The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all - We Are The Mighty
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The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).


In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Russian battlecruiser Petr Velikiy in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.

The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”

So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
That’s a lotta weapons. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflicting reports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.

Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.

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This is why the MRE is more than just a meal

The military’s standard individual field ration, the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), is the well-known and much-discussed bag of food eaten by service members of the U.S. military when deployed in combat, to remote locations, or when training in the field. The purpose of the MRE is simple; it serves as nourishment for troops.


The MRE can be divisive. Some like them, some hate them but most handle them when we have to. There are ways to deal with a diet of this prepackaged manna. Troops figured this out a long time ago. Creative recipes were conjured to make them taste better and there are literally hundreds of videos about them online. Ask any veteran about them– each will have their own methods.

At face value, the MRE is just a brown plastic bag filled with food, spread packets, and a flameless heater. The individual self-contained meal, however, has emblematic qualities that many may not realize. It is able to withstand cold and hot temperatures. It’s durable for long periods of time in the harshest conditions… The MRE is very much a representation of the military veteran.

The MRE is also an unlikely tool used for diplomacy and international relations, where military members from two different nations can establish a friendship by simply exchanging MREs after a long day of combined training.

The MRE is also a symbol of hope. It gives optimism for people of a foreign nation such as Haiti after a devastating earthquake or residents of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward following Hurricane Katrina. The MRE brings a smile to the face of a child that sometimes can be overlooked, but it represents a beacon of hope when all hope was lost.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Two Haitian children run back to their families after receiving packages of MREs, while Marines and Sri Lankan United Nations forces hand out food to Haitians Jan. 24, 2010 as part of recovery efforts following a 7.0 earthquake. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michele Watson)

The MRE brings a sense of family where brothers and sisters in arms can enjoy a meal together even if it’s only for a few minutes.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

MREs also bring a mix of emotions. Feelings like satisfaction, envy, and sadness.

The satisfaction of eating after a long day of training or following a combat patrol. The feeling of envy because your battle buddy’s MRE came with a packet of M&Ms or Skittles and you got the gooey energy bar. Sadness stems from the fact that you are eating an MRE on a summer day in a faraway land instead of being home for a poolside BBQ with your family and loved ones.

The MRE serves as a component of business and negotiation skills. Servicemembers learn the aspects of supply and demand via trading MRE contents with a fellow trooper. The MRE is much more than a meal packaged in strong, flexible plastic, it is a simile of military service.

Forrest Gump would always say “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” The classic comparison to life instilled to him by his mama.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

For veterans and their military service, “Life is like an MRE. Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, you will certainly not miss them but you will miss the people you shared them with.”

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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That time Muhammed Ali rescued hostages from Saddam Hussein

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait with little warning. During that time, Hussein prevented many foreigners in Iraq from leaving while also bringing foreigners captured in Kuwait to Iraq. The hostages were mostly citizens of Western countries critical of the Iraqi invasion and many worked at the Baghdad General Motors plant.


After the UN gave Hussein the January 16 deadline to pull out of Kuwait, 15 Americans were moved to strategic locations inside Iraq to be used as human shields in the event of retaliatory strikes from the multinational force that was growing larger by the day.

In October, Hussein released the foreign women and children held in Iraq. Many in the State Department feared the remaining hostages would be killed when Coalition forces engaged the Iraqis in Kuwait, either by friendly fire or by their Iraqi captors. That’s when the “Greatest of All Time” stepped in the international arena.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

Muhammed Ali was highly regarded in the Islamic world. One hundred and thirteen days into the hostage crisis, Ali came to Baghdad at the behest of a peace organization founded by Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General for President Lyndon B. Johnson. The group hoped to prevent a greater war, but Ali was more concerned with getting the U.S. hostages home.

Many were critical of Ali’s trip. The administration of George H.W. Bush worried it would legitimize Saddam’s invasion. the U.S. media accused Ali of trying to boost his own popularity, perhaps to win a Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times claimed Ali was actually aiding Hussein and criticized his ability to communicate, reporting, “Surely the strangest hostage-release campaign of recent days has been the ‘goodwill’ tour of Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight boxing champion … he has attended meeting after meeting in Baghdad despite his frequent inability to speak clearly.”

By 1990, Ali had been fighting Parkinson’s Disease for six years, suffering from tremors and a slurred speech. He had to use hand signals to communicate to his spokesman many times during his interactions in Iraq. He still managed to visit schools, talk to people on the streets, and pray in Baghdad’s mosques. Crowds flocked to him wherever he went and he never turned anyone away. It would be part of his promise to Saddam to trade hostages for an “honest account.”

He ran out of his Parkinson’s medication but stayed in the country until he could meet with the Iraqi dictator. He was bedridden for days at a time. His trip was far from a publicity stunt as “The Greatest” was suffering but refusing to leave until he could attempt to get the hostages released. The Irish Hospital in Baghdad replenished Ali’s medication just before Saddam Hussein agreed to meet with him.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

Ali sat as the Iraqi dictator praised himself for how well he’d treated American prisoners. Ali reiterated his promise to bring back to the U.S. an “honest account” of his visit to Iraq.

The American hostages met with Ali at his hotel in Baghdad that night and were repatriated on December 2, 1990 – after four months of captivity.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Ali with the 15 Americans he helped return from Iraq in December 1990.

“They don’t owe me nothing,” Ali said of the hostages in 1990.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMNwCZ-ZHmE
Six weeks later, the U.S. and the multinational forces staging in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield launched Operation Desert Storm. Coalition forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi troops in 100 hours.

Ali did not receive the Nobel Prize, but he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and a Liberty Medal in 2012.

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3 times the military brought back ‘obsolete’ equipment

 


1. Battleships

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
USS New Jersey bombards communist positions near Tuyho, late March 1969 (US Navy photo)

Once thought to be the cornerstone of naval power, the advent of Naval Aviation and the rise of the aircraft carrier in WWII was the beginning of the end for the large-gunned ships of the line. Though battleships saw continuous combat in WWII and Korea, the US Navy was left without an active battleship upon the decommissioning of the USS Wisconsin in March 1958; the first time since 1895.

Most military enthusiasts are familiar with the Reagan administration’s 600-ship Navy and the reactivation of the battleships USS Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey and Wisconsin. USS New Jersey would be the first to fire her massive 16-inch guns at enemy targets again during the Lebanese Civil War from 1983-1984. USS Missouri and Wisconsin would return to combat in 1991 during the Gulf War. However, USS New Jersey was brought back into active service once before.

Following the beginning of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, the loss of US aircraft over Vietnam increased exponentially. The planes that took part in the sustained aerial bombardment campaign were exceptionally vulnerable to sophisticated Soviet-made surface-to-air weapon systems provided to the North Vietnamese.

In an effort to alleviate these air losses while still delivering ordnance payloads, USS New Jersey was brought out of mothballs in April 1968 and modernized for active service in Southeast Asia. The only active battleship in the world, New Jersey, joined the gun line off the Vietnamese coast on September 25. Five days later, she fired her first shots in over 16 years during an engagement against PAVN targets near the DMZ at the 17th parallel. She would go on to fire 14,891 5-inch shells and 5,688 16-inch shells during the war in support of ARVN, US and even Korean troops.

2. M14 Rifle

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Mk14 EBRs in action with the Army in Afghanistan, September 2010 (US Army photo)

An evolution of the famed M1 Garand of WWII and Korea, the M14 battle rifle became the standard-issue rifle for the US military in 1959. Firing the 7.62x51mm NATO round, the M14 was meant to streamline logistics efforts by replacing the M1 Garand, M1903 Springfield, M1917 Enfield, M1 carbine, M3 submachine gun, M1928/M1 Thompson submachine gun, and M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle. While the M14 exhibited outstanding accuracy and stopping power in its semi-automatic setting, its full-power cartridge was deemed too powerful for the submachine gun role and its light weight made it difficult to control during automatic fire as a light machine gun.

Though the M14 was replaced by the M16 as the standard-issue rifle in 1968, it found a new role as a precision rifle platform. It served as the basis of the M21 Sniper Weapon System introduced in 1968 and M25 Sniper Weapon System introduced in 1991. Though both weapon systems have been largely replaced by the M24 Sniper Weapon System, the M14 lives on as the Mk14 Enhanced Battle Rifle. Introduced in 2002, the Mk14 is a truer reincarnation of the M14. Where the M21 and M25 were restricted to semi-automatic fire, designated as Sniper Weapon Systems and saw more restricted issuance as a result, the Mk14 sees the return of selective fire, the designation as a battle rifle for both designated marksman and close combat roles, and issuance by the Army to two riflemen per infantry platoon deploying to Afghanistan.

3. Guns on fighter planes

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
A USAF F-4D Phantom II equipped with a 20mm gun pod mounted centerline with the fuselage (US Air Force photo)

With the advent of radar-guided and heat-seeking air-to-air missiles, like the AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the new threat of high-altitude, long-range Soviet bombers, US air combat doctrine called for the elimination of gun armament on fighter-interceptor aircraft. Though dedicated attack and fighter aircraft like the A-4 Skyhawk, A-7 Corsair II and the F-8 Crusader retained 20mm cannons for ground attack and close-range aerial combat, interceptors like the F-86D Sabre, F-102 Delta Dagger and the F-4 Phantom II dispensed with any type of gun armament in favor of rockets and missiles. The idea during the late 50s and early 60s was that these types of aircraft would engage in long-range combat without visual contact of their target and, even if they did get close enough to see the enemy that the new Sidewinder missile would be able to dispense with a hostile fighter with ease.

This idea proved to be fatal for pilots over the skies of Vietnam. For Phantom II pilots in particular, who escorted bomber flights over North Vietnam, the lack of a gun often left them without offensive options during a dogfight. Marine Corps General recalled, “Everyone in RF-4s wished we had a gun on the aircraft.” As any Top Gun fan can tell you, the American air-to-air kill ratio in Korea was 12:1. According to the US Naval Institute, the Navy’s kill ratio in Vietnam was just 2.5:1. The drop in kill ratio was attributed to poor missile accuracy at just 10% and lack of dogfighting skills. The latter resulted in the creation of TOPGUN while the former resulted in the addition of an external gun pod to the Phantom II. An internally mounted gun was incorporated on the later F-4E models.

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Terminally ill 8-year-old boy dies 1 day after being named honorary Marine

Wyatt Gillette, an 8-year-old boy with a rare genetic disease, died July 31 — just one day after being made an honorary Marine.


Wyatt received his Marine Corps eagle, globe, and anchor in a formal ceremony at School of Infantry-West aboard Camp Pendleton, California. At the ceremony, Wyatt wore cammies in his wheelchair as he proudly accepted his a certificate and an official Marine Corps insignia. A drill instructor saluted the new recruit as ranks of Marines proudly looked on.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego presented the title of Honorary Marine to Wyatt Seth Gillette in a ceremony at the School of Infantry-West Parade Deck, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, July 30, 2016. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Angelica Annastas

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller approved the honorary ceremony after an online petition for the boy reached nearly 5,000 signatures.

“The courageous fight that Wyatt continues is absolutely ‘Marine,’ ” Neller told Marine Corps Times on July 28. “I hope this small gesture will bring Wyatt and his family a bit of joy during their tremendous battle.”

Jeremiah Gillette – Wyatt’s father who is a Marine drill instructor at Camp Pendleton — posted in the petition that, “Nothing could make me happier than to see my son Wyatt Seth Gillette become an honorary Marine. He has fought harder in the last almost eight years than I will ever have to. If I earned the title, I believe he has as well.”

Wyatt was diagnosed with Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome as a 4-year-old. The disease affects the brain, immune system, and skin, and it can cause seizures and kidney failure. His father began reaching out to fellow Marines for prayers on social media last month. His command staff started the formal petition process shortly thereafter, said Capt. Matthew Finnerty, a spokesman at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

Gillette told KABC-TV that he has no doubt his son could have grown up to be a Marine if he were healthy.

“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met,” he told the TV station. “He’s the toughest person I’ve ever met.”

Their savings gone, the Gillette family is currently accepting donations to help with bills and funeral expenses.

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Today in military history: Mexico ratifies Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

On May 19, 1848, Mexico ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus ending the Mexican-American War.

The war began over territory disputes in what was then the Republic of Texas, Nuevo Mexico, and Alta California. After two years of fighting, Mexico surrendered and peace talks began.

As part of the treaty, the United States paid Mexico $15 million in exchange for all or parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Texas. Per the terms of the agreement, the Mexican government ceded fifty-five percent of its territory and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary with the United States. 

Adjusting for inflation, that’s almost a third of the continental United States for about what La La Land earned at the box office. Though it did indeed expand U.S. territories, it reignited the tension over free- and slave-holding states and contributed to the cause of the Civil War just twelve years later. 

Featured Image: Map of the United States, Including Land Acquired by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that Accompanied President Polk’s Annual Message to Congress in December 1848

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Watch this WWII commando veteran explain how to spot a sniper

“You always get enemy snipers,” says Roy Cadman, a WWII veteran of Britain’s No. 3 Commando, talking about fighting the Nazis in Europe. “… And they’re a bloody nuisance.”


Cadman is a 93-year-old Chelsea pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is a nursing care facility for veterans of the British Army of an advanced age.

 

In the video below, he explains that you hear the crack of the bullets before the discharge of the sniper’s rifle in the distance. The distance between the two sounds helps determine how far you are from the sniper shooting at you.

“You can work out the distance,” Cadman continues, “but you can’t work out the angle of where he is. You have to look out at that distance from your right. If you were him, where would you go?”

The idea is to find a place where a sniper would hide himself in a European battle, things like bushes, houses or roofs. Cadman explains that it’s a skill the Tommies learned and honed over time, learning exactly where to look.

In other interviews, the old, bold commando also told the Army Museum about his landing at Sword Beach on D-Day, how he joined the British Army at age 17, and how to scale cliffs, build bridges, and span rivers with a simple length of rope.

He notably returned to Normandy in June 2016 to spread the ashes of his departed No. 3 Commando comrade Fred Walker.

The video is one of many from the U.K. National Army Museum’s “The Old and the Bold” series, where veterans of World War II and the Korean War share their stories and experiences from the battlefield.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

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That time the admirals revolted in front of Congress because SecDef took their carriers

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
President Truman (second from left) sharing a laugh with Secretary of Defense Johnson (far right) (Photo: DoD Archives)


In the years immediately following World War II, based on the idea that the war was over and the world was a more peaceful place, Capitol Hill and the White House were putting pressure on the Pentagon by reducing the defense budget. President Truman believed the military could cut costs by taking redundant efforts across all the branches and combining them into unified commands. The most radical of these ideas was taking the Department of War and the Department of the Navy and placing them under a new command known as the Department of National Defense.

The Army had actually teed up the idea of the Department of National Defense, yielding to the fact that they were about to lose the Army Air Corps, which was morphing into the U.S. Air Force, a branch of its own. The Navy fought the notion of the Air Force having service branch status, pointing to the fact that they’d just won a world war and everything was just fine as it was. The Navy had no desire to be anything other than completely independent from the Army, and the idea of a new branch with cognizance over air power made the admirals paranoid that they’d lose control of their sea-based air power in time.

But military technology was changing fast, particularly that designed to conduct nuclear warfare, and Air Force leaders actively socialized an agenda that conventional assets — like aircraft carriers and other surface combatants — were increasingly irrelevant on the battlefields of the future.

For its part, the Navy’s leadership believed that wars could not be won by strategic bombing alone, with or without the use of nuclear weapons. The Navy also held a moral objection to relying upon the widespread use of nuclear weapons to destroy the major population centers of an enemy homeland. The Navy’s signature platform for sea service relevance in wars to come was the USS United States (CVA 58), a new generation of aircraft carrier that could launch airplanes that weighed as much as 100,000 pounds, the kind that would be able to carry the nuclear payloads of the day.

The Navy had an ally in the form of the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, who had previously been Secretary of the Navy. He authorized production of the United States class of carriers with a run of five ships. But when Truman got elected in 1948 he immediately replaced Forrestal with Louis Johnson, who had previously been an assistant secretary of War and, more importantly, perhaps, had been a major fundraiser for the Truman campaign. 

Johnson did little to calm the ever-growing inter-service rivalries when he said this:

There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.

Johnson canceled the construction of the United States class of carriers without any warning to the Navy or Congress. The blow to the morale of the Navy was substantial. The Secretary of the Navy, John Sullivan, and several high-ranking admirals resigned in protest. A few days later, Johnson shocked another branch of the military by announcing that Marine Corps aviation assets would be transferred to the brand-new U.S. Air Force. (The Marines flexed their own congressional muscles, and the measure was quietly reversed.)

Johnson continued to provoke the Navy, replacing Sullivan as SecNav with former USO director and fellow Truman fundraiser Francis P. Matthews, who admitted the closest thing he had to maritime experience was “rowing a boat on a lake.”

One Navy leader took to the press. Rear Admiral Daniel Gallery wrote a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post, a popular weekly magazine, the last of which was titled “Don’t Let Them Scuttle the Navy!” That article angered Johnson to the point he called for a court-martial for Gallery on the grounds of gross insubordination. The court-martial never happened, but Gallery was passed over for another star and retired.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
B-36 on the ramp. (Photo: USAF archives)

Meanwhile, Congress decided they had had enough of the inter-service bickering. The House Armed Services Committee held hearings in an attempt to get to the bottom of the tension, but the lawmakers’ attempt to settle the feud threatened to make it worse. During the hearings, the Navy admirals gathered accused Secretary of Defense Johnson of favoring the Air Force’s procurement of the B-36 bomber over the new aircraft carriers because he had previously been on the board of directors of Convair, the manufacturer of the B-36.

The previously anonymous author of the original paper accusing Johnson of a conflict of interest was called to testify. That author, Cedric Worth, a retired commander and a staffer to an undersecretary of the Navy, provided uncompelling testimony against Johson and was ultimately fired from his position, which further embarrassed the Navy.

A second set of hearings focused on the cancellation of the United States class of aircraft carriers. The Army and Air Force commanders testified that naval aviation should be used to reinforce the Air Force, but could not be used for sustained actions against land targets.

The new Secretary of the Navy, Francis Matthews, announced that no Navy man would be censored or penalized for the testimony he offered at the hearing. The naval officers called to testify were expected to support Secretary Matthews, but instead, they all testified that the Air Force reliance on the B-36 was inadequate and that the entire strategy of atomic bombing was misguided. The Navy leaders who came before the committee were basically a World War II all-star team: King, Halsey, Nimitz, and Spruance, along with a captain named Arleigh Burke, later the father of undersea ballistic missiles and other Navy-based nuclear deterrent capabilities.

Burke testified that the Navy had done successful tests that showed their F2H Banshee bomber could launch off of an aircraft carrier, reach 40,000 feet and destroy a bomber. He also assumed the Soviet Union had such an airplane, and therefore U.S. Air Force bombers like the B-36 would need Navy fighter escort since they didn’t have an airplane that could perform like that.

The congressional committee disapproved of Johnson’s “summary manner” of terminating the United States and his failure to consult congressional committees before acting. The committee stated that “national defense is not strictly an executive department undertaking; it involves not only the Congress but the American people as a whole speaking through their Congress. The committee can in no way condone this manner of deciding public questions.”

The committee expressed solid support for Truman’s plan for budget reduction by effective unification, but stated that “there is such a thing as seeking too much unification too fast” and observed that “there has been a navy reluctance in the inter-service marriage, an over-ardent army, a somewhat exuberant air force . . . It may well be stated that the committee finds no unification Puritans in the Pentagon.”

The Navy icons from World War II were bulletproof with respect to the ire of Secretary of the Navy Matthews, but some of the lower ranking admirals paid for their candid testimony with their careers. Matthews attempted to block the promotion of Burke, but his reputation as a fast-track innovator had made it all the way to the White House, and Truman himself stepped in and put him back on the list.

In spite of the keen inter-service rivalry at the time, the arguments were ultimately settled by history. The Soviet threat underwrote the funding of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal along with the requisite platforms to deliver it. At the same time, the Korean War demonstrated that the threat to the United States was not singular, as some Air Force leaders had asserted, and that carrier air power was still an important part of America’s defense capability. The Navy moved on to the Forrestal class, the first line of supercarriers, and since that time the first question every Secretary of Defense has asked during a time of crisis is, “Where are the aircraft carriers?”

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The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

So this guy is one of my favorite people ever.  His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”.  A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:


  • Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959.  During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
  • His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
  • When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
  • After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
  • After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.

So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
‘Mad Jack’ Churchill with his War Bow; 6′ tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2.

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army.  As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940.  Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.

As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer.  In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.

In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway.  As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes.  When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Far right: Mad Jack storms a beach with his Scottish broadsword

Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno.  At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.

In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač.  While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone.  While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.  He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Wikimedia Commons photo

You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t.  Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast.  He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945.  Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.

That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late.  Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school.  He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.

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Tragic accident takes young Marine’s life at Camp Pendleton

A U.S. Marine was killed in a freak accident on August 4 after a tree fell on him during physical training at his California base.


Lance Cpl. Cody Haley, 20, was working out in a wooded area at Camp Pendleton with members of his unit when the incident took place. While on a run, the Marines tried to move a log they were unaware was holding up a dead tree, which fell on top of Haley and killed him, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert Knapp

A native of Hardin, Iowa, Haley had deployed in 2016 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He was awarded the National Defense Service medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service medal, and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon, the Marine Corps said.

“We are heartbroken at the tragic loss of a member of the Marine Corps family, and we will do all we can to comfort the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased,”  the Corps said in a news release to the Marine Times.

The incident is under investigation, according to CBS 8.

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This Vietnam veteran found his Huey helicopter at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex. While they don’t own every piece of American history, they certainly own a lot of it. In fact, the Smithsonian Air & Space collection is so large that it was expanded from the main museum on the National Mall to include the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
The Bell UH-1H Iroquois on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center (Smithsonian Air & Space Museum)

The Udvar-Hazy Center is a popular trip destination for the residents of the nearby Hunters Woods at Trails Edge senior living community. For Raydean and Mickey Patterson, who celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on September 9, 2021, the trip was extra special.

Raydean Patterson is a retired Army colonel and veteran of the Vietnam War. He served from 1958 to 1984 and flew the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, also known as the Huey, in Vietnam. Naturally, during the trip to the Udvar-Hazy Center, Patterson wanted to see the Smithsonian’s example of his old bird. What he didn’t realize is that the Huey on display there is, in fact, his old bird.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
The Huey allowed American forces to traverse Vietnam’s mountainous terrain (U.S. Army)

The museum displays the Huey with information detailing the aircraft’s history. Their UH-1 flew in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. During that time, it flew with four units: Company A, 229th Aviation Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division; Headquarters Company, 11th Aviation Battalion; the 128th Assault Helicopter Company; and the 118th Assault Helicopter Company. “I read it and it said it came from the 118th aviation company,” Patterson told Reston Now. “Then, I said ‘I was in that company’ and I looked at the tail and there it was.” Patterson recognized the Huey’s tail number as the one he flew in Vietnam.

Patterson served two tours of duty in Vietnam for a total of 19 months. It was on his second tour, which included time with the 118th Assault Helicopter Company, that Patterson was wounded in his leg. “I was there [with the 118th] for like six months, so if it was there, I flew it,” he recalled. “We didn’t change planes too often, unless they’re a heap of a pile of nothing…and this was in pretty good shape.”

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Because of its speed and mobility, the Huey drastically increased the survival rate for troops wounded on the battlefield (U.S. Army)

The reunion with his old warbird allowed Patterson to reminisce on his time in Vietnam. “Every morning or overnight when I would go out…I had this little diddy I’d say, ‘God, let me get through this one more time,'” he said. “Then, coming back, I’d say a bunch of thanks to God…We had a little help from above.” Serving as an aviator in Vietnam was a deadly job. The Huey was flown by all four military branches in Vietnam and 3,195 were lost, the majority of which were flown by the Army.

Although Patterson doesn’t miss combat, he does miss flying the Huey. “I had a warm feeling for that piece of metal. I liked flying it, though I didn’t like those guys shooting at us,” he said. “I wanted to go over there and crank the thing up and go take it for a ride.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

Unmanned air vehicles, better known as drones, have been operating for a long time. And those drones have been used in some high-ranking terrorist kills, like the one that took out Anwar al-Awlaki of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.


Other unmanned vehicles are on the ground and are being tested by the Army and Marine Corps.

And the Navy’s gotten into the unmanned game as well. In 2014 the service tested small, unmanned boats as a way to prevent a repeat of the 2000 attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). But Rolls Royce is now proposing something that could put the Navy’s plans to shame.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
A look at an artist’s impression of an unmanned ship. (Rolls Royce graphic)

According to a company release, Rolls Royce is developing a 700-ton vessel capable of operating for 100 days unmanned, and it could be a game-changer for navies around the world. This vessel would be about the size of the Nanuchka-class corvette. It would have a range of 3,500 miles and a top speed of more than 25 knots.

What might this vessel be used for? The big mission Rolls Royce is pitching is “coastal patrol and surveillance,” logistical support, or even as a means to protect other vessels. This ship would still be very capable for its size, largely because, “[m]any of the habitation systems and accommodation compartments are removed, bringing immediate cost savings and making the vessel smaller.”

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Artist’s impression of an unmanned ship in action. (Rolls Royce graphic)

“The autonomous platforms are likely to cover a range of single role missions, e.g. patrol and surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening, while the larger manned ships will cover the multi-role missions,” Rolls Royce adds.

In addition to having on-board sensors, the unmanned vessel could also carry a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. In essence, it is a robotic aircraft carrier for drones. This could make things very interesting at sea.

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The crazy story of the man who fought for Finland, the Nazis and US Army Special Forces

Larry Thorne enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1954, but he was already a war hero. That’s because his real name was Lauri Törni, and he had been fighting the Soviets for much of his adult life.


Born in Finland in 1919, Törni enlisted at age 19 in his country’s army and fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40, according to Helsingin Sanomat. He quickly rose to the rank of captain and took command of a group of ski troops, who quite literally, skied into battle against enemy forces.

In 1942, he was severely wounded after he skied into a mine, but that didn’t slow him down. In 1944 during what the Finns called The Continuation War, he received Finland’s version of the Medal of Honor — the Mannerheim Cross — for his bravery while leading a light infantry battalion.

Unfortunately for Törni, Finland signed a ceasefire and ceded some territory to the Soviets in 1944 to end hostilities. But instead of surrendering, he joined up with the German SS so he could continue fighting. He received additional training in Nazi Germany and then looked forward to kicking some Commie butt once more.

But then Germany fell too, and the Finn-turned-Waffen SS officer was arrested by the British, according to War History Online. Not that being put into a prison camp would stop him either.

“In the last stages of the war he surrendered to the British and eventually returned to Finland after escaping a British POW camp,” reads the account at War History Online. “When he returned, he was then arrested by the Finns, even though he had received their Medal of Honor, and was sentenced to 6 years in prison for treason.”

He ended up serving only half his sentence before he was pardoned by the President of Finland in 1948.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Getting to America

Törni’s path to the U.S. Army was paved by crucial legislation from Congress along with the creation of a new military unit: Special Forces.

In June 1950, the Lodge-Philbin Act passed, which allowed foreigners to join the U.S. military and allowed them citizenship if they served honorably for at least five years. Just two years later, the Army would stand up its new Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.

More than 200 eastern Europeans joined Army Special Forces before the Act expired in 1959, according to Max Boot. One of those enlistees was Törni, who enlisted in 1954 under the name Larry Thorne.

“The Soviets wanted to get their hands on Thorne and forced the Finnish government to arrest him as a wartime German collaborator. They planned to take him to Moscow to be tried for war crimes,” reads the account at ArlingtonCemetery.net. “Thorne had other plans. He escaped, made his way to the United States, and with the help of Wild Bill Donovan became a citizen. The wartime head of the OSS knew of Thorne’s commando exploits.”

A Special Forces legend

Thorne quickly distinguished himself among his peers of Green Berets. Though he enlisted as a private, his wartime skill-set led him to become an instructor at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg teaching everything from survival to guerrilla tactics. In 1957, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and would rise to the rank of captain just as war was on the horizon in Vietnam.

The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But first, he would take part in a daring rescue mission inside of Iran. In 1962, then-Capt. Thorne led an important mission to recover classified materials from a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed on a mountaintop on the Iran-Turkish-Soviet border, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Though three earlier attempts to secure the materials had failed, Thorne’s team was successful.

According to the U.S. Army:

Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.

In Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star medal for heroism, along with five Purple Hearts for combat wounds, War History Online writes. According to Helsingin Sanomat, his wounds allowed him to return to the rear away from combat, but he refused and instead requested command of a special operations base instead.

On Oct. 18, 1965, Thorne led the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos to interdict North Vietnamese movement down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Using South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters, his team was successfully inserted into a clearing inside Laos while Thorne remained in a chase helicopter to direct support as needed. Once the team gave word they had made it in, he responded that he was heading back to base.

Roughly five minutes later while flying in poor visibility and bad weather, the helicopter crashed. The Army first listed him as missing in action, then later declared he was killed in action — in South Vietnam. The wreckage of the aircraft was found prior to the end of the war and the remains of the South Vietnamese air crew were recovered, but Thorne was never found.

Thorne’s exploits in combat made him seem invincible among his Special Forces brothers, and with his body never recovered, many believed he had survived the crash and continued to live in hiding or had been taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, according to POW Network.

“Many believed he was exactly the sort of near-indestructible soldier who would have simply walked back out of the jungle, and they found it hard to believe he had been killed,” writes Helsingin Sanomat.

Larry Thorne
Larry Thorne’s shard grave with fellow Vietnam War casualties at Arlington (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1999, the mystery was finally put to rest. The remains of the legendary Special Forces soldier were recovered from the crash site. DNA confirmed the identities of the air crew, while dental records proved Törni had died on that fateful night in 1965, reported Helsingin Sanomat.

“He was a complex yet driven man who valorously fought oppression under three flags and didn’t acknowledge the meaning of quit,” U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Sean Swindell said during a ceremony in 2010.

NOW: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

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