6 well-known ways the White House stays secure - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

The little old building on the back of the $20 bill is known all around the world as the residence and workplace of the leader of the free world. Being said leader of the White House is a dangerous prospect: There have been thirty-three known attempts at the lives of sitting U.S. presidents. Four of those attempts, unfortunately, were successful.

It stands to reason that measures must be taken at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to prevent any attacks on the lives of the president, the first family, and anyone else who serves there. But protecting the president requires far more than just armed guards and motion-activated cameras.

The true extent of the protection at the White House has never been — and shouldn’t ever be — released to the public. While the White House is open about sharing some of its protective measures, it should be assumed that the men and women of the Secret Service have thought of ways to counter or deal with literally any other scenario a would-be threat could conjure up.


6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

You really don’t want to try your luck at finding out what the President’s bathroom looks like.

21-day advanced tour notice

When you think of a “secure location,” the last place you think of is somewhere that’s so widely visited that it offers tours in eleven different languages. But not just anyone can easily mosey on into the White House.

In order to be given the tour of the highest office in the land, you must submit an application at least 21 days before your scheduled visit. This gives the security an accurate headcount and the ability to perform background checks on visitors. For obvious reasons, the tour is also guided through only select portions of the White House.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

If gas stations and banks have them, you can assume the White House has better.

(Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Bulletproof windows

Windows are typically vulnerable to firearms. Funnily enough, in any photo you see of the White House, you’ll also see countless windows. Even the Resolute Desk is positioned with the President’s back turned to a bunch of windows in the Oval Office.

Thankfully, they’re some of the most impenetrable windows known to man. In November 2011, an attacker fired seven rounds from a semi-automatic rifle into the White House, but not even consecutive shots could shatter a window.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

“There he is! Get him!”

Infrared sensors

Every inch of the perimeter is surrounded in infrared lasers that detect even the most minuscule threat against the White House. These aren’t the lasers that you’d see in old spy films that challenge intruders to a deadly game of limbo. No, these blanket everything to include the sky, the surface, and even underground.

With that level of security, you’d expect swarms of agents to descend on even the smallest intruders — like a wayward squirrel. Well, it happens all the time. But it’s better to be aware of every single squirrel than to let a single threat wiggle by.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

In this photo are at least seven SAM batteries (probably), so the White House itself wouldn’t need one.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)

Surface-to-air missiles

Washington D.C. is a no-fly zone. Any plane not scheduled or following the strict path into Ronald Reagan National Airport are first given a warning. If they don’t show any sort of compliance immediately, they’ll be taken down by one of the countless surface-to-air missiles located around the capital.

While it’s known that many missile batteries are located in Washington D.C., it’s more of an urban legend that there’s an Avenger missile system on top of the White House itself. That remains unproven, but the White House does have those high-tech laser systems that can detect any possible threat from a mile out, alerting other missile systems that then take down the threat.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

Which probably means the guy who had fun with the drones might now be in charge of them. Or not. We’ll never know.

(United States Secret Service photo)

Drones

In January, 2015, an unnamed government employee and amateur drone hobbyist was having fun with his drone outside the White House lawn after his shift. It was able to fly through the detection systems fairly easily until it hit the ground and set off countless alarm systems, sending every single agent into a frenzy. The man wasn’t charged because he was an employee at the White House and because it highlighted a major security fault in the systems at the time.

Since then, the White House has employed drones of their own to act as both roving security cameras and to take down any other drones that come into area. Coincidentally, the same drones that the Secret Service now uses are the same that the hobbyist used.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

Everyone always looks through the fence, but never stops to admire the awesomeness that is the fence itself.

The fence

With all of these security measures in place, the most obvious one is actually the most effective, historic, and iconic: the fence that surrounds the White House. First erected in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson, it has seen many changes over its lifetime. What was once a simple barricade to keep the president’s livestock on the property has now become an 11-foot tall, vehicle-stopping, climb-resistant, behemoth of steel and rebar.

Not only is the newest fence crowned with spikes to deter attempts at climbing, it also alerts agents the moment anyone puts pressure on it to ensure nobody makes it over.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time British Intelligence hacked al-Qaeda just to mess with them

One might assume that an international intelligence apparatus like Britain’s MI6 would wreak havoc when hacking into a terrorist-affiliated website. The truth is they did little more than likely annoy al-Qaeda after hacking a recruiting website. The result wasn’t exactly devastating, unless you’re someone who hates cupcakes.


6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

Who could hate these? They’re ADORABLE.

While it’s hard to imagine even the most hardcore of Islamist extremist terrorists hating cupcakes (though it’s even harder to imagine one of them eating one like the adorable unicorn cupcakes pictured above), whether they made MI6’s infamous cupcakes is unknown – but they definitely had the recipe.

In 2011, the UK’s external intelligence service was in an all-out information war with al-Qaeda and the terrorist organization’s affiliate groups. In particular, Her Majesty’s secret service was looking to disrupt the activities of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its effort to recruit “lone wolf” attackers abroad. One of the ways it recruited disgruntled Westerners was through the use of its online magazine, called “Inspire.”

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

New rule: everyone who wakes up with the sun to say “Guys, today let’s be inspired by Al-Qaeda” gets droned.

But when avid readers of Inspire went to download the June 2011 Issue to read “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef” actually downloaded a semi-unintelligible computer code. The code still revealed a recipe, but it had nothing to do with your mom’s kitchen and everything to do with some cupcakes that *might* be described as “da bomb.”

MI6 reportedly hacked the website and replaced “Inspire” with a number of episodes for delicious cupcakes, including a recipe featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show dubbed “The Best Cupcakes in America” as well as a number of original recipes from Ohio-based cupcaker Main Street Cupcakes. Al-Qaeda initiates came looking for bomb-making information and instead received a flavor explosion, with varieties such as white rum cake with buttercream frosting, rocky road, and a delicious-sounding mojito flavor.

“Inshallah you checked them with a toothpick before removing them from the oven.”

On top of removing the bomb-making instructions, intelligence analysts replaced articles by Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on “What to Expect in Jihad.” Both MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had been planning on disrupting the publication and dissemination of the magazine since they discovered its creation. The western allies have deployed a number of cyber weapons to disrupt al-Qaeda’s information warfare operations.

Although the CIA and MI6 were able to successfully put off the publication of “Inspire,” the full issue and more issues were published immediately anyway. The executive editor of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s signature magazine, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone-strike in Yemen just a few months later.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how Theodore Roosevelt turned a ‘cowboy cavalry’ into the battle-ready ‘Rough Riders’

Few figures in American history loom as large as Teddy Roosevelt. The man embodied the can-do American spirit and the gritty resolve of the American fighting man.


But when the former “Rough Rider” was offered up his first military command, the gutsy Roosevelt initially demurred.

Theodore Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy when war with Spain broke out in April 1898. As soon as Congress authorized three volunteer cavalry regiments, Secretary of War Russell Alger offered command of one of those regiments to Roosevelt.

A former frontiersman and staunch advocate for American intervention in Cuba, Roosevelt was eager to join the fight. But as ready as Roosevelt was to go, he had no idea how to lead men in combat, as he explained in his recollection of the war:

“Fortunately, I was wise enough to tell the Secretary that while I believed I could learn to command the regiment in a month, yet that it was just this very month which I could not afford to spare, and that therefore I would be quite content to go as Lieutenant-Colonel, if he would make [Leonard] Wood Colonel.”

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
In case you were curious what a young TR looked like on the American frontier. #Amerigasm

The next month, Roosevelt resigned his position in the Navy Department to join his friend Leonard Wood in raising the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The original recruiting plan called for nearly 800 volunteers from New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and the Indian Territory. However, the regiment was allowed a strength of 1,000 men drawn from anywhere. So Roosevelt recruited his old acquaintances from Harvard as well as other Ivy League men from Princeton and Yale.

The regiment would eventually consist of cowboys, ranchers, and miners from the territories, former lawmen and soldiers, college scholars and athletes, as well as Indians and even a few foreigners. Considering the diversity of his volunteers, Roosevelt was often worried discipline would be an issue. But in the end, he was “agreeably disappointed.”

The men gathered in San Antonio, Texas, to begin preparations for war. It was around this time that the term “Rough Riders” was first applied to the unit. Though Wood and Roosevelt initially fought against it, they eventually embraced the name.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
You don’t get your own GI Joe without a combat deployment.

While Wood had the military wherewithal to lead the men, it was Roosevelt’s connections that made it all possible. Roosevelt used his political connections to ensure his people received the same equipment as regular army units. Wood, knowing the system, expedited the requests through the ordinance and quartermaster departments. Roosevelt then greased the wheels in Washington to make sure their equipment arrived promptly.

The regiment issued the Krag-Jorgensen .30-caliber carbine and Colt .45 revolver to its troops. The regular army equipment was vital, as it meant the Rough Riders could link up with regular army cavalry units and share supplies. Roosevelt’s affluence and family ties also garnered a pair of M1895 Colt machine guns from a wealthy donor.

Finally, the unit adopted a uniform appropriate to its nickname. The Rough Riders’ uniform consisted of a slouch hat; blue flannel shirt; khaki trousers; leggings; boots and a handkerchief tied loosely around the neck. It was “exactly as a body of cowboy cavalry should look.”

Once equipped and outfitted with the necessities, the unit set about training as a standard cavalry unit. Wood was mostly engaged in acquiring the equipment necessary to deploy the regiment. This left much of the training in the hands of Roosevelt. Though most of the men were already excellent horsemen, they drilled in shooting from horseback and fighting in military formation. After some deliberation, Roosevelt decided to neither train nor arm the men with the standard cavalry saber, as they were wholly unfamiliar with it. Instead, their secondary weapon would be the revolver, a weapon the cowboys knew well.

By the end of May, with scarcely a month of training, the men departed San Antonio for Tampa, Florida, where they would embark for Cuba. A transportation shortage meant only eight of the regiment’s 12 companies would make the trip – with no horses. Those companies arrived in Cuba on June 23, 1898, and were assigned to the Cavalry Division, Fifth Army Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. William Rufus Shafter.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
This is what deploying in 1898 looked like.

The very next day, the Rough Riders saw their first action at the Battle of Las Guiasimas. Led by Gen. ‘Fighting Joe’ Wheeler, a former Confederate officer, the Rough Riders –  along with the 1st and 10th Cavalry Regiments and Cuban units – advanced against a Spanish outpost. In the excitement of the fighting, Wheeler is said to have exclaimed “Let’s go boys! We’ve got the damn Yankees on the run again!” confusing his time in the Civil War over 30 years prior.

This small fight brought initial fame to the Rough Riders when the stories hit newspapers back home. But the Rough Riders were not done yet. A week later, the unit would go down in history its their part in the battle of San Juan Hill.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
Roosevelt poses with soldiers during the Spanish American War

On July 1, the bulk of Fifth Corps advanced on Santiago de Cuba. A bloody fight broke out at San Juan and Kettle Hills outside the city. Roosevelt was now leading the Rough Riders after Wood’s promotion to Brigade Commander. Disturbed by the inaction and slow pace of orders being given by Shafter, Roosevelt pressed his men forward under heavy Spanish fire. Roosevelt felt the orders to progress slowly were inadequate to take the hill. He ordered his men into a full frontal assault.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill by Frederic Remington. In reality, they assaulted San Juan Heights and the portion later called Kettle Hill by the Americans.

The Rough Riders, joined by surrounding units who were encouraged by their tenacity, surged forward in a series of rushes against the Spanish trenches and blockhouses. They succeeded in taking the position, though casualties were high. Roosevelt’s leadership during the battle earned him the Medal of Honor in 2001.

After the battle of San Juan Hill, the Rough Riders assisted in the siege of Santiago and the final defeat of the Spanish in Cuba. During the campaign, the Rough Riders suffered 23 killed in action and just over 100 wounded. On September 18, 1898, just four months after its initial formation, the Army disbanded the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The experimental rifle that almost changed World War II

In 1928, the Army asked itself how it could make its rifles, and therefore its riflemen, more lethal in case all those building tensions in Europe and Asia eventually boiled over and triggered a new world war. After years of study and design, they came up with a rifle design that some leaders thought would be capable of tipping battles, but it never saw combat.


6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

Pedersen rifle patent

It started in 1928 when the Army created a “Caliber Board” to determine what the most lethal size would be for a rifle round. Their eventual conclusion would be familiar to anyone who carried an M16 or M4. While .30-caliber and larger rounds were great for hunting animals, they passed too quickly and easily through humans. The board decided that a smaller round, preferably .276 inches or smaller, would be best.

This decision was no surprise to John Douglas Pedersen, a well-known weapon designer with an experimental rifle chambered for .276-caliber that featured a delayed-blowback mechanism and a 10-round clip.

This allowed the weapon to fire reliably, and it allowed infantrymen and cavalrymen to maintain a high rate of fire. A demonstration of the weapon pleased senior Army leaders, and they asked when they could take prototypes to the field for testing.

But the Pedersen did have some drawbacks. The weapon was very precisely machined, and even small errors could throw off its operation. Also, its rounds had to receive a thin coating of wax to guarantee that they’d properly feed through the weapon. Finally, its clips could only be fed in one direction into the rifle, meaning riflemen reloading under fire would have to be careful to get it right.

So, other weapon designers thought they had a chance to win the Army’s business. Other .276-caliber designs entered competition, including the Garand.

The Garand could take a beating, was easier to manufacture, and didn’t need lubricated rounds. The Pedersen was still the frontrunner in many eyes, but the Garand posed a real threat to it.

Shooting a .276 Pedersen PB Rifle

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Shooting a .276 Pedersen PB Rifle

An even greater blow to the Pedersen was coming. As the move to a .276-caliber continued, the Army Ordnance Department was putting up fierce resistance. The department didn’t want to have to set up the whole new supply chain, get the new tools, or prepare the new stockpiles of ammunition required to support the switch.

The Ordnance Department argued, successfully, to Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur that the change would be expensive and present logistics challenges. MacArthur ordered that any new rifle had to use the .30-caliber ammunition already in use by the Army.

Most of the competitors, including Pedersen, didn’t think they could re-configure their weapons quickly to accept the larger ammunition, but the Garand team could. They quickly swapped in new parts, and entered a .30-caliber Garand and it won the competition, going on to become the M1 Garand of World War II legend.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

A U.S. Marine with his trusty M1 Garand in World War II.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

But it’s easy to imagine an alternate history where the Pedersen or the .276-Garand went into production instead. The .30-caliber ammunition and older weapons would’ve still seen action, sent forward with Free French, British, and Russian forces under the Cash-and-Carry system and then Lend-Lease.

Meanwhile, American troops would’ve carried a slightly lighter rifle and much lighter rounds, giving them the ability to more quickly draw their weapons and the ability to sustain a higher rate of fire with the same strain on individual soldiers and the logistics chain.

And, best of all, more lethality per hit. The .30-caliber rounds, the same size as 7.62mm, are more likely to pass through a target at the ranges in which most battles are fought. But .276-caliber rounds are more likely to tumble a time or two after hitting a target, dispersing their energy in the target’s flesh and causing massive internal bleeding.

So, if the 1928 Ordnance Board and the modern minds behind 5.56mm and the potential 6.8mm weapons were right, each successful rifle hit by American soldiers was more likely to cause death or extreme wounding.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today’s Springfield Armory isn’t your grandpa’s Springfield Armory

When people think of American firearm manufacturers, legendary names like Colt, Smith & Wesson and Springfield come to mind. However, the modern firearms that today’s Springfield Armory makes like the M1A, SAINT AR-15s, XD pistols and Hellcat sub-compact pistol have little, if any, relation to classic American firearms like the M1903 Springfield and M1 Garand rifles that served in the World Wars. To explain, we have to go back to America’s fight for independence.

In 1777, George Washington was searching for a suitable location for an arms repository. General Henry Knox, chief artillery officer of the Continental Army, recommended Springfield, Massachusetts. Though the town was small and possessed little industrial capacity, it was not meant to host any sort of firearms manufacturing facilities. Rather, the Continental Army needed a central location to store and distribute firearms and munitions throughout New England. Springfield lay at the intersection of three rivers including the Connecticut River and four major roads that led to New York City, Boston, Albany, and Montreal. After scouting the site, Washington approved the location and the Springfield Armory was born.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
Shays’ Rebellion is driven away from Springfield Armory (National Archives)

Although the armory did not produce any firearms, musket cartridges and gun carriages were produced there to support the war effort. As intended, the armory continued to stockpile and distribute muskets, cannons, and other weapons throughout the war. By the 1780s, Springfield Armory was America’s premiere ammunition and weapons arsenal. This made it a prime target for Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays and his Regulators.

Burdened by debts and taxes from the war, Shays and other veterans felt betrayed by the government that they had fought to establish. In an effort to overturn it, Shays and his followers marched on Springfield Armory on January 25, 1787. The armory was defended by state militia who fired grape shot at the rebels, forcing them to flee. Four Regulators were killed and 20 were wounded. The rebellion was routed and eventually put down and the armory was untouched.

In 1794, construction of manufacturing facilities began at Springfield Armory. The next year, the armory began producing its first firearms. Though the it employed just 40 workers and produced 245 muskets, it was the start of American national firearms manufacturing. Congress would later establish a second national armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). However, Harpers Ferry would never grow to match Springfield and would be destroyed during the Civil War.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
Springfield Armory c. 1850 (National Park Service)

Throughout the 19th century, Springfield became a hub for firearm design, research, and production. This national armory model mirrored European nations who had dedicated facilities that were funded, maintained, and operated by the government. Under this model, military firearms like the Trapdoor rifle, M1903 Springfield, and M1 Garand were designed and primarily built by the Springfield Armory. Though private companies like Winchester and Remington were contracted to produce rifles during wartime, the manufacturing processes and procedures were all developed and standardized by Springfield.

By WWII, Springfield Armory had over 15,000 employees and was producing a majority of military firearms. However, employment and production was scaled down significantly after the war. Though Springfield did develop and build the M14 to replace the M1 in 1959, U.S. defense policy was changing.

The idea of maintaining a national armory at the expense of the tax-payer was brought into question in the 1960s by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. He believed that it would be more economical to contract private industry for the design and manufacture of military firearms. Rather than having to constantly scale a national armory between peace and wartime, private companies could be lobbied and compete for government contracts when necessary. Under McNamara’s guidance, the Springfield Armory was slowly scaled back.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
Springfield Armory’s experimental shop where John Garand developed the famous M1 (National Park Service)

By 1968, Springfield Armory was completely shut down. Future rifles like the M16/M4 were designed and built by private companies like Armalite, Colt, and FN. However, just a couple years later, the Springfield Armory name was trademarked by Elmer Balance. Through his Texas-based company, LH Manufacturing, Balance had the idea to build a civilian version of the military M14 rifle and market it with the Springfield name. Using surplus M14 parts, Balance created what we know today as the Springfield M1A.

In 1974, Balance sold his entire enterprise, tooling, trademarks, and all, to the Reese family in Geneseo, Illinois. Springfield relocated from Texas to Illinois where it remains today. Though the M1A is a derivative of the M14 that was designed and manufactured by the original Springfield Armory, the rifle is the closest relation that the modern Springfield Armory has to its Revolutionary War-era namesake.

Despite this, Springfield Armory, Inc. maintains the federal logo of two crossed cannons with a cannonball and the writing “Since 1794”. Moreover, many of the company’s firearms are sub-contracted to other manufacturers including the XD pistol series and Hellcat pistol which are made in Croatia.

Today, the actual Springfield Armory facility in Massachusetts is owned and maintained by the National Park Service as a historic landmark. Though the national Springfield Armory is gone, its impact on American history is undeniable. In addition to designing and building war-winning weapons like the M1903 and M1 Garand, Springfield also revolutionized the manufacturing industry with innovations like interchangeable parts and the Blanchard lathe. The national armory also introduced modern business practices like hourly wages. While the modern private company is a cornerstone of the American firearms market, it’s important to note the difference between it and the national armory that it draws its name from.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘failed’ prototype planes that went on to serve for years

Prototype planes that lose competitions rarely get a second act. Just ask the YF-23 Black Widow II — two jets were produced and tested and now both will live out their days on display in museums. But there are a lucky few who have lost out only to get a second chance.

It’s rare, but, in a few cases, these runners-up made a huge impact with the United States military. The following planes made the most out of a second chance.


6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
(US Navy)

The XF4F-3 Wildcat in flight. This plane got a second chance after earlier prototypes fell short against the Brewster F2A Buffalo, which turned out to be a real lemon in combat.

Grumman F4F Wildcat

Believe it or not, the extremely successful Wildcat almost never saw the light of day. The original version of this plane lost a developmental competition to the Brewster F2A Buffalo. Thankfully, the Navy gave the Wildcat a second chance, and this plane ended up holding the line against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s force of Mitsubishi A6M Zeros.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
(USAF)

Boeing’s Model 299 did very well in the competition — until a fatal crash knocked it out of contention.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The prototype of the B-17, known as Model 299, initially performed extremely well. It was faster and more powerful than the competition. Unfortunately, the Model 299 crashed during its second evaluation flight, killing both pilots on board. With the Model 299 destroyed and disqualified, Douglas won the competition with the B-18

Fortunately, the Army Air Force, who were extremely impressed with the B-17’s performance, found a legal loophole through and kept the program alive. It went on to be the mainstay of the Eighth Air Force in World War II.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
(USAF)

A version of the F-86 beat out the XF-88 Voodoo, but the plane survived as the basis for the F-101 Voodoo.

McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo

In 1946, the Army Air Force was looking for a long-range, jet-powered escort fighter. McDonnell offered up the XF-88 Voodoo to compete for this contract, which lost out to a version of the F-86 Sabre.

Combat in Korea quickly proved that the U.S. still needed an effective penetration fighter. So, McDonnell scaled up the XF-88 to make the prototype of the F-101 Voodoo, which entered service in 1957 and didn’t fully retire until 1983!

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure
(USAF)

The B-1A was cancelled, but made a comeback in the 1980s as the B-1B Lancer.

Rockwell B-1 Lancer

The B-1 originally fell victim to Jimmy Carter’s budget axe, but the need to replace aging B-52s was patently obvious. After intense political debate, the B-1B Lancer entered production in the 1980s. While this airframe no longer carries nukes, it can still put a real hurt on Russian ambitions in the Baltics or hammer the Chinese in the South China Sea.

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

Northrop YF-17 Cobra

In the eyes of the Air Force, the YF-17 was inferior to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, but the Navy saw something in this design. After making some modifications, this prototype become the classic F/A-18 Hornet, which still serves today!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Operation Remorse: How British spies conducted economic espionage in China during World War II

Walter Fletcher was deemed unfit to serve in the British Armed Forces during World War II and was such a nuisance to Baker Street that any jobs he had requested that involved physical effort were denied. Colin Mackenzie, the head of Force 136, the Far East branch of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), once referred to Fletcher as “gloriously fat.” All 280 pounds of him requested special aircraft accommodations to be prepared in advance since he took up two seats on a flight’s manifest. His physicality differed from what was typically seen throughout the ranks of Britain’s elite paramilitary unit — but his wit as a snarky businessman was unmatched.

Fletcher was not well liked, but he was resourceful. Hugh Dalton, the Secretary of State for War, called Fletcher a “thug with good commercial contacts.” When he pitched the idea to run a covert economic espionage mission to manipulate exchange rates on the Chinese Black Market, his expertise was worth the risk. Codenamed Operation Mickleham then later Operation Remorse, Fletcher’s program in the initial stages went from sheer failure to among the most successful economic missions of the war, establishing influence in Hong Kong and funding other covert schemes.


6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

A mock “Cigarette Card,” front and back, for Lionel Davis, commander of “Remorse” in the field. Photo courtesy of National Archives UK.

The Bank of England provided Fletcher, who built a reputation as a wealthy rubber trader, with 100,000 pounds on Sept. 15, 1942. His bold moves for the next two years involved smuggling rubber from Japanese-controlled Indo-China, and his calculations were met with considerable losses. Internal reports authored by SOE officers were convinced their early predictions of Fletcher — the “Tragicomedy” — were correct.

As his reputation faltered, the Ministry of Supply demanded results. A lesser man would have given up, but Fletcher, both stubborn and determined, took economic intelligence learned during Operation Mickleham and adapted to the currency exchange rates to make profit.

“Then he went up to China and started negotiating in strategic materials, funny ones like tung oil and things like that,” Mackenzie told the Imperial War Museum. “Then he went on dealing in diamonds, watches, whatever the warlords wanted.”

Fletcher employed a seasoned team, including Frank Ming Shin Shu, also known as “Mouse,” one of his most trusted contacts. Shu bought £500,000-worth of Indian rupees at a lower official rate only to resell them at an inflated price on the Chinese Black Market.

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Mission 204, an unconventional warfare unit comprised of primarily British and Australian soldiers, were tasked with deep penetration operations into China to undermine the Japanese. Screengrab from YouTube.

“We had a very good accountant in London, John Venner, and he helped: even in the early days I had £20,000 of diamonds across my desk in one go,” Mackenzie told the Imperial War Museum. “One estimate is that the net profit was worth £77 million [£2 billion].”

Not all of the money was invested in back-end deals that filled their pockets. In April 1945, a force of 5,500 French soldiers across eight different locations were low on food and medical supplies and lacked blankets and clothing. Over the next six weeks, some of the funds from Remorse were diverted to purchase 93 tons of aid.

“A better job was done by Mr. Davis’s organisation than could have been achieved by the combined resources of the American and Chinese services of supply,” said a British ambassador in 1945.

B. S. van Deinise, a civilian and advisor of the mission, penned a memo that determined Operation Remorse was the “masterkey” for further intelligence actions in China: “I wanted to point out that the Masterkey should be made available to some of those who want to peep in and out of various compartments without attracting undue attention.”

The billion pound endeavor, hidden behind the auspices of bank statements and a covert paper trail, was only revealed to the general public after several intelligence activities from organizations like the SOE were declassified during the 1990s.

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

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That time James Howard took on 30 German fighters

Long before that fateful day in January 1944, James Howard was a man of action. After graduating college in 1937 with the intention of becoming a doctor he instead joined the Navy and became a pilot.


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Colonel James H. Howard, Jan. 1945. (U.S. Army Air Forces)

After just two years in the fleet Howard left the Navy and joined many other American aviators in Asia to become a part of the famed Flying Tigers. While fighting in Asia Howard flew 56 combat missions becoming a squadron commander and being credited with the destruction of six Japanese planes.

Howard then left the Flying Tigers in July 1942 when the unit was disbanded and returned to the United States. Wanting to get back in the war he joined the United States Army Air Corps and was commissioned as a Captain.

By 1943, he had been promoted to Major and put in command of the 356th Fighter Squadron based in England. His unit flew its first mission on Dec. 1, 1943, escorting bombers over Europe. Armed with the new P-51B Mustangs, this was an entirely different mission than Howard had ever flown, but his previous experiences would soon prove useful.

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P-51B Mustang. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

During the winter of 1943-44, the Eighth Air Force was working hard to establish air superiority over Europe before the upcoming invasion in the summer. This meant that heavy bombers had to strike aircraft manufacturing deep inside German territory.

For most of 1943, this had been accomplished without fighter escort over the target. Heavy losses had scaled back the number of bombing raids to Germany. But the arrival of Howard’s 356th Fighter Squadron and other Mustang outfits meant the missions could resume.

On Jan. 11, 1944, Howard was flight lead for his entire fighter group, the 354th, leading his own squadron as well as two others to protect bombers striking aircraft factories at Oschersleben and Halberstadt.

The plan called for Howard’s P-51’s to pick up the Eighth Air Forces bombers — 525 B-17’s and 138 B-24’s — after their initial escort of P-47’s and P-38’s had to turn back. They would then cover the bombers over the target and again hand off the escort to a new group of short range fighters as the P-51’s returned to base.

Also read: The 7 most intense air battles in aviation history

When the 354th Fighter Group rendezvoused with the bombers they had already completed their bombing run. However, they were being swarmed by some 500 German fighters according to an Eighth Air Force estimate.

Approaching from the rear of the formation, Howard directed fighters to different parts of the formation as his element made its way towards the lead bombers.

Almost immediately, Howard’s fighters found themselves attacked, and as they engaged the Germans, Howard soon found himself all alone heading towards the lead bomber group.

That group, the 401st, was on its 14th combat mission and had seen plenty of action. None of them, however, had ever seen anything like the display Howard was about to put on.

As Howard approached the group, he saw that they were heavily engaged by some 30 German fighters. Although only a lone fighter, Howard was undeterred; as he put it, “I seen my duty and I done it.”

Howard quickly jumped a German twin-engine fighter and sent it earthward. He then spotted an FW 190 coming up underneath him and dispatched it too. “I nearly ran into his canopy,” Howard said, “as he threw it off to bail out.”

After two quick kills, Howard started to circle back to find the rest of his formation. As he did so, he spotted an Me 109 moving in on the bombers. The German spotted him too and took evasive action.

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A captured Fw 190A. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

A turning dogfight ensued. The German tried to dive away but Howard’s P-51 was up for the challenge. A short burst from his .50 caliber machine guns sent the Messerschmitt down in flames.

As Howard returned to altitude with the bombers he engaged more fighters. According to his own reports he probably destroyed two further fighters. According to the bomber crews that number was more like four or five.

Howard was “all over the wing, across it and around it,” the lead bomber pilot reported “for sheer guts and determination, it was the greatest exhibition I’ve ever seen. They can’t give that boy a big enough award.”

Indeed Howard was determined. For over half an hour he fought alone against the swarm of German fighters. When his ammunition was exhausted he simply dove at the Germans in the hopes of driving them off — often times it worked.

Finally, low on fuel, Howard waved his wings to the bombers and departed with a few straggling P-51’s that were still in the area.

The thankful bomber crews had dubbed Howard a “One-man Air Force” while war correspondent Andy Rooney called his feat “the greatest fighter pilot story of World War II.”

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Howard receives the Medal of Honor. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Forces)

For his efforts that day, Howard received the Medal of Honor, the only fighter pilot in the European theatre to be so awarded. He was officially credited with four enemy aircraft shot down that day. He would later add two more, becoming an ace.

In 1945 he was promoted to Colonel and would eventually retire as a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve in 1966.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time when the USS Missouri gave full honors to a kamikaze pilot

Japanese kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted choreographed nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.


Although the act proved costly for both sides, the Japanese were determined to take out as many Americans as they could in their quest for victory.

Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of WWII occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After a mission had been planned out, the pilots of the Japanese “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.

Related: US acquires kamikaze drones to take out ISIS

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Kamikaze pilots pose together in front of a zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip.

On Apr. 11, 1945, just 10 days into the battle of Okinawa, a Japanese kamikaze pilot reportedly named Setsuo Ishino began his final mission at the young age of 19.

Ishino flew with 15 other pilots on their mission to directly nose dive into the USS Missouri — known as the Mighty Mo — and kill as many Americans as possible.

Around noon, the Mighty Mo spotted the inbound aircraft on their radar and fired their massive anti-aircraft weapons in defense.

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Japanese kamikaze pilot, Setsuo Ishino.

The well-equipped battleship nailed Ishino’s plane, but somehow the motivated pilot regained control of his fighter and managed to crash into the USS Missouri, causing hot debris to rain all over the deck.

Also Read: This WWII vet fought kamikazes in history’s largest naval battle

The surviving crew cleared the wreckage and discovered Ishino’s dead body inside the plane. The deckhands planned on tossing the Japanese pilot overboard until Capt. William M. Callaghan, Missouri’s commanding officer ordered his men to render the enemy a proper burial.

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Setsuo Ishino sea burial.

While not unheard of, there really wasn’t a precedent for rendering military funeral honors for an enemy.

Nonetheless, the ship’s medical staff prepared Ishino’s body, respectfully wrapping him up in his flag. As the lifeless body slid overboard, the crew members saluted and the Marines fired their weapons toward the sky, giving the Japanese kamikaze pilot full military honors.

Humanity can still be found in war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things you didn’t know about the DEA

The Drug Enforcement Administration is the premier law enforcement agency on the front lines fighting the War on Drugs. The mission of the (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminals involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States.

This Federal Law Enforcement Agency recruits, trains, and deploys America’s elite agents into the world’s harshest environments to combat cartels and disrupt their operations. Due to the dangerous nature of their job, 85 agents have sacrificed their lives in service to the United States. Here are 6 things you didn’t know about these clandestine operators fighting the evils of narco-terrorism.


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No one:
Nixon: That’ll teach those hippies!

It was founded by President Richard Nixon

On July 1, 1973, President Nixon merged the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and over 600 Special Agents from the Customs bureaus into the consolidated force we know today.

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“Why is the DEA storming the lobby, Karen?”

They provide oversight of legal drugs too

The Drug Enforcement Administration licenses anyone who prescribes or dispenses drugs. However, the license must be renewed every three years. The DEA has strict rules on prescription authority and record keeping. Prescribing personnel who, in the view of the DEA, abuse their privilege, are subject to the full extent of the law and loss of said license.

To date, over 60 doctors and counting have been charged with pushing opioids and healthcare fraud by the Department of Justice. This greed is the root cause of today’s opioid epidemic exacerbated by secondary and tertiary problems as well.

You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers. – Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski
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Operation Albatross in Afghanistan, 2007

(usdoj.gov)

They were trained for combat by the Army

The drug trade also funds actual terrorists in the middle east, and their source of income had to be destroyed. The U.S. expanded its counter-narco mission in Afghanistan in 2005 with the DEA at the helm. The U.S. military provided air support and cargo planes to the DEA, as well as intelligence and logistics support.

The Army trained agents in spotting IEDs, combat maneuvers, and weapon systems.

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Leyenda means legend in Spanish.

(ALLEN HIRSCH)

Enrique S. Camarena was a Marine

If you’re familiar with the hit Netflix series Narcos, you’ll remember that one of the main characters in season 4 is Enrique S. Camarena, also known as Kiki. The series did not emphasize that he was a U.S. Marine. Oorah.

Prior to joining DEA, Special Agent Camarena served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked in Calexico as a fireman and then as a police investigator, and was a narcotics investigator for the Imperial County Sheriff Coroner. Special Agent Camarena was survived by his wife, Geneva and three children, Enrique, Daniel and Erik. – dea.gov

This special agent was part of the DEA’s Guadalajara Mexican cartel investigation. He was kidnapped and tortured by drug traffickers on February 7, 1985, for over 30 hours. He was also injected with drugs to ensure he remained conscious. He was a tough one, but even Marines aren’t immortal.

In the wake of his death, Operation Leyenda was formed to solve his murder and was the largest homicide investigation ever conducted by the DEA.

Kiki Camarena was posthumously awarded the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award given by the DEA.

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“I don’t know but I’ve been told, Eskimo p-“

“-STFU CARL!”

They have Spec Ops all over the nation

Special Response Team (SRT) program was created in 2016. The SRT was designed to bridge the gap between tactical operations conducted by field agents and those requiring specialized tactics due to elevated mission risks. SRT operators are highly trained in breaching tactics and an array of weapon systems.

Considered one of the most covert outfits in federal law enforcement, very little is known about DEA SRT capabilities and its operator selection process. – dea.gov
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“This is your new partner, Special Agent Dogg.”

(Bob Bekian)

The DEA wants to double marijuana production…for research

The agency has increased the amount of marijuana from 978 pounds in 2017 to more than 2,500 pounds in 2018. In 2019, the agency proposed a cannabis quota to more than 5,400 pounds — that’s a lot of weed.

This move is to support federally-sanctioned research in preparation for nationwide legalization — whenever that will be is uncertain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

In the Kontum Province of Vietnam, near the borders with Laos and Cambodia, there were many reports from U.S. troops on patrols of a strange, not-quite-human but not-quite-ape creature the locals call Nguoi Rung, or “The people of the Forest.” In other words: Bigfoot.


 

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Low draft number. Sorry, Bigfoot.

Gary Linderer was on a six-man patrol with the 101st Airborne’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. While struggle through the underbrush, he ran into “deep set eyes on a prominent brow… five feet tall, with long muscular arms.” The creature “walked upright with broad shoulders and a heavy torso.” His battle buddies told him he just saw a rock ape, but Linderer had seen Rock Apes before. This was no Rock Ape.

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First, Charlie. Now this. Unbelievable.

 

Like the Yeti in the Himalayas, and the Sasquatch sightings all over North America, the Nguoi Rung is a oft-told tale in the area, but despite endless the sightings and folklore attached to the semi-mythical creature, no concrete evidence exists. Linderer wasn’t the only witness, either. Army Sgt. Thomas Jenkins reported his platoon was attacked by these apes throwing stones.

Toward the end of the war, Viet Cong and NVA soldiers reported so many sightings of the reddish-brown hair-covered Nguoi Rung the North Vietnamese communist party secretariat ordered scientists to investigate.

Dr. Vo Quy, a respected ornithologist and environmental researcher from Hanoi, discovered a Nguoi Rung footprint on the forest floor and made a cast of it. The cast was wider than a human foot and too big for an ape.

In 1982, another Vietnamese scientist, Tran Hong Viet discovered more footprints, which led zoologist John MacKinnon to investigate the region. MacKinnon called the area a “tiny, pristine corner of the world unknown to modern science.”

 

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The 1982 Footprint Cast.

In 1969, MacKinnon discovered manlike footprints in Borneo’s jungles, which the locals called Batatut. While much of the evidence surrounding the existence of these apes is anecdotal, MacKinnon, known for his discovery of new mammal species in Vietnam, believes there is a possibility the existence of a previously unknown ape species is real.

The account of Nguoi Rung meeting American GIs in Vietnam was first published in Kregg P.J. Jorgenson’s Very Crazy, GI: Strange But True Stories of the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

If there was one single place that could be called the front lines of the clandestine Cold War, Berlin was it. The city, like the rest of Germany, was divided. It was a bastion, deep inside the heart of the Eastern Bloc, where Westerners could roam relatively freely within their sector by day and sneak into enemy territory under the cover of darkness.

A divided Berlin was the setting for so many stories, many of which are just now coming to light. And many of those stories are about Detachment-A, a Special Forces unit so secret, many in Special Forces couldn’t even know about it.

If World War III broke out, their mission was not to win — they were 110 miles behind enemy lines and couldn’t possibly win a pitched battle. Their mission was to just buy time for NATO. Along the way, their training helped develop the units and tactics used by American special operations the world over.


Retired Special Forces soldier and former CIA agent James Stejskal was among among the members of Detachment A. He served in it for nine years and just wrote a book on the recently-declassified unit, called Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90. Working behind enemy lines in an unconventional conflict is one of the foundational duties of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but Detachment A had no misconceptions about what would happen in a war with the Soviet Union. They would operate as small teams inside and outside of Berlin, tripping up the Red Army in any way they could.

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The veterans of Detachment A today.

“We were going to, basically, break out of the city. Two of the six teams would stay behind and cause trouble inside the city. Four of the teams would go outside the city,” James Stejskal told WATM. “A railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring, would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. Our mission was to report on and sabotage the railway, communications… to cause as much havoc as possible.”

Stejskal grew up with the military. His father was drafted for World War II in 1941, before Pearl Harbor. He would earn a commission during the war as a combat engineer in Patton’s XII Corps. His father even went to Germany during the Korean War. The younger Stejskal was always interested in intelligence, commando, and what he calls the “darker arts.” He read about the British Special Operations Executive and the Office of Strategic Services during WWII and it captivated him. So when it came time for him to join the Army, the Green Beret called to him. He joined with Special Forces on his mind. But Det A was so secret, he didn’t know it existed even after he earned his place among the elite.

“I only found out about it on one of my exercises in Germany,” he recalls. “We jumped into it, into Southern Germany for our annual winter warmer exercise and one of the guys on the ground that met us was a civilian-clothes guy, speaking German. Only later on in the exercise did he start to speak in English to us and, before too long, I figured out that he was actually American. He told us he’s from a unit Berlin and he couldn’t really talk about it.”
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(Courtesy Photo)

That piqued Stejskal’s interest. He continued to dig into it and, as one thing led to another, he found himself in Berlin. Detachment A was the closest unit to the old OSS that a soldier could get in to. Speaking German, the men of Det A wore their hair long, civilian clothes, and worked with soldiers from other countries. Their commander was a Czech officer and their Sergeant Major was a German who was in the Bundeswehr, both veterans of World War II.

“It’s a strange feeling. We were 110 miles behind the East German border, with about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers,” He says. “Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”
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This would be an Emmy-winning TV show today. Mad Men, eat your heart out.

During peacetime, they performed protection duties for VIPs and – most importantly – they trained. Detachment A trained with the British Special Air Service, who taught them to watch how the Germans and Israelis performed anti-terror operations, like clearing a hijacked aircraft. They soon became the U.S. Army’s first counter-terrorism team, long before Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. Charlie Beckwith, Delta’s first commander, came to Berlin to see Detachment A for himself.

“He came over to Berlin to see how we were doing things and took a lot of our training techniques and tactics and exported them back to Fort Bragg, about 1980,” Stejskal says. “The commander of SEAL Team Six, Marcinko, he also came over and observed. We did our operability training with Delta Force later on in the 1980s. We also trained a lot of the SEALs in the city.”

Aside from forming the foundations of modern Special Forces and SEAL Team operations, veterans of Detachment A also took their knowledge back home, joining police departments as local SWAT teams popped up around the United States. They trained law enforcement and military alike in building assault tactics, urban combat, and clearing buildings. But if war broke out, these soldiers had no illusions about their fate.

“I never thought about it being certain death, but it could have,” says Stejskal. “I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell. You’re anticipating you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else. You have a confidence level that you can do it, but you, there’s always that element of uncertainty that you don’t have everything under control, so that’s part of the energy that fuels you when you’re there.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time egg nog almost brought down West Point

In the early years of the U.S. Military Academy’s history, the “Father of West Point,” Col. Sylvanus Thayer, was trying to whip the future officers of the U.S. military into shape. He began by outlawing alcohol on the academy grounds. The cadets were also not permitted to leave the academy.


His fundamental changes were having the desired effect — until Christmas 1826, that is. That’s when the plebes got into an egg nog-fueled riot.

Egg nog was pretty different back in 1826. Today, it’s more of a sweet, dessert drink and the addition of rum or brandy isn’t as popular as it once was. Back then, nog — like life — was a lot more intense.

George Washington’s personal recipe called for rum, sherry, brandy, and whiskey.

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Kind like this, but also slam a bottle of Jack at the same time.

Before the alcohol ban, an egg nog night was part of West Point’s Christmas tradition, and the cadets weren’t about to let the tradition die because of one guy’s teetotaling. So, a young cadet named Jefferson Davis and a group of others decided to sneak some booze into the eggnog party.

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Yes, that Jefferson Davis.

They snuck in a few gallons of whiskey under Thayer’s nose (with the help, of course, an enlisted man). On Christmas Day, officers of the day Capt. Ethan Allen Hitchcock and Lt. William A. Thorton tried to monitor the cadets, but they could only do so much. They were woken in the middle of the night by a drunken party in the barracks. They dispersed it, but the revelers sought revenge.

Partying cadets raged on a different floor and the officers moved to break that one up. Thorton was knocked to the floor with a piece of wood while another took a shot at Hitchcock with a pistol. He called a runner to get the Commandant, but that request was misinterpreted as a summons for artillery troops stationed on the grounds.

The cadets reinforced the windows and entrances to the barracks to prevent the artillerymen from gaining entry. The interiors and windows of the building were smashed and damaged. They literally drummed up the cadets from their beds to prepare for bombardment.

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Kind like this, but with eggnog, guns, and a whole lotta anger.

Artillery never came, but William Worth, the Commandant of Cadets, did. He was able to quell the 260-strong uprising before it escalated further. Hitchcock and Thorton suffered only minor bruising, despite the drunken cadets’ calls for their heads.

Of the 260 drunken cadets, 19 were expelled. When they built new barracks on the West Point grounds, they were designed so that cadets would have to leave the building to access other floors.

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