A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.


Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.

Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”

Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.

Then, he slowly faded from history.

Coming to America

Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)

“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”

No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.

Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.

Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”

Black sailors

Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.

According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.

Also read: This was the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor

Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.

Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
United States Navy poster featuring Medal of Honor recipient, Joseph Noil. (Naval Historical Center Online Library)

“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.

Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.

Related: This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.

Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.

Noil’s service

Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.

His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.

Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
USS Powhatan

The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.

Shipmates

For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.

Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers

Related: These were America’s first African-American paratroopers

Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”

Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Hospitalized

She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.

“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”

No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.

“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.

More reading: First African-American Marines finally get their own monument

There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.

“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”

Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”

“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.

Lost then found again

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Robin Braun observes the wreath presentation by Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at the headstone ceremony April 29, 2016 for Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil at St. Elizabeths Hospital Cemetery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood)

Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”

“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”

Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.

Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
American and Canadian flags are placed at the newly erected headstone of Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood)

Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Troops supporting pandemic response should get hazard pay, Senator says

Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.

Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.


The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.

“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”

According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.

As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.

Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.

Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.

For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.

Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.

“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.

Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.

“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine black belt judges Vladimir Putin’s judo moves

Russia is no stranger to carefully crafting military propaganda for Western audiences. From “doomsday” submarines to missiles with “unlimited range,” the Kremlin has a knack for the dramatic when they know it’ll capture the world’s digital attention span. If I’m honest, that’s why I clicked on the link for a recently uploaded video of Russian president Vladimir Putin training with the Russian Judo team.

I expected to see a carefully crafted bit of propaganda meant to hide Putin’s advancing age. Instead, I was surprised to find that the 66-year-old man actually does seem rather spry and capable. Moreover, despite some rust on the joints, he genuinely does appear to know what he’s doing on those mats.


A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Most real martial arts training looks like this: two people working on techniques at 50% intensity.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

It’s worth noting that despite years of training in multiple forms of martial arts, I’m no expert in Judo. My background began with scholastic wrestling and led to a passionate pursuit of martial arts throughout my time in the Marine Corps. I secured multiple waivers to earn my black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program by the time I was a corporal, and then proceeded to join the Corps’ first formal mixed martial arts team, Fight Club 29, under the tutelage of (then) Sergeant Major Mark Geletko. During my time there, I trained largely in American boxing, Muay Thai, and Pankration, before transferring to a unit near Boston, where I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a time under Rickson Gracie Cup Champion Abmar Barbosa. Since then, I’ve gotten out of the Corps and moved to Georgia, where I’ve focused largely on Filipino martial arts systems.

I went undefeated in my short semi-pro fighting career, but I left the world of competition behind when I took a solid right hook in sparring and lost much of the vision in my right eye (since repaired). I’m not the toughest or baddest fighter in the world, the country, or probably my state – but I have been around long enough that I can usually pick the real fighters out of a crowd when I see them.

If I were to sum up my expertise, I’d call myself a jack of multiple martial arts trades, but certainly a master of none. I’ve had the good fortune to train with a number of masters though, and it’s not a title I take lightly.

Putin trains with Russian judo champions

youtu.be

Despite Vladimir Putin holding a black belt in Judo, this video suggests that he’s no master either, though he could have been close once. Coming back to a discipline you’ve left stagnant for years is a lot like riding a bike: you may never forget how to do it, but when it’s been a while, you still look a little foolish. And Putin does indeed seem a bit silly executing the agility drills at the opening the video.

From there, the video moves to what I expected to see: a young man with a black belt serving as Putin’s training dummy and doing a fine job of allowing himself to be thrown, rolled, and balled up, meaning the former KGB agent didn’t need to execute any judo techniques with the requisite form or intensity necessary to actually take down an opponent in a real fight. Putin’s footwork and use of leverage does, however, suggest an active awareness of his body and what it’s supposed to be doing as he executes throws and leg sweeps. Form and leverage are integral to the proper execution of these types of techniques, and while the intensity is lacking, the form does largely seem present.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

For plenty of 66-year-olds, this stretch is death defying enough.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

These drills aren’t meant to be street fights, they’re meant to develop the muscle memory required to execute these movements with little or no thought, and in that regard, Putin shows a level of competency in the footage that suggests that at least some of the martial arts awards and honors bestowed upon him may have been legitimately earned.

Of course, I’ve read pieces like this one in the Washington Post where “tough guys” have accused Putin of lacking real chops, since the only footage one tends to find of him are in training environments such as this, but in truth, these claims are largely foolish grabs for attention rather than legitimate criticisms. Training of the sort shown in this video is not only completely normal, it would make little sense for a 66-year-old man to climb in the ring and spar at 100% with anyone just to silence an internet troll–even for someone as bravado-based as Putin.

Putin may not look like a spring chicken in this video, but he does appear to harbor a level of martial arts competency that, while rusty, is certainly more impressive than I’ve seen out of other celebrity martial arts “masters” like Steven Seagal. Is Putin as dangerous as he wants the world to believe? Probably not–but for a Bond villain on the downward slope of his 60s, he doesn’t appear to be a pushover either.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This B-1 pilot says UFOs in Arizona didn’t look like airplanes

A former B-1 bomber pilot who now works as a commercial aviator for American Airlines has spoken out about his recent UFO encounter over the Arizona desert.

Blenus Green and his co-pilot were flying an American Airlines Airbus A321 over Arizona in February 2018, when they were told by Albuquerque-based air traffic controllers that a flight ahead of them had reported a flying object not on radar. The controllers asked him to radio them if he saw anything similar.


Shortly afterwards, Green saw an object, according to recordings of his conversations with the controllers.

“It’s American 1095. Yeah, something just passed over us,” Green said. “I don’t know what it was, but at least two-three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us.”

Green was recently interviewed about his experience by a local Texas TV station. “Albuquerque Center asked us if we could look and just be on the lookout and see if we see anything, and I’m like ‘okay,'” Green said.

“So, sure enough, I was looking out the windscreen because I wanted to see if it was there and yeah, I did. I saw it,” Green said.

Green said that the object “was very bright but it wasn’t so bright that you couldn’t look at it,” and that “it didn’t look anything like an airplane.”

He noticed that the object was bright in areas where the sun was not reflecting off the metal. “Normally, if you have an object and the sun is shining this way, the reflection would be on this side, but this was bright all the way around,” he said.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
A B-1B Lancer
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)

“It was so bright that you really couldn’t make out what shape it was,” Green said.

With 20 years of flying experience, much of which was spent as a B-1 Lancer pilot in the US Air Force, Green said he wasn’t scared, but interested.

“I was just really fascinated by it. Just trying to figure out what it was because it was so out of the ordinary,” Green said.

Bob Tracey, the vice president of the company that owns the jet that first reported the object, said that his pilot also told him that the object was extremely bright after he was debriefed.

“Like you woke up in the morning and stared at a bright light,” Tracy said. “He said that it passed him at maybe a similar speed that an airliner would.”

Articles

This harrowing World War II SERE story is coming to the big screen

The harrowing tale of how a U.S. Army Air Force B-24 top turret gunner evaded Nazis for six months after his plane was shot down in 1943 is now heading to the silver screen.


According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s production company Nine Stories has acquired the rights to make a film adaptation of “The Lost Airman,” a book about the odyssey that Staff Sgt. Arthur Meyerowitz faced in evading Nazis after the B-24 he was in was shot down.

The film is being produced for Amazon Studios.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Turret assembly of B-24D Liberator bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a March 2016 review of the book, Meyerowitz suffered a serious back injury when he bailed out from the Liberator, which kept him from getting across the Pyrenees Mountains right away. This meant that Meyerowitz was in serious trouble — not only was he an Allied airman, he was also Jewish.

So, the French Resistance hid Meyerowitz in plain sight as an Algerian named Georges Lambert, a deaf-mute who had been injured in an accident who had been hired to work in a store in the city of Toulouse. Meyerowitz was joined by a Royal Air Force pilot named Richard Cleaver.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Captain Jack Ilfrey, an ace who ended the war with eight victories, twice escaped capture during WWII. Like Meyerowitz, he posed as a deaf-mute to successfully evade capture by the Nazis. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

At great cost, the French Resistance eventually got Meyerowitz over the Pyrenees, but even then, there was still risk from Spanish officials who were perfectly willing to return “escaped criminals” to the Nazis (usually after the payment of a bribe).

Thus, the two pilots were not truly safe until they arrived in Gibraltar via a fishing boat.

Meyerowitz would receive the Purple Heart for the injury he suffered while escaping from the stricken B-24. He also would spend over a year in hospitals recovering from the untreated injury.

French Resistance fighters. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gyllenhaal is best known for starring in the movies “Nightcrawler,” ‘The Day After Tomorrow,” and “Jarhead.” The film is being produced by Academy Award-winning producer John Lesher, best known for “Birdman.” No release date has been set.

popular

4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Dan Daly

If you’ve joined the Marine Corps or if you’ve studied military history, then you’re likely very familiar with the legendary Dan Daly. For the uninitiated, he’s known for being one of the most decorated service members of all time. He coined an expression that will forever live on in books, movies, and among troops,

“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

Sound familiar?

Although Marines of all ages are taught many incredible things about the career of this bold war hero, there are few things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Maj. Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly.


Daly wasn’t the bigger guy ever

The New York-native joined the Corps in January, 1899, expecting to see action during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately for him, the war was over before he had finished his training.

Sgt. Maj. Daly stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and reportedly weighed about 135 pounds. Regardless of his size, the prideful Marine was well-respected within the ranks and was seen as a tough, fearless man.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
U.S. Marine Cpl. Gregg Alvarez takes a drink from devil dog fountain in Belleau, France. The Memorial Day ceremony is held in honor of the 97th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood. More than 1,800 Marines from the 5th and 6th Regiments lost their lives in the 21-day battle that stopped the last German offensive in 1918.
(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Akeel Austin)
 

He earned two Medals of Honor — and almost got a third.

Sgt. Maj. Daly was one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor during two separate conflicts. He earned the first one during the China Relief for killing numerous enemy combatants on his own. He received his second for heroic actions done during the invasion and occupation of Haiti. Alone, he crossed a river to retrieve a machine gun while under intense enemy fire.

He almost earned a third for his part in a counterattack against the enemy in the famous Battle of Belleau Wood. Instead, Daly was given the Distinguished Service Cross and, later, the Navy Cross.

Bummer.

Daly turned down an officer commission

For his outstanding leadership, the Marines offered Daly a commission. He turned it down by saying,

“Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant, you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”

That’s so badass!

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

The USS Dan Daly (DD-519)in honor of the Marine Corps legend.

Daly’s retirement

On February 6, 1929, Daly hung up his rifle for good and received a hero’s parade that marched from Bedford Ave. to the Williamsburg Plaza in Brooklyn in honor of his decorated military service. From then on, Daly led a quiet life as a guard at a Wall Street bank.

He never married. It just goes to show that if the Corps wanted you to find a spouse, they’d issue one.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Vladimir Putin looked like when he was a KGB spy

 


The Cold War is long finished, but Russian intelligence has been all over the American news.

Russia is accused of hacking the DNC’s emails and engaging in other forms of cyber subversion in order to throw the race in favor of now-US President Donald Trump. A series of politically charged social media groups and advertising campaigns have been traced back to Russia, and special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, allegedly for potential collusion with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his country is involved in a cyber war with the US.

At the same time, he’s also expressed his pride in the “unique people” of Russia’s intelligence community, according to the AFP. Putin’s soft spot for spies comes as no surprise: His previously was a KGB operative.

Here’s a look into Putin’s early career as a spy:

As a teenager, Putin was captivated by the novel and film series “The Shield and the Sword.” The story focuses on a brave Soviet secret agent who helps thwart the Nazis. Putin later said he was struck by how “one spy could decide the fate of thousands of people.”

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
The Shield and the Sword allegedly influenced Putin to join the KGB. (By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use)

Putin went to school at Saint Petersburg State University, where he studied law. His undergraduate thesis focused on international law and trade.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Putin studied law at Saint Petersburg State University. (image)

After initially considering going into law, Putin was recruited into the KGB upon graduating in 1975.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Known as the Lubyanka Building, this was the headquarters for the KGB. (image)

After getting the good news, Putin and a friend headed to a nearby Georgian restaurant. They celebrated over satsivi — grilled chicken prepared with walnut sauce — and downed shots of sweet liqueur.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Georgian dish of chicken – satzivi. (image)

He trained at the Red Banner Institute in Moscow. Putin’s former chief of staff and fellow KGB trainee Sergei Ivanov told the Telegraph that some lessons from senior spies amounted to little more than “idiocy.”

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
School 101, also knows as the Red Banner Institute in Moscow, is where Putin trained in counter intelligence. (image)

Putin belonged to the “cohort of outsiders” KGB chairman Yuri Andropov pumped into the intelligence agency in the 1970s. Andropov’s goal was to improve the institution by recruiting younger, more critical KGB officers.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Yuri Andopov recruited Putin into the KGB. Moving from running the KGB until 1982 into running the Soviet Union, Andropov’s career was cut short by his death. (image)

Putin’s spy career was far from glamorous, according to Steve Lee Meyers’ “The New Tsar.” His early years consisted of working in a gloomy office filled with aging staffers, “pushing papers at work and still living at home with his parents without a room of his own.”

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
As a student, Putin lived with his parents. (image)

He attended training at the heavily fortified School No. 401 in Saint Petersburg, where prospective officers learned intelligence tactics and interrogation techniques, and trained physically. In 1976, he became a first lieutenant.

Saint Petersburg is the home of School 401. (image) Saint Petersburg is the home of School 401. (image)

Putin’s focus may have included counter-intelligence and monitoring foreigners. According to Meyers, Putin may have also worked with the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, which was dedicated to crushing political dissidents.

The 33rd Anniversary of the KGB in 1987. (image) The 33rd Anniversary of the KGB in 1987. (image)

In 1985, Putin adopted the cover identity of a translator and transferred to Dresden, Germany. In “Mr. Putin,” Fiona Hill and Cliff Gaddy speculate his mission may have been to recruit top East German Communist Party and Stasi officials, steal technological secrets, compromise visiting Westerners, or travel undercover to West Germany.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Putin spent time in the mid 80s in Germany, under cover as a translator. (image)

Hill and Gaddy conclude that the “most likely answer to which of these was Putin’s actual mission in Dresden is: ‘all of the above.'”

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Dresden, Germany. (image)

Putin has said that his time in the KGB — and speaking with older agents — caused him to question the direction of the USSR. “In intelligence at that time, we permitted ourselves to think differently and to say things that few others could permit themselves,” he said.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Putin gives a news conference. (image)

At one point, crowds mobbed the KGB’s Dresden location after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Putin has claimed to have brandished a pistol to scare looters from the office.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Berlin Wall, 1989. (image)

The future Russian president didn’t return home till 1990s. It’s believed that Putin’s tenure in the KGB, which occurred during a time when the USSR’s power crumbled on the international stage, helped to shape his worldview.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Putin returned to Russia in 1990. (image)

“It was clear the Union was ailing,” Putin said, of his time abroad. “And it had a terminal, incurable illness under the title of paralysis. A paralysis of power.”

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Putin ultimately quit the KGB in 1991, during a hard-liner coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He became an official in Boris Yeltsin’s subsequent administration, took over for him upon his resignation, and was ultimately elected president for the first time in 2000.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Putin’s inauguration, 2012. (image)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military has more money than it can spend in a year

Top uniformed leaders of all the services urged Congress to waive the use-it-or-lose-it rules and allow them to roll over some of the increased funding slated for fiscal 2018 into 2019.


The leaders welcomed the two-year budget deal authorized by Congress early February 2018 to give the Defense Department nearly $700 billion for fiscal 2018 and $716 billion for fiscal 2019, but they said it also left them in a bind.

Because of Congress’ previous failures to reach a budget agreement for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, the military has been operating at 2017 spending levels under a series of continuing resolutions. The latest CR, which expires March 23, 2018 was enacted to allow the 12 appropriations committees more time to direct the funding of the two-year budget deal.

Also read: White House wants $30B defense budget increase this year to rebuild military, fight ISIS

And there’s the problem, according to Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, who testified along with leaders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Walters told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support Feb. 14, 2018 that by the time the budget agreement was solidified, the military would have only about five months to spend the fiscal 2018 funds before fiscal 2019 begins Oct. 1.

Under current rules, money not spent by government agencies before the end of the fiscal year goes back to the Treasury.

Related: The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

“As you noted, we have a year’s worth of money adds in ’18 and five months to spend it,” Walters told the hearing. “It might help if the appropriators can give us some flexibility, so we can spend ’18 money in ’19 and feather in the plan” to improve readiness under a program ordered up by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran agreed.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran speaks during an awards ceremony for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. US Navy photo by (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza.)

“We’d like to have authorities to move funding around as we go, and inform Congress as we’re doing it,” he said.

Moran said the boost in funding is “so significant that we’re going to have to look at transferring that money from account to account.”

Further reading: Everything you need to know about Trump’s 2019 budget

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the Army would be forced into a potentially risky rush to execute contracts unless Congress eases the time limit.

“We don’t get the same type of rigor we would like to get if we had it sooner,” he said of the funding. “Certainly, we appreciate the authorizations for readiness. We just need to get it in the hands of our units so they can spend it.”

On the House side, the leadership is already moving to grant the services more time to spend the money.

Early February 2018, Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters that he had met with top appropriators “about making sure no artificial limitation Congress proposes prevents the Pentagon from spending money.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The art of a killer cartoon: The CO can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.

Being the unit’s cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift… or a curse?

I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: “Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how ’bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: ‘awww man… you spilled your juice!” ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”

The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s there. The narrative of the man’s snappy comeback… not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:


1. Let the man down gently: “Man, I’m really sorry, but that scenario just doesn’t pass the acid test, my brother. Look, it has nothing to do with you personally; it’s really just a business decision, a very difficult business decision. I got mad love for you my brother, but I have a reputation to maintain here in the Unit. I’m sorry, but my hands are tied.”

2. Freakish exaggerations are the very core of the power of the cartoon. I can take the pallid tale of Bob spilling of his juice coupled with the vapid remarks from the men and wildly exaggerate the whole scenario to make it so ridiculous as to be funny.

I can show a dozen men being washed out of the chow hall door by a flood of red liquid (Bob’s juice), with men donned in various levels of gear associated with waterborne operations and perhaps one man yelling: “Hey, do we get paid dive credit this month for this?!?

Not really funny? I feel you, dawg. There isn’t a set “formula” for hilarity, but two variables that help are mistakes and commanding officers. The poor Commanding Officer of our squadron had been out on the flat range one day with a new assault rifle in an effort to adjust his gun sites for accuracy. In some cases, new gun sites can be wildly off the bull’s eye.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

(Outdoor shooting flat range where the distance to the target is Known Distance, or KD)

His first mistake, well… his ONLY mistake, was to guest himself onto a range where the boys were already conducting *Blaze Ops. There are always those occasional line-walkers that feel the urge to stroll the target line to see how those around them fair in accuracy. Well, a brother noted that the boss’ cupboard was bare; he had slick paper with no bullet impacts on it. The launch sequence was initiated; the man couldn’t get to me fast enough to tell me all about how the boss himself had flown all of his rounds off his target:

“Ha, ha ha… Geo, you could show — ha, ha, ha, — the boss with a clean target — ha, ha, ha, — and the guys could all be saying, like, ‘Hey there boss… it looks like you missed your target!’ — ha, ha, ha!”

“Yeah, man… that’s a total riot — I’ll get right to work on that.”

Hence the morass (morass is what you use when you don’t have enough ass). I didn’t think it was necessarily funny that the boss had rounds off paper, but if anyone else had done that his chops would have been busted. I couldn’t let the boss off the hook so easily. I ginned up ideas that came to mind.

What is generally said to a person who launches with poor accuracy whether it a gun or a rock or a baseball? One of my more obscure phrases is: “He couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle,” said during WWII of the inaccurate pilot of a dive bomber.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

(American SBD Dauntless dive bomber. It was this same bomber that sank all fourJapanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal battle of Midway.)

Ok then: “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn.” That nicely anchored the theme: Everyone’s target is the usual half man-sized cardboard target on a plank, with the boss’ target being an entire barn facing sideways… silo and hay loft… the nine yards. Then I added a Range Safety Officer in the parapet calling out the disposition of the bullet strikes to the men at the firing line.

It was a done deal. All that was left was to jones over that future moment when the boss and I would inevitably pass each other in the hall, just he and I… awkward!

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the US and Iran teamed up to fight the Taliban

The days following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States were strange days for many of us. Not only here at home, where the American worldview changed literally overnight, but also in Afghanistan. For obvious reasons.


A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
We don’t scramble B-52s for just anyone.

What might not be so obvious are the many ways which the United States systematically struck back against al-Qaeda and the Taliban who protected its members in Afghanistan. By now, many have heard of the U.S. Army Special Forces who assisted the Northern Alliance on horseback. The new movie 12 Strong depicts their mission.

Related: The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback 

But three days after the Green Berets and Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum teamed up for the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, another joint American-Northern Alliance team was fighting to capture – and keep – the Afghan city of Herat.

Army Rangers and Special Forces teamed up with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards special ops unit, the Pazdaran. The operation was reportedly planned in Tehran between General Tommy Franks and Iranian General and commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Safavi.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Yahya Safavi.

According to reports from the open-source U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, American air power had been conducting air strikes on the city since October 2001, destroying armored columns, tunnel complexes, and other support facilities. The city was ready by the time the joint assault took place.

The Revolutionary Guards moved in first, setting up a forward post for the assault on Herat. They were joined shortly after by U.S. Special Forces, with an army of 5,000 Northern Alliance fighters led by Ismail Khan. The Americans directed air support while the Shia militias led an insurrection in the city.

American Special Forces, Northern Alliance fighters, and Shia militias moved on the city as the populace took arms against the Taliban with anything they could find. Defeated Taliban fighters fled the city within the same day.

The whole operation was overseen in Tehran by agents of the CIA working with Iranian intelligence officers.  Shortly after the city fell, a Northern Alliance spokesperson said it was the first time Khan set foot in the city since it fell to the Taliban in 1995.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
The Afghan city of Herat in 2001.

“The people are celebrating on the rooftops of their houses. Car drivers are honking their horns,” according to the spokesperson.

In 2005, an Iranian Presidential candidate alluded to the story via an interview with USA Today’s Barbara Slavin, who was able to confirm some parts of the story, while some sources alluded to further collaboration and denied other parts.

Articles

France sent thousands of thank you gifts to the US after WWII

In 1949, the French freighter Magellan steamed into New York Harbor with “Merci, America” painted on its bow. The ship was carrying 49 railway cars filled with thousands of gifts donated by the people of France — a thank you for the food donated by American citizens to help rebuild Europe after WWII.


A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
The Magellan steaming into New York Harbor in 1949.

Just two years before the Magellan arrived, the Marshall Plan inspired Americans to collect food and put their donations aboard what they called the “Friendship Train.” The train’s journey began in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 1947, and arrived in New York City to a ticker-tape parade before shipping off to Europe.

Along the way, it stopped in many major cities on its 11-day route from sea to shining sea. When the cars arrived in the French city of Le Havre, it was 700 cars long and valued at some $40 million ($435 million adjusted for inflation).

Theme Trains, a site dedicated to the appreciation of historical railway events, notes that the idea of the American Friendship train was the brainchild of journalist Drew Pearson. Through his work and colleagues in Europe, he believed the Russians (and thus, Communists) were getting the credit for aid sent there through disinformation campaigns.

Pearson’s idea for the American train would make certain the Russians couldn’t take credit for western aid. He organized a grassroots effort through American newspapers, that effort resulted in the Friendship Train.

The people of France were so grateful that they responded with a train of their own — the Merci Train. French war veteran Andre Picard organized 49 WWI-era boxcars, one for each state (Hawaii and Washington, D.C. shared a car). The cars were filled with personal gifts from individual French citizens.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
The Merci Train arrives in New York, 1949.

When the Magellan arrived with the boxcars in 1949, delegations from each state received it, then sent its train on a tour of their state.  The boxcars bore a ribbon reading “gratitude train,” along with every crest from the provinces of France. They came to rest in public locations that vary from state to state — parks, museums, schools — for the public to view.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years
Arizona’s boxcar, located near Scottsdale.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently this is what it takes to trust a robot

What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.

Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.

New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.


To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.

(U.S. Army illustration)

“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.

This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.

Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.

The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.

Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.

“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

England drops big money into laser and radio weapons

The British Ministry of Defence announced July 9 that it’s investing up to $160 million in testing, procuring, and fielding directed energy weapons for their three military branches, starting with tests on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles by 2023. Directed energy weapons require serious juice from a generator or other power source but can inflict targeted damage without ammo.


A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Britain’s plans center on three demonstration weapons that use lasers or radio waves to damage enemy forces and equipment.

One is a British-designed weapon that earned a lot of attention. The Dragonfire laser weapon system packs a 50 kW laser that is a significant jump from the American 30 kW laser once deployed on the USS Ponce for training. (The American program aims to eventually support weapons up to 300 kW, and American researchers are part of the current U.K. effort.)

The lasers are primarily aimed at taking out drones, mortars, rockets, planes, and missiles that have already come close to the laser-armed vehicle or ship. Traditional interceptors like missiles will deal with targets further away.

(U.K. Ministry of Defence, Crown Copyright)

In addition to lasers, England will be testing radio frequency weapons that could disable target computers and electronics.

According to a Ministry of Defence press release, “The MOD also has over 30 years’ experience in Radio Frequency DEW, during which time the UK has become a world leader in developing new power generation technologies and a global hub for the performance testing and evaluation of these systems.”

Britain is creating and staffing a joint programme office to oversee this new effort, and they expect that the demonstrator weapons will be ready for broad fielding with 10 years.

“Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces” said British Defence Secretary Penny Mourdant.