During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was looking for transports. They needed these transports to support their numerous airborne divisions. By the Cold War’s end, the Soviets had six airborne divisions but historically, they had as many as 15 active airborne divisions, which makes for a lot to move.
They also had the same need for tactical airlift to supply personnel. While the United States met that need with the C-130 Hercules, the Soviets turned to the Antonov design bureau to address their needs. The plane that emerged was the An-12, nicknamed the “Cub” by NATO.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-12 can reach a speed of 480 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 3,540 miles. It can carry up to 60 paratroopers or two BMD airborne armored fighting vehicles. It was in production for sixteen years and 1,248 airframes were produced.
What distinguishes the Soviet-designed plane from the C-130 is that some variations of the An-12 sport a twin 23mm turret. The other big difference is the accident rate. Aviation-Safety.net reports that of the 1,248 Cubs produced, 232 have been lost in accidents. By comparison, that same site notes that 353 C-130-type transports (including the civilian-model L-100) have been lost in accidents out of the more than 2,500 airframes.
China also has a version of the Cub known as the Y-8, a pirated design that was reverse-engineered after the Sino-Soviet split in the last 1960s. According to FlightGlobal.com, China has over 100 Y-8s in service, including airborne early-warning, maritime reconnaissance, and electronic-warfare variants. China also has the Y-9, a stretched version, with seven airframes in service.
You can see a video about this Russian ripoff of the Hercules below. That said, if you need a tactical transport, an An-12 “Cub” is not the way to go. Just buy a real C-130.
The Air Force is inching closer to fragmenting the Line of Air Force category into six new, more specific, categories—including one apparently intended for “space operations.” The change to the Line of Air Force categories would affect an estimated 87% of its current officers.
USAF Secretary Heather Wilson
The current draft of the categorical changes was previewed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson emphasized that while the changes are not yet finalized, the 6 new tentative Line Air Force categories are:
Nuclear and missile operations
Air operations and special warfare
Force modernization (including acquisition and RD)
Secretary of the Air Force Confirmation Hearing
Wilson said that the decision to splinter the Line of Air Force into specific categories may only be confined to middle officer ranks.
According to Wilson, the final decision is expected to be set in stone by October.
The proposed re-haul would give a majority of officers a more specific category to adhere to. The current system in place has specified categories for chaplains, lawyers, and doctors—but officers are a part of a much more sweeping, generic category.
Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly
According to Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, this change could disadvantage the upward mobility of some officers. Kelly referenced the need for officers to vary their skillsets so that they are competitive when job openings or promotions become available.
“But if, for example, acquisition officers had their own competitive category, they could stay longer at a base to provide more continuity within their program. Moreover, the lack of command opportunities that acquisition officers typically face would be less likely to hurt their promotion chances,” Kelly continued, “But more categories would give different career fields the opportunity to grow officers in their own unique ways, providing the best fit for them.”
This could mean big changes for officers—like those pictured here graduating from USAF OTS on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
(Airman First Class Matthew Markivee)
Wilson reiterated that the umbrella system of categorizing officers has led to some unequal footing in terms of experience levels in certain fields. Wilson used the example of colonels and lieutenant colonels in the Air Force, and how there is essentially a reliance on chance that a qualified candidate will fall into the position.
“And we may not have enough colonels in cyber, or lieutenant colonels in logistics, or somebody that’s coming along who eventually is being groomed to be the leader of one of our laboratories,” Wilson continued, “Not everybody’s career is going to look like everybody else’s — and it doesn’t have to.”
Wilson conceded that a change of this magnitude, like many others, will need support, “So we’re going to take it out to the force, get a lot of input, hope people post on it, blog on it, comment on it, have town hall meetings on it.”
A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
On Jan. 23, 2019, Lopez told the court he met Guzman at Puente Grande in 1999. He said he resigned in late 2000, deciding to leave when the government launched a corruption probe at the prison. Guzman contacted him soon after, Lopez said, seeking help to maintain the privileges he had gotten through bribery and other inducements.
It long been suspected that Lopez aided the escape, and it is widely believed that Guzman was snuck out in a laundry cart, though others dispute that account. On the stand, Lopez denied involvement in the January 2001 escape but said a laundry cart was involved.
Senior “Chapo” Guzman lieutenant Damaso Lopez arrested in Mexico
Guzman “told me the only person responsible for that escape had been Chito, who was employed in the laundry,” Lopez testified, according to Vice reporter Keegan Hamilton.
Chito, a laundry room worker at the prison, “had taken [Guzman] inside a laundry cart that was picking up dirty laundry and transported him to the parking lot … he put him in the trunk of his car,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that Guzman revealed more about the escape months later, in the mountains of Nayarit, a state near Sinaloa in northwest Mexico.
“He told me that really the plan for his escape was spontaneous,” Lopez testified, according to Hamilton. “This was because some of his friends in the federal government had notified him that an extradition order had been issued.”
After that, Guzman offered Lopez a job, and over the next decade and a half Lopez became deeply involved in the cartel’s operations — including efforts to spring Guzman from prison in 2015.
Lopez said he met with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, and his sons in mid-2014, just a few months after Guzman was recaptured.
During that meeting, he said, they discussed buying land near the high-security Altiplano federal penitentiary, west of the capital in Mexico state, where Guzman was held and that Coronel told Lopez that Guzman had asked for him to buy weapons and an armored vehicle to use in the breakout.
Emma Coronel Aispuro
It took months to dig a mile-long tunnel under the prison, and Guzman could reportedly hear the excavation in his cell — so loud that other inmates complained. (Footage from Guzman’s cell the night of the escape also picked up sounds of his henchmen smashing through the floor of his shower.)
During that time, Coronel was a major player in the plot, Lopez said, carrying messages to and from Guzman.
Coronel has never been charged with a crime, but her role as intermediary for Guzman and his associates during the 2015 escape may explain the tight restrictions the US has put on her contact with her husband while he’s been in US custody. In November 2018, as the trial was starting, the judge in the case denied a request to allow Guzman to hug her.
The audacious escape through a mile-long, ventilated tunnel on a motorcycle rigged on rails garnered international attention. Lopez added more detail to the account, saying that one of Coronel’s brothers was driving the motorcycle, which had been towed through the tunnel.
Lopez said that, like the 2001 escape, his involvement was limited. “I never knew, not even about one shovel of earth that was removed there,” he said. “His sons were doing that.”
In early 2016, Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that Mexican officials allowed a private company to connect a geolocation-monitoring bracelet to Guzman while he was at Altiplano, but Reforma was unable to find definitive answers about who authorized the device, rising concern it was part of the kingpin’s escape plan.
“Some high officials in the federal government consider that, because of the grade of precision in the digging and the excavation,” Reforma reported at the time, “the tunnel through which ‘El Chapo’ escaped could not have been constructed without the help of geolocation device.”
President Enrique Peña Nieto, accompanied by Cabinet members, holds a press conference in the Palacio Nacional announcing the capture of Joaquín Guzmán.
Lopez said the excavation was in fact aided by a GPS watch smuggled into the prison for Guzman to wear. (A Mexican official who talked to Guzman after he was recaptured in 2016 said Guzman told investigators that his henchmen dug two tunnels under the prison, the second coming after they arrived at the wrong cell.)
Guzman remained on the run for 13 years after his 2001 jailbreak, but his freedom after the second escape was short-lived. Mexican authorities caught up with him in northwest Sinaloa state in January 2016.
After his capture he was returned to Altiplano, which holds many high-profile criminals. While there, Guzman sent a message through his wife that he wanted to mount an escape again, Lopez said. To carry that out, Lopez said the Sinaloa cartel paid a million bribe to the head of Mexico’s prison system.
The Green Berets can bring in engineers, comms specialists, and even weapons specialists. The Navy SEALs bring their own lethal skills, as do Navy EOD personnel. The Air Force, though, has shown it can deploy surgical teams that can operate in remote conditions, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and other specialists.
Perhaps the most interesting of those other specialists are the Special Operations Weathermen. Yeah, that’s right – the Air Force has trained meteorologists who can go in with other special operations personnel. Now, you can understand a unit like a special operations surgical team, but why a weatherman? At first glance, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Believe it or not, weather matters in military operations. Air drops in Sicily in 1943 and during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day were greatly affected by the wind. Today, even with GPS, air-dropping supplies depends on knowing what the wind will be like. While the “little groups of paratroopers” are legendary, the better outcome is to have most of the troops and supplies land together.
These “weather commandos” need to attend eight schools from across the country to earn their gray beret, and spend 61 weeks in training. This involves everything from learning how to forecast the weather and to take the observations to learning small unit tactics to handling both water survival and underwater egress training. These personnel even attend the Airborne School at Fort Benning.
Even after those 61 weeks, when they become Special Operations Weathermen, these “Weather Warriors” will spend a year in further training before they deploy.
They will head out, not only to help predict the wind and rain, but to help bring the pain on the bad guys.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 1, 2018, awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, a Secret Service agent who is now fighting a battle with cancer.
“Today is a truly proud and special day for those of us here in the White House because Ron works right here alongside of us on the Secret Service counter-assault team; these are incredible people,” Trump told a crowded room filled with Shurer’s family, fellow soldiers and Army senior leaders.
Trump then told the story of Shurer’s bravery as a Green Beret on a daring April 6, 2008, mission in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan to “hunt down a deadly terrorist, a leader in that world … [who] was in a remote mountain village.”
“Ron was among two dozen Special Forces soldiers and 100 Afghan commandos who dropped off by helicopter into Shok Valley, a rocky barren valley, far away from reinforcements,” Trump said.
The assault force encountered no enemy activity during the 1,000-foot climb to their objective, but as the lead element approached the target village, “roughly 200 well-trained and well-armed terrorists ambushed the American and Afghan forces,” he said.
Shurer, the mission’s only medic, immediately began treating wounded. He then sprinted and climbed through enemy fire to reach several of his teammates who were pinned down on a cliff above.
“There was blood all over the place,” Trump said. “It was a tough, tough situation to be in. Immediately, Ron climbed the rocky mountain, all the while fighting back against the enemy and dodging gun fire left and right. Rockets were shot at him, everything was shot at him.”
After treating and stabilizing two more soldiers, Shurer was struck in the helmet by a bullet that had passed through another soldier’s arm. He was stunned by the blow but quickly bandaged the soldier’s arm.
“He continued to brave withering enemy fire to get to [another] soldier’s location to treat his lower leg, which had been almost completely severed by a high-caliber sniper round,” according to the award citation.
Shurer then helped evacuate the wounded down the mountainside so they could be loaded aboard helicopters.
He rejoined his commando squad and “continued to lead his troops and emplace security elements” until it was time to leave the area, the citation states.
“For more than six hours, Ron bravely faced down the enemy; not a single American died in that brutal battle thanks in great measure to Ron’s heroic actions,” Trump said.
A decade later, Shurer is fighting another battle — this time with stage 4 lung cancer. More than 500 people have joined his cause and are attempting to raise 0,000 for his family through a GoFundMe account.
Shurer with his family, President Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence.
“A year and a half ago, Ron was diagnosed with cancer — tough cancer, rough cancer,” Trump said. “But he’s braved, battled, worked; he’s done everything he can … he’s been fighting it every single day with courage and with strength. And he is a warrior.”
Shurer was initially awarded a Silver Star for performing heroic feats in 2008. Trump described how he upgraded that award to the Medal of Honor after hearing his story.
“Several weeks ago, my staff invited Ron and his wife Miranda to a meeting in the West Wing,” the president recounted, as Shurer sat in his Army dress blue uniform. “They didn’t know what it was about. They walked into the Oval Office, and I told Ron that he was going to receive our nation’s highest military honor.”
It was a moment Trump said he will never forget.
“Ron, our hearts are filled with gratitude as we prepare to engrave your name alongside of America’s greatest heroes,” he said. “Ron is an inspiration to everyone in this room and to every citizen all across our great land.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When the Navy announced plans to retire a system in August of 2018, not a lot of media outlets paid attention. Despite its failure to make headlines, the system that’s on the way out is actually one of the most important in the Navy. We’re talking, of course, about the Standard Automated Logistics Tool Set, or SALTS.
Developed in the space of just three weeks during the run-up to Operation Desert Storm, this system has been with the Navy for 27 years — and it makes sure that the personnel in the fight have what they need by rapidly moving data on required parts and available inventory to and from the battlefield electronically.
There is an old saying, “amateurs discuss tactics and strategy, while professionals talk logistics.” Think of it this way: How can the pilot of a F/A-18E Super Hornet be expected to blow an enemy MiG out of the sky if his radar doesn’t work? Yes, launching skilled pilots on the right mission at the right time is critically important, but nothing happens if the moving pieces aren’t in order. The fighters on a carrier, for instance, need spare parts to work (just like your car).
A F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Such operations would not be possible without enough spare parts.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)
It’s not just the super-complex fighters. Even the M16 rifles and M4 carbines used by SEALs will need spare parts or replacement magazines (which are often ejected and left behind in firefights) — not to mention ammo. Then there are the many other needs of the Navy: Food for the sailors, fuel to keep ships and planes running, the list goes on and on.
These magazines loaded with ammo for M16 rifles and M4 carbines — something Marines and SEALs need in abundance.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Turner)
SALTS enabled sailors on the front to handle Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures (MILSTRIP) in minutes as opposed to weeks or days. It also could fix some mistakes in seconds. Not bad for a solution that was designed and implemented in three weeks.
The replenishment underway in this photo is one of many made possible by SALTS.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann)
SALTS, though, was running up against advancing computer technology and new cyber-security threats. There is a new system known as One Touch Support, or OTS, that will take over for SALTS. And yes, just like its predecessor, OTS isn’t likely to make headlines, but will play a crucial role for the Navy.
During World War II, the Allies, especially Britain, worked hard to convince Germany that every attack it saw was a feint and that every shadow in its vision was another Allied army coming to crush it. These deception operations led to the creation of an entire, fake invasion of Norway that was supposed to keep German defenders away from Normandy on D-Day.
Norwegian soldiers on the Narvik front in World War II.
The overall deception operation was known as Operation Bodyguard, a reference to a speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill that said Truth was too precious and fragile to go anywhere without a Bodyguard of Lies. And when it came to D-Day, Bodyguard was on steroids.
To understand how deception operations worked for D-Day, it’s important to understand that the actual landings at Normandy weren’t necessarily logical. The Normandy landings took no deepwater port, and the terrain in the area forced the Allied invaders to fight through thousands of hedgerows to break out into the rest of France. Even after that, it was over 600 miles from there to Berlin, and the bulk of that was through German homeland.
So, while the D-Day landings of Operation Neptune were successful and Germany lost the war, it wasn’t the easiest or, arguably, even the most logical course of action. After all, there were two succulent nuts that would be easier to crack than Normandy.
German troops in the Balkans in 1941.
(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The first and likely the easiest 1944 target for the Allies would’ve been an invasion into the Balkans, the soft underbelly of Europe. Allied troops were already holding the lowest third of Italy, all of North Africa, and Turkey, so they had plenty of places to invade from. And taking the Balkans from Hitler would’ve robbed him of much of his oil, copper, and bauxite, among other materials.
But another juicy target was Norway. Norway had been captured by Germany early in the war because Hitler knew that he needed a large Atlantic coastline to prevent his navy being bottled up in the Baltic and North seas like it had in World War I. And, the German presence in Norway helped keep Sweden neutral and amenable. If Norway fell, Sweden might allow Allied forces in its borders or, worse, join the alliance itself.
From Sweden or Norway, the Allies could easily bomb northern German factories and take back Denmark. And an invasion through Denmark would put the Allied forces less than 450 miles from Berlin, and only half of that path would be through German home territory.
And so Allied strategists played up the possibility of a Norway invasion, seeking to keep as many German units as possible deployed there to make the actual landings in France much easier.
Danish troops during Germany’s invasion in 1940.
This led to Operation Mespot, a coordinated plan to move troops, create false planning documents, and pass fake intelligence that would indicate an invasion into Norway, through friendly Sweden, and into Denmark in the summer of 1944, right as the actual D-Day invasions were taking place. According to the Mespot deception, the D-Day landings were the feint to draw German defenders from real invasions in the Baltics.
The part that related directly to an invasion of Norway was Operation Fortitude North, and it called for a British and American landing in the North. There, the forces would link up with Russian soldiers and press south. In order to sell this subterfuge, Britain ordered dozens of double agents from Germany to report on the movements of the “4th Army,” a fake organization that would be a major force in the invasion.
Those second two units were real, and the 52nd had actually been training for a potential invasion of Norway. So Germany wasn’t completely crazy.
The British 4th Army was a field army in World War I, and military deception planners revived the unit in World War II on paper in order to create fake units to deceive German defenders.
(Imperial War Museum)
The American troops were supposedly talkative, and German agents were told stories of another infantry division and three Ranger battalions training in Iceland. German double agents there were told to verify this false intelligence, and they did. In the end, Germany thought 79 divisions were training in England for invasions when there were only 52, and they believed that the main target might be Norway.
Since Hitler was already obsessed with a Baltic invasion, all of this intel fed into his fears and demanded a response. And so one was given. 464,000 German troops were held in Norway to fight off an Allied invasion. While many would have been there regardless, 150,000 were otherwise “surplus” troops who likely would’ve been sent to France to combat the landings if Germany had known Norway was relatively safe.
There was also a Panzer division and 1,500 coastal defense guns, many of which could have been moved if Germany had better intelligence.
British forces land on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
(Sgt. Mapham J, No. 5 Army Film Photographic Unit)
All of this had a real effect for Allied troops on the French beaches. Combined with the success of the famous Ghost Army, deception operations towards the Balkans, and German missteps, the D-Day landings faced much less resistance than they otherwise would have.
While Germany was defending Normandy, Denmark, and Greece, it was getting pummeled in France.
1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.
In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.
Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.
“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”
The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.
2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.
Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.
The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.
3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.
Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.
“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”
4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.
Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.
The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.
Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.
While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.
“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”
5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.
Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.
Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.
Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).
There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.
I didn’t even get a t-shirt. In North Korea, it was too expensive.
Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.
The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.
In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.
The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.
After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.
The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”
The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.
They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.
Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.
The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.
(photo by Blake Stilwell)
The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.
The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.
As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).
Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.
The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.
Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.
It’s no secret in the military that everyone guns to rip on each other for one reason or another. Rank plays a huge part on how and when you can talk smack and get away with. Sergeants verbally disciplining their juniors in the wide open commonly happens on military bases regardless of who’s watching.
Outside of boot camp, getting ripped on happens with fellow service members you don’t even know — and lower enlisted personnel are prime targets.
So now let’s turn the tables for a change. Getting a chance to rip on an officer and get away with it is an extremely rare. So take notes and keep an eye out for one of these juicy opportunities for a little payback.
1. During PT
The military is highly competitive, so when you manage to beat your commanding officer in a push-up contest — it’s time to gloat.
In the field, Army medics and Navy Corpsmen have the power to call the shots when it comes to taking care of their patients. Regardless of the rank the”Doc” has on their sleeve or collar, it’s their time to shine and order how things go down (but you need to earn that power).
Most infantry line officers are just starting out and are going to make mistakes — and that’s when the experienced enlisted troops can step forward and publicly correct an officer on how the mission should go.
Be slightly more professional when you address them, though. (images via Giphy)
Many officers like to believe they know everything about everything — they don’t.
Crypto rollover is when the codes on your communication system are adjusted so the bad guys can’t hack them. Although it’s easy for the E-4 and below comm guys to handle the task, many officers don’t know the first thing about it even though some try very hard.
It’s okay sir, maybe you’ll get it next time. (images via Giphy)
6. Buying dumb sh*t after deployment
After months and months of saving up their money, officers — like enlisted — spend their earnings on things that don’t make sense either. They’re only human.
When you blow your money on something you don’t need, stand by for some sh*t talking.
When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you’ll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it’s fun. Other times, they’ll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that’s fun, too.
But, despite the fact that wars have been fought since the beginning of time, most games are set during WWII and onward, into modern conflicts. These backdrops just work better for gameplay reasons. Nobody wants to play a video game set in an era where you have march right up to and fire against an opposing formation only to spend the next two minutes reloading your rifle.
Granted, there are exceptions to this rule but, for the most part, you’d probably not want to play games set during the following conflicts.
But holy sh*t, was this mission amazing!
(Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 1)
World War I
Yes, Battlefield 1 gave this war the gritty treatment that it deserved and was one of the funnest games of 2016, but the multiplayer didn’t have anywhere near the same feel as the single-player campaign.
If the game really wanted to bring WWI to gaming, everything about the game would feel like the tutorial. It’d be dark, dirty, your weapons would barely work, and you’d probably not make it out alive.
There’s a good reason the last good game from this era was made in 1997.
(Sierra Entertainment’s Civil War Generals 2)
The American Civil War
Every video game set during the American Civil War is a strategy game that places you in the shoes of a general, overlooking the chaos.
Playing as a boots-on-ground soldier simply couldn’t be fun, given the technology and tactics of the time — unless you broke away and did some guerrilla warfare. Now take into account the emotional grief of brothers literally fighting brothers over ideological differences… On second thought, most of us already have fun beating our little brothers at any video game…
Worst part is that everyone would forget that you had to play this “level.”
American involvement in the Russian Civil War
Imagine a game where you just finished playing something amazing, like Battlefield 1‘s single-player campaign, and then you’re told that you can’t set down the controller until you go help the Russian Czar. No one cares that you’re there and the developers probably wouldn’t send you any support either.
You’d spend the entire game in a downward spiral as more and more Russians join the Red Army until you eventually rage quit.
At least the mission where you blast Bruce Springsteen to piss off Noriega would be fun.
Operation Just Cause
Funnily enough, there’s already a video game series called Just Cause and they’re great! The only thing is that they have absolutely nothing to do with the 42-day invasion of Panama, otherwise known as Operation Just Cause.
Realistically, the game would probably only last for two or three missions before the credits roll.
At least they made the Boston Tea Party playable.
(Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III)
The Revolutionary War
There is no finer moment in American history than when patriots banded together to fight for their freedom from the British. It will forever ring in history books as a hard-fought, bloody victory over the finest military in its prime. It’s a shame that everything about the war make for a boring video game.
Assassin’s Creed III was able to transform this era into something fun by conveniently focusing on everything but the political disputes. Also, you’d more often grab a new rifle instead of spending minutes reloading.
“Get good, scrubs!”
(‘The Custer Fight’ by Charles Marion Russell)
The Battle of Little Bighorn
So, you’re one of those gamers who played Dark Souls (or, if you’re old school, the original Ninja Gaiden) and thought it was for casuals? Okay, I got you. Imagine playing a game where you’re fighting in Custer’s Last Stand.
Good luck trying to make it out of one the biggest military blunders without a Konami code.
North Korea has at least a dozen, possibly more, secret ballistic missile bases hidden in the mountains, a Washington-based think tank reported Nov. 12, 2018.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies — relying on satellite photos, as well as interviews with defectors and defense and intelligence officials from around the world — has identified 13 of an estimated 20 undeclared missile operating bases.
The new “Beyond the Parallel” report says “these missile operating bases … can be used for all classes of ballistic missile from short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”
The weapons, many of which were developed as part of an energized program over the past few years, are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.
The secret missile bases are, notably, not launch sites. Rather, they appear to be focused on the preservation of the North’s missile arsenal in the event of a preemptive strike.
North Korea “engages in an aggressive camouflage, concealment, and deception program with regard to its ballistic missile force,” the CSIS report says.
Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
The bases, according to experts, tend to be “rudimentary in nature” and feature underground tunnels for the storage of transporter erector launchers (TELs) and mobile erector launchers (MELs) that could be rolled out and dispersed to pre-prepared launch sites.
The operating bases are scattered across the country, typically located in small mountain valleys, the report said. The one closest to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the Sakkanmol base in the “tactical belt,” is said to house a SRBM unit, one that could accommodate more capable medium-range ballistic missiles if necessary.
The revelation, reportedly long known to American intelligence agencies, is the latest in a string of reports indicating that North Korea is not living up to the expectations of the Trump administration, which demands the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
While the administration has celebrated North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing, the closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the partial dismantling of the Sohae missile engine testing facility, and the return of American hostages, North Korea has yet to walk the path of disarmament desired by Washington.
Summer 2018, roughly one month after the historic Singapore summit where President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time, reports surfaced indicating that the country continues producing missiles, producing nuclear fuel at secret enrichment sites, and making improvements to key nuclear and missile facilities.
Furthermore, North Korea has repeatedly rejected US requests for a detailed and accurate disclosure of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Early November 2018, Pyongyang canceled talks with Washington, further complicating the Trump administration’s efforts to secure lasting denuclearization.
After the landmark summit in Singapore, Trump tweeted that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.