When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.
The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.
In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.
It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.
Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.
Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.
NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.
The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.
It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.
The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.
Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.
According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.
Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.
Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”
Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”
Ronald J. Shurer
Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.
The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.
Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace
The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.
In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.
Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.
Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.
The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.
Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:
“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”
President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.
Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.
John Wayne never was able to join the military — when the draft first started in 1939, the then-unknown actor had a 3-A deferment because he was the sole supporter of four children — but that didn’t stop him from hopping in an armored personnel carrier and mounting an invasion with the 5th Armored Cavalry Troop. He had a cigar clenched in his teeth.
He was about to lead the U.S. Army in an invasion of Harvard University.
In January, 1974, the Duke invaded Harvard Square with some of the Army’s finest in response to a letter he received from the campus satirical newspaper, The Harvard Lampoon. In the letter, the paper said,
“You’re not so tough, the halls of academia may not be the halls of Montezuma and maybe ivy doesn’t smell like sagebrush, but we know a thing or two about guts.”
The paper then challenged the conservative Wayne to come to Harvard, a place The Harvard Lampoon described as, “the most intellectual, the most traditionally radical, in short, the most hostile territory on Earth.” They were challenging the actor to come to Harvard and debate against the students who called him, “the biggest fraud in history.”
The letter was purely goading, but John Wayne wasn’t about to let that bother him — he took the opportunity to visit in style.
He mounted the procession from the halls of The Harvard Lampoon’s on-campus castle, then drove to the door of the Harvard Square Theater through policemen, television crews, ‘Poonies dressed in tuxedos, students, and even some Native American protesters. There was even a marching band in his honor. In the heart of liberal Harvard, the conservative actor was met by thousands of admirers.
After signing autographs for a while, he took the stage. The first thing representatives of The Harvard Lampoon did was present Wayne with a trophy — made of just two brass balls. It was created just for him and awarded simply for coming to Harvard.
“I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to be at a Jane Fonda rally,” he joked.
The Duke graciously accepted the award, noting that their previous guest was porn starlet Linda Lovelace and that seeing his invitation in a unmarked brown envelope was akin to being asked to lunch with the Borgias, a reference to the historical family’s propensity for murdering their guests.
With the pleasantries out of the way, Harvard’s debate with John Wayne, a spokesman for the right, began. Taking questions from the audience, the Duke sat on a chair on the stage. The New York Times described the debate as one with “little antagonism, the questions often whimsical and the actor frequently drew loud applause.”
John Wayne was a conservative in his political views, but he answered the students’ questions thoughtfully and honestly, often with a wry smile. Asked what he thinks of women’s lib, he said:
“I think they have a right to work anywhere they want to [long pause] as long as they have dinner ready when we want it.”
The only question he seemed to rebuff was one asked about his testifying against fellow Hollywood personalities during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, which led to some being placed on the infamous Hollywood blacklist. The actor said he could not hear the question, even when it was repeated.
“Is your toupee made of mole hair?” One student asked. “No,” the Duke replied. “That’s real hair. It’s not my hair, but it’s real hair.”
Today, John Wayne and Harvard doesn’t seem like a controversial mixture. In 1974, however, the students at Harvard were very much anti-establishment and John Wayne was a symbol of everything they mistrusted about their country, its history, and its government — especially while the Vietnam War and the draft remained a very recent memory.
By 1974, Wayne’s career was threatened by his well-known politics, so it’s not really an exaggeration to say the actor was on his way into hostile territory. The Lampoon ended up doing what amounted to a celebrity roast with Wayne and he took it with a smile, even adding some funny jabs of his own:
“Has President Nixon ever given you any suggestions for your movies?” a student asked. “No, they’ve all been successful,” came the reply.
John Wayne never lost his sense of humor over politics — a lesson we should all take to heart today, liberal and conservative alike. What could have been a moment of sharp political divisiveness was settled with good humor and in the end, thunderous applause.
On the morning of September 8, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the southeastern outskirts of recently liberated Paris. The blast killed six people and wounded 36 more. Nearly eight hours later, two more explosions occurred in London, killing three people and wounding 17.
One of the explosions in London left a crater 30 feet wide and 8 feet deep. The site was closed to the public, and censors barred journalists from reporting on it. The blast was blamed on a faulty gas main and quickly hushed up.
Hundreds of explosions in the following weeks forced the British to admit the truth. The Germans had launched a horrifying new type of weapon at France and England: the V-2, the first guided ballistic missile in history.
For almost a year, more than 3,000 V-2s would be launched at civilian and military targets in Belgium, Britain, France, and the Netherlands.
A vengeance weapon
Development of the V-2 started in 1934. The German Wehrmacht had a keen interest in rockets, and some of Germany’s best engineers were tasked by the military to create this new “Wunderwaffe” or “wonder weapon.”
The missile had its first successful test flight in October 1942. Traveling over 118 miles and reaching an altitude of 277,200 feet, or 52.5 miles, it was the first rocket to reach the edge of space.
The project was repeatedly downgraded and upgraded during the war, but in 1943 it became one of the largest weapons projects of the Third Reich.
Hitler, angry at the destruction Allied bombing was causing in Germany, wanted to strike Allied cities in revenge. The missile became the second in Hitler’s series of “Vergeltungswaffen,” or “vengeance weapons,” and was designated V-2.
About 6,000 V-2 rockets were built. They were intended to be launched from hardened complexes similar to modern missile silos, but Allied bombing and advances on the ground forced the Germans to rely on mobile launch platforms.
V-2s were much more complex and larger than their predecessor, the V-1. They were about 46 feet tall and were equipped with a 2,000-pound amatol warhead at the tip. They also had a range of 200 miles.
After launch, the missile rose over 50 miles into the air and reached a speed of over 3,000 mph, enabling most to reach their targets in just five minutes. V-2s were so fast that they could hit their targets at up to 1,790 mph.
A program of death and destruction
Their speed and operational ceiling made them impossible to intercept, and Allied attempts to jam the V-2’s guidance system were useless, as the missile did not use radio guidance. (Its guidance system was an innovation in its own right; gyroscopes and an analog computer in it constantly tracked and adjusted its course to a preprogrammed destination.)
Up to 100 V-2s were launched each day, and they wreaked havoc on Allied cities. Over 2,700 people were killed by the missiles in Britain alone.
One V-2 struck a packed cinema in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, killing 567 people, including 296 Allied soldiers — the deadliest strike from a single piece of aerial ordnance in the European theater.
There is no complete official toll, but it is estimated that V-2 attacks killed anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 people. Together, V-1 and V-2 attacks caused over 30,000 civilian casualties and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
That number does not include the deaths of 10,000 to 20,000 people who were used as slave labor in V-2 construction at the underground Mittelwerk factory and various concentration camps.
Desperate to stop the strikes, the Allies launched Operation Crossbow — a series of operations and bombing campaigns aimed at destroying the V-weapon program. The Allies were aware of the V-2 as early as 1943 and even managed to obtain V-2 parts with the assistance of the Polish Home Army.
A lasting legacy
In the end, the V-2, like many of Nazi Germany’s so-called wonder weapons, was too little, too late. Though the civilian body count was high, it was smaller than that caused by other weapons.
Moreover, V-2s did almost no significant damage to military targets, and by 1944 the Allied war machine was just too large for Germany to fight off.
The Wehrmacht spent so much money and resources on the V-2 for such minimal military gain that Freeman Dyson, a Royal Air Force analyst during the war, later likened it to “a policy of unilateral disarmament.”
But the V-2 left a lasting legacy. Combined with the advent of nuclear weapons, it proved that the most important weapons of the future would be ballistic missiles.
The Soviets and the Western Allies scrambled to collect as much of the V-2 program as possible when the war ended, and some of the earliest ballistic missiles on both sides of the Cold War were essentially copies of the V-2.
Many scientists from the V-2 program, including its leader, Wernher von Braun, were also directly involved in the US space program, ultimately helping NASA land on the moon in 1969.
The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.
The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.
Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.
Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.
Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.
Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.
Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.
While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.
While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.
The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.
In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.
Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.
In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.
Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.
Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.
F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses
Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.
While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.
The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.
Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.
Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.
In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.
The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.
These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.
Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.
Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.
In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.
The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.
The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.
F-35 25mm Gun
The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.
“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.
The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.
Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.
The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.
“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.
The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.
“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.
The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.
A Spanish air force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet accidentally fired an air-to-air missile during an a routine training exercise over southeast Estonia on Tuesday afternoon, and authorities have not been able to locate the missile or what is left of it.
The Spanish jet fired the missile — an advanced medium-range air-to-air missile, or AMRAAM, made by US defense firm Raytheon — a little before 4 p.m. local time over the village of Pangodi as it returned from an exercise with another Spanish jet as well as two French Mirage 2000 jets.
The exercise was carried out in an area reserved for such activity about 60 miles from the Russian border. All of the planes are based in Siauliai in northern Lithuania, and the jet that launched the missile was able to return to the base.
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16 fighter jet.
The missile’s last location was about 25 miles north of the Estonian city of Tartu. It was reportedly fired northward, but the trajectory and its final location are not known. The 12-foot-long missile has a range of about 60 miles and carries a roughly 50-pound high-explosive warhead.
The missile has a built-in self-destruct mode for such occasions, but it’s not certain that it was activated, and the weapon may have landed on the ground.
The Estonian Defense Ministry has launched a search for the missile using helicopters, and emergency services in the area have asked residents who happen upon the missile or parts of it not to approach it.
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Facebook that there were “thank God no human casualties,” and called the incident “extremely regrettable.”
“I am sure that the Estonian defense forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again,” he added.
Estonia’s defense minister also ordered the suspension of all aerial military exercises in the country’s air space until the incident was resolved.
The Spanish Defense Ministry also opened an investigation.
“A Spanish Eurofighter based in Lithuania accidentally fired a missile without causing any harm,” the ministry said in a statement. “The air-to-air missile has not hit any aircraft. The defence ministry has opened an investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident.”
NATO’s Baltic air-policing missions were set up in 2004 , after Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the alliance, to assist the new members with air defense and deter Russian aerial incursions in the area. Spanish jets have done five of the three-month air-policing tours, leading them in 2006 and 2016 and taking part in 2015 and 2017.
The current Spanish deployment is composed of 135 personnel and Eurofighters jets. It began on May 1 and will conclude on August 31.
Jets from NATO countries deployed on air-policing missions have had regular encounters with Russian jets over the Baltics, though there were no reports of Russian aircraft in the area when the missile was fired on Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before getting too deep into the details, let it be known that American nuclear submarines can come to rest on the ocean floor. Even since the early days of the nuclear sub program – dating back to Admiral Hyman Rickover himself – these submarines have been able to touch the bottom of the ocean, so long as that bottom wasn’t below their crush depths.
But the more important question is whether they should touch the bottom or not.
The Navy’s Seawolf-class nuclear submarine first started its active service life in 1997, and while it’s not the latest and greatest class, it is a good midrange representation of the possibilities of a nuclear sub. Like all U.S. nuclear subs, its real crush depth is classified, but it has an estimated 2,400 to 3,000 feet before its time runs out. So the Seawolf and its class can’t touch the very depths of any ocean, but it is able to come to rest in some areas below the surface, those areas in the epipelagic and mesopelagic zones of the ocean. These are the areas where sunlight can still reach the depths.
The problem for U.S. subs isn’t the temperature or pressure in these zones; it’s what is actually on the seafloor that can cause trouble for nuclear submarines. Rocks or other unseen objects can cause massive damage to the hull of a submarine, tearing up its vents, stealth cover, or steering.
What’s more, is that the submarine’s engines pull in seawater to cool steam down from its main condensers and those intakes are on the bottom of the vessel. Bottoming a submarine could cause mud and other foreign objects to be pulled into the submarine. The boat could even get lodged in the muck on the seafloor, unable to break free from the suction, like a billion-dollar boot stuck in the mud. This is why the Navy has special equipment and/or submarines for bottom-dwelling.
The U.S. Navy’s NR-1 research submarine was a personal project of Adm. Hyman Rickover, the godfather of the nuclear submarine program. The NR-1 was designed to bottom out to collect objects from the seafloor and was fitted with retractable wheels to be able to drive along the ocean’s bottom. But that’s not all; the second nuclear submarine ever built had a similar capability.
The USS Seawolf (not of the later Seawolf-class) was eventually fitted with a number of unique intelligence-gathering equipment and devices that would make it very different from other submarines in the U.S. Navy fleet. Along with extra thrusters and a saturation diver dock, she was fitted with retractable sea legs so that she would be able to rest on the bottom for longer periods of time without getting damaged or stuck.
So while any submarine can bottom for evasion and espionage purposes, they really can’t stay for long. Those that are designed to hang out at the bottom aren’t likely to see the light of day anytime soon.
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.
David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.
In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.
“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.
“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.
When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”
Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”
His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.
In the early days of World War II, battleships were still considered kings and all of the combatants hunted for their enemies’ greatest ships. The battleship Bismarck, the largest battleship in commission at the start of 1941, was the pride of the German Kriegsmarine and an epic combatant. Britain desperately wanted to sink her before she could break into the open Atlantic.
Luckily for Britain, a badly timed, badly encoded radio transmission allowed British warships to find and kill the vessel.
In May, 1941, the U.S. and Russia had not yet joined the Allies as combatants, and Britain had already been pushed entirely off the continent. Morale was low in Great Britain, and its control of the seas was challenged by German U-boats that preyed upon convoys from the U.S.
One of Britain’s greatest fears was that Germany would starve the island kingdom out, potentially by sending more and larger ships into the Atlantic to prey on shipping. One of the most frightful possibilities was the Bismarck, a massive craft that was, at the time, the largest battleship in active service in the world (Japan’s Yamato-class and America’s Iowa-class would later beat its records).
The Bismarck had 16-inch guns and thick armor, and it could hit most convoys with impunity if it ever broke out of the Baltic and North seas. In May, 1941, it attempted to do just that.
The Bismarck left port on May 18 and attempted to slip out undetected. It made it through the North Sea with the Prinz Eugen as well as a number of smaller vessels. But when the flotilla passed between Denmark and Sweden into the North Sea, Norwegian resistance members and Swedish forces got a good look at the ships, and someone passed the report to Britain.
It’s unsure how much detail Britain received (Norwegian resistance members only identified “two unidentified major ships”), but British naval officers immediately suspected that the Bismarck was breaking out.
On May 21, the ships were spotted, and the British gave chase. The full story is great, from British cruisers tailing the massive vessel to attackers hiding in fog banks to when the Bismarck sank Britain’s pride and joy, the HMS Hood, with a single hit from the Bismarck’s main guns. The YouTube channel Extra History has a great series on the hunt, available here for all who want to watch it.
But we’re going to skip ahead to the final days of the chase.
By dawn on May 25, the Hood was sunk, the Prinz Eugen had escaped into the Atlantic, and the Bismarck had evaded the British cruisers in pursuit. But the Bismarck had been wounded and was now leaking oil across the ocean, limiting its range and speed.
The British, more desperate than ever to prevent the Bismarck from joining the war in the Atlantic as well to avenge the loss of the Hood, had called every available ship into the hunt.
But the days of naval maneuvering had left the Bismarck hundreds of miles out to sea, and the British didn’t know if the ship would head to Norway or France for repairs. Britain didn’t have enough ships to search both routes.
The British commander sent most of the fleet north to search the route to Norway, leaving one battleship and a few other vessels within range of the route to France.
This problem was compounded when the Bismarck made a monumental mistake, sending two 30-minute radio transmissions, but some of the British intercept officers made a mistake and pinpointed the transmission as coming from the route to Norway, when the transmission actually came from the route to France. It would take them hours to catch the mistake.
At this moment, the Bismarck’s path into France was relatively clear. The German vessel had the lead, and the British fleet was headed the wrong way. But the rumors of the Bismarck’s fighting had made it to the continent, and a concerned father made one of the worst mistakes of the war.
The general had a son on the Bismarck, and he asked after his son’s status. The request was transmitted to the Bismarck, and the Bismarck responded. Then, that response was relayed back to the general. It said the Bismarck had suffered no casualties and was now headed to Brest, a port city in France.
When the message was relayed, though, it was done on a Luftwaffe Enigma machine with only four wheels instead of the more secure, five-wheel model used by the Admiralty. The British quickly decoded the message, and the entire British fleet turned back south to intercept the Bismarck before it could reach Brest.
On May 26, the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier, was chasing down the Bismarck as night came on. It was mere hours till darkness would halt any more attacks. By morning, the Bismarck would be under the protection of Luftwaffe planes taking off from France.
It was now or never, and the Swordfish planes flying from the Ark Royal had just enough time for two attacks. But the first attack was a ridiculous catastrophe. The British planes made a mistake, attacking the British ship chasing the Bismarck instead of the Bismarck itself. Luckily, they were equipped with magnetic detonators that set off the torpedoes as they hit the water.
The Swordfish returned to the Ark Royale to re-arm, and then headed back out for Britain’s last chance at the Bismarck before it was safely in France.
The planes chased down their quarry, and the Swordfish flew into the teeth of the Bismarck’s guns. The rounds shredded the canvas wings of the planes, but the planes managed to drop a spread of torpedoes anyway.
There were two hits. One struck the Bismarck’s armor belt and did little damage, the other struck low in the water but did no visible damage. The Swordfish pilots turned home in dismay.
But when they landed, they learned glorious news. The Bismarck had been in a hard turn to port when the second torpedo struck, and the strike had knocked out rudder control. Since the Bismarck had been in a hard turn at the time, it was now stuck turning in tight circles in the Atlantic, out of range of Luftwaffe protection.
The rest of the British fleet barreled down on the stricken foe, and eventually, four battleships and cruisers were circling the Bismarck, pounding it with shell after shell. They knocked out turrets, they shredded the decks, and they terrified the crew.
It only ended when the British fleet ran low on fuel. It was under orders to sink the Bismarck at all costs, so as most of the ships headed to refuel, the HMS Dorsetshire was left to finish the job. It dropped torpedoes into the water, and finally, the Bismarck suffered holes beneath the waterline. The Bismarck sank. The pride of the German fleet was done. Just over 100 sailors survived of the 2,200-man crew.
If the general had loved his son a little less, or, you know, if signals officers had been more careful to use the best available encryption or leave the ship’s destination out of the message, the Bismarck likely would have made it to France without further damage.
“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”
That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.
Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.
“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.
“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.
(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)
Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.
“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”
With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.
“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”
That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.
A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.
“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.
In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.
Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.
“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”
The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.
The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.
“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.
“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.
Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.
Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.
Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.
The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.
If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”