Today, the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, or HEMTT, is one of the military’s most important but unheralded vehicles. This eight-wheeled behemoth has been around since 1982, but its highly-capable predecessor saw action well before the HEMTT hit production lines.
That predecessor was the GOER family of vehicles. GOER is short for Go-ability with Overall Economy and Reliability. These four-wheeled vehicles had an articulating front section (which allowed it to make sharper turns) and amphibious capabilities (it used its wheels to propel through water), making it extremely versatile. These vehicles could operate in front-wheel drive while on the road, but could shift to four-wheel drive for the paths less traveled.
Two of the unique features of the M520 Goer are on display: Its amphibious capacilbity, and its articulated structure.
The GOER was first developed in the early 1960s and saw some field tests in Germany and Vietnam. Four versions of this vehicle emerged: The baseline M520, an eight-ton truck; the M533, a wrecker (really, a big tow truck); the M559, a fuel tanker; and the M877, an eight-ton truck with a crane.
After yielding outstanding test results in Vietnam in 1971, the Army placed a production order with Caterpillar to create 1,300 trucks — a mix of the four variants mentioned above. But its run would prove short. By 1976, a number of the vehicle’s shortcomings came to light. One of the most notable was the lack of suspension, which made the ride very difficult. The GOER was also just too big, and there were safety issues with the way the front part of the trucks oscillated.
The GOER family of vehicles also included a wrecker.
To address these problems but maintain the capabilities of this versatile truck, the DOD sought a replacement. Thus, the HEMTT family of vehicles emerged. Most of the GOERs never saw the civilian market, but were instead scrapped.
See this vehicle be put through its paces in the video below!
Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.
Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.
But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…
(U.S. Air Force photo)
I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.
After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.
I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.
July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.
Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.
“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.
The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.
Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.
Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.
Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.
Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.
There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.
Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.
Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.
Something goes wrong.
The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.
The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.
Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.
The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.
The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.
After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.
Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.
So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.
1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.
I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.
The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.
(Pima Air Space Museum photo)
The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.
Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.
But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
When U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in July 2018, they’ll shake hands in a city with a history of high-profile negotiations between Moscow and Washington.
The July 16, 2018 talks will mark the fourth time that Helsinki has hosted negotiations between the leaders of the two nuclear powers, continuing Finland’s legacy as neutral territory for the former Cold War foes to hash out their differences.
Finland fought Soviet forces during World War II and signed a cooperation deal with Moscow in 1948. Wary of its massive Soviet neighbor, Finland allowed significant Soviet influence on its domestic and foreign policy while formally retaining its independence.
That approach — which spawned the term Finlandization — continued for decades as the Finnish government sought to maintain a deft balance between the two Cold War superpowers, both of which used the Nordic country as a platform for intelligence-gathering operations.
Offering Helsinki as a forum for negotiations between the Soviets and the West became a prominent strategy by Finland, which joined neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact, to demonstrate its bona fides as a neutral geopolitical player.
From treaties limiting nuclear weapons to the Helsinki Accords, U.S. – Russia summits have earned quite the legacy.
“From the Finnish perspective, it was part of our active policy of neutrality,” Finnish historian Mikko Majander told RFE/RL. “Finland was between the blocs, East and West, and, by offering good services to international diplomacy, kind of strengthened its position.”
‘Recognition from East and West’
The Finnish capital’s most famous Cold War-era security summit came in 1975 and resulted in the signing of the Helsinki Accords, spelling out the guiding principles — including territorial integrity and respect for human rights — of relations between the United States, the Soviet Union, and 33 European states.
Chancellor of Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) Helmut Schmidt, Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) Erich Honecker, US president Gerald Ford and Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky
Speaking to Ford outside the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Helsinki, Brezhnev told Ford that the Soviets backed the Republican’s upcoming election bid — which he would ultimately lose to Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter — and “for our part will do everything we can to make that happen.”
Ford responded that he expected to be elected and expressed support for “the cause of strengthening detente,” according to a Soviet memorandum of the private conversation that, according to the White House, was “reconstructed from scraps of paper retrieved from Brezhnev’s ashtray” at the Helsinki hall where the 1975 summit was held.
Hosting the 1975 summit where the Helsinki Accords were signed was a “major goal of Finnish diplomacy in the early 1970s,” Jussi Hanhimaki, a Finnish historian with the Graduate Institute of Geneva, told RFE/RL.
“This was a way of getting sort of recognition from both the East and the West that yes, the neutrality was for real,” Hanhimaki added.
Two years earlier, Bush’s predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had stopped in Helsinki on his way to Moscow for a summit with Gorbachev. Reagan used his three-day sojournin the Finnish capital to deliver a speech in which he said “there is no true international security without respect for human rights.”
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meeting with Ronald Reagan and President-elect George H. W. Bush in New York City in December 1988
The most recent Helsinki-hosted summit between the two sides was held in 1997, when U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin addressed a range of issues, including Moscow’s staunch opposition to NATO expansion into countries of the former Soviet bloc.
According to the White House, the talks nonetheless yielded agreement “on the importance of crafting a cooperative relationship between NATO and Russia.”
Two months later, Russia and NATO signed a historic road map for cooperation known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act. That agreement, however, has been mired in mistrust and mutual accusations of violations following Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea territory and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The July 16, 2018 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki comes amid battered relations between Washington and Moscow over a range of issues, including the Ukraine conflict, Russia’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and U.S. accusations of Russian election meddling.
Finland joined the European Union following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has not joined NATO but did join the alliance’s Partnership For Peace program, and Finnish troops have participated in NATO peacekeeping missions.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has maintained contacts with Putin despite the tensions between Moscow and the West and has also met Trump in the White House.
Hanhimaki said Finnish leaders “like to see Finland as very firmly” part of the West, “despite not being a NATO member yet.”
He added that there is some concern in the country “about the meeting giving too much legitimacy to Russia and Russia’s foreign policy.”
“But I think that’s still being overweighed by the fact that…the only way to increase Finland’s international standing today is by acting as a kind of a host,” Hanhimaki said.
Majander told RFE/RL that “from a Finnish perspective, it’s very well that we still can be kind of a bridge-building place.”
“We don’t have our own agenda here, but, of course, we, as a neighbor of…Russia, we want detente relations between the West and the East. And if we can do any service on that, it’s good for us as well,” Majander added.
The F-15 Eagle is a legendary air superiority platform with an unparalleled modern air-to-air record of 104 kills with zero loses, but when we think of aircraft that can really take a beating, our minds tend to conjure images of planes like the A-10 Thunderbolt II — landing on forward airstrips with more holes punched in them than a brick of Swiss cheese.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Captain Kim Campbell suffered extensive damage during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Campbell flew it safely back to base on manual reversion mode after taking damage to the hydraulic system. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Of course, there’s good reason for the A-10’s toughness. The aircraft was purpose built around the positively massive GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gatling-style auto cannon for close air support. The A-10 was built to fight Soviet tanks from low altitude, with titanium armor and bullet-resistant glass wrapped around the pilot to keep the plane in the fight.
The F-15 was a product of the Cold War, not unlike the A-10, but was designed with a very different purpose in mind. With a top speed of Mach 2.5 and enough hard points to carry 11 air-to-air missiles into a fight, the F-15 might be thought of as a Ferrari compared to the gun truck that is the A-10, but that doesn’t mean these blistering fast fighter-killers aren’t pretty tough on their own.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Hughel)
Despite being an American aircraft, the F-15 has done a great deal of fighting under the banners of a number of allied nations. In fact, a good portion of the F-15’s air-to-air record was earned by Israeli pilots — but the most incredible thing an Israeli pilot may have ever pulled off with the venerable F-15 came in 1983, when pilot Ziv Nedivi and instructor Yehoar Gal managed to land the top-tier fighter after losing its entire right wing in a mid-air collision.
Israeli F-15 landed, after losing a wing. (Israeli Defense Force)
The 1983 Negev incident
Back in the early 1980s, the F-15 was still a flashy new ride, having just entered service in the United States in 1976. As a part of training, two Israeli F-15Ds (the two-seater variant of the jet) were squaring off in a mock dog fight against four older Douglas A-4N Skyhawks over the Negev desert.
Now, here in the United States, pilots training against one another are required to maintain what’s known as a safety bubble. A five hundred foot or more “bubble” is maintained around each aircraft to ensure collisions don’t occur during the high speed maneuvering inherent to dog fighting, or as pilots tend to call it, executing Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM).
As the two Israeli F-15s swung into action against their A-4 aggressor opponents, the reason for this training bubble became pretty apparent. One of the two F-15s, the one with Nedivi at the stick, collided with one of the A-4s, almost instantly destroying the older fighter. Nedivi’s aircraft immediately entered a downward spin and his instructor, Gal, issued the order to eject.
Nedivi, the student in that setting, was senior in rank to his instructor, and opted not to punch out as he regained some degree of control over the aircraft. As the plane leveled off, he and Gal looked over their right shoulders to see fuel vapor pouring out of the wing area, but because of the cloud of fuel being lost, neither could see the extent of the damage beyond it. As Nedivi reduced their airspeed, the aircraft once again began to roll. Nedivi, aware that there was an airstrip just over ten miles out, made a decision.
He hit the F-15’s two powerful afterburners, capable of increasing the engine output of the fighter from 14,590 pounds of force to a whopping 23,770 pounds. With fuel pouring from the wing of the aircraft and the twin Pratt Whitney F100-PW-220 engines dumping the rest into the burn, it was a gutsy call, but it managed to level the aircraft out and get them pointed in the right direction.
Members of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron engine test facility, run an F-15 Eagle engine at full afterburner while checking for leaks and any other issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)
What Nedivi and Gal didn’t know was that their mid-air collision with the Skyhawk had actually sheared the entire right wing of their F-15 straight off the fuselage just about two feet from its root. With ten miles to cover and little more than vapor left in the fuel lines, the two men were doing the impossible: They were flying in a fighter jet with just one wing.
In order to keep the aircraft stable, Nedivi had to maintain a high air speed, which made touching down a difficult proposition. Nedivi knew that the recommended airspeed for landing an F-15 was right around 130 knots, just shy of 150 miles per hour. As he lowered his tail hook and brought the F-15 down to the tarmac, they were actually flying at 260 knots (right around 300 miles per hour). The tail hook Nedivi hoped would slow their landing was ripped off of the aircraft almost instantly, and for a split second, it seemed their miraculous flight was for naught, as the barricades at the end of the airstrip were fast approaching.
With only about 10 meters left before collision, the F-15 finally came to a stop. As Nedivi tells it, it was only then that he turned to shake hands with his instructor Gal, only to finally see the real extent of the damage. The right wing of the aircraft hadn’t been present for the last ten miles of their flight.
Even the F-15’s manufacturer didn’t believe it
It’s safe to say that McDonnell Douglas was well aware that their F-15 Eagle was an incredibly capable platform, but even they were reluctant to believe that the Israeli aviators had managed to fly one without a wing. Some have even quoted the firm as saying such a feat was impossible… that is, until they received a photograph of the plane flying just as the Israeli’s described: Riding on little more than a single wing and a whole lot of courage.
Further analysis determined that the F-15 was able to stay aloft thanks to its powerful engines and the lift created by its fuselage.
That particular two-seater F-15 wasn’t just a training aircraft. In fact, that very jet had already racked up four kills against enemy planes in the 1982 Lebanon War, known within the Israeli military at the time as Operation Peace for Galilee. In a testament to just how incredibly tough these aircraft really are, the damaged F-15 was transported to a maintenance facility in Tel Nof, where it was given a new wing and returned to service.
Two years later, that same jet would score yet another kill, this time against a Syrian Mig-23.
Like it or not, the United States has political family dynasties that extend across generations. Despite all the focus on the Bush and Clinton dynasties at the end of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century, it’s still hard to forget the greatest American family name to ever appear on a ballot: Roosevelt.
Roosevelt is the family that brought us terms like square deal, new deal, andRough Riders that we use to this day. From Theodore’s then-progressive views on preserving the natural beauty of the United States to Franklin’s cool leadership through our toughest decades since the Civil War, Roosevelts have long stood for everything that is good about America, even if the two most notable members sat on different sides of the political aisle.
The later generations weren’t as politically active as their presidential ancestors, but their dedication to service never diminished. Roosevelts have served in the Army and Navy, as state legislators, the CIA and its forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services, just to name a few. Roosevelts fought in the trenches of World War I and landed at Normandy during D-Day.
There was even a Roosevelt silently stalking the Viet Cong in the jungles of Vietnam: Theodore Roosevelt IV.
Even as a Frogman, it’s hard to outshine the original TR.
TR-4 (as he’s called by some in the special operations community), graduated from BUD/S class 36 and deployed to Vietnam with UDT 11 as a Navy officer for two years. During his time in Vietnam, SEALs were becoming proficient at kill-or-capture missions against mid-level Viet Cong leaders. The VC were trying to form a shadow government in South Vietnam, in preparation for an eventual U.S. withdrawal and reunification of the country. The SEALs collected intelligence and then traced them to their hideouts among the civilian populations.
In the years following his service in the Navy, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service, serving in Washington, DC, and what is now Burkina Faso. Like his great-grandfather, Theodore Roosevelt IV advocates for conservation issues and works in favor of non-partisan anti-corruption efforts. TR-4 doesn’t seek public office, he’s an investment banker and a member of numerous political and public policy-related groups.
Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 29, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released).
Arlington National Cemetery holds over 300,000 United States veterans. Veterans from every US war or conflict since the Revolutionary War lie here. Founded in 1866, this cemetery is the largest and most prestigious in the nation. It is meant to honor all men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
The grounds are steeped in history
The cemetery grounds, formerly Arlington House, used to be the property of George Washington’s adopted grandson and his wife. In 1831, their daughter married Robert E. Lee, and the couple lived there until Virginia ceded from the Union in 1861. A tax dispute led the federal government to reclaim the property in 1864. However, the land was later returned to Lee’s son after a lawsuit, though the government promptly repurchased it for about $150,000. This made little Lee a very rich man—the equivalent in today’s world would be roughly $4 million.
Presidents, change-makers, and military leadership
One of the most prominent people buried there is 27th US President William Howard Taft, a man who never really wanted to be president at all. His real dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice, a goal he achieved later. No other man has ever served as President of the United States and Chief Justice on the Supreme Court.
Another notable figure buried at Arlington is Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. He argued on the Brown v. Board of Education case, where the Supreme Court finally determined racial segregation to be unconstitutional once and for all.
JFK and Bobby Kennedy have a special, solemn place in Arlington. Above their graves, an eternal flame is lit. Jackie Kennedy was so moved when she saw the eternal flame over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that she wanted the same thing for her husband. When Jackie passed years later in 1994, her remains were placed next to her husband’s.
David Hackworth, a colonel in the US Army who served in Korea and Vietnam, is also buried in Arlington. He was a highly decorated serviceman with tons of honors, including a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart with many oak leaf clusters attached to several. Hackworth also wrote a book that criticized how the Vietnam War was handled, for which he took some heat from the government—oops.
Speaking of famous, one of the most famous women buried at Arlington is Admiral Grace Hopper. A leading programmer in the US Navy between 1943 and 1986, Hopper was a pioneer of computer programming and one of the first to use the Harvard Mark I. She was also the inventor of one of the first linkers. Today we think of linking as such a standard computer action, but we wouldn’t have it without Hopper.
The days after the September 11th attacks were very different from the United States’ “business as usual” of post-Cold War days gone by. As the days stretched into weeks, the culture of the U.S. changed a little bit, and you could see it everywhere, from entertainment media to individuals across the country. The mood suddenly shifted.
For retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the mood shift was an entirely different level when he met old friends at the Pentagon.
Clark was a Presidential candidate in 2004.
In a 2007 interview, Clark tells Democracy Now that life at the Pentagon was markedly different from the military world he knew after 34 years in the Army. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander got a little insight from his old friends about how the United States was preparing to respond to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Some ten days after the attacks, Clark says he was in the Pentagon visiting friends at the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was called into a former colleague’s office. Without divulging which colleague, Clark tells Democracy Now that the general told him they were preparing for a war with Iraq. This was just ten days after Sept. 11, 2001. Clark confirmed that there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the general was firm on the decision to invade.
“I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail,” Clark remembered the general saying.
Clark returned to the Pentagon a few weeks later. By this time, the United States was conducting bombing operations in Afghanistan. He poked his head into the same four-star colleague’s office and asked if the war was still on – it was. Not only was the war with Iraq still going on as planned, but the plan had since been expanded to also include other countries that were traditionally hostile to the efforts of the United States.
The general showed Clark a classified memo from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that listed seven countries that were to be toppled by the U.S. military in the coming five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. In that order.
Clark believes Iran needed the US to oust Saddam Hussein, something it could never do.
Clark believed that by that time, Iran already saw itself at war with the U.S., considering the calls for regime change and the ongoing proxy war in neighboring Iraq. In 2007, the United States military was implementing the famous “surge” strategy for defeating the insurgency in Iraq, a strategy that had not yet reaped benefits by the time of Clark’s interview. Clark was trying to stop the momentum for war with Iran.
Of course, the list of countries mentioned by Gen. Clark’s friend in the Pentagon have their own set of issues or were later beset with them. Libya and Syria fell victim to the Arab Spring five years later. The government of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya eventually fell, which led to his death. The government of Bashar al-Asad in Syria was rescued from collapse by Russian intervention in the country’s ongoing civil war. Lebanon was wrecked by an Israeli invasion in 2006. Sudan has since split into two countries as a result of civil strife, and Iraq would infamously suffer at the hands of ISIS after the U.S. withdrawal.
Destroyed Syrian T62 Tank after Yom-Kipur war near Ortal. (Wikimedia Commons).
The “Zvika Force” isn’t an official Israel Defense Forces unit, but you’ll likely find it in every Israeli military history book. If it’s not, it probably should be.
Zvika Greengold was an Israeli Army officer home on leave and ready to take a leadership course for officers in his rank in 1973. Little did he know he would get a crash course in that area, as Syrian tanks rolled over the border, parking the Yom Kippur War. He would also soon receive the Medal of Valor, Israel’s equivalent to the U.S. Medal of Honor.
On October 6, 1973, both Egypt and Syria crossed the UN lines separating their borders with Israel in an effort to recapture areas captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. If they completely defeated the IDF and rolled tanks into Jerusalem, that would be just fine with the Arabs.
Along the Syrian front, a young officer named Zvika Greengold was on leave and visiting home during Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It’s a day where Jewish people around the world atone for their sins and forgive the sins of others. Greengold grew up on a Kibbutz (communal farm) in the Galilee area of Israel, adjacent to the Golan Heights, once controlled by Syria.
Greengold only realized something was up when he heard Israeli fighter jets streaking by overhead. Yom Kippur was not a day for any Israeli military exercises, so the idea of jets zooming by was highly unusual. When he learned that Israel was fighting off an invasion by both Egypt and Syria, he moved into high gear.
He hitchhiked to Nafekh in the Golan Heights, which held an IDF command center. With wounded men pouring into the center, no one was present to give orders to anyone. The scene was chaotic, so Lt. Greengold took command of the area. Despite his initiative, there was no way to get to the front. He noticed four damaged tanks in the post area and ordered mechanics to get to work on them.
After two hours of repairs, Greengold had a force of two tanks at his disposal. The Israelis radioed the tanks fighting on the front lines that “Zvika’s Force” was on its way to reinforce them. Little did they know it was just two Centurion tanks with skeleton crews. By 9pm local time, they were finally headed to the war.
The Zvika Force was headed into combat against an estimated 500-1,500 Soviet-built T-55 Syrian tanks. He had to get there and hold them off to give Israel’s reserve force enough time to advance past what they determined to be Syrian choke points that would make a counteroffensive nearly impossible.
After an hour of driving, he encountered his first enemy tank and blew it to smithereens. It was a cold comfort to the Israeli forces who were reporting shortages in fuel and ammo all along the front. Soon, five more fell to Zvika’s force. But his was damaged in the sixth engagement. He hopped over to the other tank and sent the first back to be repaired. Now it was one tank versus the advancing Syrian 452nd Tank Battalion.
He was outnumbered and he knew it but he used the darkness to conceal his numbers. Like an armored Muhammed Ali, he decided to stick and move all through the night. 10 more syrian tanks were lit up by Greengold and his crew. The Syrians began to think they were facing a massive Israeli counterattack.
So did the IDF. Israeli commanders believed that Zvika’s one tank in the desert was a relief company from the Galilee. For 20 hours, he fought on, soon being joined by an actual tank company. That tank company was nearly wiped out and Greengold was once again left with one tank.
Greengold believes he destroyed at least 20 tanks. Others believe he destroyed 60. In the end, his delaying action allowed the IDF to rally and reinforce its defenses, eventually pushing the Syrians back into their own borders.
Saying that World War I was really bad for Russia is like saying Hitler was a somewhat unstable veteran of the Great War. While the Tsar fielded the largest army in the world at the time and should have been able to trounce the Germans, years (maybe decades) of neglecting modernization hampered the Russians. Roads were impossible and railways were inadequate. Casualties were heavy and the conditions were deplorable. Even drafting men for the war was difficult. Life in the Russian Empire was so bad, the Tsar would be toppled and replaced by the Soviet Union.
Before the Tsar was forced to abdicate, the Russian Empire tried a last-ditch effort to fill its ranks: hiring women.
Congrats, you’re hired.
When the Great War first began, Russians were only too happy to serve in their country’s military. It was (on paper, at least) one of the most vaunted fighting forces on Earth at the time. But Tsarist Russia’s poor infrastructure, the indecision of the Russian high command, and the lack of adequate food, supplies, and other war resources soon made life miserable. When word got out about the deteriorating conditions on the front, good men suddenly became hard to find. Women, on the other hand, had been trying to join the regular army since day one. These women soon demanded the government form all-women’s military units.
The Tsarist government, facing an increasing manpower shortage, finally gave in. It formed 15 all-women’s battalions in an effort to replace its missing manpower with womanpower. They included communications battalions, a naval unit, and the aptly-named Women’s Battalion of Death. Of the 5,000 women who served in these units, 300 of them would join the Battalion of Death and march to the front in 1914.
Maria Bochkareva was awarded multiple medals after stabbing Germans to death in the trenches.
Led by the peasant fighter-turned military leader Maria Bochkareva, the women were highly-trained and tightly-controlled by Bochkareva. While her harsh (sometimes brutal) leadership kept a majority of potential volunteers from joining, the 300 or so who did stay became some of the most hardcore Russian troops of the First World War. They first saw action in the Kerensky Offensive of 1917. It was a terrible loss for the Russians, who lost 60,000 troops in the fighting. But it was a stunning victory for the Women’s Battalion of Death.
When ordered to go over the top and storm the enemy trenches, the women never hesitated, even when the men at their side did. In one instance, the Russian women made it through three trench systems before the lack of reinforcements necessitated their retreat. Bochkareva, though wounded twice, earned three medals for bravery in combat. With the effectiveness of the women in combat proven on the front, other women were deployed back home.
Back in St. Petersburg, things weren’t going so well for the Tsar and his government. Another women’s battalion had to be deployed to the Winter Palace to defend government ministries and the people who were running them. This is where history could have been made or turned back. When the Bolshevik fighters attempted to take the city, the women weren’t at the Winter Palace, they abandoned the government ministers to their fate and went to guard the supplies. Eventually, they were overcome by the Bolsheviks and forced to surrender. When the Bolsheviks officially took power, these women’s units were disbanded, with varying success.
Women who wanted to fight the Bolsheviks stayed in their units, joining the White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War. Others went home and became Soviet citizens. Many would live long enough to see women conscripted once more when Russia was again threatened from the outside, taking up arms against the Nazis and forming an essential element to the resistance of the Soviet Union – many of whom would go on to earn the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
Look, this whole article is basically a rant written because we’re getting tired of seeing comments about this every time we talk about NASA and/or Roscosmos. Somewhere in the comments on those articles, on our videos, or really anywhere across the internet as a whole, you’ll see someone sharing that same stupid story of NASA investing millions in space pens while Russia sensibly used pencils instead.
Nearly all of that story is complete and utter nonsense.
NASA astronaut and former Air Force test pilot Col. Gordon Fullerton, wearing communications kit assembly mini headset, watches a free-floating pen during checklist procedures on the aft-deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the third shuttle mission, STS-3, in 1982.
A few quick things: First, neither NASA nor Roscosmos spent a single dime developing the space pen. NASA and Roscosmos both gave their spacefarers pencils and both of them hated to do so because floating graphite flakes can cause fires in sensitive electronics in zero gravity.
NASA, to cut down on the chance of a fire destroying their multi-million dollar spacecraft and killing their priceless astronauts, invested in insanely expensive mechanical pencils. The pencils were 8.89 each, or a grand total of ,382.26 for 34.
Man, imagine having to go to the supply sergeant for a box of those every time the major loses a few.
Astronaut Walter Cunningham writes with a space pen during the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.
Taxpayers, predictably, freaked out. They felt like pencils shouldn’t cost over 0 — fair enough.
So, NASA went back to cheaper pencils, but remained worried about their spacecraft and astronauts. Russia, in a similar vein, was worried about their cosmonauts.
Thus concludes NASA’s total sunk costs for the first delivery of pens. They paid in development or research costs. None.
Now, the Fischer Pen Company did spend a lot of money developing the pens — about id=”listicle-2608414142″ million, but they’re a private company counting on future sales to make up for the development costs.
And that was a sound bet. After all, lots of industries and the military need pens that can write in any situation. Miners, loggers, divers, soldiers, and a ton of other people in other professions need to be able to write in wet environments. So, Fischer would earn their research money back regardless.
So, please, when you want to make fun of the military or the government for wasting money, point to something else. The multi-million dollar space pen is and has always been bupkis.
The M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun — fondly referred to as “Ma Deuce” — is rightly seen as a legend, with over 80 years of service to the troops. This machine gun has outlasted attempts to replace it, including the XM312 in recent years. But if there is one complaint about it – yes, even legendary guns draw complaints – it’s that it’s too heavy and it only shoots about 635 rounds per minute.
Well, there’s not been much progress on the former. The M2 comes in at about 84 pounds, per GlobalSecurity.org. The GAU-19 did a good job addressing the “slow” rate of fire, but it packed on 22 pounds. So, that and the GAU-19’s need for electricity rules it out as an option for grunts. But they still want to send more lead downrange.
Thankfully, there is an answer: the GAU-21, also known as Fabrique Nationale’s M3M machine gun. This is a modified version of Ma Deuce that, according to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army’s expo in Washington, D.C., is able to fire up to 1,100 rounds a minute. Not quite the 1,300 of the GAU-19, but still very impressive.
The real nice thing is that the M3M does this and comes in at just under 80 pounds. That’s a four-pound drop from the baseline M2. Now, the 26-pound difference may not seem like much, but that’s 26 pounds that a grunt doesn’t have to carry, leaving them more space for ammo, rations, or extra first-aid supplies.
The M3M can be used on aircraft (one notable user was the F-86 Sabre), land vehicles (often mounted on the same pintles as Ma Deuce), and on naval vessels. It was the secondary armament of the M1097 Avenger, and also was used on OH-58 helicopters. In short, this gun provides a lot of firepower without the weight.
With the help of the 374th Operations Group, Yokota Air Base C-130J Super Hercules aircrews are always ready for potential chemical and biological threats.
By using the Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection Equipment, aircrews can safely fly and execute their mission under any real-world chemical scenario.
The current mask, the Mask Breathing Unit-19/P (MBU-19/P), is nearing the end of its lifespan and has been found to have many faults during its service. Its successor, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask, or JSAM, Strategic, is scheduled to be available for Yokota AB’s C-130Js in 2021.
Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, puts on a M50 gas mask, allowing communication during a flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)
The standard issue M50 gas mask, a newer, more portable option for chemical protection, can be modified for use in-flight by adding communication-enabled wiring. With these modifications, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J crewmembers and 374th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen can use the M50 gas mask as a cost-efficient, user-friendly stopgap during the transition.
Yokota AB Airmen are now leading the way, reviewing the tactics, techniques and procedures for other large-frame aircraft units across the Air Force on the use of the M50 gas mask by aircrew.
Learning how the M50 gas mask works alongside other Air Force assets is a top priority for 374th OG Airmen.
“We’re making sure the equipment is flight-worthy, there are no difficulties flying and seeing how well it integrates with our other AFE equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. David Showers, 374th OSS AFE lead trainer. “We want know what can we keep and what we can make better. By reducing the components and the kits we’ll be giving back time to our people, our training and our mission.”
Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, connects a M50 gas mask during a training flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)
By making this integration possible, 374th OG Airmen are saving the Air Force time and money.
Maintenance on the older, more complicated MBU-19/P could take anywhere from three to four hours to a full day depending on the inspection and what kind of fixes the technician needs to make. With the introduction to the M50 gas mask on flights, inspection and maintenance times could be cut to approximately 30 minutes per mask freeing up valuable time to complete other tasks.
“By switching to the M50 gas mask we’ll increase our workflow and mission flow,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Wilson, 374th OSS AFE technician. “With this switch we’ll avoid a lot of maintenance hours and we could have our aircrews running missions more effectively.”
There’s not a lot about the 1995 movie “Braveheart”we can call “historically accurate.” William Wallace never knocked up Isabella, he wasn’t all that successful as a military leader, and the movie leaves out a lot of boring (but important) trade negotiations and diplomatic meetings in Europe.
What the movie gets right, however, is that King Edward I of England really, really hated Scots.
As a matter of fact, “Longshanks” wasn’t his only nickname. He also earned the moniker “Hammer of the Scots” for reasons that will be obvious to you by the end of this story, even if you haven’t seen “Braveheart“
The truth is that Edward didn’t necessarily hate Scotland or Scots (I think… that’s never really been clear). He was just dead-set on the conquest of his neighbors. In 1274, Edward picked up where his father Henry III failed in Wales and raised an army to subdue them. After a significant uprising of people with names that are difficult to pronounce, the Welsh were put down, and Edward’s son and successor was dubbed “the Prince of Wales,” a practice that continues today with Prince Charles.
A decade or so later, the Scottish king, Alexander III, died suddenly and without a definite male heir. His daughter, Margaret, was just a baby when she was to be made queen, a process that was sped up to keep Edward from marrying his son to Margaret and claiming the throne by birthright. Because, believe it or not, the Scots and the English had a relatively peaceful co-existence until then.
Eventually, Edward gave the throne of Scotland to John Balliol, who was, by then, his vassal. Edward effectively controlled Scotland, using the country to bankroll his wars and provide soldiers. Eventually, the Scots became sick of this arrangement and rebelled. The Scots formed an alliance with France, England’s longtime enemy, which pissed Edward off to no end. Then, William Wallace killed the sheriff of Lanark.
History doesn’t record exactly why Wallace killed the Sheriff — but the execution of Wallace’s wife is one possibility posited by historians. That’s when the First War of Independence started.
The movie “Braveheart”depicts the murder of the sheriff as well as the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge. What it doesn’t show is Edward I returning to Stirling in 1304 at the head of the largest collection of giant catapults ever assembled on Earth. Ever.
After cornering Scottish rebels inside the walls of Stirling Castle, Longshanks ordered the construction of 13 giant trebuchets right in view of the castle walls. It took 100 engineers months to build the massive siege weapons, the biggest of them being dubbed, “Wolf of War.” The English even procured gunpowder munitions to complement the boulders being tossed at Stirling Castle. Wolf of War was so massive that it wasn’t even ready for the initial barrages.
For months, the English fired at the walls of Stirling Castle, to no avail. Finally “Wolf of War” was ready in July, 1304. When the Scots saw the massive weapon and the 300-pound rocks it could hurl, they surrendered.
Having spent so much time and effort on the construction of Wolf of War, Edward rebuffed their surrender and decided to fire the massive trebuchet at them anyway. People came from far and wide for its first firing at the Scots. Edward even ordered the construction of a special siege tower with a viewing balcony so his wife could watch.
Wolf of War did what the other could not do in four months. With just a few shots, the massive weapon brought down entire sections of the castle walls. Entire buildings were smashed into rubble and only 30 Scots emerged to surrender to Edward. He had one of them drawn behind a horse and executed.