This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

It was like trying to hit a needle in a haystack, kill a fly with a sledgehammer, or whatever analogy you prefer for using brute force to apply surgical precision in the middle of a swirling ambush.

By analogy and history, the attack on Dragon’s Jaw is a bizarre mismatch of weapons to mission. It is another hard lesson for U.S. air power in the ’60’s. Several decades of evolving doctrine and aircraft development have led the U.S. Air Force in a different direction from how air wars will actually be fought in the future. Instead of long range strategic nuclear attack, tactical precision anti-insurgent strike is the emerging mission. The U.S. will continue to learn that hard lesson on this day.


By any measure this is an impressive air armada: Sixty-six advanced supersonic fighters and strike aircraft from America’s “Century Series”. The main strike package is 46 Republic F-105 Thunderchiefs with massive bomb loads. The defensive escort is 21 North American F-100 Super Sabres holstering a covey of air-to-air missiles. The strike and escort fighters are supported by an enormous number of tanker, surveillance, rescue and reconnaissance planes. They all have one objective: to kill “The Dragon”.

The Dragon is the Thanh Hóa Bridge, near the geographic center of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese nicknamed the bridge “Hàm Rồng” or “Dragon’s Jaw” since its massive steel and concrete construction seem like a row of sturdy teeth set in the mouth of a deadly dragon. The Dragon itself is made up of one of the most sophisticated integrated air defense networks on earth modeled closely after the most sophisticated, the Soviet Union’s.

Ironically, if this same task force had been attacking the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons their results would have almost certainly been better. That is the mission these aircraft were actually designed for. But the Dragon is a small, critical target, and an elusive one. Even though it’s not an all-out nuclear war with the Red Menace, the Dragon must be slayed in the ongoing proxy war that is Vietnam.

The Thanh Hóa Bridge would be a tough target to hit even without an advanced, integrated network of radar guided anti-aircraft guns, SAMs and MiGs surrounding it. The bridge has only a single one-meter wide railroad track on its deck. It is 540 feet long and 54 feet wide at its widest point. From the attack altitude of about 10,000 feet it is difficult to see well at high-speed.

The flight of F-105 Thunderchiefs break into sections of four aircraft each. Today they are armed with 750 pound “dumb” bombs. The day before a nearly identical strike also failed to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw when the Thunderchiefs attacked with crude AGM-12 Bullpup guided missiles and 750 pound dumb bombs. The AGM-12 missiles, an early attempt at “smart” weapons, failed significantly. Remarkably, even though some of the 750 pounders did hit the bridge, they had little effect. The first attempt at breaking the Dragon’s Jaw on April 3rd failed spectacularly. The bridge proved sturdier than expected, the weapons less precise than hoped.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
Front view of the F-105.
(US Air Force photo)

Having abandoned the AGM-12 Bullpup missiles from the day before the F-105 Thunderchiefs would strike with only dumb bombs today.

The F-105 was originally designed to carry a nuclear weapon enclosed within its streamlined fuselage using an internal bomb bay. It was supposed to attack a target from low altitude at Mach 2, “toss” the nuclear weapon at the target in a pop-up attack, and escape at twice the speed of sound.

Today the big F-105 “Thuds” lug a junkyard of dumb bombs under their sleek swept wings and below their sinewy Coke-bottle curved fuselage. The yardsale of external bombs and bomb racks creates enormous drag on the needle-nosed “Thud”, slowing it to below supersonic speed and making it vulnerable.

As predictably as a firing line of advancing redcoat soldiers facing off against Native American insurgents in the Revolutionary War, the Thunderchiefs returned the very next day, marching across the aerial battlefield in broad daylight. The North Vietnamese had been ready the day before. Today they were angry, battle hardened and ready.

According to historical accounts ranging from Air Force Magazine to Wikipedia, four of eight lightweight, nimble, subsonic MiG-17s (NATO codename “Fresco”) of the North Vietnamese 921st “Sao Do” (Red Star) Fighter Regiment led by North Vietnamese flight leader Trần Hanh visually acquired an attack formation of four F-105Ds at 10:30 AM.

The Thunderchiefs were just starting to drop their bombs and already committed to their attack run. Flight leader Trần Hanh ordered his wingman, Pham Giay, to cover his attack on the F-105s. Hanh dove in through light cloud cover, achieving complete surprise. He opened fire on the F-105 with his heavy 37mm cannon at extremely close range, only 400 meters. Having attacked from above and behind in a classic ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering) scenario, Hanh preserved energy and positioning. The hapless F-105, piloted by USAF Major Frank E. Bennett of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, was pummeled by the MiG’s cannon shells. It erupted in a comet of plunging fire and hurtled downward toward the Gulf of Tonkin. Major Bennett did not survive.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
North Vietnamese MiG-17 pilot Tran Hanh shown after the war.

A small, nimble, lightweight fighter had just gotten the better of a large, heavily loaded fighter-bomber despite having a substantial escort from F-100 Super Sabres. The Super Sabre fighter escort was out of position to respond to the MiG-17 ambush. A brutally hard lesson in the future of air combat was in session.

The melee continued when another North Vietnamese MiG-17 pilot reportedly named “Le Minh Huan” downed a second F-105D, this one piloted by USAF Capt. J. A. Magnusson. Capt. Magnusson reportedly radioed that he was heading for the Gulf of Tonkin after being hit. He struggled to maintain control of his heavily damaged Thunderchief as he tried to escape North Vietnam. Capt. Magnusson was forced to eject twenty miles from the island of Hon Me, and was eventually listed as missing in action, then killed in action after a 48-hour search turned up nothing.

Painfully, the U.S. Air Force confirmed they had lost two F-105s and pilots in the second attack on the Dragon’s Jaw. Even worse, the bridge remained intact, a straight, iron grin at the futile attack of the Americans.

After the failed F-105 strikes and aircraft losses the Americans were desperate to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw bridge. Author Walter J Boyne wrote in Air Force Magazine that the U.S. developed a bizarre, massive pancake-shaped bomb weighing two and a half tons and measuring eight feet in diameter but only thirty inches thick. The gigantic, explosive Frisbee was dropped from the back of a lumbering C-130 Hercules transport and was intended to float down river toward the bridge where it would be detonated by a magnetic fuse. Several of the weapons were actually dropped, one C-130 was lost.

The bridge remained intact.

Early laser guided bombs were also employed against the Dragon’s Jaw with modest success. An attack on May 13, 1972 by a flight of 14 F-4 Phantoms used early “smart” bombs and actually knocked the bridge surface off its pilings, briefly rendering it inoperable and forcing repairs.

But the bridge still stood.

Attacks on the Dragon’s Jaw continued until October 6, 1972. A flight of four Vought A-7 Corsair attack aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) was finally successful in breaking the bridge in half. They used the AGM-62 Walleye guided bomb and 500-pound Mk.84 general purpose “dumb” bombs. The bridge was finally severed at its center piling.

Author Walter Boyne wrote about the final strike, “At long last, after seven years, 871 sorties, tremendous expenditure in lives, 11 lost aircraft, and a bewildering array of expended munitions, the Dragon’s Jaw was finally broken.” The key lesson from the brutal campaign to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw was that tactics and equipment need to be adaptable and precise in the modern battlespace.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
USAF reconnaissance photo of the Thanh Hu00f3a Bridge in North Vietnam.
(US Air Force photo)

The F-105 Thunderchief was an impressive aircraft, but was forced into a brutal baptism of fire over Vietnam during an era when air combat was in transition. As a result, the F-105 suffered heavy losses. The history of the aircraft went on the include an unusual accident with the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds. On May 9, 1964 Thunderbird Two, an F-105B piloted by USAF Captain Eugene J. Devlin, snapped in half during the pitch-up for landing at the old Hamilton Air Base in California. The Thunderchief only flew in six official flight demonstrations with the Thunderbirds.

Interestingly, and perhaps ominously, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II shares a remarkable number of similarities with the Republic F-105 Thunderchief used in the raid on the Dragon’s Jaw in 1965.

According to author Dr. Carlo Kopp, the F-35A dimensions are oddly similar to the F-105. But among several critical differences is the wing surface area, with the F-35A having larger wing surface area and the resultant lower wing loading than the F-105. Other major differences are the F-35A’s low observable technology and greatly advanced avionics, data collecting, processing and sharing capability. Finally, the F-35A is purpose-built for a wide range of mission sets, whereas the F-105 was predominantly a high-speed, low-level nuclear strike aircraft poorly suited for conventional strike.

Lessons learned from the F-105 strike on the Dragon’s Jaw, the success of the nimble, lightweight North Vietnamese MiG-17s and the need for better precision strike capability are now deeply ingrained in U.S. Air Force doctrine. But revisiting this story is a vital part of understanding the evolving mission of the air combat warfighter and the high cost of failing to adapt in the constantly evolving aerial battlespace.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea accidentally burned a photographer alive during a missile test

There’s a saying in the photography community, first coined by the legendary Robert Capa: “if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” If that’s true, there’s one North Korean photog who has the world’s best photo of a rocket launch. Sadly, no one will ever see it because the photo was burned up along with the man who took it.


The worst part is, the Korean Central News Agency distributed video of his gruesome death for all the world to see.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow

No one loves testing missiles and telling the world about it more than North Korea, so it’s likely the photographer was put there on purpose. Whether or not anyone (especially the photographer) knew he was in the blast zone for the Hwasong-15 rocket is anyone’s guess.

“The photographer who stood near Hwasong-15 missile was enveloped by fire,” said one onlooker to the incident. “I was shocked to see officials watching the launch. I did not know whether it was the fault of the cameraman or the control center. But it was impossible for leader Kim Jong-un who was at the site not to have witnessed the incident.”

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Kim Jong-un and the Korean People’s Army rejoice at the launch of a Hwasong-15 missile test.

As North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and his cronies watched North Korea’s largest, most powerful Intercontinental ballistic missile test to date – and cheered on – it’s possible that up to 16 people who were in the test area were burned alive by the missile’s blast. South Korea says the KCNA broadcasts were later edited to remove the toasted photographer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The “White Feather Sniper,” Carlos Hathcock

At a young age, Carlos Norman Hathcock II would go into the woods with his dog and the Mauser his father brought back from World War II to pretend to be a soldier. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood, and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted.

In 1966, Hathcock started his deployment in South Vietnam. He initially served as a military policeman and later, owing to his reputation as a skilled marksman, served as a sniper.


This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

The Hathcock brothers and a friend, shooting as children.

USMC Photo

During the Vietnam War, Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong personnel. However, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Hathcock estimated that he actually killed between 300 and 400 enemy soldiers.

In one instance, Hathcock saw a glint reflecting off an enemy sniper’s scope. He fired at it, sending a round through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him.

Hathcock’s notoriety grew among the Viet Cong and NVA, who reportedly referred to him Du kích Lông Trắng (“White Feather Sniper”) because of the white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. The enemy placed a bounty on his head. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers tried to hunt him down, many Marines donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. Hathcock successfully fought off numerous enemy snipers during the remainder of his deployment.

Hathcock did once remove the white feather from his bush hat during a volunteer mission. The mission was so risky he was not informed of its details until he accepted it. Transported to a field by helicopter, Hathcock crawled over 1,500 yards in a span of four days and three nights, without sleep, to assassinate an NVA general. At times, Hathcock was only a few feet away from patrolling enemy soldiers. He was also nearly bitten by a snake. Once in position, Hathcock waited for the general to exit his encampment before shooting. After completing this mission, Hathcock came back to the United States in 1967. However, missing the service, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, taking command of a sniper platoon.

On September 16, 1969, an AMTRAC Hathcock was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. He pulled seven Marines from the vehicle, suffering severe burns in the process. Hathcock received the Purple Heart while he was recuperating. Nearly 30 years later, he received a Silver Star for this action.

After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. However, he was in near constant pain due to his injuries, and in 1975, his health began to deteriorate. After diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he medically discharged in 1979. Feeling forced out of the Marines, Hathcock fell into a state of depression. But with the help of his wife, and his newfound hobby of shark fishing, Hathcock eventually overcame his depression. Despite being retired from the military, Hathcock continued providing sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six.

Hathcock passed away Feb. 22, 1999, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

We honor his service.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Real declassified CIA docs provide guidance for ‘UFO Photographers’

The past few years have seen a massive resurgence in UFO research and discussion, both throughout the media and, publicly speaking, from elements of the nation’s own defense apparatus. From 2017’s revelation that the Pentagon had been directly funding investigations into unusual sightings (along with a litany of other unusual phenomena) to last month’s announcement that the U.S. Navy was formalizing UFO reporting procedures, it seems clearer now than ever that something unusual is going on in the skies above our pale blue dot, and that Uncle Sam wants to know what it is.


Of course, for those that have served in high ranking positions throughout America’s defense and intelligence apparatus over the decades, that comes as no revelation at all, as the U.S. Government actually has a long and illustrious history of covert and semi-covert investigations into the unknown.

Some of these efforts, like Project Blue Book, aimed to explain away sightings of strange lights in the skies, while others, like these declassified documents from the CIA’s archive, had a different aim. These documents were meant to serve as a how-to manual to capture the best possible images of flying saucers (or whatever they may be) for further examination. These documents may not prove the existence of alien visitors, but they certainly prove that even America’s foreign intelligence service has long had their eye on the skies.

The CIA readily acknowledges its involvement in UFO investigations dating all the way back to its very inception in 1947, which UFO buffs will be quick to note was the same year as the now-legendary Roswell incident. According to the CIA, they closely monitored Defense Department UFO initiatives throughout this era, even going so far as to draft up the document shown below offering ten tips to UFO investigators who had been struggling to capture clear images of the strange phenomena. This included an attached “UFO Photographic Information Sheet” to be filled out by the photographer whenever a sighting occurred.

The CIA’s guidance for UFO Photographers was, according to the CIA, first published in 1967 and remained classified until December of 2013, though it wasn’t until three years later that the document was uploaded to the CIA’s digital archive, making it readily available to readers from all over the world.

According to the CIA, these are the tips you need to follow in order to get the best possible evidence of your UFO encounter:

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

“Guidance to UFO Photographers” was first published in 1967 and declassified in 2013.

(Courtesy of the CIA Archive)

1. Have camera set at infinity.

2. Fast film such as Tri-X, is very good.

3. For moving objects shutter speeds not slower than one hundredth of a second should be used. Shutter and f-stop combination will depend upon lighting conditions; dusk, cloudy day, bright sunlight, etc. If your camera does not require such settings, just take pictures.

4. Do not move camera during exposure.

5. Take several pictures of the object; as many as you can. If you can, include some ground in the picture of the UFO.

6. If the object appears to be close to you, a few hundred feet or closer, try to change your location on the ground so that each picture, or few pictures are taken from a different place. A change in position of 40 or 60 feet is good. (This establishes what is known as a base line and is helpful in technical analysis of your photography.) If the object appears to be far away, a mile or so, remain about where you are and continue taking pictures. A small movement here will not help. However, if you can get in a car and drive l/2 to a mile or so and-take another series of pictures this will help.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Single images of UFOs don’t offer much in the way of context (the photographer of this UFO believes it may be a bird)

(Image captured by James Havard on Flickr)

7. After pictures of UFO have been taken, remain where you are: now, slowly, turning 360 degrees take overlapping, eye level, photography as you turn around. By this technique the surrounding countryside will be photographed. This photography is very valuable for the analysis of the UFO you have just photographed.

8. Your original negative is of value. Be sure it Is processed with care.

9. If you can, have another negative made from the original.

10. Any reproductions you have made for technical study and analysis should be made from the original negative and should be printed to show all the picture including the border and even the sprocket holes, if your film has them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This smart scale whipped me into shape faster than a personal trainer

If December is the season for consumerist gluttony, and full-fat eggnog, then January is the time for carrot sticks, running on the treadmill, and staring blankly at a scale that says you’ve only lost two pounds since the new year. If you, like me, found yourself in that happy place between despondency and full-on despair, you may need a smart scale to ever so gently nudge you along.


We’ve all felt that intense, cloying sense of dread when stepping on the scale. They’re generally the square, bulky things you willfully sidestep when you walk in to take a leak. Enter the Qardio’s QardioBase2. It makes getting into shape … intriguing. It’s a WiFi- or Bluetooth-connected circular scale that hooks up with the corresponding app and works on any surface, and it’s designed to be your kinder and gentler weight loss and fitness coach.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Fitness resolutions may center on pounds and ounces, but Qardio’s QardioBase2 smart scale focuses its feedback on direction rather than specific, hard-core goals. If you’re looking for something that offers its readout in more general, encouraging terms rather than the bark of a drill instructor, this is the bathroom scale for you.

Rather than spitting out a single weight, the QardioBase2 provides feedback on your body mass index, tracking it over time and rewarding you with one of three faces: smiling for weight loss, a neutral face for negligible results, and a frown when you’ve indulged a little too much.

Granted, for some its smiley-centric feedback is a bit too twee, and for those who need black-and-white reports, it also reads weight, along with muscle mass, fat percentage, bone, and water composition, allowing you to drill down as far as you want. All stats are recorded via its app to you can track progress over time. It weights just under seven pounds, is 13 inches in diameter, and works with iOS 10.0 or later, Kindle, Android 5 or later, and the Apple Watch.

Beyond the emoji feedback, which may be a tad precious, there’s a lot more to love. Its sleek design and tempered glass top in either black or white is less than an inch thick and adds class to even the most humble bathroom.

For those who want options for the whole family, it automatically detects individual users, recording data separately as such. It also has a pregnancy mode to track weight gain and progress as your partner gets further and further along in her pregnancy. Plus, she can add pictures to her numbers, so she can look back and remember what she looked like when the baby was the size of a walnut.

With the QardioBase2, I had a healthy alternative to the dreaded decimal point. Its feedback is less judgy that others in its class, but the various functions and multi-user ease makes this a scale I’m happy to use all year. Instead of dreading weighing myself, I was actually … well, excited is too strong a word. But heavily invested.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US plan to train nuclear suicide bomber paratroopers

It’s an idea as old as nuclear weapons themselves: If you could slip a nuke into a city and detonate it, the enemy would never know it was coming. No missiles detected, no early warning radar, just one day: BOOM. In Cold War lore, these man-portable devices were usually envisioned as suitcase bombs. But the U.S. Army doesn’t do suitcases.


This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

They used to though. They used to do suitcases really well.

No, the Army’s man-portable nuclear weapon was, of course, a duffel bag of sorts – and it was designed to be carried by a paratrooper, Green Light Team, or Atomic Demolition Munitions Specialists in case of World War III. NATO knew if the Soviets invaded with a traditional, conventional force, it would take time to mount any kind of meaningful resistance or counterattack. So in the 1960s, the Army came up with the brilliant idea to pack nukes on the backs of individual troops and drop them into strategic places to deny their use to the enemy.

One single paratrooper could cut off communications, destroy crops, and demolish key infrastructure in both the Soviet Union and in recently-captured, Soviet-held territory. There’s just one problem with this plan that the Army didn’t really see as much of a problem, apparently.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Humans can run faster than nuclear blasts?

Humans can’t run faster than nuclear blasts. In theory, the idea would be that the troop in question would either set a timer and secure the location before hoofing it out of there, with plenty of time to spare. But let’s be real: is the U.S. Army going to leave that much to chance? What if the enemy found it, disarmed it, secured it and then was able to reproduce it or use that weapon against NATO forces? They wouldn’t because Big Army isn’t that dumb.

Even if it were possible to outrun the timer on the bomb and/or the bomb yield was small enough for the munitions crew to escape, there’s no way the team would be recoverable due to the fallout or the alarm raised by such a weapon – or more likely because the use of a nuclear weapon triggered a full nuclear exchange.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Certificate of Appreciation is a slap in the face to troops

Troops always like feeling appreciated. A simple “good job” at the right time can go a long way in improving the morale of a unit. You can even take it a step further by expressing your gratitude to troops in many different ways: by releasing them early, taking them out for chow, going a little easier on them throughout the work week — you name it.

Then, there’s the Certificate of Appreciation. Given its name, it may seem like a good thing, but if you’re the type of leader that puts a troop in for one of these after they’ve worked their ass off for an extended period of time, well, you might as well just tell them they’re garbage.


Keep in mind, the Certificate of Appreciation is different from a Certificate of Achievement. They look exactly alike, have the same acronym, and they’re often treated the same way at ceremonies — but the one for achievement is actually worth something: Five promotion points each, to be exact, for a maximum of 20 points. It’s not huge, but it’s something.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

2nd Lts. handing them out is fine, because it’s the best they can do and they’re at least trying to do something nice. Company commanders and above who can argue for higher have no excuse.

(Air Force photo by Ron Fair)

The other key difference between these two certificates is the approving authority involved. A Certificate of Achievement has to go through the battalion commander for approval. The Certificate of Appreciation, on the other hand, can be signed by literally anyone in the unit because all it tells a troop is that someone appreciates them. Despite that, if you look at who most often hands them out, it’s Lieutenant Colonels in battalion commander positions.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

If that troop royally f*cked up, fine. But there’s nothing more discouraging than seeing everyone else get something better while you’re stuck with a CoA.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO)

Don’t get this twisted — not every action warrants official recognition. If a troop did something great or put forth a little extra effort, but it’s still well within the scope of their normal duties — like if a commo soldier brought the NIPR net back up at a critical moment — then it’s the right amount of reward. You can even make it a huge thing and officially let the unit know that you appreciate the hard work that a certain soldier put forth at the right moment.

This becomes a problem when the act was actually deserving of an award — like what happens to the many troops who “earn” one as an end-of-tour award. Troops who put heart into what they do get burnt out because they’ve earned far better than what they’re being given. Certificates of Appreciations like that are what sour it for the entire military. If you’re going to go through that extra effort to congratulate them, then make it actually matter.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

It’s also costs the same amount of money on behalf of the unit, since the troops have to go out and buy the damn medal themselves after the ceremony.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

If you actually want to show a troop they’re appreciated, let them know. Hell, you can even keep the exact same format— bring the troop in front of the formation and personally thank them for what they did. Just replace the “military’s version of a high five” with an actual high five.

But when that exact same level of effort on the leadership’s part that could be put toward something that actually matters? Please don’t insult your troops like that. Hell, an Army Achievement Medal is also approved at a battalion commander-level and that could actually make a difference on a troop’s morale by appearing on their uniform — if they’ve done something worthy of it.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The Seahawks have a Navy grad and JAG officer on their roster

Keenan Reynolds is living a double life. The breakout NFL wide receiver was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round in 2016 but eventually found himself in Seattle, taking passes from quarterback Russell Wilson. In his other life, however, he goes by the title Lieutenant Junior Grade Reynolds.


Reynolds is currently on the practice squad for the Seahawks, but the onetime Navy QB made his big league debut this year for Baltimore and later, Seattle. Except in the pros, he’s a wide receiver.

On the days when Reynolds isn’t wearing the Seahawks uniform, he’s decked out in another uniform: the U.S. Navy’s.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Right now, Keenan Reynolds’ Navy work is as a cryptological warfare officer. He’s not allowed to go into further detail.

I can’t really give the details, to be honest with you,” the first-year wideout told the Seattle Times. “Just… we’ll just say cyber.”

His previous work with the Navy saw him as the starting quarterback for the Midshipmen in a stellar football career that saw him break the career rushing touchdown record, the NCAA touchdown record, and career total touchdowns along with the career passing yards records.

Most importantly, he was the only Navy QB to go 4-0 against Army.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was awarded the 86th AAU James E. Sullivan Award on April 10, 2016 at the New York Athletic Club. He shared the award with UConn women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart, who was not in attendance at the ceremony.

Reynolds was the last service academy football player to enter the NFL draft under Obama-era rules regarding academy exemptions. The Department of Defense used to offer elite athletes from its service academies a waiver to defer their active duty service and go into the ready reserve instead.

It allowed players like Keenan Reynold the chance to pursue NFL careers at a time when their chances are the best at being drafted. The rules granted these exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Those waivers were rescinded by the Trump Administration. Now, academy athletes will no longer have the option of a two-year service waiver.

Unfortunately for Reynolds, it was uncertainty about his service obligation that kept him from being invited to the 2016 NFL Combine.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Reynolds was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016.

“I’ve got eight years in the reserves,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I am two years in. So, basically, I owe a certain number of drills a year, and a certain number of active-duty days.”

He went on to say that he was humbled to know he was the last of his kind to be granted a service waiver to pursue his football dreams, but he knows that his fellow academy grads will never give up on their own dreams. They’ll just go for it as soon as they can.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these Greeks built Nazi armored cars from scratch

If you can’t own or buy it, you make it. And that’s exactly what Zacharias Ourgantzidis from Thessaloniki, Greece did. He decided to build a replica of the Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222, a light four-wheel drive armored car, used by the German armored forces during World War II. The production ran from 1937 until 1943 and a total of ca. 990 were produced.


At the beginning of the war, the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 222 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. Later, both of the guns were upgraded to a 2 cm KwK 38 and MG34. It had a crew of 3 and saw action on the Eastern Front, North Africa and Europe. Even China purchased a lot in 1937.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
German tanks pass a knocked-out German Sdkfz 222 armoured car.

Less than a handful of authentic Sdkfz 222 survived and reside in private collections and museums around the world. So, Zacharias Ourgantzidis, decided to recreate an original scale replica of the Sdkfz 222. Costing approximately 10.000 euro.

“My vehicle is a replica and I built it step by step, based on all available documentation”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis to WW2Wrecks. Adding, “I already own 2 Willy’s jeeps, 3 motorcycles, a BSA, a BMW and a Mustang, as well as a variety of other period vehicles and I wanted to add an armored vehicle in my collection.”

“I researched for almost a year and the actual implementation of the plan, from the drawing board to reality lasted 19 months, at a cost of approximately 10,000 euro.”, Mr. Ourgantzidis explained.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
The SdKfz 222 in a private collection.

The chassis is based on a modified ISUZU Trooper SUV, the engine is a 2600cc and all other parts are custom made, based on the specifications and measurements of the original vehicle. There are several original parts used too, mostly coming from Russia and Germany, such as the lights, gun muzzle and other elements which add a period touch to the vehicle.

“I painted the SdKfz 222 with RAL7021, since color used by the Wehrmacht during Operation Marita, the campaign to conquer Greece in 1941, as my vehicle is participating in reenactment events, parades and World War II shows.”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis.

You can enjoy the photographic journey of this painstaking step by step 19-month production to build this Sdkfz 222 replica:

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

MIGHTY CULTURE

You can make it through Navy SEAL training if you can do this

The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.

“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.


This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)

Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.

Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)

The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.

Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.

Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)

It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.

Good luck.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

popular

Ukraine sent a strong message to Russia with its service rifle choice

The AK-47 and the AK-74 assault rifles have long been associated with the remnants of the Soviet Union. In fact, the two iconic weapons still see service within the USSR’s former satellite republics. But if all goes according to plan, Ukraine weapons will get a facelift. Once the arsenal and munitions capital of the USSR — will be swapping out its AKs for a western rifle.


Instead of fielding more modern variants of the AK platform, Ukrainian defense officials have instead opted to field test a derivative of the American M-16 family of rifles to equip their ground forces. Choosing an American weapon to become the basis of their small arms complement is just the latest in a series of moves through which the country hopes to achieve full membership with NATO.

The past decade has seen Ukraine’s relationship with Russia steadily sour, culminating in an armed conflict in 2014 that saw thousands of troops on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides perish in combat. Part of what has wedged a divide between Russia and its former puppet republic is Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.

 

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
A Ukrainian soldier moving to cover during a training exercise in 2015.

(US Army)

Ukraine, like a number of other post-Soviet states, has sought membership with NATO for years, which would give the embattled country considerable military support from European nations and the United States. It would also afford the Ukrainian military the opportunity upgrade and revamp, phasing out older weapons and vehicles in favor of modern warfighting systems and gear.

Uniformity and standardization happen to be large parts of acquiring NATO membership. All member nations use similar calibers for their weaponry, integrated communications systems, etc. Moving away from primarily using gear of Russian origin would quickly allow allied troops in the region to replenish their munitions while fighting alongside personnel from other NATO states.

 

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
A Marine fires his M-16A4 during training.

(USMC photo by Corporal Thomas J. Griffith)

While NATO member states use 5.56x45mm rounds for their rifles, Ukraine still utilizes the Soviet-era 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm rounds for their service weapons. This is partly because Ukraine is still home to munitions factories that produced these bullets in large quantities for the Soviet military and other Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War.

A potential solution to moving the Ukrainian ground forces away from these calibers comes in the form of the WAC-47, designed and produced by Aeroscraft, an American firm. Though it looks just like the standard rifle of the US military on the surface, the WAC-47 is unlike any M-16 or M4 you’ve ever seen or used before.

While it has the same features as the M-16/M4 rifles, including a charging handle above the receiver, a rail mounting system, a retractable stock, etc., it’s designed to fire both the 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm rounds. This is made possible by an exchangeable upper receiver and barrel, allowing the user to switch between round types in a matter of minutes without the use of any tools or jigs.

But that’s hardly the best part.

 

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat
A WAC-47 with an interchangeable upper receiver.

(VoidWanderer)

The WAC-47 can later be retooled in a similar way to accept and fire 5.56 NATO rounds, helping to pave the path towards NATO commonality for Ukraine’s ground forces. This helps the Ukrainian military avoid having to go through the process of finding and buying new rifles once they phase out the older AK derivatives — the weapons will be available and ready for a simple modification.

For now, Ukraine weapons will stick to 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm, only because of the massive stockpiles it currently possesses of these rounds. As its plans to join NATO move ahead, the Ukrainian military has already begun the process of incorporating western equipment and machinery into common use with the ground forces.

It’s unclear when exactly NATO will offer full membership to Ukraine, with some estimating the process taking as long as 20 years. When it does happen, however, it’s very likely that the former Soviet state’s military will be rolling around in western vehicles, with Ukraine weapons being western rifles like the WAC-47, having shed all remnants of its former Soviet military identity.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This intelligence officer was the forgotten hero of Midway

Joseph John Rochefort, the man whose decoding of the Japanese codebook led to the American victory at the Battle of Midway, had enemies other than the Empire of Japan. His feats at cryptanalysis were phenomenal, but not universally appreciated, particularly by the codebreakers in Washington, D.C. Naval jealousy and internal machinations would rob Joseph Rochefort of the honor that was due to him for his brilliant work in predicting where the Japanese fleet would strike after Pearl Harbor.

Rochefort, who had not gone to the Naval Academy, was an outsider from the beginning of his naval career. He was still in high school when he enlisted in the Navy in 1918 with the goal of being a naval aviator. He claimed to have been born in 1898 so that he would seem old enough for a military career, and didn’t even have a high school diploma when he was commissioned as an ensign after graduating from the Navy’s Steam Engineering School at Stevens Institute of Technology.


He wasn’t looking for a career in codebreaking. He served as a staff officer for senior admirals and and enjoyed doing crossword puzzles. Years later, when Commander Chester C. Jersey was posted to Navy Headquarters in Washington, D.C., he remembered Rochefort’s affinity for crossword puzzles. It was 1925 and the Navy was looking for people who could work with codes. The newly created codebreaking outfit of the Navy, OP-20-G, at that time consisted of one man, Lieutenant Laurance F. Stafford, today credited as the father of U.S. Navy cryptology, who had been assigned to develop new codes for the Navy. Rochefort showed up and Safford conducted a six-month cryptanalyis course: Safford provided him with cryptograms to solve and Rochefort solved them. But when Stafford was assigned to sea duty the following year, Rochefort, just twenty-five years old, was the officer in charge of a staff of two.

By June 1941, Rochefort was at Pearl Harbor. By this time, the codebreaking unit had more people and, more relevance. The Japanese didn’t know that their code had been broken years before when a previous American Director of Naval Intelligence used a secret naval intelligence slush fund to finance break-ins during the early 1920s at the Japanese consulate in New York City. The Japanese Navy’s code book was furtively photographed and, over the years, translated. By the time he was sent to Station HYPO at Pearl Harbor, Rochefort had the codebook. But he didn’t have the additive tables, which the Japanese frequently changed. Rochefort’s assignment was to create an accurate additive table using the raw messages that went out over the airwaves by the Japanese Navy.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Joseph John Rochefort.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was a devastating blow to the Navy, but it also galvanized the nation and its military forces into the war effort. Restoration began immediately on the naval fleet. But in order to defeat the Japanese and their intention of becoming the dominant naval power in the Pacific, the Navy knew that codebreaking was a crucial priority. Fortunately, in Joseph Rochefort, they had a codebreaker who worked tirelessly to decipher the messages of the Japanese.

Joseph Rochefort and his crew had been given the order to begin the decryption of JN-25, the central Japanese communications system. As it turned out, breaking the Japanese code would prove easier than addressing the friction between Station HYPO at Pearl Harbor and OP-20-G in Washington, D.C. Captain Edwin Layton was the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer. But, because OP-20-G had given Rochefort the assignment and was more or less overseeing the network of the intercept stations, there was a turf war between Rochefort and Washington, D.C. The D.C. office wanted central control over all of the radio intelligence units.

Rochefort, who was not always as tactful as might have been politic, believed that he answered solely to Admiral Nimitz, who had been named commander of the Pacific Fleet. Layton had a great deal of respect for Rochefort’s factual reports and hard work; he, like Rochefort, was fluent in Japanese and Layton knew how much work was going into the messages that were being translated. In fact, of the five hundred to one thousand messages per day that were being deciphered, Rochefort was personally translating more than one hundred of them. Layton trusted Rochefort’s translation and his assessment, so when Rochefort called Layton on May 14, 1942, to say that he had translated part of a message which included the words “invasion force”, Layton knew it was legitimate. But the message also include an unknown reference, AF, indicating a location. But where was AF? Rochefort was convinced that the location was Midway.

Nimitz agreed with Rochefort’s analysis and ordered three aircraft carriers to return from the South Pacific. Midway was covertly warned of the threat. The Seventh Air Force at Hawaii was placed on alert, its B-17 bombers loaded with bombs ready to strike enemy ships.

Commander John Redman, who commanded OP-20-G, refused to believe that Midway was the next Japanese target, disputing Rochefort’s assertion that AF was Midway. OP-20-G said the target was more likely to be the Hawaiian Islands but thought that the real target was the American West Coast and everything else was merely a decoy.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Captain Edwin Layton.

But Nimitz had complete confidence in Rochefort’s analysis. If Rochefort was wrong, Nimitz’s career would be imperiled. Rochefort devised a plan that would confirm that Midway was the target. The radio operators at Midway were instructed, via undersea cable, to send an uncoded message that the island’s distillation plant, which was responsible for the desalination of the island’s water supply, had broken down. Two days after the message was sent, the Japanese reported that the AF Air Unit needed to be resupplied with fresh water.

The Navy intercept unit in Australia informed Washington that AF was now confirmed to be Midway. Rochefort spent the night before Nimitz’s May 27, 1942 staff meeting reviewing all the messages. He showed up at the meeting to let them know that HYPO had broken the final piece of the JN-25 puzzle; he had a message dated for May 26 ordering the destroyer escorts for the Japanese troopships to arrive at Midway on June 6. Another decoded message said that the air attacks would begin northwest of the island several days before.

Rochefort’s reports came in the nick of time. On May 27, both the code books and the additive tables were changed and radio silence was imposed by the Japanese, denying American codebreakers access. Fortunately, Nimitz had his cues, knowing where and when the Japanese would strike.

Nimitz was not a codebreaker, but he had an instinct for the future of naval warfare and he held the radical view that carriers, and not battleships, would lead to victory. Instead of relying on the few battleships that had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, he focused on the ability of the carriers to deliver hit-and-run attacks against the enemy. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind of the December 7 ambush, had an elaborate plan for the Midway attack.

Nimitz had a simpler approach: get there first and surprise the Japanese. The tactics worked. As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, formerly First Lord of the Admiralty, put it, “The annals of war at sea present no more intense, heart-shaking shock…the qualities of the United States Navy and Air Force and the American race shone forth in splendour”.

After the victory, Station HYPO celebrated for what Rochefort described as a “drunken brawl” for three days. The codebreakers then returned to work to decode JN-25’s new codebook and additives. They had done splendid work that had resulted in a gamechanging victory at sea. But Washington was not so charitable in its response. Rochefort was resisting Redman’s crusade to place all the radio intelligence under the control of OP-20-G in Washington, D.C. Although both HYPO and OP-20-G had been vigorously involved in the codebreaking, it was HYPO which had performed the analysis that had led to victory. As author Stephen Budiansky points out in his book Battle Of Wits: The Complete Story Of Codebreaking In World War II, if Nimitz had followed Washington’s direction, the Japanese would have had a much greater chance of winning at Midway.

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

When Nimitz told Joseph Rochefort that he wanted to nominate him for a Navy Distinguished Service Medal for the role he played in the victory, Rochefort was not encouraging. It would only make trouble, he told Nimitz.

John Redman claimed that Midway was solely the achievement of OP-20-G. Because of that, he could not, would not accede to Nimitz’s intentions of awarding the Distinguished Service Award to Rochefort. Redman’s brother Joseph Redman was the Director of Naval Communications and he took exception to the fact that, in his words, Station HYPO was under the command of someone who was not technically trained in naval communications.

Instead of Rochefort, Captain Redman said, HYPO should be commanded by a senior officer who was trained in radio intelligence. The Redman brothers were effective in their behind-the-scenes efforts and Rochefort did not receive a medal because he had only used the tools that had been provided. It was Washington, not HYPO, the Redmans asserted, that had evaluated the intentions of the Japanese.

Over his desk, Rochefort had a sign which read We can accomplish anything provided no one cares who gets the credit. But no one could have expected that Washington would so completely steal credit from those who deserved it.

The battle for centralization of the radio intelligence units continued. Nimitz authorized his embattled codebreaker to send a memo that Rochefort answered only to Nimitz, not to Washington. A month after he sent the memo, Rochefort was ordered to the Navy Department for temporary additional duty that quickly became permanent. Nimitz was enraged at John Redman, who at this time was now the fleet communications officer for Nimitz. The excuse was that Rochefort’s advice was needed, but Rochefort was no fool. He had told Nimitz that he would not be allowed to return to HYPO.

Rochefort never again worked in coding. At the end of his career, he was placed in command of the San Francisco floating dry dock ABSD-2. Rochefort died in 1976, but the battle to reward him for his work did not end with his death, and Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, responding to renewed efforts to honor the codebreaker who helped to win the Battle of Midway, supported those efforts. Joseph John Rochefort received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal almost a decade after his death, on November 17, 1985.

This article originally appeared on Argunners. Follow @ArgunnersMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Kim Jong Un’s charlie foxtrot of a red carpet entrance

Tension and confusion gripped a train platform in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok on April 23, 2019, when North Korean Kim Jong Un’s bullet-proof armored train pulled in for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both Putin and Kim are known for making grand entrances and power moves like showing up late to meetings with world leaders. But Kim on April 23, 2019, appeared delayed due to a gaffe.

Kim arrived via train, as is his family’s custom and perhaps a clever way to avoid admitting his country has few working aircraft — but something was amiss.


When Kim’s train pulled into the station, it slightly overshot a red carpet laid out in advance for his big stepping-out moment.

While Kim maintains a horrific human rights record at home, he has been increasingly courted by world leaders looking to curb his country’s growing nuclear capabilities.

Apparently, Kim’s security detail found it unacceptable that he should walk on anything besides the red carpet, and had to stand there awkwardly holding a ramp while the train repositioned.

The meeting between Putin and Kim represents just the fourth official summit with a world leader for Kim. Putin, however, has met with most national leaders across Asia.

Russia and North Korea have historical ties of friendship, though the relations became strained during North Korea’s long nuclear breakout.

Upon arrival, Kim appeared to shake off any embarrassment from the train gaffe and quickly spoke to Russian media, a rare step from a leader who previously only spoke through North Korean state outlets.

Kim’s visit to Russia comes at a time when US-North Korean talks have stalled over a basic misunderstanding over the pacing of denuclearization steps and sanctions easing.

North Korea recently publicized the testing of a “tactical” weapon, potentially as a warning to the US that if talks collapse, missile launches and “fire and fury” could again become the norm.

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

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