We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.
After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?
1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars
Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.
2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars
The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.
Here’s one review:
“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”
3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars
The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.
A reviewer writes:
“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.
I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”
4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars
Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”
5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars
This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.
“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.
With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”
6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars
Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.
From one review:
“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it.
All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
Pin this to your refrigerator for summer fun planning, military families.
Summer means baseball action, and many minor league baseball teams across the country are making an effort to honor those who serve the nation. Here’s the WATM list of minor league baseball Military Appreciation games:
*Scroll all the way down to view list of teams with season-long discounts.
Fort Myers Miracle – Free pre-game picnic for veterans and their guests (up to 100 attendees). Pre-game ceremony for veterans. Veterans and active military personnel admitted free of charge for all games.
Lakeland Flying Tiers – Free admission to all veterans and one (1) guest. The event features honoring veterans and local recruits, a JROTC Pass and Review, welcome home soldier ceremonies and much more.
St. Lucie Mets – They will wear custom military appreciation jerseys, which will be auctioned off during the game. The local Vietnam Veterans Chapter 566 will be selling tickets, and a portion of those ticket sales will go to the Health and Welfare fund of the VVA. Military receives a $4 discount for all games.
Hickory Crawdads – Salute to Troops Night offering free parking for military. Two free tickets for military members and one (1) guest for all games.
Salt Lake Bees – Free admission to all military members and ½ price tickets for their families.
South Bend Cubs – May 29th May 30th: Any former or current military member will receive 2 free tickets to either game with proof of service.
Biloxi Shuckers – Discount to all active and retired military personnel and their families in the box level and the reserved level seating locations.
Louisville Bats – Free admission to all active duty, reserve, guard and family members with valid ID. Tickets may be obtained in advance or the day of the game at the Louisville Slugger Field box office. Free admission to all veterans – VFW, DAV, AMVETS, American Legion, Ladies Auxiliary and all other veterans with ID or DD Form 214.
Indianapolis Indians – Ticket Discount: $1 off advanced ticket price, $3 off day-of ticket price. Players will wear specialty camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Auction proceeds to benefit WGU Scholarships Fund for Indiana National Guard members.
Toledo Mud Hens – Military families will receive free tickets to this game.
Bowie Baysox – Fort Meade Appreciation Night. Free tickets to military personnel at Fort Meade. Military discount $2 off general admission and $3 off reserved seat tickets for every home game during the season. Additional Military Appreciation nights: June 22, July 6, August 10, September 3 – show current or past proof of service to receive half price ($8) box seat ticket.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Free admission for all military personnel (active and veteran). Pregame performance. First 1,000 fans will receive a Khris Davis bobblehead.
Palm Beach Cardinals $3 discount for family members of active and retired military. Veterans and active military personnel with valid military ID are admitted free of charge for all games.
Tampa Yankees – Free admission for all military personnel. Active and retired military receive a free upper reserved ticket with valid ID on all Saturday home games.
Indianapolis Indians – Ticket Discount: $1 off advanced ticket price, $3 off day-of ticket price. Indians to wear specialty Stars Stripes jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Auction proceeds to benefit Indiana National Guard relief fund.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes – Military personnel honored on the field will receive complimentary box seats for them and their family.
Lowell Spinners – Vietnam Veterans Night. July 28th – Military Night/Camo Jersey Giveaway first 1,000 fans. All active/retired military and their families receive free standing room tickets to any Spinners home game with valid military ID.
Midland RockHounds – Military members can redeem a voucher for a free picnic for 4 people. Military members receive $1 reserved seats on all normal game days.
Princeton Rays – Dedication of Military Honor Seat at H.P. Hunnicutt Field. Free tickets for active duty and retired military and $4 tickets for up to four additional tickets for family/friends.
Durham Bulls – Military Appreciation Night. Active duty military receive free admission for all normal Durham Bulls games.
Missoula Osprey – and July 25th. $5 reserved tickets for all active retired military personnel with valid military ID.
Vermont Lake Monsters – Free tickets for active and retired military and their families along with Digital Camo and $5 Dunkin Donuts gift cards. Free tickets available to first 40 military members at each home game.
New Orleans Zephyrs – $5 ticket with presentation of ID for active or retired military. No cap on tickets purchased.
Rochester Red Wings – Free admission to military personnel with valid ID. Custom game-worn jerseys are auctioned off to benefit Children of Fallen Soldiers Foundation.
Holding over 12-million gallons of water, the “MASK” — which stands for “maneuvering and seakeeping” — is one of the largest man-made indoor oceans in the world. It is located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland.
The massive water containment measures 240-feet wide and 360-feet long and houses the ability to recreate real oceanic-like characteristics to help design future Naval vessels.
The facility can custom manufacture mini-ships for on-site testing. (Images via Giphy)
US President Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary broadside at allies for failing to pay their fair share of the defense bill.
The billionaire leader used the highest possible profile platform of his first summit in Brussels to accuse members of the alliance of owing “massive amounts of money”.
Unveiling a memorial to the 9/11 attacks at NATO’s new headquarters, Trump also urged the alliance to get tougher on tackling terrorism and immigration in the wake of the Manchester attack.
Allies who had hoped to hear Trump publicly declare his commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee were left disappointed as he made no mention of it and instead castigated them on their home turf.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” the president said as fellow leaders looked on grim faced.
Trump said that even if they met the commitment they made in 2014 to allocate two percent of GDP to defense, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges NATO faces.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump added.
The diatribe stirred memories of his campaign trail comments branding NATO “obsolete” and threatening that states that did not pay their way would not necessarily be defended, which deeply alarmed allies.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly asked at a closing news conference about Trump’s comments but insisted that while the president might have been “blunt” his message was unchanged — the allies had to do more.
In dedicating the 9/11 Article 5 memorial, the president was “sending a strong signal” of his commitment to NATO, Stoltenberg said.
“And it is not possible to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.”
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.
The surprising focus on immigration echoed another key feature of Trump’s campaign, which included a vow to build a border wall with Mexico, a measure derided in Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.
“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.
Trump’s rebuke came despite NATO saying it would formally join the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, despite reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.
Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO’s six-decade history — after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Analyst Thomas Wright of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Trump’s failure to publicly declare this was “shocking and damaging”.
Brussels presented Trump with the first problems of a landmark foreign trip, including tense moments with the head of the European Union and with key ally Britain.
Trump announced a review of “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks over the Manchester bombing, in which 22 people died, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.
He later discussed the row with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who had condemned the leaks that left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.
A meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker did not go smoothly either, despite hopes it could clear the bad blood caused by Trump backing Britain’s Brexit vote.
During his meeting with the two top EU officials, Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States, Der Spiegel reported.
“The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to the German weekly’s online edition.
“See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he reportedly said.
Tusk had earlier said there were differences on climate change and trade but above all Russia.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Tusk, a former Polish premier who grew up protesting against Soviet domination of his country.
Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.
Trump also held talks with new French President Emmanuel Macron, with the pair appearing to engage in a brief yet bizarre battle to see who could shake hands the hardest.
Trump came to Brussels direct from a “fantastic” meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.
Career Incentive Pay is another part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the Services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that otherwise pay them significantly more in the civilian sector.
Each career incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.
Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1 outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a, 301c, 304, 305a and 320 address incentive pays that are career specific.
1. Aviation Career Incentive
Who: Military pilots
How much: $125 to $840 per month, dependent on number of years serving as an aviator. This lasts the duration of the pilot’s aviation career.
2. Submarine Duty Incentive (SUBPAY)
Who: Navy personnel aboard submarines.
How much: The Secretary of the Navy has the ability to set SUBPAY up to $1,000 per month, but it is currently between $75 and $835 per month.
3. Diving Duty
Who: Service member divers.
How much: $340 for enlisted personnel and $240 for officers per month.
4. Career Sea
Who: Naval officers who’ve been assigned duties above and beyond what might be typical for an officer in the same rank and which are critical to operations.
How much: $50 – $150 per month, dependent on rank. There is a limit on payments made to O-3s to O-6s, and only a certain percentage of personnel in each rank can qualify for the pay.
5. Career Enlisted Flyer
Who: Enlisted personnel on flight crews for the Air Force and Navy.
How much: $150 – $400 depending on years in the aviation field.
Contractor mechanics failed to follow proper maintenance procedures leading to the contamination of the oxygen system on an Air Force VC-25A aircraft undergoing regular heavy maintenance, according to an Accident Investigation Board report compiled by Air Force Materiel Command.
The contamination occurred in April 2016 while the plane was at Boeing’s Port San Antonio facility in Texas. The mishap resulted in approximately $4 million in damage, which Boeing repaired at its own expense.
The VC-25A, one of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B aircraft, is flown by the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is used to transport the President. When the President is on board, the plane is referred to as Air Force One.
According to the report, three Boeing mechanics contaminated the aircraft’s oxygen system by using tools, parts, and components that did not comply with cleanliness standards while checking oxygen lines for leaks. The contamination was discovered after an unapproved regulator was found connected to the passenger oxygen system.
The report also identified other contributing factors to the mishap, including the failure of a Boeing maintenance technician to observe explicit cautions and warnings when working on oxygen systems, Boeing’s failure to exercise adequate oversight of the quality of maintenance being performed on the VC-25, and the failure of mechanics to “absorb and retain” training received on oxygen systems.
Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, convened the AIB. Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was the AIB president. The primary purpose of the board was to investigate the cause and substantially contributing factors of the mishap and provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.
The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.
Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.
Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.
In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.
Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.
Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.
“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me, she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.”
For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.
She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Fewer than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.
“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”
Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.
And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.
The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.
North Korea has launched what appears to be a missile headed towards the northern end of Japan at around 5:58 a.m. local time, according to Japanese government officials.
Japan’s NHK News reported that the missile passed over Japan and warned people in northern Japan to take necessary precautions.
Although three missiles were fired, according to Japanese officials, it was not entirely clear if all of them were headed towards the same trajectory. NHK also reported that a missile broke off into three pieces before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.
South Korean military officials have also confirmed reports of the missile launch and said that it flew for about 1677 miles.
During the tense moment, multiple prefectures in Japan were reportedly put on alert.
“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, shortly following the launch.
The latest act of provocation from North Korea comes amid a spate of questionable moves, despite regional leaders, including Russia, denouncing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for his county to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the North makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” NK News reported.
On September 1, 1998, North Korea fired a missile towards Japan’s airspace, offering no explanation for the incident.
Beijing issued a scathing rebuke on July 3 of a US warship’s patrol a day earlier near a contested island occupied by Chinese troops in the South China Sea — the latest irritant in the two powers’ increasingly fraught relationship.
The patrol, the second known “freedom of navigation” operation under the administration of US President Donald Trump, came as the White House appeared to grow ever more frustrated with China over its moves in the waterway and lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.
Sunday’s operation, which involved the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Stethem guided-missile destroyer, was conducted within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Triton Island in the Paracel archipelago, a US defense official confirmed to The Japan Times.
China’s Defense Ministry lambasted the move in a statement, issuing what appeared to one of the strongest condemnations yet of the US operation which Washington says is aimed at affirming its right to passage.
The US “actions seriously damaged the strategic mutual trust between the two sides” and undermined the “political atmosphere” surrounding the development of Sino-US military ties, the statement said. The Chinese military, it added, would take bolstered measures in the waters, including “an increase in the intensity of air and sea patrols.”
The tiny islet is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and is not one of the seven fortified man-made islands located in the South China Sea’s Spratly chain, which is further south.
Late July 2, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it had dispatched military ships and fighter jets in response to warn off the Stethem, which it said had “trespassed” in “the country’s territorial waters.”
“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement using the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands.
The US, he said, “has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security, and order of the relevant waters, and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands.”
Lu said the US “deliberately stirs up troubles in the South China Sea” and “is running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation, and development,” adding that the patrol “constitutes a serious political and military provocation.
FONOPs represent “a challenge to excessive maritime claims,” according to the US Defense Department. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of land within their territory.
The patrol was believed to be the second near Triton Island, after a similar FONOP under the administration of President Barack Obama in January 2016. The July 2 operation was first reported by Fox News.
Ahead of the patrol, there has been growing speculation that the White House is frustrated not only with Beijing’s moves in the strategic waterway, but also its failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
This frustration was seen in a tweet sent by Trump late last month, when he wrote: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”
And on June 30, in a step that the White House said was not aimed at Beijing, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions against a Chinese bank linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. The sanctions came just a day after the US announced a new $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.
Earlier last week, the US State Department also listed China among the worst human-trafficking offenders in an annual report.
According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, an Asia expert at the Center for a New American Security think-tank in Washington, the July 2 FONOP was “not particularly provocative,” and was “basically a repeat of an earlier one.
“But given that the administration also announced North Korean sanctions and a Taiwan arms package, it’s hard to see the timing as pure coincidence,” Rapp-Hooper said. “This may not be an effort to pressure China to specific ends, rather a ‘snap back’ in Trump administration foreign policy, which was solicitous of Beijing for several months as it sought help on North Korea.”
“The White House now understands that Beijing will not solve this problem for it,” she added.
Zack Cooper, an Asia scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted the timing between previous FONOPs and the rapid-clip announcements of recent US actions against China.
“These four actions have come in just five days,” he said, adding that the last FONOP was just under 40 days ago, while the one before that took place more than 215 days earlier.
However, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said in a statement that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”
“US forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis,” Knight said. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.
“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” he added.
China has continued to militarize its outposts there — despite a pledge to the contrary — as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.
Now, with fewer constraints on a tougher approach to China across the board, experts say Trump could butt heads with Beijing over a number of issues.
“What we know for sure is that the Trump administration is now more comfortable with higher levels of friction with China than in previous months,” said Ely Ratner, a former deputy national security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden and current senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Imagine an airplane so quiet that it’s virtually impossible to hear it coming and going from the ground. This may seem like science fiction to most, but for the US Army’s YO-3 ‘Quiet Star’ scout aircraft, it was an incredible and unparalleled reality — still unmatched today.
In the late 1960s, the Army put forward a requirement for a small observation aircraft that could fly just above 1,000 feet without being detected by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Navy, Air Force and Marine reconnaissance aircraft were too noisy and easily detectable, allowing for NVA commanders to hide their soldiers well in advance of surveillance flights, rendering such missions useless.
To solve this problem, in 1968 the Department of Defense contracted Lockheed’s storied Skunk Works black projects division to build an aircraft suitable for the job. Skunk Works had, by this time, already developed the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes for the Air Force and CIA, so designing something substantially smaller, slower and cheaper would be a considerably easy task, well within their capabilities.
According to Rene Francillon in his book, “Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913,” the aerospace company had already attempted to build something similar two years earlier using a Schweizer glider fitted with a ‘silenced’ powerplant for quiet flights. Known by the codename PRIZE CREW, this glider was sent to Vietnam for operational testing and was determined successful enough that the concept was worth exploring further.
When the 1968 request appeared, Lockheed was already well-prepared.
To meet the Army’s needs, Lockheed took another Schweizer glider and modified it heavily, using fiberglass — a fairly novel technology on aircraft at the time — and lightweight metals to reduce weight and increase endurance. The cockpit was redesigned to hold a pilot and an observer/spotter in a tandem configuration under a large bubble canopy for enhanced visibility.
Propeller aircraft aren’t normally known for being very quiet or inconspicuous. The noise of their piston engines and the propeller blades beating the air around it into submission can be heard from a fair distance off. However, Lockheed’s best and brightest made it work.
By connecting a small 6-cylinder engine to the propeller using a belt and pulley system, and by adding fiberglass shielding to the engine compartment, the aircraft became nearly noiseless, even with its engines on at full power. Exhaust from the engine would be ducted and funneled to the rear of the plane using a special muffler, further reducing any potential for sound generation.
Lockheed finished developing this new stealth aircraft in 1969, dubbing it the YO-3 Quiet Star. By 1970, nine Quiet Stars were sent on their maiden combat deployment to Vietnam, beginning a 14-month rotation to the country in support of American troops on the ground.
Before a typical observation mission, a YO-3 would be fueled up and launched, then flown around the air base it had recently taken off from so that personnel on the ground could listen for any sounds out of the ordinary — note that “ordinary” for the Quiet Star was almost absolute silence.
If any rattles were heard, the aircraft would land immediately, be patched up with duct tape or glue, and be sent out on its mission.
Though the Quiet Star was designed to fly safely at 1,200 feet and above, it was so undetectable that its pilots were able to take it down to treetop level with NVA or VC troops being none the wiser. The effectiveness of night missions was enhanced through the use of a low-light optical system designed by Xerox, the same company known for building copying machines.
No YO-3 ever took a shot from the bad guys during its deployment to Vietnam, simply because the Communists weren’t able to detect it. With its spindly wings and dark paint scheme, the YO-3 couldn’t be distinguished easily from the darkness of the night, and by the time enemy troops realized something had passed overhead, it was already gone.
Sadly, the Quiet Star arrived in Vietnam far too late to make much of a difference at all. It was pulled out of the country and relegated to testing roles with NASA, though a few of the 11 units produced by Lockheed were acquired by the FBI and the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game.
The FBI used its Quiet Stars to locate kidnappers, while Louisiana game wardens used theirs to catch poachers.
In the early days of the Cold War, tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. rose to a fevered pitch as anti-Communist paranoia spread across the United States. It’s little wonder the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in Brooklyn in 1957 saw many people clamoring for his execution with few lawyers willing to take his case.
So starts DreamWorks and Fox 2000 Pictures’ new film Bridge of Spies. Set against a backdrop of real events, this Cold War dramatic thriller, penned by Joel and Ethan Coen, is the story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), former U.S. Navy officer, General Counsel for the Office of Strategic Services during WWII, and prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials. Bridge of Spies starts well after the war, with Abel’s (Mark Rylance) arrest. Donovan, whose anti-Communist and pro-American credentials are impeccable, was living in Brooklyn with his family at the time, working as an insurance lawyer.
“He was a prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes,” Hanks said of Donovan. “That means he wasn’t the type of soldier that went off and wanted to kill as many Nazis as possible; he was a guy who wanted to nail as many Nazis as possible, using the letter of the law.”
Abel is questioned by the FBI but refuses to cooperate, declining their offer to turn on his country, and is detained in federal prison pending trial. Donovan is highly regarded within the legal community for his profound skills as a negotiator, but has little experience with allegations of this nature and magnitude and isn’t eager to get involved. Advocating such a deeply unpopular defense would make him a public figure and subject his family to scrutiny, disdain, and potential danger.
“It was simply a piece of history that was so compelling,” Spielberg said. “Personally for me, to know that something like this, a man who stood on his principles and defied everybody hating him and his family for what he thought he needed to do —equal protection under the law, even for an alien in this country, even for a Soviet accused spy. That was, to me, a righteous reason to tell the story.”
Donovan eventually agrees to represent Abel, as he is committed to the principles of justice and the protection of basic human rights and wants to ensure Abel receives a fair trial, regardless of his citizenship. As he prepares his defense strategy, a bond begins to develop between the two men, one built on mutual respect and understanding. Donovan admires Abel’s strength and loyalty and mounts an impassioned plea, arguing that his actions were that of a good soldier following instructions on his country’s behalf, but to no avail.
“The real Donovan, when he was defending Abel, was interviewed at the courthouse,” Hanks recalled,” and said the reason why he took the case, and the reason why he carried it all the way to the Supreme Court: ‘You can’t accuse this man of treason. He’s not a traitor. He’s actually a patriot to his cause. Only an American can be a traitor, only an American can commit treason against their own country. He’s [Abel] just a man doing his job, in the same way we have men doing their jobs over here.’ As soon as you start torturing the people we have, you give the other side permission and cause to do the same exact thing. That’s not what America stands for — as soon as you start executing anybody you think has gone against your country, you’re not that far removed from the KGB and the Stasi. That’s not what America was about. This is what Donovan took with him from the get-go.”
Sometime later, an American U-2 spy plane is shot down over Soviet airspace while on a reconnaissance mission. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), is convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in the U.S.S.R. The CIA, denying any knowledge of the mission, fears Powers may be coerced into revealing classified information. Having witnessed Donovan’s skills in the courtroom, CIA operative Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) secretly reaches out to recruit him for a national security mission of great importance. Fueled by a love for his country, unwavering belief in his convictions and a tremendous amount of courage, Donovan is soon on a plane to Berlin to negotiate a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
“I like making pictures about people who are – who have a personal mission in life, or at least in the story, the life in the story,” said director Steven Spielberg. “Who start out in a certain, with certain low expectations, and then overachieve our highest expectations for them. That’s the kind of character arc I love dabbling in as a director, as a filmmaker.”
Through Donovan’s story, we get a chilling view of the events which would dominate much of the rest of the 20th century. Interactions with the German Democratic Republic (GDR — East Germany), the Stasi (East German Secret Police), and how East German-Russian relations would come to divide the people of Germany and the entire world. Spielberg recreates everything in painstaking detail, from The U.S. Air Force uniforms of the the era and the U-2 shootdown at 70,000 feet to 1962 Berlin and the brutality of the Berlin Wall.
“We shot that on the border of Poland and Germany, in a town called Breslau. [The Polish name is] Wroclaw,” Spielbeg recalled. “And there’s still bullet holes in all the buildings from World War II there, they never repaired it. So we went to the area closest to the east of Berlin, that looked just like East Berlin, and we actually built that wall.”
Spielberg’s fascination with the Cold War dates back to childhood, when he remembers his father and grandfather and their stories of the deep- seeded feelings of animosity and distrust which existed between the U.S. and Russia at the time.
“It was a very dangerous time to be in the headlines for standing up for a spy,” Spielberg added, “Because as a kid growing up, I felt a tremendous sense of fear of the Atomic bomb and Soviet Russia.”
Just as Spielberg created the cold, blue, slightly desaturated look that would come to define World War II movies and shows in years to come, he may have just done the same for the Postwar years in Bridge of Spies. He creates a bright, dreamy world with an almost comic-book like use of color. The colors are vivid in the areas which overshadow the characters, such as the green Stasi uniforms of the GDR and red Soviet flags. Everywhere in the film, the lights are bright and the shadows are dark, creating a stark contrast on par with the contrast of East vs. West.
The film isn’t all drama. There are great humorous moments peppered throughout the film with Hanks’ trademark dry wit. Every time Hanks is on screen with someone else, the interplay takes the film to another level. Bridge of Spies is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Outstanding performances by Amy Ryan (Birdman, Gone Baby Gone) as Donovan’s wife Mary, and Alan Alda (M*A*S*H, The Aviator) as his boss Thomas Watters round out an excellent cast who deliver the quality we’ve come to expect from such an elite group every minute they’re on screen. The cast, a script written English dramatist Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers, with Spielberg’s masterful direction complete the essential elements for a truly engaging, entertaining film.
Entering the Imperial German Navy in 1911, Karl Dönitz, a Berlin native, served as a submarine commander in WWI as Hitler was coming into power. While underway on deployment in 1918, his UB-68 was badly damaged by British forces and eventually sunk, but Dönitz was captured and transported to a POW camp.
After nine months of captivity, Dönitz was released from custody back to German hands where he was appointed by General Admiral Erich Raeder to command and create a new German U-boat fleet.
Under his new position, he developed a U-boat patrolling strategy called “wolfpack” formations — meaning groups of submarines would maneuver in straight lines. Once the patrolling U-boats came in contact with enemy vessels, they would signal the wolfpack who would then charge forward and attack.
Admiral Karl Dönitz meets with Adolf Hitler (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
In 1943, Dönitz replaced General Admiral Raecher as Commander-in-Chief (the same man who originally assigned him) and with his naval warfare expertise began winning Hitler’s trust.
During his role as Commander-in-Chief, Dönitz was credited with sinking nearly 15 million tons of enemy shipping, coordinating reconnaissance missions, and allowing his U-boat commanders to strike at will when they believed they could inflict the most damage. At that same time, he commanded of 212 U-boats and had another 181 on standby used for training. His tactics proved to be superior to those of his enemys until the invention of microwave radar which managed to spot his German created U-boats sooner than before.
After Hitler died, his last will and testament named Dönitz as commander of the armed forces and the new Reich president. For the next 20 days, he served the last leader of Nazi Germany until the British once again captured him on May 23, 1945.
During the Nuremberg Trials, Dönitz was charged with multiple war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in Berlin’s Spandau prison. Upon his release, he published two books and continued to state he had no knowledge of any crimes committed by Hitler.