The American truck that received France's top valor award - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

During World War I, France created the Croix de Guerre to decorate its bravest troops, and it gave the decoration to members of foreign armies who took great risks or who achieved great things in service of liberating France from German occupation.


In the years following the Battle of Verdun, France issued the Croix de Guerre to units with 2,500 White Company trucks and named the vice president of the company, Walter C. White, as a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in recognition of how important a humble truck was in France’s ultimate victory over Germany, especially at Verdun.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

White Motor Company trucks at Fort Riley. Full panoramic image available here.

(Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General)

The story of the White Motor Company is a strange one. In 1902, it was the White Sewing Machine Company, and the Surgeon General proposed that the Army Quartermasters purchase a motor vehicle to serve as an Army ambulance in future conflicts. R. H. White, already looking to diversify the company’s offerings, pushed the company to take part in the competition.

But the competition never happened, because the quartermasters didn’t embrace it. But the company decided to develop an ambulance anyway, debuting a steam-powered design in 1906 that the War Department later purchased. It could carry four litter patients at a time and hit 40 miles an hour on smooth roads. But, best of all, it was reliable. According to a 1906 article, it had traveled over 1,600 miles in testing with zero mechanical failures or breakdowns.

But the company wasn’t done. They developed more truck designs and, in 1916, one of their trucks was upgraded with armor and sent on the Mexican Punitive Expedition. By the time World War I rolled around, White trucks were trusted by plenty of military men.

The automotive business proved to be a great investment for the company, and the White Sewing Machine Company opened itself a second company, the White Truck Company. This particular confederation of engineers and businessmen found themselves a ready market for reliable trucks and sold thousands of Model A trucks to France and other allied militaries.

From 1914 onward, France was sending these “Little trucks” into combat and seemed to have been more than pleased with the trucks’ performance. In the 1916 Battle of Verdun, the trucks were used to transport supplies and troops. At the Battle of Château-Thierry in 1918, the trucks moved U.S. troops into position in time to stop a German advance.

But it was at the 1918 Battle of Verdun, when many of the same trucks returned to that blood-soaked stretch of land, that the trucks earned their major laurels.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

White Trucks of Cleveland advertisement

(Thoth God of Knowledge)

It was there that France needed to move hundreds of thousands of troops to the front over a stretch of just a few days, and they turned to the 2,500 Model A trucks of Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. The drivers and trucks carried 200,000 troops to the front, some for over 100-mile stretches.

According to a 1919 issue of Better Road and Streets:

The task was tremendous, the crisis very grave. A supreme effort was necessary to stop the German advance last March on the British front. Without this unprecedented movement of French reserves right into the teeth of the fighting, the issue might have been serious indeed for the Allies.

According to the same article, drivers often drove for 24 hours straight. One unit averaged driving 20 hours a day, and another pulled 60 hours straight of duty.

It was the only time that a motor convoy unit would be awarded the medal, and some chalked it up to the service of the trucks. According to Time Magazine in 1932, the only White trucks to break down in the battle were those disabled by shells and so, “The result was that 2,500 of them received the distinction of France’s Croix de Guerre.”

While this notation, implying that the trucks themselves had received the award, is obviously wrong, it remained a fairly common way of describing the success of the Great Headquarters Reserve No. 1. And, Walter C. White, then the vice president of the White Company, was inducted into the Legion of Honor as a Chevalier in 1919, in recognition of the company’s contributions to France’s war efforts.

This all worked out well for the company after the war. They posted record profits in 1917 and again in 1918. They suspended, forever, their automobile construction and focused on trucks. And they advertised the ruggedness of their vehicles with ads featuring the Croix de Guerre. They would create plenty for the U.S. and its allies in World War II, as well as half-tracks and other vehicles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the Air Force went inverted over a Russian bomber

Last week, we published a blurry shot of a U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom flying inverted during an intercept mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear. The photograph went viral and reached Robert M. Sihler, the author of the shot, who was so kind to provide some interesting details about the image that brought to mind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.


“Although I don’t remember the exact date, the mission occurred in either late 1973 or early 1974.  The F-4C belonged to the 57th FIS at Keflavik NAS.  The mission was a standard intercept of a “Bear” by two F-4s after the alert crews were activated,” Bob wrote in an email to The Aviationist.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award
In June 1973, the F-4s replaced the F-102s at Keflavik. (All images: R. Sihler)

I was a Navigator, or in the F-4, a Weapons System Officer. I entered the USAF in Oct 1969. On active duty, I spent a couple of years at Norton AFB, CA in C-141s. From there, I trained in the F-4 and spent one year at Keflavik, Iceland. Following that, I went back to C-141s at Charleston AFB, SC from 1974 to 1977. I left active duty and spent the next 14 years in C-130s at Andrews AFB, MD and Martinsburg ANGB, WV. I retired as a Lt Col in Dec 1991. The assignments to Iceland were generally either one or two years. I elected to do one year without my family accompanying me there. Others chose to bring their families for two years.

Dealing with the close encounters with the Tu-95s:

“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week. They were the only aircraft we saw while I was there. Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it.  They photographed us as well.  The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.

When asked whether the barrel roll was difficult or unsafe maneuver, Bob has no doubts: “Not really!  The Soviets, at the time, gave us hand signals asking us to “perform” for them. The rolls were not dangerous at all.”

The famous shot of the inverted flying F-4 Phantom (the aircraft was actually ending a barrel roll):

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

An F-4C from 57th FIS escorts a Tu-95 intercepted near Iceland in the early 1970s:

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

The same 57th FIS F-4C that performed the barrel roll around the Tu-95 depicted during the same intercept mission:

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

A Tu-95 as seen from a Phantom’s cockpit:

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

A big thank you to Robert Sihler for answering our questions and providing the photographs you can find in this article.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army offers to repay soldiers’ college loans if they go infantry

The U.S. Army is offering to pay off student loans of up to $65,000 or to give $15,000 bonuses to recruits willing to sign up for the infantry.


The Army has been offering increased financial incentives to attract recruits to take on one of its most physically challenging jobs since it missed its recruiting goal in fiscal 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

“There’s a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army,” Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. “It’s us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals.

“Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships,” he added.

To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.

“The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers,” Markley said. “This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field.”

Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to ,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

The American truck that received France’s top valor award
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 work from home tips from a guy that’s been doing it for years

Working from home can be both more comfortable and more stressful at the same time, so I’ve compiled a short list of work from home tips that can make your transition a smooth one.


As governments around the world encourage both employers and employees to embrace the concept of working remotely as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many find themselves buckling in for a long day’s work on their couches, in home offices, and even from bed.

Working from home can be a really rewarding experience, and there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a few days to figure out what works best for you. I started working from home around five years ago, and I can comfortably say that working from home for the long term isn’t for everyone–but since it needs to be for the next few weeks, here are a few work from home tips that just might make your remote time even more productive than your time in the office.

Make sure you know how to secure your data.

If you’re a service member that works on an official computer, you likely have a CAC card reader to connect to your laptop or home desktop to help you gain access to important data. Dependents working from home may have similar security measures in place to protect customer data while working remotely.

Make sure you discuss the security measures you’ll need to adhere to with your employer before making the switch to working from home. If there’s any special hardware (like a card reader) you’ll need for work, your employer may be able to provide it to you or help you secure one through commercial channels.

Knowing what you need before hand will really reduce the stress of setting up some office space in your home. Nothing’s worse than settling in for your first day working remote, only to find you can’t get into any of the software you need.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Give people the benefit of the doubt in written correspondence.

We all know that tone can be lost via text, but that becomes especially important to consider when working from home. I interact with dozens of people on a daily basis through written communications like Facebook messenger, Slack, Discord, and over e-mail. When you do that much talking-by-text, there are bound to be some mishaps in your delivery.

Others have that same problem–and that’s why it’s important that you adopt a mindset of giving others the benefit of the doubt when they seem aggravated, short, or disinterested in your written conversation. Chances are good that they have the same worries about you!

Remind yourself that this is challenging for everyone, and that most people mean well even when under stress, and you won’t have nearly as many high tempers around your digital workspace.

Establish some office space for yourself.

Everybody that switches to working from the office to working from home starts out with a laptop on their coffee table, and while that may seem like a comfortable choice (after all, what’s better than working from the couch?) it can actually have a few negative side effects. The first and perhaps most troublesome issue with working from the couch is what it does to your back. Even if you aren’t an old washed up Marine like me, spending eight hours haunched over your coffee table will leave you feeling stiff and uncomfortable by the end of the day.

The other big problem with working from your couch is that it can negatively effect your ability to “wind up” for work or to “wind down” after. If you’re used to having a commute to and from the office, you’re also accustomed to your work day having a distinct beginning and end. When working from home, those distinctions start to blur, and if you spend you working hours and your leisure hours on the same couch, it can be harder to get into the right mindset to work–or worse, you may start to feel like you’re at work anytime you hang out on the couch.

It’s important to have a break from work that feels like a break from work. So set aside some space for work, and save your couch for your off time.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Set a schedule and stick to it.

One of the most important work from home tips I have to share is the importance of scheduling and creating good schedule related habits. For a lot of people, working from home means you can sleep in some more, but don’t let the lack of commute sell you on the idea of sleeping right until it’s time to start your day.

A lot of people recommend showering and getting dressed before work, even when working from home–but I don’t necessarily buy into that approach. One thing I love about working from home is the ability to make my schedule fit my life–and I prefer showering after I work out at lunch. I also like being comfortable, so even when I’m wearing a shirt and tie from the waste up for video meetings, I’m often still wearing pajamas from the waist down. My best advice to those who like to work in your PJ pants is to be mindful of knee placement when you cross your legs. If you’re not careful, your Spongebob pajama pants will be visible despite your Brooks Brothers top half of a suit.

Establish a schedule for the start and end of your day that you stick to religiously. It will make it easier to get into the swing of things in the morning, and easier to unwind in the evenings.

Take a lunch break.

When working from home, you might be inclined to munch your way through the day, and as a result, taking a lunch break may not seem all that necessary. After all, if you’re quarantined in the house, it’s not like you’ll be hitting up the local restaurants for a quick mid-day meal.

But taking a lunch break has value beyond just keeping you fed–it’s also a great opportunity to destress a bit mid-way through your day. Taking a mental break can help you come back to your workspace refreshed and with new energy, whereas working straight through can often leave you feeling burned out midway through the afternoon.

Give yourself a chance to get up and walk around, go for a jog around the block (avoiding any crowds) to give your brain a chance to reset. Because you’ve cut a lot of the walking out of your day that you would have done heading into and out of your office, this bit of exercise can also help stave off some unintentional work from home weight gain.

Your location changed, not the job.

No matter how many work from home tips you may come across, what’s most important is that you already know how to do your job, you just need to find a way to keep your work output up while doing it from a new place. You’ll find some things are easier (fewer social interruptions throughout your day will help get things done) and others are harder (you don’t always know what’s going on in other departments because you’ve lost those social interruptions). Remember though that while your location has changed, the job hasn’t, and no one is better prepared to figure out how best to do your job from home than you.

Trust yourself and listen to your body. If your back hurts, switch chairs. If you’re having trouble getting yourself to work in the morning, start your day with a short walk to get the blood pumping again. Keep experimenting with things until you have an approach to working from home that you’re comfortable with and that you can sustain.

Who knows, you might even become a working from home convert like me!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

One missing after Russian dry dock sinks around only carrier

Four people were injured and one remains missing after Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, suffered damage when a floating dry dock sank while the vessel was leaving it, officials say.

The waterborne repair station’s sinking at an Arctic shipyard early on Oct. 30, 2018, was the latest in a series of mishaps involving the Admiral Kuznetsov, which lost two military jets in accidents off the coast of war-torn Syria in 2017.


The PD-50 dry dock had “fully sank” by 3:30 a.m. local time at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in the village of Roslyakovo near the port city of Murmansk, regional Governor Marina Kovtun said on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, one person has not yet been found,” Kovtun said.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

The Admiral Kuznetsov.

She said that two injured workers were hospitalized and two were treated without hospitalization.

One of the injured was in very serious condition, said Viktor Rogalyov, the head of the local Disaster Medicine Center.

She said that rescue divers from the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet were working at the site and that it was “hard to say” what caused the sinking.

Authorities said at least one crane fell when the dry dock sank, damaging the aircraft carrier.

Aleksei Rakhmanov, head of the state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, said experts are assessing the damage but that “the vitally important parts of the aircraft carrier were not affected.”

The PD-50 was one of the world’s largest dry docks.

Russia sent the 305-meter Admiral Kuznetsov to the Eastern Mediterranean in 2016 as part of its ongoing military campaign in support of Syrian government forces in the Middle Eastern country’s devastating war.

An Su-33 military jet crashed while trying to land on the aircraft carrier there in December 2016, and a MiG-29 crashed a few kilometers from the vessel three weeks earlier.

A fire on board the carrier killed a sailor during a 2008-09 deployment, and an oil spill was spotted by the Irish Coast Guard near the vessel afterwards.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

popular

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.


The American truck that received France’s top valor award
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

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.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award
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 TRENDING

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

NASA passed a major milestone March 7, 2019, in its goal to restore America’s human spaceflight capability when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a five-day mission docked to the International Space Station.

About 6 hours after departing the space station, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.


“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”

Splashdown of SpaceX Crew Dragon, Completing Demo-1 Flight Test

www.youtube.com

Demonstration Mission-1 (Demo-1) was an uncrewed flight test designed to demonstrate a new commercial capability developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission began March 2, 2019, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of “firsts” in less than a week.

  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station.
  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station.
  • First autonomous docking of a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • First use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Crew Dragon, and also will be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s future mission to the Moon.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft’s return journey and ocean splashdown.

“We were all very excited to see re-entry, parachute and drogue deploy, main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly. It was right on time, the way that we expected it to be. It was beautiful,” said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.

A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX’s systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission. However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast.

(NASA Television)

“If you just think about the enormity of this flight and all of the prep that went into it – getting the pad refurbished, getting the flight control room set up, getting the vehicle built, getting the Falcon 9 ready, all of the analysis and mission support that went into it – it’s just been a tremendous job. Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew Dragon carried a passenger on this flight test – a lifelike test device named Ripley, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in the spacecraft. After SpaceX processes data from this mission, teams will begin refurbishing Crew Dragon for its next mission, an in-flight abort test targeted to take place this summer. Demo-2, the first crewed test flight, will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the spacecraft’s final flight to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“For the first time, we’ve gotten to see an end-to-end test, and so now we’ve brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures, and we’ve gotten to see how they all work together, and that’s very important as we move toward putting people onboard,” said NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who will crew SpaceX’s first operational mission to the space station following Demo-2. “I’m, personally, very anxious to hear how Ripley is feeling after they pull her out of the capsule and get her onto the recovery vehicle.”

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pirates attack and rob Italian ship in the Gulf of Mexico

A pirate attack on an Italian ship in the Gulf of Mexico that left two sailors wounded isn’t the first such incident, and with Mexico struggling to address rising insecurity, it’s not likely to be the last.

About eight armed pirates arrived in two small ships and boarded the vessel, an Italian-flagged supply ship named Remas, in the evening on Nov. 11, 2019, and robbed the crew, according to reports about the incident.

The ship was being operated by the Italian firm Micoperi, which services offshore oil platforms. The incident took place about 12 miles off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen in the state of Campeche in southeast Mexico.


The Mexican navy said Nov. 12, 2019, that two of the roughly 35 people on board were wounded — one shot in the leg and another struck in the head.

The navy said it sent a fast boat to the site of the attack late on Nov. 11, 2019. The sailors were taken to a private clinic for treatment, according to local media.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico.

(Photo by Jonathan Alegria)

The incident is only the latest attack on oil infrastructure and extraction operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

“They’re starting to attack ships that are transporting petroleum for Pemex” and providing other services, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “Now I presume this is going to be the wave of the future. They are going to be attacking more and more tankers.”

Thieves, sometimes disguised as fishermen, typically arrive in small boats with powerful outboard motors, quickly boarding platforms or other ships to take valuables from crew and other equipment, which is often resold ashore.

Mexico’s state oil firm, known as Pemex, has acknowledged the threat, and together with the navy has said it would increase security efforts. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in March 2019 that the navy would establish a permanent operation at the port of Dos Bocas, Tabasco, his home state, to confront the pirates.

Nevertheless, there have been reports of hundreds of robberies of this kind.

Pemex documents obtained by the newspaper Milenio showed that 197 such robberies took place in 2018, the most out of the past three years and a 310% increase over the 48 attacks in 2016. Those robberies cost the firm at least .5 million between 2016 and 2018, according to the documents.

The waters at the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Campeche and neighboring Tabasco state — where Pemex operates more than 100 platforms — are the most affected.

‘Wave of the future’

The rise in theft from fuel platforms in the Gulf mirrors the increase in fuel theft from pipelines and Pemex facilities on the ground. The number of unauthorized taps discovered on fuel lines nearly quintupled between 2011 and 2016.

The theft has cost the Mexican government billions of dollars and is sometimes deadly for the thieves and others at the scene.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Drill vessel prepares for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, July 9, 2010.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tiffany Carvalho)

Cracking down on fuel theft was one of Lopez Obrador’s first security initiatives after taking office in December 2018. The president declared victory in spring 2019, saying his administration had reduced fuel theft by 95% and defeated theives.

That response included deploying troops and federal police to pipelines and other high-theft areas, but that alienated some communities, and security forces have struggled to strike a balance between providing security and allowing the industry to operate. In some areas, violence has risen even as fuel theft declined.

“The military is providing more security to the pipelines, but it will be difficult to provide security to vessels shipping petroleum,” Vigil said, noting that government still needs to respond to violence rising throughout Mexico and that the military doesn’t have the training or resources to effectively pursue pirates in the Gulf. “I have to assume it’s going to become more and more dangerous for Pemex transports [and] transport ships.”

Fuel theft on land is not always the work of organized crime. At times, local residents have tapped pipelines to access fuel for their own use or for resale. Stealing fuel and other hardware at sea is harder but still lucrative, meaning it’s likely to continue and grow as an area of interest for cartels and other criminal groups.

“Not everybody uses drugs, but everybody uses gas,” Vigil said. “It is evolving. It’s going to be the wave of the future. There’s so much money involved”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Check out this creepy, abandoned Naval base

Once upon a time, Fort Wetherill was a coastal artillery installation on Conanicut Island in Jamestown, Rhode Island. It was a beautiful post that sat atop tall granite cliffs that looked over Narragansett Bay. Today, Fort Wetherill no longer exists in its former state. After it was used as a coastal defense during World War I and World War II, the fort was effectively abandoned by 1946.

What to do with an abandoned military fort?

Then it sat, slowly decomposing for about 30 years. In 1972, the US government gave the installation back to the state of Rhode Island. Luckily, the state recognized Fort Wetherill as not only a historic site, but a gorgeous piece of land. That’s why they turned it and the surrounding 51 acres into Fort Wetherill State Park.

Visiting the actual fort inside the state park today, you’ll find it covered in colorful graffiti. It might be hard to believe, but these graffiti-painted cement remnants of Fort Wetherill used to be active parts of combat. For instance, it’s easy to spot where the cannons would have been mounted if you know what you’re looking for: denoted circular areas of the fort. Some of those circular areas still have the screws in place that would have mounted the cannons and the tracks for rotating them. 

Explore the underground bunkers

The often crumbling remains of Fort Wetherill aren’t just for outdoor browsing either. With a little maneuvering, you can enter some of the fort’s underground bunkers and walk through its narrow corridors and rooms, also covered in bright graffiti. However, bring a flashlight because you won’t be able to see anything without one. Aside from the graffiti, you might also notice that some of the corridors have tracks that run along the ceiling. These tracks were for storing and easily moving cannon ammunition. 

Walking around the remains of the abandoned Fort Wetherill, it quickly becomes obvious just how huge it was. Some of the more interesting places to visit are its old lookout towers, where it’s easy to imagine Military personnel standing on watch, looking straight out to the bay for enemies. 

The public access is much appreciated

If you couldn’t tell by all the graffiti, Rhode Island is not exactly “preserving” Fort Wetherill, even though it is the base for a state park. Overgrown with trees and all kinds of foliage, exploring its ruins probably feels like a true adventure into long-lost history. However, even though it may feel like you’re sneaking around a place where you’re not supposed to be, most of the old Fort Wetherill remains open to the public. 

Articles

The reason Japanese battleships dwarfed American ships during WWII

In World War II, the battleship Yamato dwarfed nearly all others, and many Japanese ships were larger than their American counterparts. But how was Japan, a relatively small country with limited natural resources, able to construct larger ships than America?


First, Japan started early with the knowledge that it wanted a naval force capable of widespread offensive warfare. But it also benefitted from specializing. Since the Imperial Navy wanted to dominate the Pacific, they didn’t need to make their ships capable of transiting the Panama Canal like America did.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Of course, making the world’s greatest battleships came with plenty of engineering challenges.

The designers of the Yamato had to figure out how to keep a floating platform steady when it fired 18-inch guns, each of which fired a shell roughly the same weight as a car. How can such a large ship be made to sail smoothly through the water quickly?

In this video from PBS, interviewers speak with historians and experts, including a Japanese engineer who served during World War II. Watch it below to see how Japanese designers ensured the ship would be battle ready:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jog1NsR_cDo
In the end, the Yamato was never able to live up to its glorious design. It took some small part in battles in the Pacific but frequently found itself in the wrong spot on the battlefield to bring its weapons to bear.

One of its few claims to fame was inflicting damage on a small number of U.S. ships in the Battle off Samar.

In April 1945, the Japanese Navy decided to beach the Yamato on Okinawa and use it as a fortress and gun platform for as long as possible before U.S. ships and planes destroyed it.

But it was sent to Okinawa with no air cover and little protection. American planes easily sank it long before it reached the beach.

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How sailors keep their warships from breaking down

American warships are capable, lethal, and imposing, so much so that it can be easy to forget that they are still just lumps of metal floating through highly damaging saltwater while running at high power as hundreds or thousands of sailors prowl their decks.

Here’s how sailors make sure that all the sailing, work, and seawater doesn’t doom the ship before it can shoot its way through enemy fleets:


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Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Ryann Galbraith brazes piping aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Hogan)

One of the most important parts, besides avoiding enemy missiles and shells, obviously, is making sure that the saltwater stays in the ocean and doesn’t get inside the ship. That’s why the Navy has hull maintenance technicians like Ryann Galbraith, above. They work on all the plumbing, decks, structures, and hulls, patching, welding, riveting, etc. to keep fluids and steam in dedicated pipes.

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U.S. Navy divers, assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, drop a cofferdam into the water prior to performing underwater hull maintenance on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh)

Of course, the hull itself can be vulnerable, accumulating barnacles and other sea life and rusting from the exposure to water and salt. To deal with this, the Navy sends sailors around the ship, often in small boats, to touch up paint or clean off risky accumulations. Also, they send divers under the water to clean the hull and perform more maintenance.

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Chief Fire Controlman Ryan Pavelich and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Robin Norris inspect the closed-in weapons system on the USS Wayne E. Meyer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

But the ship also needs to be able to hit back if it comes under attack, and weapons like the Phalanx close-in weapons system allow it to knock the enemy’s missiles and other airborne threats out of the sky. But, you guessed it, all those moving parts and sensitive electronics need a lot of maintenance as well.

Wires fray, parts wear out, electronics degrade. Fire control sailors make sure their weapons will protect the ship when called upon.

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Chief Machinist Mate Benjamin Carnes and Gas Turbine Systems Technician 1st Class Johnathan Hovinga make final inspections in preparation to start the main engines on the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

The maintenance can get a lot more complicated when you go inside the ship. The engines on Navy ships, whether fueled by diesel, gasoline, or nuclear, are pretty complicated. They need to be regularly inspected, pumps and belts have to get replaced, oil and other fluids need to be changed.

And that’s all if everything goes according to plan. When engines experience a real breakdown, it can necessitate people crawling through the engine or the ship getting towed into port for drydock maintenance. So, doing the maintenance is worth the effort.

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Gas Turbine System Technician Fireman Steven Garris, from Youngsville, Pennsylvania, changes a burner barrel to prevent soot build up in a boiler aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan)

But Navy engines actually have a lot of maintenance needs with few civilian equivalents. The sailor above is changing out the burner barrel on an amphibious assault ship. Do any of your vehicles have burner barrels? Mine don’t. And few people need specially trained staff to keep their nuclear reactors from poisoning the passengers.

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Onboard USS Wasp, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jarrod Prouse conducts repairs on the handle of a Collective Protective System hatch.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

Other routine maintenance on ships is much more sensitive and demanding as well. Navy ships have doors that need to be welded properly, or else lethal substances could leak through when the ship is in a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear environment.

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Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Alexander Fleischer, from Crystal Lake, Ill., assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable, welds a gusset while performing repairs to the cradle of a crane aboard the ship.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heather C. Wamsley)

By the way, there are so, so many pictures online of sailors welding. That’s not surprising since ships are made of metal and that metal needs to be repaired. But still, so many pictures. This particular one shows a hull maintenance technician repairing a crane cradle on a submarine tender.

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Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Scott Skeate, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Darryl Johnson, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Luke Hart, and Airman Apprentice Mccord Brickle perform maintenance on a waist catapult shuttle on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
 (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Milner)

Most Navy ships have specialty systems not seen on civilian vessels or even on most other vessels of the fleet. For instance, carriers have catapults that, except for the USS Gerald R. Ford, are powered by steam. The catapults have to be repaired as parts wear out, and they have to be carefully calibrated even when everything is working properly.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Never miss the drop zone when the Unit Cartoonist is watching

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

(Feature cartoon: Delta’s Marinus Pope is grilled for missing his intended touch down point by a significantly wide margin East by Northeast [E/NE]. His reconnaissance brothers approached me about roasting him for all eternity in the Unit Cartoon Book; an ask I joyfully accepted.)

My Special Mission Unit did a lot of parachute training, almost exclusively jumping from very high altitudes pulling out our parachutes at low altitudes, a technique called High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drops. The technique leverages the high altitude to help cover the presence of the delivery airframe, and the low opening to keep the view of parachutes in the sky at a minimum.


To this day, I have a clinical fear of heights. That kept me away from trying out for elite units for the longest time, but after two years in a regular infantry unit, I was heading to airborne with or even without a parachute.

A modification of the HALO drop is the High Altitude High Opening (HAHO). In this scenario, paratroops exit at ~18,000 feet and pull immediately. Now the troops are under a parachute at nearly 17,000 feet!

At that altitude, a parachutist can travel a staggering lateral distance, even as far as from one end of a state to the other. (A point of humor: in addition to the HALO and HAHO capability we invented a faux elitist group of jumpers called OSNO men; Outer Space No Opening)

Under such conditions a man will descend under (parachute) canopy for an extended period of time — upwards of nearly an hour — and as you might already imagine, the higher the altitude, the greater the propensity for navigational errors.

Once I had a canopy malfunction at 17,000 feet, causing me to lose position in the group formation and drift so far away from my Drop Zone (DZ), that one of our ground support crew had to jump in a truck and race to where I hit the ground to pick me up. My impact was many (MANY) miles off target. I recall free-falling over a near-solid cloud cover and watching my shadow race across the top of the cloud bank toward me at great speed until it met me just as I penetrated the cloud top. Just me and my shadow I say, though I did not know it at the time; I had never heard of or experienced the phenomenon, and rather thought it was another jumper on a collision course toward me. I braced the bejesus out of myself for impact.

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Anyhoo… I came down in a cornfield, which was odd, in that there were no cornfields in the state that my jump aircraft took off from. A fine American patriot came screaming up in a really large, really old all-metal Impala:

“I seen ya coming’ down in that-there parachute. Me, I ain’t nevah see anything like it ’round this cornah of Nebraska!”

“Nebraska?!?” Yeah, that was not a good day; that wasn’t where I started from in Colorado.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award

Did I mention the time I collided with a fellow jumper at night at 24,000 feet? Yeah — pretty much hated it! It was already stressful enough, as we were all breathing pure oxygen through a pilot’s face mask since there was not sufficient breathable oxygen at that extreme altitude. In the collision, my oxygen supply valve had been shocked shut, leaving me with only the rarified atmospheric gas I could suck through the seal of my mask.

Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, and I did what any other warrior would do — I passed out. Since I was not conscious, I don’t know exactly what happened in the next 16,000 feet or so, but I estimate that I fell flat and stable. When I was low enough for breath-worthy air, I came to, only to find a brother was falling right with me some three feet away staring me in the face intently, ready to pull my reserve for me if I failed to snap back to reality. A glance at my altimeter strenuously urged me to pull my ripcord immediately.

Another thing that happened during the time I was “away” from my fall, was that it had begun to lighten up on the horizon as the sun crept in. The aurora made it able for me to see the details of the men around me and the ground below. It all looked so so so much like a cartoon… but I had my sense about me and saved my own life; oh, but that doesn’t count for a medal.

The American truck that received France’s top valor award
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