The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

For four months from Sept. 19, 1870 to Jan. 28, 1871, the Prussian Army laid siege to the city of Paris, as part of the Franco-Prussian War. Prior to having all supply lines cut off, the French Ministry of Agriculture furiously worked to gather as much food and fuel as it could, and at the beginning, “livestock blanket[ed] the Bois de Boulogne park on the edge of Paris.”

Apparently insufficient, within less than a month, the Parisians began butchering the horses, with the meat used as you would expect and even the blood collected “for the purposes of making puddings.” By the end of the siege, approximately 65,000 horses were killed and eaten.


Within another month, by Nov. 12, 1870, butchered dogs and cats began to appear for sale at the market alongside trays full of dead rats and pigeons. The former pets sold for between 20 and 40 cents per pound, while a nice, fat rat could go for 50.

As Christmas approached, most of Paris’ restaurants and cafés were forced to close, although a few of its top eateries continued serving, albeit with a markedly different menu. And as traditional meats were becoming increasingly scarce, the formerly impossible became the actual – when M. Deboos of the Boucherie Anglaise (English Butcher) purchased a pair of zoo elephants, named Castor and Pollux, for 27,000 francs.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

The enormous animals were killed with explosive, steel tipped bullets fired at close range, chopped up and sold, with the trunks being the most desirable and selling for 40-45 francs per pound, and other parts between 10 and 14.

Prized by the fine dining establishments, for its Christmas feat, the Voisin served elephant soup, and for New Year’s Day, Peter’s Restaurant offered filet d’éléphant, sauce Madère.

The elephants weren’t the only zoo animals featured on these menus, as the Voison also served kangaroo and antelope, while Peter’s also served peacock. In addition, rats, mules, donkeys, dogs and cats were also transformed by their chefs into roasts, chops, cutlets and ragouts.

Ultimately most of the animals in the zoo were eaten, with the voracious Parisians sparing only the monkeys, lions, tigers and hippos. It is thought that the monkeys were left because of their close resemblance to humans, but it isn’t clear why the lions, tigers, and hippos escaped the menu.

In any event, the siege was ended by a 23-night bombardment campaign in January, in which the Prussians lobbed 12,000 shells into the city, killing and wounding around 400 people. The Franco-Prussian War officially ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt on May 10, 1871.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Flying aircraft carriers are totally possible (and sort of crazy)

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.


The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

(DARPA)

The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Boeing AAC design sketch

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Sketch of a micro-fighter inside the 747 fuselage.

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

(Concept illustration)

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

The YRF-84F flying underneath its B-36 carrier aircraft. FICON modifications included installing a hook in front of the cockpit and turning down the horizontal tail so it could partially fit into the B-36 bomb bay. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

USS Macon (ZRS-5) Flying over New York Harbor, circa Summer 1933. (U.S. Navy)

Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

The USS Akron in flight, November 1931 (U.S. Navy)

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

New JFK carrier 50% complete with massive chunk added

The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August 2018, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.

The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.


The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons — roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.

Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.

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Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.

The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.

“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

A superlift is dropped into place on the aft section of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, August 2018.

(Huntington Ignalls)

Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.

The shipbuilder said in early 2018 that the Kennedy reached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.

With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August 2018, work on the Kennedy — structural or otherwise — is now halfway done.

The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April 2018 that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2017.

(US Department of Defense photo)

The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)

The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 — two years later than planned — and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about .9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.

The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers — though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the .4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.

The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

The following passage is an excerpt from “Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.” It has been edited for clarity.

On the night of Aug. 5 through Aug. 6, 2011, one of the worst tragedies in modern special operations history occurred. By this point in the war, the men who made up the special operations community were some of the most proficient and combat-hardened warriors the world had ever seen. Even so, the enemy always has a vote.

The men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were on a longer-than-normal deployment as the rest of their company was on Team Merrill and they surged ahead with them.


The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Coalition security members prepare to conduct an operation in search of a Taliban leader. Photo by SGT Mikki L. Sprenkle, courtesy of Department of Defense.

They had yet another raid mission in pursuit of a high-value target in the Tangi Valley, which was in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on the night of August 5.

The mission was not easy. The Rangers took contact not only during their movement to the target but also on the target. Despite the tough fight that left some wounded, the enemy combatants were no match for the Ranger platoon. They secured the target and were gathering anything of value for intelligence when it was suggested by the Joint Operations Center (JOC) back at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) that a platoon of SEALs from a Naval Special Mission Unit be launched to chase down the three or four combatants that ran, or squirted, from the target.

This was a notoriously bad area, and the Ranger platoon sergeant responded that they did not want the aerial containment that was offered at that time. The decision was made to launch anyway. The platoon-sized element boarded a CH-47D Chinook, callsign Extortion 17, as no SOF air assets were available on that short of notice.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

U.S. Special Forces Soldiers, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, alongside Afghan agents from the National Interdiction Unit, NIU, load onto CH-47 Chinooks helicopters for their infiltration prior to an operation in the Ghorak district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez, courtesy of U.S. Army.

As Extortion 17 moved into final approach of the target area at 0238 local time, the Rangers on the ground watched in horror as it took a direct hit from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). The helicopter fell from the sky, killing all 38 on board. The call came over the radio that they had a helicopter down, and the platoon stopped what they were doing to move to the crash site immediately. Because of the urgency of the situation, they left behind the detainees they fought hard to capture.

The platoon moved as fast as possible, covering 7 kilometers of the rugged terrain at a running pace, arriving in under an hour. They risked further danger by moving on roads that were known to have IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to arrive at the crash site as fast as they could, as they were receiving real-time intelligence that the enemy was moving to the crash site to set up an ambush.

Upon their arrival, they found a crash site still on fire. Some of those on board did not have their safety lines attached and were thrown from the helicopter, which scattered them away from the crash site, so the platoon’s medical personnel went to them first to check for any signs of life. With no luck, they then began gathering the remains of the fallen and their sensitive items.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Footage of the Extortion 17 crash site revealed mangled weapons and melted metal. Screen capture via YouTube.

Similar to the Jessica Lynch rescue mission almost a decade prior, the Rangers on the ground decided to push as many guys as possible out on security to spare them from the gruesome task. Approximately six Rangers took on the lion’s share of the work. They attempted to bring down two of the attached cultural support team (CST) members, but had to send them back as they quickly lost their composure at the sight of it all. On top of that, the crashed aircraft experienced a secondary explosion after the Rangers arrived that sent shrapnel into two of the medics helping to gather bodies.

Despite their injuries, they kept working. Later in the day they had to deal with a flash flood from enemy fighters releasing dammed water into the irrigation canal running through the crash site in an attempt to separate the Ranger platoon, cutting them in half. Luckily, because of the sheer amount of water heading toward them, they heard it before it hit them and were moved out of the way before anyone was hurt. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an afternoon lightning storm that was so intense it left some of their equipment inoperable and their platoon without aerial fire support.

Meanwhile, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was alerted after coming off a mission of their own. They took a small break to get some sleep before they flew out to replace the other platoon, which would hold the site through the day. Once they awoke, they were told to prepare to stay out for a few days. They rode out and landed at the nearest Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ), 7 kilometers from the crash site, and made their way in with an Air Force CSAR team in tow.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Austin Williams visits the gravesite of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher C. Campbell in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Campbell was one of 30 Americans killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, crashed in Afghanistan. Photo by Rachel Larue, courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.

After arriving, the platoon from 2/75 had to make the 7-kilometer trek back to the HLZ, as that was the nearest place a helicopter could land in the rugged terrain. The men were exhausted, having walked to their objective the night before, fighting all night, running to the crash site, securing it through the day only to execute another long movement to exfil.

New to the scene, the platoon from 1/75 did what they could to disassemble the helicopter and prepare it to be moved. The last platoon evacuated the bodies and sensitive items on board, so now the only thing left was the large pieces of the aircraft spread out across three locations. They were out for three days straight, using demolitions as well as torches to cut the aircraft into moveable sections and then loading them onto vehicles that the conventional Army unit that owned the battlespace brought in.

Despite the gruesome and sobering task, Rangers worked until the mission was accomplished. The third stanza of the Ranger Creed states that you will never fail your comrades and that you will shoulder more than your fair share of the task, whatever it may be, 100 percent and then some. The Rangers of these two platoons more than lived the Creed in response to the Extortion 17 tragedy.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

11,000 pounds of hashish seized by US warship

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) interdicted a shipment of narcotics aboard a stateless vessel while conducting maritime security operations in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden, Dec. 27, 2018.

Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team seized over 11,000 pounds of hashish while conducting a flag verification boarding.


“We have been conducting maritime security operations along suspected maritime smuggling routes in order to interdict illicit shipments into Yemen and Somalia,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brent Jackson, commanding officer of Chung-Hoon. “It’s critical in an effort to curb the ongoing shipments of illicit weapons and narcotics. I am grateful that Chung-Hoon was able to play a small part in an ongoing effort to deter and limit these illicit shipments of contraband.”

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team board a stateless dhow that was transporting 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden.

(US Navy photo)

The vessel was determined to be stateless following a flag verification boarding, conducted in accordance with customary international law. The vessel and its crew were allowed to depart once the narcotics were seized.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team prepare to board a stateless dhow.

(US Navy photo)

Chung-Hoon is one of the many ships currently conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet. Maritime security operations as conducted by the U.S. Navy entail routine patrols to determine pattern of life in the maritime as well as enhance mariner-to-mariner relations. The relationships built as a result allow the U.S. Navy to disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and unlawful activities, and also reassures law-abiding mariners in the region.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team board a stateless dhow that was transporting 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden.

(US Navy photo)

Chung-Hoon is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

Aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, U.S. Navy Yeoman 2nd Class Michael Rawles, left, and Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Cervantes observe a stateless dhow found to be carrying over 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Logan C. Kellums)


The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Twin brothers use sibling bond to give back to their units

Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.

Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.


Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”

With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.

“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”

“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”

For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.

“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”

Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

U.S. Naval Academy.

“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”

Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.

“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”

When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.

“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.

The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.

“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”

Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps F-35s hit hard with back-to-back bombings in the Pacific

Marine Corps F-35s recently carried out the first at-sea “hot reload” of ordnance, dropping 1,000-pound bombs in the Pacific in rapid succession, the Marines said in a statement.

Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters armed with a 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and conducted a strike on a “killer tomato,” a large red inflatable target.

After dropping its payload, the aircraft quickly returned to the ship, refueled, reloaded, and set out on a second attack run on the floating target.


The fifth-generation stealth fighters also opened fire with their GAU-22 cannon, which can uses four barrels simultaneously to fire 3,300 rounds per minute. The 25 mm gun is, according to Military.com, carried on an external pod on the Marine Corps’ F-35 variation, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings on the amphibs, basically small aircraft carriers.

F-35 Lightning Jet 25mm Cannon Firing! GAU-22 Equalizer

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At-sea hot reloading is a critical capability that allows for the surge offensive air support for strike missions in this theater, where US forces are increasingly training to fight in contested environments. While the training is not directly aimed at any particular adversary, the US military is focused on great power competition and is training for a high-intensity conflict with China and Russia.

“Our recent F-35B strike rehearsals demonstrate the 31st MEU’s lethality and readiness to address potential adversaries.” Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard the Wasp, said in a statement. “The speed that we can conduct precision strikes with devastating effects while providing close air support to our Marines is nothing shy of awesome. Bottom-line; the F-35B defines shock and awe!”

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An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese, aviation ordnance officer with the 31st MEU, said that the troops are learning to “rain down destruction like never before.”

Marine F-35Bs with the 31st MEU achieved another milestone earlier this year, flying in “beast mode” and conducting strike missions with externally-loaded inert and live munitions.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 historic wars that are still technically alive today

International diplomacy is a sort of constantly evolving, tangled mess. So much so that, in some cases, we could technically still be at war with a country that we’re now allied with. For instance, America never ratified the treaty that ended World War I, but invading Germany to finally settle the century-old grudge match would get fairly complicated since it’s now a NATO member. Here are three wars that we never bothered to wrap up on paper (but please don’t try to go fight in them):


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U.S. Army infantrymen fight during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I.

(U.S. Army)

America never agreed to the final terms of World War I

Yup, we’ll just go ahead and knock out this one that we hinted at in the intro. America signed, but never ratified, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Oddly enough, though, this wasn’t because of issues with the lay of the land in Europe as the war closed, or even land claims or military restrictions around the world. The actual issue was that American President Woodrow Wilson wanted to establish the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, and he used the treaty to do it.

But isolationists in Congress didn’t want America to join the league, and so they shot down all attempts to ratify the treaty at home. And America only officially adopts treaties when ratified, not signed, so America never actually agreed to the final terms of World War I.

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Gurkha troops march to escort Japanese prisoners of war at the end of World War II in 1945.

(Imperial War Museums)

Japan and China never made peace after World War II

There are a number of still-simmering tensions between combatants from World War II, including the Kuril Islands Dispute between Russia and Japan.

(This author even once made the error of saying that Russia and Japan were still at war, which is only sort of right. While the two countries never agreed to a treaty ending the conflict, they did agree to a Joint Declaration in 1956 that had a similar effect. Essentially, it said they couldn’t yet agree to a treaty, but they were no longer fighting the war.)

But there was an Allied country that never reached peace with Japan: China. And China arguably suffered the worst under Japanese aggression. But, because of the civil war in China at the time, there were two rival governments claiming to represent China, and no one could agree on which government to invite. So China didn’t take part in the peace process at all.

So China and Japan never technically ended their hostilities, and Japan’s almost-peace with Russia is not quite finished either.

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Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula in 2015.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Koreas are, famously, still at war.

The ongoing state of conflict on the Korean Peninsula is probably the most famous issue on this list. The Korean War sort of ended on July 27, 1953, when the United Nations and the Delegation of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the Korean Armistice Agreement which instituted a truce between North and South Korea.

But, importantly, no national government agreed to the armistice or the truce. The militaries involved essentially agreed to stop killing each other, but the larger governments never came together to hash out the real peace. And this is a problem since the two countries have a much more tense relationship than any other group on this list.

America and Germany are not suddenly going to revert back to 1918 and start killing each other again. But South and North Koreans at the border still sometimes shoot at one another, and people have died in border clashes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

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TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

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Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

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But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

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His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

To celebrate Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War,” PBS and USAToday created a Vietnam War Draft Lottery calculator. Simply enter your birth month and day to find out if you would have been drafted for wartime service in Vietnam.


Check Out USAToday’s Draft Number Calculator.

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A U.S. soldier turns to give instructions as firing continues in front of him during Operation Byrd.

The calculator, of course, does not use your birth year because many of us were born well after the Vietnam War. For those born in 1950, however, being drafted in 1970 was a very real prospect. In today’s all-volunteer military, the idea of someone being forced into that lifestyle change can seem very bizarre. Most of the men who rotated through the country were volunteers, but a significant number were not.

Unlike World War II, there were no lines to sign up for service. And unlike the Civil War, there was no paying a substitute to take your place. But still, the perception existed that with money and connections, someone could avoid serving. So in an effort to make the draft more fair (or appear fair), a lottery was put in place.

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It was seriously a draft lottery.

Draft age men were assigned a number between 1 and 366, depending on their birthday. The lowest numbers were called first. This was all entirely at random.

Of course, that didn’t stop some of those who were called to service from further avoiding Selective Service. Some went to college or graduate school or faked medical conditions, while others fled to Canada. In all, half a million Americans dodged their Vietnam War service.

They were fugitives until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter ordered a general amnesty. Deserters, however, were not given amnesty.

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Carter pardoned draft dodgers the day after his inauguration.

Ken Burns’ film recalls the accounts of more than 100 witnesses to the war in what he calls a “360-degree narrative.” The 10-part, 18-hour documentary “The Vietnam War” is available for streaming on PBS.

MIGHTY HISTORY

16 times drug use played a part in military conflicts

Sure, you’ve heard of the War on Drugs but what about drug use during military conflict, drugs in the Army, and even wars where people were high? Throughout history, drugs and wars have gone hand in hand. Needless to say, a military conflict is a stressful environment and the stress of the battlefield can be traumatizing to troops — drug use and war are no strangers to one another.


1. Amphetamines Keep Syrian Forces Fighting

Speed seems to be the drug of choice for military conflicts; amphetamine has that dangerous combination of keeping soldiers fighting for days on end and keeping them from getting any sleep. In the Middle East, Syrian-made Captagon is the speed of choice, being employed by ISIS fighters so they can stay alert during battle.

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One minor setback: The drug, which was created in the ’60s to treat hyperactivity and narcolepsy, is highly addictive — so addictive that it was banned in the ‘8os (that’s how you know it’s bad). It’s also very cheap to make, yet has a street value of around $20 a tablet. The effects of Captagon keep the soldiers euphoric, sleepless, and energetic. The profits from Captagon sales are believed to be used by the Islamic State in Syria to buy weapons.

2. The First Opium War Was Non-Ironically Fought Over Opium

Take a wild guess as to the prominent drug of the First Opium War. If you said “opium,” then you are unsurprisingly correct. How it worked: Britain violated China’s ban on the importation of opium, seeking to right an imbalance in the flow of trade between the two countries. The Chinese people quickly became addicted to the drug, including those in the army.

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It is estimated that 90% of the Emperor’s Army was addicted to opium. Put that head-to-head with a superior British military and, well, you can predict the outcome.

3. The American Civil War Created “Soldier’s Disease” and Morphine Addicts

During the Civil War, morphine was considered a “wonder drug” for the wounded. It was also used as an anesthetic and pain killer during field amputations. The problem was, after the war, many wounded soldiers carried on with their morphine use.

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It was estimated that 400,000 soldiers returned from the war as addicts. The term “soldier’s disease” was even coined to describe the addiction. By the end of the 19th century, there were one million Americans who had “soldier’s disease.”

Also read: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

4. Zulu Warriors Fought While Tripping on Mushrooms

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In the 1870s the British Empire wanted to conquer the Zulu Kingdom. To help combat their foes, the Zulus would use magic mushrooms and THC, packed in a snuff form. When the British came attacking, they just popped magic mushrooms and felt invincible.

5. World War I Soldiers Smoked ‘Em Up

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Morphine fell out of favor after the “soldier’s disease” epidemic of the Civil War, and by the time World War One rolled around it was no longer in use. So, the doughboys in the trenches turned on to tobacco to calm their nerves and cigarettes were even distributed as part of military rations. Some 14 million were given out daily.

6. Hitler Fueled His Third Reich with Speed

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Have you seen the documentary High Hitler? The whole Nazi regime was fueled on speed and meth to keep them marching. Along with that, the Americans, British, and Japanese troops popped amphetamines to stay awake. Some 200 million pills were distributed to soldiers by the American military. Soldiers and speed was thought of as the ultimate fighting combination.

7. The Vietnam War Was All Pot and Heroin

The ’60s was the time of cultural revolution. While the kids were getting high at Woodstock, so were the soldiers in Vietnam. Marijuana was the preferred drug of the troops – which they referred to as “the sh*t.” Things shifted in 1968 and society began to crackdown on weed. As a result, soldiers switched to heroin, which they mixed with tobacco and smoked in the field.

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By the summer of 1971, 20 percent of American troops in Vietnam were heroin addicts.

8. Sierra Leone Civil War Numbed Boy Soldiers with Brown-Brown and Speed

You’d be hard-pressed to find a sadder chapter in history than that of Sierre Leone and the war fought with boy soldiers. To get children to kill, the drug lords used a combination of speed, cocaine, and “brown-brown”: a snorted mixture of cocaine and gunpowder.

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The drugs would make the boy soldiers numb to everything around. To charge them up at night, the child troops would be made to watch Rambo movies.

9. Pill-Popping Energized the Iraq War

Much like how prescription drugs were abused by the rest of society in the 2000s, the pills were also abused by the American military. Prescription drug abuse tripled among soldiers during the Iraq War.

Artane, normally used for Parkinson’s disease, became the drug of choice, providing energy and courage when it came time to break down doors and enter houses in the middle of the night.

10. Heroin Money Funds Terrorists in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has always been known for opium and its poppy fields. In fact, the country produces 90% of the world’s supply. A 2009 United Nations study estimated that $160 million of drug money in Afghanistan goes to fund terrorist activities each year.

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Heroin serves two distinct military tactics in this case: The Taliban was using the drug money to fight Americans, and also using the heroin to get Americans addicted.

Related: Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

11. The Napoleonic Wars Were a Booze-Fest

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Drunken British soldiers gulped alcohol to boost morale and give them the courage to kick Napoleon’s ass. Some Brit soldiers would spend a month’s wages on a single drinking session, which higher-ranking officers were told to strictly avoid.

12. The Speedball Was Invented During the Korean War

Most of what the average person knows about the Korean War is from watching reruns of the TV show M.A.S.H. But what type of drug abuse were these soldiers into during the military conflict?

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The Korean War saw American servicemen stationed in Korea and Japan concocting the speedball: an injectable mixture of amphetamine and heroin.

13. Boko Haram Uses Sex-Enhancing Drugs

In the conflict between the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram militants, drugs have played a different role in the conflict than as in other wars and military encounters. Members of the Nigerian Army have noted that Boko Haram has turned their camps into sex enclaves.

Milice_d'autodéfense_Nigeria_2015

When the troops captured their bases, they found a littering of condoms and sex-enhancing drugs. Surprisingly, the troops didn’t find Qur’an or other Islamic book.

14. The Gaza Strip Is a Drug Trafficking Epicenter

The war between Israel and the Palestinians indirectly caused a flurry of drug trafficking activity. Over 1,200 tunnels have been constructed on the Gaza/Egyptian border to smuggle food, weapons, goods, and drugs into Gaza.

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A bulk of the drugs being smuggled through the tunnels are pills. Although the Egyptian army has taken measures to shut down the tunnels, smuggling goods into Gaza has become a way of life.

15. Cocaine Backed the Contras

The Contras were the US-backed and funded terrorist rebel groups that took on the left-wing, socialist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government in Nicaragua.

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In 1986, the Reagan Administration acknowledged that funds from cocaine smuggling helped fund the Contra, which included payments to known drug traffickers by the US State Department. So basically, the CIA worked with drug smugglers to fund an overthrow of the Nicaraguan government.

16. Hemp Played a Major Role in the Revolutionary War

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As is widely known, America’s Founding Fathers were well into the hemp and cannabis. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Needless to say, the Declaration of Independence was signed on hemp paper.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


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U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

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Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

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Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

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Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

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Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

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Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

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8 times General Dempsey wowed audiences with his singing ability

General Martin Dempsey served as the 37th Chief of Staff of the Army and the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2011 to 2015. He 41-year career went from 1974 to his retirement in 2015. A proud Irish American, Dempsey learned a bit of Irish during his childhood summers in the Emerald Isle. His cultural heritage shone through during his time in the Army. As a general officer, Dempsey delivered a lot of speeches. He was well-known for ending his speeches with a little tune, especially an Irish one. In many cases, he would perform alongside bands at events like dining outs. Here are a few of the best performances by the general.

1. “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears”

In 2013, tenor Anthony Kearns was General Dempsey’s guest at a Pre-Inaugural Brunch for the Medal of Honor Society at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Dempsey held his own alongside the famous singer and the two men delivered an Irish tune that no one in attendance would soon forget.

2. Connecting with kids

In 2015, General Dempsey attended an event with children of military and veteran families. He cited Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” and sang a short line from Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars. But the general took it a step further a taught the kids the Irish classic “The Unicorn” and the corresponding motions.

3. “Christmas in Killarney”

In 2004, then Major General Dempsey joined the 1st Armored Division Band and Soldier’s Chorus for this festive tune during a special holiday concert. Despite the event being held in German monastery, Dempsey managed to bring a bit of Irish flare to the performance.

4. “New York, New York”

One of the general’s favorite songs to sing is this Sinatra classic. In 2010, he performed at the International Reception in Fort Monroe.

5. “Red is the Rose”

Another Irish classic, General Dempsey sung this tune two years after his retirement. At the 2017 Irish America Hall of Fame awards luncheon, Rosamond Mary Moore Carew, also known as Mema, celebrated her 106th birthday. In addition to everyone singing her “Happy Birthday”, Dempsey gave a special performance of “Red is the Rose.” Truly beautiful.

6. “My Kind of Town”

Though he usually sings about New York, the general is no stranger to this other Sinatra classic about Chicago. He teamed up with the folks at From the Top and the Military Child Education Coalition to celebrate military kids and gave them this fantastic performance.

7. “America”

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, General Dempsey teamed up with the Army Band for a socially-distanced performance of a brand new song. Titled “America”, the tune speaks of our country’s resiliency and strength in our unity. If you missed it when premiered in 2020, take a listen.

8. “The Parting Glass”

Perhaps General Dempsey’s most emotional performance was this farewell tune at his retirement ceremony in 2015. Joining the Army Band, the general sang goodbye to his friends and comrades in uniform. As he passed off the microphone, the band continued to play him out. The general returned to his family and was swarmed by his grandchildren as he saluted the band. The emotion in this performance gives me goosebumps every time.

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