Germany has developed a lot of powerful guns and tanks over the years, but one of its most lethal anti-aircraft systems has never seen combat. Despite that, Germany keeps them around — and hands them down to NATO allies.
The system in question is known as the Flakpanzer Gepard (Flakpanzer is translated as “anti-aircraft tank,” but the technical term is “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun,” or SPAAG). In a sense, it’s a product of the Cold War. Today, the United States and its allies have become used to fighting under friendly skies, but in the Cold War, air superiority wasn’t a given. In fact, NATO forces were outnumbered.
Sure, the planes belonging to NATO allies could win in a one-on-one fight, no problem. The problem was, however, the fight wouldn’t be one-on-one. Instead, it would look more like six F-15s facing roughly eight MiG-23 Flogger fighters escorting a dozen Su-22 Fitter attack planes. If these forces were to collide, the Floggers and six to eight Fitters might be shot down, but that would still leave a half dozen attack places en route to NATO ground forces. Considering that each Fitter carries about five and a half tons of bombs, that NATO ground unit could be in for a world of hurt.
The Flakpanzer Gepard was Germany’s answer to making sure those surviving Fitters enjoyed a hot reception and were either shot down or forced to abort their attack. To do that, it has a pair of 35mm autocannons that are radar-guided. In terms of mobility, the Gepard has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go 342 miles on a tank of gas.
Germany, Belgium, and Chile acquired and retired the Gepard. The Netherlands acquired several as well, and they’re still ready for use. Romania, Poland, Brazil, and Jordan have all acquired second-hand versions of this vehicle.
The Cold War must have been an amazing time to be a weapons manufacturer for the U.S. government. Like some kind of early Tony Stark (I guess that would be Howard Stark), if you could dream it, you could build it, and chances were very good the CIA would fund it. From funding LSD tests using prostitutes and their johns to a secret underground ice base in Greenland to trying to build an actual flying saucer, there was literally no end to what the CIA would try.
What they ended up actually building and then using was much less fun and much more terrifying. We only found out about it because Senator Frank Church decided to do a little investigating.
Among other things, he found a gun that caused heart attacks, a weapon that had been used against the U.S. political enemies and beyond.
Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s article in The New York Times in December 1974, the United States Congress decided to look into just what its internal and external intelligence agencies were doing in the name of the American people using their tax dollars. What they found was a trove of legal and illegal methods used by the CIA, NSA, FBI, and even the IRS. Among the abuses of power discovered by the Church Commission was the opening of domestic mail without a warrant and without the Postal Service’s knowledge, the widespread access intelligence had to domestic telecommunications providers and adding Americans to watch lists.
Even the Army was spying on American civilians.
The most shocking of the Church Commission’s findings was the targeted assassination operations the CIA used against foreign leaders. Allegedly, Fidel Castro wasn’t the only name on the CIA hit list. Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, and Gen. René Schneider of Chile were all targets for CIA-sanctioned killings.
Castro alone survived 600 assassination attempts.
The clandestine service had its people researching all sorts of various ways to kill its targets. The CIA soon latched on to poisons, ones that were undetectable and appeared to mimic a heart attack. They found it in a specially-designed poison, engineered for the CIA. Only a skilled pathologist who knew what to look for would ever discover the victim’s heart attack wasn’t from natural causes. To deliver the poison, the injection was frozen and packed into a dart.
Darts from the new secret assassination gun would penetrate clothing but leave only a small red dot on the skin’s surface. Once inside the body, the dart disintegrated and the frozen poison inside would begin to melt, entering the bloodstream and causing the cardiac episode. Shortly after, the deadly agent denatured quickly and became virtually undetectable. They even brought the gun to show Congress.
The Church Commission and its findings caused a massive frenzy in the United States. People became hungry for more and began to get hysterical in the wake of any news about the CIA. In the aftermath of the Church Commission, President Ford (and later, Reagan) had to issue executive orders banning the tactics of targeted assassinations by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
What became of the poison dart gun is anyone’s guess.
In the aftermath, and from the ashes of Dec. 7, 1941, which propelled the United States into World War II, rose a new call and opportunity to serve in the Navy, the Naval Construction Battalions. Today, they are known as Seabees.
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy used civilian contractors to construct and support bases and other locations. However, with an increasing need to be able to defend and resist against military attacks, civilians could no longer be used. According to the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, under international law it was illegal to arm civilians and have them resist the enemy. “If they did they could be executed as guerrillas.” On Jan. 5, 1942, Rear Adm. Ben Moreell received approval to organize the Naval Construction Force. In a matter of days, the first naval construction unit deployed.
Today, with seven rates ranging from Builder (BU) to Engineering Aide (EA) to Utilitiesman (UT), Seabees are a fully-functioning construction crew. They are strategically placed, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, and able to build, erect and salvage in various types of environments. Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor is one such unit.
Construction Electrician 3rd Class Mitchell Labree, a Sailor assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, measures a wooden beam in order to build a shipping crate for a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)
CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor has the unique opportunity to assist and service the land from which they were birthed. One of their current projects is assisting Jim Neuman, History and Heritage Outreach Manager at Commander Navy Region Hawaii, and his team with the USS Arizona Relics Program.
“The USS Arizona Relics Program was born in 1995 when Congress authorized the Navy to move pieces of the wreckage out to educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations,” said Neuman.
The program is currently focusing on a part of the Arizona that was removed in the 1950’s due to corrosion and safety concerns. Before its removal it acted as a foundation for a makeshift platform where visitors to the Arizona could stand and where ceremonies could be conducted. It was a precursor to the white memorial structure known and visited today.
The Seabees and Neuman have taken on the responsibility to cut sections of the previously removed portion of the Arizona and ship them to various approved locations.
Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)
“Mostly people come to us. We have a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors that know about this [effort],” said Neuman. “They will reach out to local museums and share what they would like to see. As long as you are a legitimate educational institution or not-for-profit and the piece will be on public display, you can acquire a piece.”
A sentiment both the Seabees and Neuman have in common is the need to share a piece of history with others.
“Because of the amount of time [the section] has been out here, we want to make sure we get as much of it out to the public as possible,” said Neuman. “It doesn’t help for it to sit here and no one get a chance to see it.”
Builder 1st Class Christian Guzman, attached to CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor, who has helped lead the Seabees in this project, appreciates the opportunity for he and his team to recover sections for the public worldwide.
“We have a special tie to Pearl Harbor and World War II because that’s how we began. It is of historical significance that we, as Seabees, are able to work on the USS Arizona,” said Guzman.
Neuman explained that the Seabees were the obvious choice when considering how to satisfy the different request through the program.
“It is Navy history, Navy legacy, so it made sense that if we were going to have somebody actually cutting pieces of the [Arizona] wreckage we should have the Seabees do it,” said Neuman. “Because of their legacy, what they do historically and their mission, they have enthusiastically embraced it, which I really appreciate.”
Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)
To date, the Seabees of CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor have completed three phases of the project. Those phases consisted of cutting and shipping out various sized pieces to: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, the Panhandle War Memorial in Texas, and the World War II Foundation in Rhode Island.
They are currently working on phase four which will be shipped to the Imperial War Museum in London, England.
“Britain was an ally in World War II. When the Empire of Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri, they didn’t only surrender to the U.S. they surrendered to the allies as well. They all signed the document so I’m thrilled that the museum sees the significance,” said Neuman. “They want to tell the whole story of World War II, not just the part they played. Visitors to the museum will be able to see part of the USS Arizona, and I think that’s great.”
The Seabees and Neuman will continue to partner together, work on the removed section of the Arizona and ship pieces out until there is nothing left.
The Seabees are proud to be a part of this undertaking as well as other jobs they execute around the island of Oahu.
“We have a whole spectrum of skill sets. This project only showcases a snippet of our diverse capabilities,” stated Guzman.
Osama bin Laden is dead. ISIS has been disbursed to the winds. Al-Baghdadi saw the wrong side of Army Special Forces. That means it’s open season on terrorists’ most-wanted leaders. Since no one usually wants to carry this mantle, the United States government sometimes has to decide for them. In the weeks following the death of ISIS’ first caliph, the State Department announced a $10 million reward for two members of our old enemy, al-Qaeda.
If you’re looking for a cool couple of million and have some spare time…
Michael Evanoff, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told reporters that the State Department was announcing a reward for two senior members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s offering million for information on Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki and up to million for Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi. The United States alleges the two terror group members have encouraged its membership to make attacks against the United States and its citizens.
Al-Qosi is a Sudanese national who was Osama bin Laden’s driver and cook from 2006 to 2010. He was captured by American forces and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, where he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The former driver and cook was released to Sudan in July 2012 in exchange for his cooperation. Al-Awlaki is a senior commander for AQAP who was also a field commander for AQAP fighting the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.
Which means he’s probably as good at war as the Saudis.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi is not any kind of field commander or operative, at least not that the United States has released. The Supreme Court has since ruled material support for terrorism is not a war crime and therefore cannot be prosecuted under the Guantanamo military tribunals, but he has not challenged his previous convictions. Instead, he turned to advocating support for attacks on American nationals and American military forces worldwide, which put him in the State Department crosshairs.
At the Second Battle of Mukalla in 2015, Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki was a field commander who led troops against the Saudi coalition. American troops were stationed near Mukalla, but not much is known about the interactions between U.S. and AQAP forces during the battle. AQAP was forced to abandon the town.
On an undisclosed night in 1959 or 1960, four CIA agents grabbed their cameras, stripped off their shoes, and climbed into the sexiest thing to ever come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War: the Luna.
When the night was over, the Soviets were none the wiser and America was sitting on a trove of details about the Russian satellite program.
The opportunity came when the Soviet Union, hoping to tout its technological and economic might, planned a traveling road show that would show off its greatest achievements. Since it had launched the world’s first two satellites and was a pioneer in nuclear technology, people were willing to let the road show in.
The agents learned that the Luna on tour was very much a real satellite; it just wasn’t carrying an engine or certain electronic parts. But it was still a production satellite with markings that would indicate what companies had manufactured parts, and studying it could give Americans a better idea of its capabilities.
Agents started by getting the Luna scheduled for the last truck out of the fairground after a display. Then, they kept an eye on the Russians in the rail yard and the fairground as well as vehicle traffic on the roads.
The vehicle checker in the rail yard had no way of talking to colleagues at the fairground, so he was unlikely to know how many trucks were supposed to be coming and going, and CIA cars shadowing the truck saw no signs of a Soviet escort.
And so the Americans pounced, forcing the truck to stop and sending the original driver to hang out overnight in a hotel (no word on how they kept him occupied, so we’re going to assume alcohol and other party favors were involved).
Then they used another driver to move the truck to a salvage yard rented for just this purpose. Cars from the CIA station patrolled the area around the yard to ensure no one came knocking.
Four agents went into the yard with portable lights, cameras, metric wrenches, and other tools. They quickly set to removing the roof of the massive crate, 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 14 feet tall at the peak.
Then, they lowered ladders into the crate and began photographing the satellite. They removed their shoes to prevent leaving scuff marks on the device. They photographed the payload, a large orb with an attached antenna, as well as all the present electronics and many of the attachments.
A team opened the engine compartment by removing 130 bolts and then got into the payload basket by cutting a wire with a stamped plastic seal. As the main team photographed the items underneath, cars raced the wire and seal back to the station to get copies made.
In a short time, the agents copied down all relevant data from the engine compartment, nose section, and even the payload basket while taking detailed photos of the same. A roll of film was developed inside one of the cars to make sure that all photo equipment had worked properly.
By then, the replacement seal had arrived and the agents got the whole thing put back together inside its crate. A little after 4 a.m., the original driver was sent back to his truck and he delivered it to the rail yard where no Soviets were present. When the rail checker arrived at 7 a.m., he saw the waiting truck and had the Luna loaded on the train.
As far as the CIA could tell, the Soviets were none the wiser. America was able to identify the major company producing the Luna and at least three companies that produced components for it.
China is sending some of its most advanced fighter jets and bombers to Russia in late July 2018 for a major international military exercise.
“The International Army Games 2018, initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, will start on July 28, 2018,” China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press statement last week. “It is co-organized by China, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran.”
“Participation in the International Army Games is an effective way to improve fighting capabilities under real combat conditions,” the press statement added.
Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that the exercises will help the PLA learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of its aircraft and also learn from Russia about hardware and pilot training.
China and Russia’s militaries have grown increasingly close lately, with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in early April 2018 that the two nations had forged a “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
Here’s what China is bringing:
1. H-6K bombers
The H6-K is China’s main strategic bomber, able to carry a variety of land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The National Interest.
“It will be the first time that H-6K bombers … have gone abroad to take part in military competitions,” China Ministry of Defense said.
Video games way oversold the military. Shooter after shooter and strategy game after strategy game promised a career filled with Firebats and thermonuclear grenades, but the actual military turned out to be a lot of hard work using basic tools. Where are the cybernetics and robots and zombie plants?
Turns out, “they’re” working on it. Here are 6 features of video games coming to real combat. Given, you know, the programs are successful
Can’t wait until my future robot partner takes a human hostage and then gives me a creepy wink during the standoff.
What it is: In futuristic games like Titanfall, infantrymen go in with squads of robot soldiers that can carry their own weapons, drawing fire away from their human counterparts and slaying enemy forces like steel grim reapers.
Who’s making it real: DARPA (yeah, they’re going to come up a lot in this article) has the “Agile Teams” program which is tasked with creating mathematical models for assessing human-machine teams and looking for the best balance. Since programs to allow humans and machines work together on the battlefield already exist, DARPA is basically trying to build the measuring stick to assess those teams and improve them before they’re deployed.
In important note: Agile Teams isn’t only, or even mostly, about performance in ground combat. They’re also looking at how to pair robots and humans in analyzing intelligence, fighting a cyber battle, or conducting electronic warfare.
A soldier practices firing with an AimLock system.
(U.S. Army Angie Depuydt)
What it is: Most shooters, even ones that don’t advertise it, have some kind of “aim assist” built into gameplay. Through these systems, the computer makes the shooter just a little more accurate either by moving the targeting reticle slightly towards the enemy when the trigger is pulled or by curving bullets slightly towards targets, counting near-misses as hits.
Who’s making it real: Two groups are actually working on this. The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is working on AimLock, which basically takes the two major parts of the weapon (the upper and lower receivers), and separates the upper receiver from the rifleman’s direct control. The shooter pulls the trigger when they’re aimed at their target, the software and motors point the upper receiver at the target, and the round is fired.
Another program in development with the Army Research Lab re-purposes technology originally designed for stroke victims to reduce tremors. In the Mobile Arm Exoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilization program, new shooters are attached to a machine that stabilizes their arm while firing, dampening all the little tremors that make a big difference at hundreds of yards. Best of all, the program is shows results — even after the equipment is removed. Firers are becoming 15 percent more accurate after using and then removing MAXFAS.
What it is: In games like Warframe and Borderlands 2, players can work side by side with a murderous drone that kills enemy combatants, seeking out its own targets and watching the life slowly seep out of their human eyes.
Who’s making it real: To be fair, autonomous drones are already real, but they’re mostly good for vain athletes who want their drone to automatically take selfies. This NATO article summarizes a number of programs, mostly U.S. ones, for everything from autonomous wingmen for human pilots to drone swarms for the Air Force, Navy, and Army (yeah, it’s like KitKats — everyone wants a piece).
One fact that the military is generally quick to point out, though, is that all autonomous systems both in development and currently operational, have a “human-in-the-loop” system, meaning that the AI can only recommend targets, it cannot approve lethal action on its own. A human has to give the kill order.
Autonomous supply and medevac drops
What it is: In video games, you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for a requested resupply to come in. Turn on a lunar beacon in Borderlands 2? Your gear will slam into the ground within seconds. Just Cause 3 lets you select a customized supply loadout, from guns to helicopters, and have it delivered within seconds.
Graphic summarizing the Active Plant Technologies program.
What it is: From Final Fantasy‘s cactaurs to Plants vs. Zombies entire arsenal, video games have lots of examples of awesome plants. Plant 42 from Resident Evil can even eat humans and, potentially, turn them into zombies.
Who’s making it real: While DARPA is shamefully refusing to investigate the strengths of the T-virus in plant life, they are working with industry to propel the Advanced Plant Technologies program, where plants are modified to act as sensors, changing physical traits when in the presence of certain chemicals, pathogens, radiations, or electromagnetic signals. So, if you want to know whether the Wizard of Oz is still making nukes, just check the poppy fields.
Tactical Augmented Reality System screenshot
What it is: Nearly every first person shooter has a heads up display, a bit of information on the screen with everything from a minimap to an ammo count. See: Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, etc.
Who’s making it real: Lots of groups are working on different aspects of it, but the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center and the Army Research Lab have debuted a pretty impressive prototype called Tactical Augmented Reality that can display the locations of allies and known adversaries as well as comms info and navigation.
The last time the United States launched humans into space from American soil was in 2011, when the last space shuttle made its final voyage into orbit.
Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That has become increasingly expensive and limited US access to the station.
That could all change at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If weather, hardware, and other factors cooperate, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, built with NASA funds, will launch the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the ISS in a mission called Demo-2.
A successful flight would resurrect the US’s ability to launch people into space. It would also mark SpaceX’s first mission with passengers in the company’s 18-year history.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” hours ahead of the scheduled launch. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal. If you’d asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I’d be like, 1% chance, 0.1% chance.”
A Demo-2 success would also mark the first crewed commercial spaceflight ever, opening a new era of space exploration.
That’s why NASA began funding SpaceX and its competitor, Boeing, to develop human-ready spacecraft in 2010. The effort, called the Commercial Crew Program, is three years past its original deadline.
Having a spacecraft and launch system in the US would give NASA better access to the space station. While Soyuz can carry only three people at a time, the Crew Dragon can seat seven.
An artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Once NASA can send more astronauts at a lower cost, it will also be able to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
He added, “We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions (sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars) but there are a lot of steps along the way. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon is the first big milestone.
But the mission won’t be considered a success until it returns Hurley and Behnken to Earth.
“We’re going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home,” Kathy Lueders, who manages the Commercial Crew Program for NASA, said in a briefing on Friday. “Our teams are scouring and thinking of every single risk that’s out there, and we’ve worked our butt off to buy down the ones we know of, and we’ll continue to look — and continue to buy them down — until we bring them home.”
At some time in our military careers, we come across pilots of all sorts, helicopter pilots, Air Force cargo pilots, Navy fighter pilots, etc. While the former two might allow you to refer to them as simply “pilots,” there’s a good chance the naval aviator will take the time to remind you that he or she is an “aviator,” not a pilot.
And there’s a very good, non-egotistical reason for that. We promise.
Insert obligatory “Top Gun” reference here.
During your military experience, you may have noticed the Navy has an entirely different vocabulary for so many things. Floors become decks, walls become bulkheads, beds become racks, etc. But the Navy’s tradition of a maritime language exists for a reason. It turns out the world they live in predates the United States Navy, the United States, and most navies, not to mention the concept of powered flight.
The maritime world is way, way old, man. And the terms used to describe that world are too. We can’t just change them overnight. Or ever, as it turns out. So while the aviation world refers to a pilot as someone who flies an aircraft, that term has a different meaning in the maritime world.
No one aboard this ship called those boxes “toilets” but they had the same use.
For hundreds of years before navies around the world were flying jet-powered aircraft off the decks of massive floating cities, “pilots” were operating in navies long before ships had engines that weren’t powered by wind or slaves. In those terms, a pilot is specially qualified to drive a ship in and out of a specific port or a specific area. For large ships, this pilot is someone from outside, who literally comes in to your boat and drives it into the harbor because he or she knows the area better than anyone else.
The pilot will roll up next to your ship aboard a pilot boat, which carries the pilot in a boat, one marked “pilot boat.” And those poor guys have to climb up the side of your ship just to park it for you. Both naval aviators and maritime pilots have a hard job that allows for zero error – so call them whatever they want.
Morris “Moe” Berg’s dying words — “How did the Mets do today?” — were on brand for the 70-year-old New York native who enjoyed a 15-year career in Major League Baseball before America entered World War II.
Sports columnist John Kieran called Berg “The Professor” on account of his reputation as an Ivy League-educated linguist and lawyer, a mentor and coach to younger MLB players, and a newspaper-devouring raconteur who earned fanfare as a repeat contestant on the NBC radio quiz show “Information Please.”
But the brainy 6-foot-1-inch bullpen catcher with an unspectacular batting average had another career entirely: He was a World War II secret agent who gathered intelligence on three continents for the US government.
“We often think about athletes just playing ball and going in for records. But Moe, Ted Williams twice, Joe DiMaggio — they went off and risked their lives and their careers to serve,” said filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who illuminates Berg’s life and legacy in her 2019 documentary, “ The Spy Behind Home Plate.”
Washington Senator Joe Kuhel (left) with Moe Berg (right).
Berg’s particular line of work during the war — he ultimately served as a spy for the Manhattan Project while working for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA — further differentiated him. Who else would sit in the dugout talking about whether Mussolini would win or not?” Kempner said.
As the surviving members of the Greatest Generation dwindle and tensions rise among 21st-century nuclear-armed powers, Kempner emphasizes the need to learn about veterans and remember their contributions and sacrifices.
“It’s important to know who our unknown heroes are and what they did,” she said.
Here’s a window into Berg’s life and transition from multilingual ballplayer to World War II nuclear spy.
He was the son of immigrants.
Moe Berg was born in Harlem in 1902. He was the third child of Bernard Berg and Rose Taschker, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, who came to the US seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom.
The Bergs moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bernard opened a pharmacy. Education was paramount, and Bernard in particular expected his kids to pursue one of three professions: lawyer, doctor, or teacher.
From his early days, Moe had a rocket arm and a photographic memory.
Moe Berg’s passport.
As a 7-year-old, he played baseball on a church team using the pseudonym “Runt Wolfe.” He excelled on the field and in the classroom, initially studying at New York University. He transferred to Princeton University, where he was a star on the baseball team and in the modern languages department.
The popular, idiosyncratic scholar-athlete turned down an offer to join one of Princeton’s exclusive eating clubs, purportedly after being told that while he’d be more than welcome, he shouldn’t think of bringing other Jews around.
He spent off-seasons studying law at Columbia University and traveling the world.
After Berg graduated college, the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the New York Giants were interested in recruiting him, in part because they thought he’d help draw the city’s relatively large Jewish population.
He joined the Robins and played in the minor leagues. His technical skills and lack of offensive power inspired the phrase “good field, no hit.” He went on to play for the Chicago White Sox.
At the time, major leaguers worked in the spring and summer and were off the rest of the year. Berg used his baseball earnings to travel. He studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne in Paris and wrote of how much he enjoyed French “wine, women, and song.”
Largely to appease his father, Berg also enrolled at Columbia Law School and arrived late to spring training while finishing his first year. The following year, the White Sox owner denied Berg’s request to arrive late again, so Berg arranged to leave school early and make up his courses. He’d go on to pass the bar and join the firm Satterlee and Canfield.
But baseball was his priority and ultimately how he made his living throughout the 1930s. He said he would rather be a baseball player than a Supreme Court justice.
He became a catcher by accident.
In 1927, White Sox catcher turned manager Ray Schalk, in a pinch during a game, called out to the bench asking if anyone could catch. Berg tried to volunteer the player next to him. But Schalk thought Berg, a shortstop, was volunteering and put him in without being corrected.
“If it doesn’t turn out well, please send the body to Newark,” Berg reportedly told his teammates. He took to catching. He and his second baseman communicated about the opposing team’s base runners in Latin.
If the runner trying to steal understood Latin, Berg said they’d switch to Sanskrit.
He made two trips to Japan “for baseball” in the 1930s, capturing panoramic footage of Tokyo that is believed to have been used to plan the 1942 Doolittle Raid, the US’s first bombing raid on Japan in World War II.
With Japan already at war with China, the Japanese government was becoming increasingly militarized. (Japan and China clashed from 1931 to 1932 and again between 1937 and 1945.) Meanwhile, Japanese citizens were growing interested in America’s favorite pastime.
Two Japanese naval vessels, left foreground, at Yokosuka Naval Base near Yokohama, directly in the path of bombs from Maj. Gen. James Doolittle’s raiders, April 18, 1942.
(Library of Congress)
In 1932, Berg was among a group of major leaguers sent to Tokyo to coach Japanese college players in hitting, base-stealing, and other skills. When the tour ended and Ted Lyons and Lefty O’Doul returned home, Berg stayed, traveling around Asia by himself.
He ended his trip in Berlin, and he saw firsthand the beginning of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, along with then-Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s fascist influence on the Nazi movement.
Back in the US, Berg played on the Washington Senators, frequenting embassy parties in DC, before being dropped and picked up by the Cleveland Indians.
In 1934, the Soviet Union briefly invaded China, and with tensions rising in the Pacific, the US sent an all-star roster of American League players on a tour of Japan to compete against Japanese teams in a friendly 18-game series.
The players would also serve as goodwill ambassadors, as the All-American Japan Tour was an attempt to bolster Japanese-American relations through a shared interest in baseball.
While Berg had set a league record for catching 117 games straight without an error, he didn’t have the same hall-of-famer status as other recruits, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averil, and Lefty Gomez. But he had been to Japan before, and when catcher Rick Ferrell dropped off the All-Americans roster just before the tour, Berg readily accepted the invitation.
Moe Berg, second from the left in the first row, with other members of the “All Americans” on a visit Nagoya Castle during a free day on the 1934 exhibition.
He studied Japanese on the deck of the ship during the three-week journey across the Pacific. Upon arriving, Babe Ruth heard Berg greet a fan in Japanese. Ruth said he thought Berg claimed not to know Japanese. Berg said that he hadn’t a few weeks before.
Berg traveled with a 16 mm Bell and Howell movie camera, seemingly undeterred by leaflets distributed by police warning people not to make maps or capture images, which the Japanese feared could be used against them in war.
He also carried an official letter of introduction from US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
On one occasion, Berg peeled off from his teammates and went to the roof of a Tokyo hospital, then the city’s tallest building. He wore a Japanese kimono and slippers, and he had flowers and an alibi that he was visiting an ambassador’s daughter who’d just had a baby.
But he threw out the flowers and ended up on the roof, where he shot a panorama of the Tokyo skyline, including the harbor and industrial centers. The US would later use the shots as reconnaissance footage to inform wartime military strategy and plan bombing raids.
How Berg delivered the footage to the US government remains murky. He was known for answering questions about his government work by putting his finger to his lips and saying, “shhh.”
When pressed on how he’d left the hospital with the movie camera, he supposedly responded, “What made you think I had anything in my kimono other than my big pecs and biceps?”
During World War II, he retired his Red Sox uniform to work for the government.
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,300 Americans and catapulted the US into World War II. Millions of Americans joined up. Before Berg’s father died in January 1942, he asked his sons, “Why aren’t you contributing to this war?”
Berg left the Red Sox to work for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a government agency President Franklin Roosevelt founded to counter Axis propaganda in Latin America.
In February 1942, Berg made a radio broadcast addressing the people of Japan, in Japanese, asking for peace; he identified himself as “a friend of the Japanese people” and urged listeners to avoid “a war you cannot win.”
That summer, his work took him to Central and South America, ostensibly as an goodwill ambassador distributing baseball gear. He fed reports on the political situation to his boss, Inter-American Affairs Coordinator Nelson Rockefeller.
The OSS tapped him as a nuclear spy who carried out acts of espionage and sabotage to thwart Hitler’s nuclear program.
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt recognized the importance of strong foreign intelligence to the Allied war effort. In 1942, he signed an executive order forming the OSS, a clandestine espionage and sabotage agency directed by Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan.
Donovan, a Republican, was Roosevelt’s Columbia Law classmate and a World War I general turned Wall Street lawyer. As the founding father of America’s CIA forerunner, Donovan recruited a diverse cast of military and civilian personnel whom he fondly regarded as his “Glorious Amateurs.”
At its peak in 1944, the OSS employed some 13,000 men and women, with personnel stationed across the world, working not only as field agents but also as codebreakers, researchers, mapmakers, psychologists, scientists, and propagandists who carried out special operations and information warfare.
Berg was recruited to the OSS in 1943.
With his unusual aptitude, agility, language skills, and information-gathering experience, Berg became the OSS agent that Donovan designated to support the government’s top-secret initiative to develop its first nuclear weapons, codenamed the Manhattan Project.
It was an undertaking so covert that Roosevelt supposedly didn’t even tell then-Vice President Harry Truman about it.
Leading researchers and scientists, including Albert Einstein, briefed Berg, teaching him what they hoped would be sufficient background on atomic energy and their adversaries’ efforts so Berg could collect vital information and assets from occupied Europe.
In 1944, Berg moved throughout war-ravaged Italy to track down important Italian scientists and documents in danger of falling into Hitler’s hands.
“I see Moe is still catching very well,” Roosevelt said after learning Berg had located and extracted Italy’s foremost expert in aerodynamics, Antonio Ferri.
Berg in a photo published upon his release from the Red Sox on Jan. 14, 1942.
Ferri had destroyed lab equipment that could help the Axis and gone into hiding in the mountains with a crate of scientific documents. He raised a resistance circuit carrying out guerilla operations to thwart the Axis and enable Allied air drops. Berg and Ferri connected and began parsing and translating the scientific documents.
With special permission from Roosevelt, Ferri entered the US with a suitcase and the crate of documents and was escorted to the nation’s leading aeronautics research center, in Langley, Virginia.
As Manhattan Project scientists raced to develop the atomic bombs that America would drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, its leaders remained concerned with where Hitler stood with any similar efforts.
If the Axis powers were making progress, it would likely involve German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize winner who remained in Germany during the war.
In December 1944, Berg was sent to neutral Switzerland for a conference at the University of Zurich with a pistol, a cyanide tablet, and a false identity as a Swiss physics student. His mission was to attend an intimate lecture that Heisenberg was giving at the conference.
If Heisenberg mentioned working on a nuclear bomb, Berg was to stand up and shoot Heisenberg point blank, with the understanding that this would also mean being killed himself.
Between the German language and the deeply technical physics terminology, Berg left the lecture unsure of what Heisenberg knew. He ended up complimenting Heisenberg on his talk and later insisting on escorting him to his hotel.
In the resulting report, which was read by Roosevelt, Berg determined that Heisenberg had low confidence in the German effort and that Hitler was at least two years behind the Manhattan Project.
Berg died in Belleville, New Jersey, in 1972 at the age of 70, after a fall at his home.
In 2018, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to OSS personnel. The presentation of Congress’s highest civilian honor marked the first collective recognition of the OSS, which President Harry Truman disbanded in 1945.
Truman formed the CIA in 1947 from the old OSS headquarters. While Donovan was not employed by America’s post-war intelligence organization, many of his “Glorious Amateurs” were, and four would go on to hold the agency’s top post.
A bronze statue of Donovan — and an OSS book of honor naming the 116 OSS members who were killed during World War II — are on display in the lobby of the CIA’s current headquarters in Langley.
Berg declined the Medal of Freedom in 1946. He never married or had children. He led a nomadic existence, traveling and, in his later years, living with his sister, Ethel, in New Jersey.
Ethel Berg accepted his Medal of Honor after his death and donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York, where it is on display, along with his catcher’s mitt and passport.
Ethel took Berg’s ashes to Israel, but to this day, no one knows where his remains are buried.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Operation Safety Net, the US Marshals Service-led child trafficking task force in Ohio, has located 25 missing children as of Saturday, according to a US Marshals press release. In addition, Operation Moving Target, led by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, concluded on Thursday with 27 online predators arrested for cybercrimes and attempted sexual conduct with children.
“Sometimes the situations they — they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” US Marshal Pete Elliott told WOIO-TV. “We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously.”
Operation Safety Net focuses on Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the surrounding area to locate missing and endangered children. The operation’s reach has extended into the northern portion of the state with help from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force. According to the US Marshals press release, “Children have been recovered in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Akron, Mansfield, Euclid, Willoughby and as far away as Miami.” Even though the operation started in Ohio, leads developed in the state have led to locating missing children outside of Ohio.
U.S. Marshals launch initiative aimed at finding endangered, missing children
The US Marshals have been working with Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Newburgh Heights police departments for the past 20 days to locate missing children, ages ranging from 13 to 18 years old. One in every four cases resolved by the task force are related to human trafficking or prostitution.
While Operation Safety Net is still underway, Operation Moving Target was started by the Ohio ICAC on Aug. 24 and concluded on Aug. 27. The Ohio ICAC is a federal anticrime task force funded by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The operation was short in duration but concluded with the arrest of 27 suspects.
For Operation Moving Target, undercover law enforcement officers posed as children online to lure sexual predators. During conversations via various social media platforms, the suspects requested meeting times and locations for sexual activity, and some even sent photos of their genitalia to the purported children. Many of the suspects had firearms, condoms, personal lubricant, sex toys, and drugs in their possession at the time of arrest.
Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, in action above, is comparable to Ohio’s Operation Safety Net. Photo courtesy of Shane T. McCoy/US Marshals Service.
When the suspects arrived at the meeting place, law enforcement arrested them for crimes including attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, importuning, and possessing criminal tools. The suspects were transported to Cuyahoga County Jail, and each case will be viewed by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
“As we have seen the number of Cybertips dramatically increase this year, it is clear that online predators remain a serious threat to our children,” said prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a Cuyahoga County Office of the Prosecutor press release. “Hopefully the success of yet another operation serves as a stern warning to offenders that you will be found, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”
Federal, state, and local law enforcement have been pursuing missing children and their predators for years. The US Marshals partnered with the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children in 2005. Since this partnership began, the US Marshals Service has assisted in recovering more than 1,800 missing children, according to a US Marshals press release. In 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was approved, granting the US Marshals enhanced authority.
This legislation enabled the creation of the US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, which has been setting up joint task forces to carry out operations across the country, including Ohio’s Operation Safety Net and Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, which located 39 missing children in a matter of weeks.
It’s hard to determine which is more surprising: the British aching to send troops and materiel to aid the Confederacy during the Civil War or that the first “Special Relationship” was between the U.S. and Russia against the British. Both of these facts are true and for the latter negating the former, we can thank one Cassius Marcellus Clay.
Clay was more than just a namesake for the greatest boxer of all time. He was also a politician, representative, officer in the Mexican War and Civil War, abolitionist, and ambassador with a pedigree in badassery. This man once frightened an opponent so much that the man killed himself the night before they were supposed to duel, which is probably the only duel story to top Andrew Jackson’s.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he tapped Clay to be his ambassador to the Imperial Russian Court in St. Petersburg. Since the Civil War broke out before Clay left for Russia in 1861 and there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Clay raised an Army of 300 volunteers to maintain an active defense of the capital until troops arrived.
The Kentucky politician started his life born to a family of planters (who fought in both the Revolution and the War of 1812) and became one himself before his foray into politics. Despite being a wealthy planter from Kentucky, the Yale-educated Clay became a staunch Abolitionist, opposed to slavery in any form, which would eventually cost him his seat in the legislature.
He started an anti-slavery newspaper called True American which immediately earned him death threats. He was threatened so often and he was so steadfast in his beliefs, he had to seal himself and his press in his office in Lexington, defending the building with two four-pounder cannons.
While giving a speech promoting the abolition of slavery, he was attacked by six brothers for expressing these views. They beat him, stabbed him, and tried to shoot him, but Clay fought off all six with his Bowie knife, killing one of them in the process.
Clay was so infuriating to his pro-slavery opponents, they hired a political gun to assassinate him. The would-be assassin shot Clay in the chest, but the bullet didn’t kill him. Despite being restrained by the assassin’s friends, Clay drew his Bowie knife and cut off the man’s nose and left ear, then gouged out his eye before throwing him over a wall and into a nearby river.
The Russian-British rivalry raged during the American Civil War. British politicians openly advocated intervention in the war and even had a secret plan to burn Boston and New York in sneak attacks from Canada. E. D. Adams’ Great Britain and the American Civil War notes theU.S. considered Russia a “true friend” and was suspicious of British neutrality while Secretary of State William Seward actively advocated war with France.
While in St. Petersburg, Clay won the support of Russia for the Union cause and convinced Tsar Alexander II to threaten worldwide war with England and France to keep them from intervening on the side of the Confederacy, with whom they both sympathized. The Russian Baltic Fleet arrived in New York harbor in in September 1863 and the Russian Far East Fleet arrived in San Francisco that October. The Tsar ordered his Navy to be under Lincoln’s command if war broke out.
Clay was recalled by Lincoln in 1862 and commissioned a Major General in the Union Army. He refused to accept the commission unless Lincoln freed slaves under Confederate control. The President ordered him to Kentucky to assess the effect of Emancipation on the population there, as Kentucky was seen as a vital border state. When Clay returned, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He left for Russia again the next year and served there until 1869, where he helped secure the Purchase of Alaska, presumably because the Tsar was afraid of him.
In his later years, Clay had so many enemies, he kept cannons to defend his home and office. His daughters became staunch Women’s Rights advocates.
The battleships of yore maintain a special place in the hearts of Navy enthusiasts — and it’s easy to see why. Imagine the massive broadside salvos from the USS Iowa, each hurling 15 shells against an enemy force, smacking Communists with 18 tons of steel and explosives with each volley from as far as 20 miles away. Every few years, there’s a new call to bring these behemoths back. Today, the Navy could, but they won’t.
First, let’s look at the role battleships were intended to play in naval warfare. These ships were floating fortresses, equipped with massive, long-barreled naval artillery. The idea was that these ships would form “battle lines” at sea. Battleships would line up, present their broadsides, and overwhelm an enemy force with firepower.
During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, battleships proved this strategy could work. The side that typically won a fight during that war was the one that got their battleships properly lined up against the enemy’s formation first. The best success comes when one fleet can “cross the T,” sailing their line of ships perpendicular to the front of the enemy line so they can fire all broadsides while only a few enemy ships can fire from forward turrets.
Japanese success added fuel to an arms race already playing out across the world’s shipyards. The British launched the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, only a year after construction began. It was the most powerful weapon of war at the time and could fire 4-foot-tall shells at ranges of up to 10 miles.
HMS Dreadnought underway
It redefined naval warfare. All the powerful nations of the world began building copycats, leading to these ships taking on a huge role in World War I.
Except fights between battleships were actually fairly rare in World War I. This was partially because they cost so much to build that it was considered foolhardy to risk them when victory wasn’t essential. Instead, battleships were often used to support operations on shore or to secure trade and supply lines.
But there were clashes between battleships, the largest of which was the Battle of Jutland in 1916 — by some metrics, the largest naval battle ever fought. Over 250 ships participated, including 50 battleships. The British had more and better ships, but suffered from poor gunnery and debatably poor tactics. Germany won the tactical exchange but Britain was victorious strategically.
It was the golden hour of battleships, still the kings of the ocean. But during World War I, a new weapon was introduced that would change naval warfare: the carrier. It would take decades for bombers to be effective weapons against capital ships, but the change was already underway by the time Germany invaded Poland, and arguably complete by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked.
After landing a Royal Navy Grumman Martlet of 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm is seen taxiing along the flight deck of HMS Formidable (67) to the forward hangar.
Once naval aviation was capable of delivering repeated torpedo and bomb attacks hundreds of miles from their ship, the battleships’ maximum ranges,, which hovered around 20 miles, made them too vulnerable for front-line fighting. Even super battleships, like the Yamoto, and their support vessels were forced to turn back when they thought they were facing even a single carrier fleet.
In fact, the Yamoto only fired its guns against a surface target in one battle before it was sunk in 1945. It was sunk by… let me check my notes here… carrier-based aircraft. But its sister ship, the Musashi… oh, that also saw minimal fighting before sinking due to damage sustained from carrier-based aircraft.
Instead, battleships took on a role supporting amphibious landings, raining steel on enemy positions as Marines and soldiers pressed ashore.
And that’s the role battleships filled for decades, supporting landings in Korea, Vietnam, and even a fake amphibious attack in Iraq in 1991.
So, what role would a re-commissioned or newly built battleship play today? Not much of one. The Navy could re-commission a battleship, but they require tons of fuel and manpower — often needing over 1,500 crewmembers. And the best conventional naval guns still only shoot about 20 miles.
The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Electromagnetic Railgun at terminal range located at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division.
(US Navy photo by John F. Williams)
There is one game-changing technology that could resuscitate naval artillery: railguns. They can provide massive firepower at ranges of over 100 miles and speeds of over mach 7, all without conventional explosives that increase the risk of catastrophic damage during a fight.
It’s not too hard to imagine a nuclear battleship with multiple railguns powered by the reactor and massive capacitor banks. But even then, the battleship wouldn’t have the range to hit Chinese shore installations without venturing deep into the defender’s anti-ship missile range.
So, the future is likely to lie in extended range missiles, carrier drones, and aircraft, all still capable of attacking targets hundreds of miles further out than even a battleship with a railgun could.