include an animated video of what happened on the joint patrol with Nigerien troops near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger on Oct. 4, 2018.
The families of the fallen and members of Congress have already been briefed on the findings, which were expected to answer the lingering questions about how a patrol of 12 U.S. and approximately 30 Nigerien troops came to be overwhelmed by fighters from an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In a briefing shortly after the ambush, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the mission had been expected to pose little risk.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
However, the mission reportedly was changed and sent the patrol after a high-value militant linked to the offshoot called ISIS in the Greater Sahel.
Those killed in the patrol were Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
Four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the ambush near the Mali border as the patrol was returning to base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey.
Black’s father has declined to fault the decisions that led to the ambush.
He told National Public Radio, “I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.”
One of the questions that is expected to be answered is how Sgt. La David Johnson came to be separated from the rest of the patrol during the ambush. His body was not found until two days after the attack.
(U.S. Army photo)
The noontime briefing at the Pentagon on the investigation is expected to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem and Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.
Waldhauser’s chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, who led the Article 15-6 investigation, is also expected to join the briefing.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In 1793, noted French scientist Joseph Dombey departed Le Havre, France bound for Philadelphia. His mission was to meet with Thomas Jefferson and give him two of the rarest items on Earth. Unfortunately for Dombey, fate had other intentions and storms pushed the ship he was aboard well of course. And so it was that around the time he was supposed to deliver his precious cargo to Jefferson, he found himself instead at the mercy of British pirates. Being French in this situation wasn’t exactly ideal, so at first he attempted to pass himself off as Spanish, but his accent gave him away. Dombey was eventually taken to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat where he ultimately died before he could be ransomed.
So what was the precious cargo he was to have delivered as a gift to the United States? Two small copper items (of which only six sets existed on Earth at the time) — standards representing a meter and a grave, the latter better known today as a kilogram.
At the time, the United States, having already become one of the first nations in the world to adopt a decimal, base ten system for currency was strongly considering doing the same with the system of weights and measures to get rid of the hodgepodge of British weights and measures system mixed with others also commonly used throughout the young nation. Thus, with the initial strong support of then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and thanks to a desire to continue to strengthen ties between France and the United States, adoption of the new French metric system seemed close at hand. Along with a trade agreement concerning grain export to France, Dombey was to deliver the meter and grave standards and attempt to argue the system’s merits to Congress who, at the time, were quite open to adopting these units of measure.
Of course we all know how this turned out — Dombey never got a chance to make his arguments and thanks to concerns about whether the metric system would even stick around at all in France, combined with the fact that trade between Britain and the U.S. would be hindered by such a change, the U.S. eventually decided to abandon efforts to adopt the metric system and mostly stuck with the British system, though the U.S. Customary Units and what would become the Imperial System would soon diverge in the following decades.
But as more and more nations came to adopt this new system of weights and measures, the U.S. slowly began to follow suit. Fast-forwarding to 1866 and with the Metric Act the U.S. officially sanctioned the use of the metric system “in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings” and provided each state with standard metric weights and measures. In 1875, the United States was one of just 17 nations to sign the “Treaty of the Metre” establishing, among other things, the International Bureau of Weights and Measure to govern this system.
Fast forward a little under a century later and the full switch seemed inevitable in the United States after the 1968 Metric Study Act. This ended up being a three year study looking at the feasibility of switching the United States to the metric system. The result? a report titled A Metric America: “A Decision Whose Time Has Come”recommending the change and that it could be reasonably done in as little as 10 years.
Unfortunately, the public was largely either apathetic or strongly opposed to making the switch. (According to a Gallup poll at the time, 45% were against it.) This was nothing new, however. A huge percentage of the time a given people of a nation have been asked by their government to switch to the International System of Units, the general public of those nations were largely against it, even France itself, who went back and forth for decades on the issue, contributing to the United States’ hesitation to adopt it in the early going. Brazil actually experienced a genuine uprising when the government forced the change in the late 19th century. Over a half century later, British citizens still stubbornly cling to many of the old measurements in their day to day lives, though have otherwise adopted SI units.
So why did all these governments frequently go against the will of their people? Arguments for the economic benefits simply won out — as in so many matters of government, what businesses want, businesses often get. So the governments ignored the will of the general public and did it anyway.
But in the U.S. the situation was different. Not having the pressure from being bordered and economically as bound to one’s neighbors as in Europe, and being one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses itself, the immediately economic benefit didn’t seem so clear. For example, California alone — one of 50 states — if it were its own nation would have the 5th largest economy in the world. Texas and New York state aren’t far behind when compared to nation’s of the worlds economies at 10th and 13th respectively, let alone the other 47 states.
Seeing lesser readily apparent economic benefit, and not having the same geographic pressures as in Europe, in the 1970s many big businesses and unions were in strong opposition to the change, citing the cost of making the switch and, on the latter side, unions worried that such a change would make it easier to move jobs that formerly used customary units oversees, given that now such product could more easily be purchased from abroad.
Swayed, when the 1975 Metric Conversion Act was signed by President Gerald Ford, it had largely lost its teeth. While it did establish a board whose job it was to facilitate the nation’s conversion and put forth various recommendations, the act did not have an official timeline and made the switch voluntary.
Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, in the decades since, the United States actually has largely switched to the metric system, just the general public (both domestic and international) seem largely ignorant of this. The U.S. military almost exclusively uses the metric system. Since the early 1990s, the Federal government has largely been converted, and the majority of big businesses have made the switch in one form or another wherever possible. In fact, with the passage of the Metric Conversion Act of 1988, the metric system became the “preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce”.
In the medical field and pharmaceuticals. the metric system is also used almost exclusively. In fact, since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, even the units of measure used by the layperson in the U.S., the yard, foot, inch, and pound, have all been officially defined by the meter and kilogram.
Speaking of the general public side, nobody in the U.S. blinks an eye about food labels containing both metric and customary units (required thanks to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, with the majority of states since also allowing metric only). The gram is commonly used to measure everything from the amount of flour to add in a recipe to how much marijuana one buys from a shop or, where it’s still illegal, their local dealer. And if you were to ask someone to pick up a two liter of Dr. Pepper or how a person did running a 10K, most everyone in the United States would know exactly what you are talking about. Beyond this, you’d be hard pressed to find a ruler in the United States that doesn’t include both inches and centimeters and their common divisors.
Further, in school, both customary units and the metric system are taught. Yes, while Americans may generally have little practical need to learn a second language, most are, at least for a time, reasonably fluent in two very different systems of measurement.
As with languages unpracticed, however, once out of school, many lose their sense of the latter from lack of use and concrete perspective. It’s one thing to know what 100 and 0 degrees Celsius refers to with respect to water, it’s a whole different matter to “get” what temperature you might want to put on a jacket for. However, students who go on to more advanced science classes quickly pick up this perspective as they become more familiar and, thus, the scientists of America aren’t at the slightest disadvantage here, also contrary to what is often stated in arguments as to why the U.S. should make the switch a bit more official than it already is. All students that go along that path become just as familiar as their European brethren, if a little later in life.
This all brings us around to why the United States hasn’t made the switch to the metric system more official than it already is. Primarily three reasons — cost, human psychology, and, at least on the general public side, little readily apparent practical reason to do so.
As to cost, while there has never been a definitive study showing how much it would cost the United States to make the switch official and universal, general estimates range even upwards of a trillion dollars all things considered. Why so high?
To begin with, we’ll discuss a relatively small example in road signs. Installing street signs is an incredibly expensive affair in many places for a variety of reasons. For instance, in 2011 the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed it costs anywhere from ,000 to ,000 PER SIGN, though they later clarified those were worst case and most expensive scenarios and sometimes the signs and installation can ring in ONLY around ,000. Bronlea Mishler of the DOT explains,
Installing a sign along a highway isn’t quite as simple as pounding some posts into a ground and bolting on a sign — that’s why the cost is so variable. There are two ways to replace a sign. One way allows us to install it under old rules; the second way requires us to follow new federal standards… The old rules apply if we are just fixing something, not building something new. Installing a sign alongside the road counts as fixing something — basically, just giving drivers more information. If we install a sign on the side of the road, it would cost: ,000 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets; ,000 for two steel posts and concrete; ,000 to clear brush and other landscape work before and after installation; ,000 for maintenance crews to set up traffic cones, work vehicles, program highway signs and spend the evening doing the work. Total: ,000…. The new rules apply if we’re doing a new construction project. Costs would be higher because we would have to bring everything up to the current highway code. These often involve putting up a sign bridge, a steel structure that spans the entire freeway to hold up multiple signs. Typical costs include: ,600 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets because the sign must be bigger; ,000 for the sign bridge. Total: ,600.
WSDOT Deputy Regional Administrator Bill Vleck also stated, beyond many of these signs needing to be special ordered on a 1-off variety (think a highway sign with city name and distance marker) and often being much larger than most sign makers make, drastically increasing cost, some of the seemingly exorbitant costs are due to special features of the signs few know about. For instance, Vleck states, “If there’s an auto accident, if a car hits that sign post and there’s any kind of injury involved, the state is going to be liable, so we’re looking potentially at a multi-million dollar settlement in those kind of situations… [So] it would have to be a breakaway type sign post, and it has to be specially fabricated so that if a car hits that sign, it reacts appropriately and doesn’t come down and basically take out the occupants.”
For your reference here, in 1995, it was estimated that approximately 6 million signs would need changed on federal and state roads. On top of that, it was noted that approximately just shy of 3 million of the nations about 4.2 million miles (6.8 million km) of public roads are actual local, with an uncertain number of signs in those regions that would need changed.
That said, the rather obscene costs quoted by the aforementioned Washington State DOT would likely be grossly overestimated on a project such as this, with prices massively reduced if special laws were passed to remove much of the red tape, and given the extreme bulk orders that would be called for here, including for the signs themselves and contracts to dedicated crews to make this happen as fast as possible.
For example, in 1995, Alabama estimated they could swap out all the signs on federal highways for a mere per sign (0 today) on average.
Perhaps a better rubric would be in looking at Canada’s switch, swapping out around a quarter of a million signs on their then 300,000 miles (482,000 km) or so of road. The total reported cost? Only a little over million (about million today) or around 4 per sign in today’s dollars.
Extrapolating that out to the minimum 6 million signs would then run approximately id=”listicle-2635564449″.5 billion + whatever additional signs need swapped out on the 3/4 of the rest of the roads not accounted for in that 6 million sign estimate. Not an insignificant sum, but also relatively trivial for the U.S. taxpayer to cover at about per person + some uncertain amount for the local road signs that need changed.
Moving on to far greater expenses — industry and wider infrastructure.
While it’s impossible to accurately estimate the cost of such a change to American businesses as a whole, we do get a small glimpse of the issue when looking at a NASA report studying the feasibility of swapping the shuttle program to full metric. They determined the price tag would be a whopping 0 million for that project alone at the time, so decided it wasn’t worth the cost for little practical benefit… Now extrapolate that out to the approximately 28 million businesses in the United States, their software, their records, their labels, machinery, employee training, etc. needing switched like some sort of Y2K event on steroids. Thus, while it’s impossible to know for sure, many posit the cost could swell into the hundreds of billions of dollars, if not even creep into the trillion territory — in theory at least.
At this point, even the most ardent supporter of the metric system in the United States may be rethinking whether it would be worth it to make the switch more official than it already is. But don’t fret metric supporters the world over!
To begin with, the raw cost of making the switch doesn’t actually tell the whole story here. In fact, it tells a false story — while the gross total of making the change would be astronomical, it turns out the net cost likely wouldn’t be much, or anything at all.
You see, beyond it noted that, for example, on average Australian businesses saw a 9-14% boost directly attributed to the switch when they made it, back in the United States when companies like IBM, GM, Ford and others spent the money to make the change, they universally found that they made a profit from doing this. This was largely from being able to reduce warehouse space, equipment needs, streamline production, lower necessary inventories, as well as taking the opportunity to, at the same time, remove inefficiencies that had crept into their respective businesses with regard to these systems. They were also able to more uniformly manage their businesses abroad and domestic to the same standards and systems. As a very small example, GM reported they were able to reduce its number of fan belts they had to manufacture and stock from about 900 sizes to 100 thanks to everything that went into the switch.
In some cases the businesses also noted new international markets opening up, both in sales and ability to more easily, and often more cheaply, acquire product abroad. All of this resulted in a net profit extremely quickly from investing the money into making the switch.
As you might expect from these types of benefits, an estimated 30% of businesses in the United States have largely already switched to metric.
Granted, these are generally larger companies and various small businesses dealing mostly locally might not see such a benefit. However, with the increasing globalization of supply chains, many small businesses would likely still see some benefit.
Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to construction, that general industry has lagged well behind others in switching, and, as you might imagine, the existing infrastructure of the nation from roads to bridges to homes to drill bits to screws to the architectural plans for all of it being based on customary units would not be cheap to change and it isn’t clear here what the net cost would be. However, as in all of this, the cost could potentially be mitigated via a slow phaseout approach with grandfathering allowed, similar to what other nations did, though in most cases on a vastly smaller scale than would be seen in the United States.
All this said, we here at TodayIFoundOut would like to posit that what the international community actually finds irksome about the United States not using the metric system is not United States businesses who deal abroad or United States scientists or even the government — all of which largely use the metric system and all of which have little bearing on what Pierre sitting in his mother’s basement in France is doing at a given moment.
No, what upsets Pierre is that the U.S. general populace does not use the metric system in their day to day lives. Why is this irksome? Beyond just the human drive for uniformity amongst one’s community, in this case of the global variety, because English websites the world over, keen to get some of those sweet, sweet U.S. advertising dollars, cater to the U.S. audience and use the units that said audience is more familiar with, those not familiar are often left to Google a conversion to the units they are familiar with. The alternative is for said websites to include both, but that often makes for a break in the flow of the content, something we here at TodayIFoundOut regularly wrestle with finding a proper balance with.
This brings us around to the human side of the argument. To begin with, while the United States would unequivocally see many benefits to joining the rest of the world in some good old fashioned metric lovin’, as you might expect given the lack of immediately obvious benefit to the layperson, few among the American public see much point. After all, what does it really matter if a road sign is in kilometers or miles, or if one’s house is measured in square feet or square meters?
While some cite the benefits of ease of conversion to other units in a given system, in day to day life, this is almost never a thing that’s cumbersome in the slightest. If it was, Americans would be clamoring to make the change. The argument that ease of conversion between units should be a primary driver for the public to want the change simply doesn’t hold water in an era where, on the extremely rare occasion people actually need to make such a precise conversion in day to day life, they have little more than to say “Hey Google”. And in most cases, even that isn’t necessary when you’re reasonably familiar with a given system.
Perhaps a poignant example of how, when you’re familiar, a non base 10 system of measure really isn’t that complicated to deal with in day to day matters, consider that the world still uses 1000 milliseconds in a second, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. What few realize about this is that the original metric system actually attempted to simplify this as well, dividing the day into 10 hours, with 100 minutes in each hour, etc. Unfortunately, most people didn’t see the benefit in switching when also factoring in having to swap out their existing clocks. Nobody has much seen a need to fix the issue since, not even the most ardent champion of the metric system for its ease of conversions compared with imperial or customary units.
And while you might still be lamenting the stubbornness of Americans for not seeing the genuine benefits to themselves that would likely be realized here, we should point out that virtually every nation in the world that uses the metric system has holdover units still relatively commonly used among laypeople that aren’t metric, for simple reasons of not seeing a reason to stop, from calories to horsepower to knots to lightyears and many more. Or how about, have you ever flown on a plane almost anywhere in the world? Congratulations, you’ve in all liklehood unwittingly been supporting the use of something other than the metric system. You see, the pilots aboard, from French to American, use a feet based, Flight Level, system for their altitude, and knots to measure their speed. Just two standards that, much like the American public and their road signs, nobody has seen much practical reason to change.
Now to more concrete human psychology for not making the switch, which has gradually been converting more and more Americans from general apathy to the anti-switch crowd as the decades pass — when one group of humans tells another group what to do, occasionally using terms like “idiot units” and starting flame wars in comments of every website or video posted on the web that uses or discusses said units- you will universally get resistance if not outright hostility in response. This is not an American thing, as so often is purported- this is a human thing.
Try forcing the French government to mandate by law that French is dead and English is now to be universal spoken for the sake of better international trade, economics, and relations. You might argue that in a not insignificant percentage of the world English is already the standard in such international business dealings, but that is really little different than the current situation in business in the U.S. concerning the metric system. What we’re talking about is how the general populace of France would react if the government mandated such a change, and even more so if outside nations were pressuring it. Again, it’s not an American thing — it’s a human thing.
Beyond that, as anyone whose ever done anything online is well aware of — humans hate change. Loathe it. Make any change to, say, a format or style of video, no matter how small, and rest assured no matter if the change is unequivocally vastly superior and the audience universally comes to agree with that, a not insignificant number of one’s audience will complain, sometimes vehemently, at first. More directly we see this again and again throughout the history of various nations making the change to SI. Again, resistance of change is not an American thing — it’s a human thing.
But fret not world. You see, slowly but surely the United States has been converting to metric and, for most practical purposes for those outside of the United States, other than having to see it on websites (which, again, we posit is the real driver of people’s ire the world over), the switch has already been made. So much so that at this stage while the cars made in America may say miles per hour on the speedometer, the makers of those cars are using metric to measure and build the things. The very military that defends American’s right to use “Freedom Units” has long since largely converted to the un-free variety.
In the end, money talks, and, for much the same reason other big holdouts like the UK ultimately gave in, as American businesses who have interest in dealing internationally continue to make the switch, they are seeing to it that the metric system more and more creeps into the daily lives of Americans. This will only continue until the inevitable complete adoption. Slowly but surely America is inching towards metric, largely without anyone domestic or abroad noticing.
Want to make the switch take longer? Continue calling them “idiot units”, a mildly humorous statement from a certain point of view given that it takes more brainpower to use customary units than metric, making the latter far more tailored to idiots. And continue to start flame wars in comments comprising mostly of personal attacks rather than using the many and very legitimate and rational arguments that exist as to why it would be of benefit for the people of the United States to make the switch. In the end, we all know there is no better way to convince someone to do something than making the whole thing a religious war, with you on one side and they on the other…
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
China has landed on the far side of the moon, according to state media, in a giant step for humankind — and a step towards China’s desire to match the United States and Russia in space exploration. The unmanned Chang’e 4 probe reportedly touched down on the moon at 10:26 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2019, according to China Central Television.
The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on Dec. 8, 2018, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and its sister relay satellite has been in orbit since May 2018.
China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the Chang’e 4 probe entered a planned elliptical orbit some 9 miles from the surface on Dec. 30, 2018, in preparation for a soft landing on the the South Pole-Aitken basin.
The Chang’e 4 mission is to shed light on the dark side. This will include surveying terrain, mineral composition, and shallow lunar surface structure, along with other scientific observations, according to David.
The Chang’e 4 mission totes six kinds of scientific payloads, David says: “On the lander, it carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS). There are three kinds of payloads on the rover, the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).”
China’s space ambitions
President Xi Jinping wants to make China a space powerhouse within the next decade. Conquering the moon’s mysteries has been an early and critical first goal of China’s ambitious space program.
The US made its own incredible firsts this week. On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past the most distant place ever explored by humankind — a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system.
For some people, making history is not about what they’re doing but instead why they’re doing it.
On Sept. 6, 2019, six airmen from the 347th Rescue Group completed the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew.
While most would be excited just to make history, this crew’s “why” is less about the recognition but more about representation.
“We don’t want to be noticed for being women,” said Senior Airmen Rachel Bissonnette, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster. “Any person who meets the bar can be an aircrew member. What we want is for the girls who think they can’t do it, to know that they can.”
71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters prepare to load a container delivery system on to the ramp of an HC-130J Combat King II, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.
Capt. Sarah Edwards, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, prepares for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)
71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilots prepare for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)
Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, left, and Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, right, both 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters, look out the back of an HC-130J Combat King II as it flies over south Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)
Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster-directed rescue drop, Sept. 6, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)