Europe will soon have a rapidly-deployable military force of its own. The powers that used to be have finally teamed up to coordinate military responses to developing crises and defense issues. France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, The Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, and even the UK all signed off on the upcoming continental QRF.
It’s an initiative spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, according to The Guardian. France’s chief executive has long advocated for Europe’s military autonomy as part of a greater European integration – with major European powers calling the shots.
An all-European military force also answers questions about the defense culture of the European Union, where France’s Defence Minister says decisions and deadlines take much too long, getting gummed up in the bureaucracy of the 28-member organization.
The effort of raising this military force is called the “European Intervention Initiative” and is outside the structure of the European Union and its defense cooperation agreement, known as the Permanent Structure Cooperation on security and defence, or PESCO for short. There are 25 PESCO members
This new initiative comes as an effort to build the force while sidestepping the bureaucracy of the EU and allowing for the entry of the armed forces of the United Kingdom to take part, something London is “very keen” on entering with Europe, despite the Brexit vote.
Europe’s new initiative is also outside of NATO and excludes the United States, with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis worrying that it would pull resources and capabilities away from NATO. But the Secretary-General of the Brussels-based military alliance welcomed the news.
“I welcome this initiative as I believe it can strengthen the readiness of forces,” said NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. “We need high readiness and that is exactly what NATO is now focusing on.”
Though later Stoltenberg stressed the importance of cooperation between the EU and NATO for any military initiative.
“We need to be able to move forces quickly throughout Europe, when needed,” he said.
The European Union’s armed forces, the European Defence Union, is currently organized into four multinational battle groups consisting of 546 ships, more than 2,400 aircraft, and almost 7,500 main battle tanks. None of the battle groups have ever deployed, but EU ships do participate in anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa.
After a routine training run in Alpena County, Michigan in late July, US Air National Guard Capt. Brett DeVries survived the perfect storm of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II on its belly without the benefit of landing gear.
During a training exercise where A-10 pilots practice dropping inert bombs and ripping the planes’ massive gun, DeVries’ gun malfunctioned. Moments later, his canopy blew off his plane as he flew along at 375 miles an hour, according to a US Air National Guard write up of the event.
The incredible winds smacked DeVries head against his seat, nearly incapacitating him. “It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”
DeVries wingman, Major Shannon Vickers, then flew under his plane to assess the damage, finding bad news. The panels under his plane had been damaged, and it was unclear if he would be able to lower his landing gear.
Meanwhile, DeVries struggled against the wind and having everything loose in his cockpit. He could no longer benefit from checklists, which had become a liability that could now potentially fly out and get stuck in his engine.
DeVries, having the flight from hell, had two of his radios go down and had to communicate with Vickers and flight control on his third backup system. They worked together to find him a nearby spot to land and Vickers observed that DeVries would not in fact be able to use his landing gear.
“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.
Miraculously, thanks to the meticulous training A-10 pilots undergo and the incredibly rugged design of the plane, DeVries walked away unscathed, and maintainers will be able to fix the plane.
The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.
Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.
In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.
The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.
As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.
“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”
One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.
Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”
According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.
The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.
Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.
The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.
The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.
IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.
Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.
The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.
Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.
US Senator John McCain, on April 8, 2018, criticized President Donald Trump for recently saying he is in favor of pulling US troops out of Syria.
McCain said Trump’s comments, that he wants to “get out” of Syria and “bring our troops home,” emboldened Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to launch a suspected chemical attack against civilians on April 7, 2018.
“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria,” McCain, who is also the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
“Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women, and children, this time in Douma. Initial accounts show dozens of innocent civilians, including children, have been targeted by this vicious bombardment designed to burn, and choke the human body and leave victims writhing in unspeakable pain,” he said.
According to reports, at least 40 people suffocated to death and hundreds more were injured from a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma in eastern Ghouta on April 7, 2018. Some estimates put the death toll closer to 150.
Local pro-opposition group Ghouta Media Center said the attack was carried out by a helicopter, which dropped a barrel bomb containing sarin gas. The US State Department confirmed reports of the attack and “a potentially high number of casualties” on April 7, 2018.
Graphic images from the attack have been posted on social media.
President Trump was quick to call out Assad for the violence in a tweet on April 8, 2018: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price … to pay.” It was also the first time Trump has called out Putin by name on Twitter.
In his statement, McCain acknowledged Trump’s quick response on Twitter but said, “the question now is whether he will do anything about it.”
McCain said the president needs to “act decisively” in his response to Assad’s alleged involvement in the chemical attack, and to “demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”
Some US lawmakers have called on the president to respond militarily to the use of chemical weapons, and have suggested a “targeted attack” on chemical weapons facilities.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”
It appears he has not forgotten that goal.
Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.
These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)
Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.
One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.
Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.
For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”
While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.
“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”
Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.
According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.
No one likes being stuck on a pointless detail. Whether it’s a legitimate task that needs to be done or it’s just a way to stall for time until close-out formation, everyone would much rather be doing nothing. Some troops will try to talk their way out of work — but NCOs have been in long enough to hear each and every excuse troops can imagine. Plus,chances are they tried to use the exact same ones back in the day.
Yes, there are valid excuses out there, but an NCO who’s been around for a while will side-eye even the most honest troop because of the onslaught of lame excuses, like these:
Appointments are known well in advance, so it’s kind of hard to get caught off guard. You can’t miss a dental appointment or else the chain of command will get hammered for it. So, most NCOs won’t interrogate a troop if they say they’ve got to see the dentist, but it just so happens to be time for a huge detail and someone just so happens to have a surprise appointment, they might check their slip.
Don’t worry. Motrin fixes everything.
“I’m not feeling too well…”
Getting seen by the medics/Corpsmen is a necessary headache in the military and coming down with some kind of sickness isn’t unheard of among grunts who live in some rough conditions.
Still, there’s a proper channel for these sorts of things. The military isn’t like some civilian job where you can just “call in sick” whenever you feel like it. The only alibi that might work is to blame MREs for some god-awful movements in your bowels.
Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be ridiculed to the point that you might as well see the medics for burn treatment.
So many people are getting away with driving without a PT belt. I’m disappointed.
(Meme via USAWTFM)
“I didn’t know that…”
Citing your own ignorance is the fastest way to infuriate an NCO. Essentially, the subordinate is trying to forgive their own wrongdoings by hot-potatoing the blame directly onto a superior.
If what you didn’t know actually was niche information, like the location of connex keys, you might catch some slack, but don’t ever think of saying something like, “but I didn’t know that I couldn’t walk on Sergeant Major’s grass!”
Everyone gets creative with the crap in supply.
(Meme via Navy Memes)
“I can’t because we’re all out of…”
This is a catch-all excuse for anything that shifts the blame onto supply, but it’s almost always used in regards to cleaning supplies.
Sure, the cleaning closet may look bone dry, but your average supply room has more bottles of PineSol than they know what to do with. They’d be more than happy to clear some space in their lockers for actual military stuff. Just ask them.
If you’re driving one of these around, we may believe you… but don’t expect sympathy.
“I can’t come in because my car…”
If you’re coming from off-post and your car breaks down, that sucks. Let your superiors know what’s going on. If you report the issue two minutes before formation, you’re in the barracks a few blocks over, and you didn’t ask anyone else for a ride, then good luck keeping your rank.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
“But Sgt. Smith told me…”
Don’t ever play the “mommy vs daddy” game between NCOs — you’ll always lose. They won’t just take you at your word. They’ll argue and you’ll be brought in as a witness. If it turns out that you were just saying that to try and weasel your way out of something, well, try not to cry when you get ninja-punched.
All sorts of comics have entertained readers without having their protagonist wear spandex and capes. Outside of standard superhero comics, you could pick up a sub-genre called war comics. The recent announcement of Steven Spielberg directing a Blackhawk film based off the DC Comics series attests to the place of war comics in pop culture.
These comics were generally grounded in reality, even if they occasionally had fantastical elements. But the focus was placed on the war and the soldiers who fought in them. With that in mind, these comics would definitely grab the attention of movie-goers.
That’s a hell of a MacGuffin — and one I don’t think any film has gone after.
(Adventures in the Rifle Brigade #1 by Vertigo Comics)
Adventures in the Rifle Brigade
This 2000’s mini-series written by Garth Ennis (best known for Preacher and his work on Punisher and Judge Dredd) and art by Carlos Ezquerra was a war comedy about a British commando unit in World War II.
The titular team was an over-the-top caricature of troops in WWII. Just to set the stage for the kind of comic this was, the team’s entire goal was to steal Hitler’s missing testicle.
Why? Because why not?
(Star-Spangled War Stories Vol. 1 by DC Comics)
The War That Time Forgot
The 1924 novel The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burrough was a classic tale about the savagery of war and a soldier who must tap into his primordial rage to destroy his enemies…and who also crashed on an island full of dinosaurs.
The adapted comic overlooked all those metaphors and symbolism and nose dove directly into “soldiers fighting dinosaurs” in a goofy action series.
Frank Miller got his first break into the comic book industry with “Weird War Tales” but his comics like “300,” “Sin City,” “Dark Knight Returns,” and “Daredevil” have all been huge successes.
(Weird War Tales #64 by DC Comics)
Weird War Tales
Another way to mix war films with another genre with a supernatural horror like with Weird War Tales. Each comic was part of an anthology and each focused on one conflict — retold with zombies, vampires, robots, and other monsters. The only reoccurring character was Death, who would introduce each tale.
(Our Army At War featuring Sgt. Rock #297 by DC Comics)
Our Army at War (featuring Sgt. Rock)
Hands down the most famous of the war comics has still never been touched — even if many have tried in the past. Sgt. Rock was a realistic war story written by Army veteran Bob Kanigher. While other writers would take over Sgt. Rock, the original Kanigher run of the character is regarded as one of the best series of and pioneered the Silver Age of Comics.
Joel Silver of Dark Castle Entertainment has been trying to get a Sgt. Rock film in production for ages now with none other than Bruce Willis cast as Sgt. Rock himself. Both Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino were rumored to direct at some point. Even though it’s stuck in development hell, this is still one of the most requested war comic films.
During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre helped the United States keep control of the skies. As aviation historian Joe Baugher notes, the Sabre shot down at least 792 MiG-15s during the conflict (another 118 were scored as “probable” kills). MiGs, on the other hand, had only 78 kills against the Sabre.
That’s about a 10.15-to-1 ratio. If you include the probable kills, that ratio climbs to 11.67-to-1. That’s a pretty decisive edge for the Sabre. So, why was the F-86 so dominant?
First, many American F-86 pilots were World War II vets. Among the better-known dual-war pilots were James Jabara (15 kills in Korea, 1.5 in World War II), Francis Gabreski (6 kills in Korea, 28.5 in World War II), and John W. Mitchell (11 kills in World War II, 4 in Korea. He also lead the mission that killed Isoroku Yamamoto). Pilot quality matters — just ask Japan.
Second, the F-86’s armament was better for the air-superiority mission. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns. These were faster-firing versions of the M2 machine guns used on the North American P-51 Mustang. By comparison, the MiG-15 had two NR-23 23mm cannon and one N-37 37mm cannon. This was designed to kill a lumbering bomber, not to deal with a fast, maneuvering fighter. Having the right tool for the job matters.
This series of four pictures taken from gun camera film shows the beginning of the end of a Russian-built MiG in an air battle high over North Korea. The “kill” was recorded by the camera in a U.S. Air Force F-86 “Sabre” jet flown by 2nd Lt James L. Thompson, a member of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing who was credited with the destruction. (USAF photo)
Third, the F-86 had a new, crucial piece of technology: the AN/APG-30, a radar gunsight. This made aiming the weapons much easier for the Sabre pilots. It used to be that a pilot (or anyone firing at an enemy plane) needed to judge angle and deflection on their own. With the AN/APG-30, the radar handled all that. All a pilot needed to do was to put the enemy plane in the center of his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam, the MiG becomes a “good MiG.” Making it easier to put lead on-target matters.
In short, the F-86 came in with three big advantages over the MiG-15. Those advantages helped the Sabre keep South Korea free from Communist domination.
Morris “Moe” Berg’s dying words — “How did the Mets do today?” — were on brand for the 70-year-old New York native who enjoyed a 15-year career in Major League Baseball before America entered World War II.
Sports columnist John Kieran called Berg “The Professor” on account of his reputation as an Ivy League-educated linguist and lawyer, a mentor and coach to younger MLB players, and a newspaper-devouring raconteur who earned fanfare as a repeat contestant on the NBC radio quiz show “Information Please.”
But the brainy 6-foot-1-inch bullpen catcher with an unspectacular batting average had another career entirely: He was a World War II secret agent who gathered intelligence on three continents for the US government.
“We often think about athletes just playing ball and going in for records. But Moe, Ted Williams twice, Joe DiMaggio — they went off and risked their lives and their careers to serve,” said filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who illuminates Berg’s life and legacy in her 2019 documentary, “ The Spy Behind Home Plate.”
Washington Senator Joe Kuhel (left) with Moe Berg (right).
Berg’s particular line of work during the war — he ultimately served as a spy for the Manhattan Project while working for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA — further differentiated him. Who else would sit in the dugout talking about whether Mussolini would win or not?” Kempner said.
As the surviving members of the Greatest Generation dwindle and tensions rise among 21st-century nuclear-armed powers, Kempner emphasizes the need to learn about veterans and remember their contributions and sacrifices.
“It’s important to know who our unknown heroes are and what they did,” she said.
Here’s a window into Berg’s life and transition from multilingual ballplayer to World War II nuclear spy.
He was the son of immigrants.
Moe Berg was born in Harlem in 1902. He was the third child of Bernard Berg and Rose Taschker, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, who came to the US seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom.
The Bergs moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bernard opened a pharmacy. Education was paramount, and Bernard in particular expected his kids to pursue one of three professions: lawyer, doctor, or teacher.
From his early days, Moe had a rocket arm and a photographic memory.
Moe Berg’s passport.
As a 7-year-old, he played baseball on a church team using the pseudonym “Runt Wolfe.” He excelled on the field and in the classroom, initially studying at New York University. He transferred to Princeton University, where he was a star on the baseball team and in the modern languages department.
The popular, idiosyncratic scholar-athlete turned down an offer to join one of Princeton’s exclusive eating clubs, purportedly after being told that while he’d be more than welcome, he shouldn’t think of bringing other Jews around.
He spent off-seasons studying law at Columbia University and traveling the world.
After Berg graduated college, the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the New York Giants were interested in recruiting him, in part because they thought he’d help draw the city’s relatively large Jewish population.
He joined the Robins and played in the minor leagues. His technical skills and lack of offensive power inspired the phrase “good field, no hit.” He went on to play for the Chicago White Sox.
At the time, major leaguers worked in the spring and summer and were off the rest of the year. Berg used his baseball earnings to travel. He studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne in Paris and wrote of how much he enjoyed French “wine, women, and song.”
Largely to appease his father, Berg also enrolled at Columbia Law School and arrived late to spring training while finishing his first year. The following year, the White Sox owner denied Berg’s request to arrive late again, so Berg arranged to leave school early and make up his courses. He’d go on to pass the bar and join the firm Satterlee and Canfield.
But baseball was his priority and ultimately how he made his living throughout the 1930s. He said he would rather be a baseball player than a Supreme Court justice.
He became a catcher by accident.
In 1927, White Sox catcher turned manager Ray Schalk, in a pinch during a game, called out to the bench asking if anyone could catch. Berg tried to volunteer the player next to him. But Schalk thought Berg, a shortstop, was volunteering and put him in without being corrected.
“If it doesn’t turn out well, please send the body to Newark,” Berg reportedly told his teammates. He took to catching. He and his second baseman communicated about the opposing team’s base runners in Latin.
If the runner trying to steal understood Latin, Berg said they’d switch to Sanskrit.
He made two trips to Japan “for baseball” in the 1930s, capturing panoramic footage of Tokyo that is believed to have been used to plan the 1942 Doolittle Raid, the US’s first bombing raid on Japan in World War II.
With Japan already at war with China, the Japanese government was becoming increasingly militarized. (Japan and China clashed from 1931 to 1932 and again between 1937 and 1945.) Meanwhile, Japanese citizens were growing interested in America’s favorite pastime.
Two Japanese naval vessels, left foreground, at Yokosuka Naval Base near Yokohama, directly in the path of bombs from Maj. Gen. James Doolittle’s raiders, April 18, 1942.
(Library of Congress)
In 1932, Berg was among a group of major leaguers sent to Tokyo to coach Japanese college players in hitting, base-stealing, and other skills. When the tour ended and Ted Lyons and Lefty O’Doul returned home, Berg stayed, traveling around Asia by himself.
He ended his trip in Berlin, and he saw firsthand the beginning of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, along with then-Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s fascist influence on the Nazi movement.
Back in the US, Berg played on the Washington Senators, frequenting embassy parties in DC, before being dropped and picked up by the Cleveland Indians.
In 1934, the Soviet Union briefly invaded China, and with tensions rising in the Pacific, the US sent an all-star roster of American League players on a tour of Japan to compete against Japanese teams in a friendly 18-game series.
The players would also serve as goodwill ambassadors, as the All-American Japan Tour was an attempt to bolster Japanese-American relations through a shared interest in baseball.
While Berg had set a league record for catching 117 games straight without an error, he didn’t have the same hall-of-famer status as other recruits, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averil, and Lefty Gomez. But he had been to Japan before, and when catcher Rick Ferrell dropped off the All-Americans roster just before the tour, Berg readily accepted the invitation.
Moe Berg, second from the left in the first row, with other members of the “All Americans” on a visit Nagoya Castle during a free day on the 1934 exhibition.
He studied Japanese on the deck of the ship during the three-week journey across the Pacific. Upon arriving, Babe Ruth heard Berg greet a fan in Japanese. Ruth said he thought Berg claimed not to know Japanese. Berg said that he hadn’t a few weeks before.
Berg traveled with a 16 mm Bell and Howell movie camera, seemingly undeterred by leaflets distributed by police warning people not to make maps or capture images, which the Japanese feared could be used against them in war.
He also carried an official letter of introduction from US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
On one occasion, Berg peeled off from his teammates and went to the roof of a Tokyo hospital, then the city’s tallest building. He wore a Japanese kimono and slippers, and he had flowers and an alibi that he was visiting an ambassador’s daughter who’d just had a baby.
But he threw out the flowers and ended up on the roof, where he shot a panorama of the Tokyo skyline, including the harbor and industrial centers. The US would later use the shots as reconnaissance footage to inform wartime military strategy and plan bombing raids.
How Berg delivered the footage to the US government remains murky. He was known for answering questions about his government work by putting his finger to his lips and saying, “shhh.”
When pressed on how he’d left the hospital with the movie camera, he supposedly responded, “What made you think I had anything in my kimono other than my big pecs and biceps?”
During World War II, he retired his Red Sox uniform to work for the government.
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,300 Americans and catapulted the US into World War II. Millions of Americans joined up. Before Berg’s father died in January 1942, he asked his sons, “Why aren’t you contributing to this war?”
Berg left the Red Sox to work for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a government agency President Franklin Roosevelt founded to counter Axis propaganda in Latin America.
In February 1942, Berg made a radio broadcast addressing the people of Japan, in Japanese, asking for peace; he identified himself as “a friend of the Japanese people” and urged listeners to avoid “a war you cannot win.”
That summer, his work took him to Central and South America, ostensibly as an goodwill ambassador distributing baseball gear. He fed reports on the political situation to his boss, Inter-American Affairs Coordinator Nelson Rockefeller.
The OSS tapped him as a nuclear spy who carried out acts of espionage and sabotage to thwart Hitler’s nuclear program.
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt recognized the importance of strong foreign intelligence to the Allied war effort. In 1942, he signed an executive order forming the OSS, a clandestine espionage and sabotage agency directed by Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan.
Donovan, a Republican, was Roosevelt’s Columbia Law classmate and a World War I general turned Wall Street lawyer. As the founding father of America’s CIA forerunner, Donovan recruited a diverse cast of military and civilian personnel whom he fondly regarded as his “Glorious Amateurs.”
At its peak in 1944, the OSS employed some 13,000 men and women, with personnel stationed across the world, working not only as field agents but also as codebreakers, researchers, mapmakers, psychologists, scientists, and propagandists who carried out special operations and information warfare.
Berg was recruited to the OSS in 1943.
With his unusual aptitude, agility, language skills, and information-gathering experience, Berg became the OSS agent that Donovan designated to support the government’s top-secret initiative to develop its first nuclear weapons, codenamed the Manhattan Project.
It was an undertaking so covert that Roosevelt supposedly didn’t even tell then-Vice President Harry Truman about it.
Leading researchers and scientists, including Albert Einstein, briefed Berg, teaching him what they hoped would be sufficient background on atomic energy and their adversaries’ efforts so Berg could collect vital information and assets from occupied Europe.
In 1944, Berg moved throughout war-ravaged Italy to track down important Italian scientists and documents in danger of falling into Hitler’s hands.
“I see Moe is still catching very well,” Roosevelt said after learning Berg had located and extracted Italy’s foremost expert in aerodynamics, Antonio Ferri.
Berg in a photo published upon his release from the Red Sox on Jan. 14, 1942.
Ferri had destroyed lab equipment that could help the Axis and gone into hiding in the mountains with a crate of scientific documents. He raised a resistance circuit carrying out guerilla operations to thwart the Axis and enable Allied air drops. Berg and Ferri connected and began parsing and translating the scientific documents.
With special permission from Roosevelt, Ferri entered the US with a suitcase and the crate of documents and was escorted to the nation’s leading aeronautics research center, in Langley, Virginia.
As Manhattan Project scientists raced to develop the atomic bombs that America would drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, its leaders remained concerned with where Hitler stood with any similar efforts.
If the Axis powers were making progress, it would likely involve German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize winner who remained in Germany during the war.
In December 1944, Berg was sent to neutral Switzerland for a conference at the University of Zurich with a pistol, a cyanide tablet, and a false identity as a Swiss physics student. His mission was to attend an intimate lecture that Heisenberg was giving at the conference.
If Heisenberg mentioned working on a nuclear bomb, Berg was to stand up and shoot Heisenberg point blank, with the understanding that this would also mean being killed himself.
Between the German language and the deeply technical physics terminology, Berg left the lecture unsure of what Heisenberg knew. He ended up complimenting Heisenberg on his talk and later insisting on escorting him to his hotel.
In the resulting report, which was read by Roosevelt, Berg determined that Heisenberg had low confidence in the German effort and that Hitler was at least two years behind the Manhattan Project.
Berg died in Belleville, New Jersey, in 1972 at the age of 70, after a fall at his home.
In 2018, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to OSS personnel. The presentation of Congress’s highest civilian honor marked the first collective recognition of the OSS, which President Harry Truman disbanded in 1945.
Truman formed the CIA in 1947 from the old OSS headquarters. While Donovan was not employed by America’s post-war intelligence organization, many of his “Glorious Amateurs” were, and four would go on to hold the agency’s top post.
A bronze statue of Donovan — and an OSS book of honor naming the 116 OSS members who were killed during World War II — are on display in the lobby of the CIA’s current headquarters in Langley.
Berg declined the Medal of Freedom in 1946. He never married or had children. He led a nomadic existence, traveling and, in his later years, living with his sister, Ethel, in New Jersey.
Ethel Berg accepted his Medal of Honor after his death and donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York, where it is on display, along with his catcher’s mitt and passport.
Ethel took Berg’s ashes to Israel, but to this day, no one knows where his remains are buried.
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Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe has rotated units from the U.S. to the European continent in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The ongoing operation aims to enhance NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression and deter future conflicts like the War in Donbass. The rotations and joint and multinational training build readiness and strengthen bonds with NATO allies. For one helicopter crew, the training turned into a real-life emergency response.
On December 15, 2020, the five-soldier crew of a CH-47F Chinook was returning from a training mission. The crew, assigned to B Company, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is posted in Illesheim, Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. However, on their way home, the crew witnessed an emergency on the ground.
“We were flying over a ridgeline in a rural area,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Acton. “Once we cleared it, my crew chief in the back came on the comms system and said he saw a puff of white smoke on the road below.” A civilian car got into a serious accident on the road below the Chinook.
“After I called that in, I looked further down the road and saw a car roll over two or three times, “said crew chief Spc. Bruce Cook. Now aware of the emergency situation on the ground, the crew requested permission to assist.
“It was like we all simultaneously thought the same thing…that the right thing to do was to assist however we could,” said co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Riedel. “I like to think its natural human instinct to want to stop and help in any way that you can.” The air mission commander gave them the green light and the Chinook descended to the site of the car crash.
Once the helicopter was on the ground, brigade flight surgeon Maj. Benjamin Stork assessed the situation, jumped out, and ran to the crash. “I checked my medical pack attached to my vest to make sure I had everything I might need to stabilize possible injuries,” said Stork. “Once I got to the man in the crash, I checked his vitals and made sure he was cognizant; thankfully, he spoke English pretty well because my German is pretty broken.”
Stork stabilized the man’s neck and back before an ambulance arrived on the scene. After briefing the paramedics on the situation, Stork helped them transfer the man to the ambulance and ran back to the helicopter. “All in all, from noticing the car flip to getting the wheels up off the ground, about 30 minutes passed,” said Stork. “Every piece of the operation felt organic, smooth and controlled because of how well these guys talk to each other.”
The quick, efficient, and professional response by the Chinook crew demonstrates the effectiveness of the countless hours of training that they go through. “We are in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, and for the most part that means that we train together with our ally and partner military forces,” said Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st CAB. “I think that an important part of building that partnership and trust also lies in connecting with and supporting the local community where we can. The level we train at is what allows us to let these types of responses happen organically, and I’m incredibly proud of our Wings of Destiny Soldiers for making the call to help someone in a situation that could have been much worse.”
While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.
Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.
To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.
When you’re infantry, your life is going out on field operations to train for war or, you know, actually going to war. Field ops, in short, can be miserable. It’s always raining, you have to eat garbage in a pouch, and there’s that one staff NCO who won’t let up on being a d*ck about grooming standards. That being said, there are little things that happen out there every so often that make things just a little more bearable.
You’re going to eat, breathe, train, and sleep in the rain and the mud for days on end. But sometimes, your battalion will have mercy on your poor grunt soul and deploy some niceties that will restore that waning glimmer of hope.
Here are some of those things:
One of the only lines you enjoy waiting in.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Skyler Tooker)
You’ll go on plenty of field ops where you’re given a load of MREs to pack away and eat when you get the time. The hot meals you get in the field might not be gourmet, but after a week of eating the packaged dogsh*t (and despite the fact that by the time it gets to you it’s just a warm meal) you’ll appreciate it immensely.
The type of ride doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not walking.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore)
It sucks carrying an additional half of your own body weight on your back as you move between training areas. Every once in a while, your battalion will score some transportation to save your knees from that future VA disability claim. If this happens halfway through your op, it’s honestly a better blessing than getting hot chow.
Much better than sleeping in a tent, even.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom)
Nothing shows that your battalion or company commander cares like securing indoor sleeping arrangements. It’s not very common, and it’ll probably only happen when you’re training in an urban environment, but when it does, you’ll find yourself appreciating command a whole lot more.
Lower enlisted grunts will still complain about it, though. They’ll find a reason, trust us.
These people are angels.
(Air Force photo by Margo Wright)
The Gut Truck
Probably the best thing to hear someone in the field announcing is, “The Gut Truck is here!” That’s because it’s essentially a mobile post-exchange, which means you can buy snacks and — even cigarettes in some cases. Hopefully you brought cash, though. Otherwise, you might not get sh*t.
The hike back doesn’t seem so bad, huh?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)
This is, essentially, a unicorn. It rarely happens, if it ever does. In fact, you’ll more often see your op get extended rather than cut short. If this does happen, it’s usually because of unsafe weather conditions, but there are those once-in-a-lifetime moments when a battalion commander is so impressed with the performance of their grunts that they reward them by pulling them back to garrison.
Paramount released the first trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the film adaptation of war correspondent Kim Barker’s 2011 book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan andPakistan.
Fey plays Barker, a childless, unmarried reporter who volunteers to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an embedded assignment with U.S. Marines in the region. Joining her is Margot Robbie, who of all people explains the “Desert Queen Principle” to Fey’s Barker once in country.
The film also stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish journalist, Alfred Molina (who is not of Afghan descent) as a local Afghan official, and Billy Bob Thorton as the Marine Corps commanding officer. The trailer makes the film seem like a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for reporters, which the film even outright calls “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”
Barker’s original book depicted her own humorous journey from hapless to hardcore. She covered stories about Islamic militants and the reconstruction efforts in the Af-Pak area, along with her fears about the future of the region.