This was the Union Army's air force during the Civil War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

If you thought that air warfare was reserved for a time after airplanes were invented, you thought wrong. During the American Civil War, the Union troops used hot air balloons to spy on Confederate troops.

The idea to use balloons was the brainchild of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, and Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. They suggested that the military should create the balloon corps under the command of Thaddeus Lowe to do some “aerial reconnaissance” for the Union.


On June 17, 1861, Lowe demonstrated his balloon in front of President Abraham Lincoln. He went up to the lofty height of 500 feet and flew the balloon the short distance between the Washington Mall to where the National Air and Space Museum now stands. Lincoln had doubtless seen hot air balloons do such things at fairs for years; what made this journey special was that the balloon was hooked up to a cable that linked an air bound Lowe to the War Department.

In the first air-to-ground communication in America, Lowe sent the following telegram to Lincoln from his balloon: “The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb scene…”

Soon after, Lincoln wrote to General Winfield Scott about Lowe’s abilities. However, when Lowe presented himself to the general, he found that Scott was less than impressed. Lincoln ultimately had to personally intervene to get the general to accept Lowe into the ranks.

In August 1861, the first army balloon was constructed and named The Union. The balloon depended on tapping into Washington D.C.’s natural gas lines, so it wasn’t able to go very far. However, the next month Lowe was able to take his balloon up to 1000 feet and spy on the Confederate troops residing at Fall’s Church, VA. With his direction, Union troops were able to accurately aim at enemy troops without actually seeing them. This was a military first, and the success resulted in the establishment of the Balloon Corps.

The first order of business was to hire more aeronauts. Around October 1861, a number of balloons were tethered along the Potomac River. From their vantage point, the people manning the balloons were able to see any Confederate activity up to a day’s march away, giving the Union time to prepare a plan of defence.

After a short period of time, balloon technology advanced. Lowe himself invented a way to make gas portable: a wooden tank lined with copper, set up on a wagon that also carried water, iron, and sulfuric acid. Combined, these wagons produced hydrogen gas which lifted the balloons up. The army had twelve wagons built to aid the balloons in long-distance missions. Each of them weighed 1000 pounds.

Throughout 1862, Lowe continued to go on reconnaissance missions, noting on maps where Confederate troops were located. When he travelled at night, he would count campfires. It wasn’t all good news, though. The Confederate troops quickly caught on to what was happening and started shooting at the balloons with guns and cannons. Luckily for the people in the balloons, it was pretty difficult for soldiers on the ground to actually hit them—and it was easy for the soldiers in the balloon to gun down anyone who took a shot.

When shooting failed, the Confederates learned how to cloak their positions with camouflage and blackouts, making Lowe’s job more difficult. If Confederates made fewer fires, then Lowe’s estimates of their forces would be low, and the Union troops would underestimate the South’s strength. They would also paint fake cannons black and set them up around camp, so that if a balloon happened to fly over while it was still light, the North would think that they had too many resources to chance a fight. These fake cannons were called “Quaker guns” because they were, like the pacifist Quakers, completely harmless in war.

Two of the hydrogen gas generators assigned to each balloon for inflating on the battlefield.

The South did set out to copy the balloons’ success at one point, but they lacked the technology and resources required to make their balloons practical. The first Confederate balloon was difficult to control, as it was made out of varnished cotton and kept aloft with hot air. The balloonist did manage to draw a map of Union positions around Yorktown despite the difficulties, however. A second attempt was less successful. A balloon made of silk (said to have been sewn from the gowns of Southern Belles) was tied to a tugboat and dragged along the James River before the tugboat crashed and Union troops took control of the balloon.

The Union Balloon Corps met its demise before the end of the Civil War. With a switch of command in 1863, funding was cut to the program which meant that the balloonist could no longer continue staying aloft. On top of that, Lowe himself was accused of “financial impropriety” and forced to resign. Lowe had become the driving force behind the entire campaign, and without him to advocate for the corps, it disbanded.

Bonus Facts:

  • In addition to the technology of balloons, the Civil War saw a significant use of telegraph machines on both sides. The Union sometimes handled upwards of 4500 telegrams a day reporting on Confederate movements. Both sides encrypted their messages with ciphers, and both sides learned how to tap telegraph machines. Sometimes, messages would become unreadable due to mistakes made on behalf of the people sending them. Robert E. Lee hated telegraphs and even ordered his officers not to send anything, lest the Union find out what the messages contained.
  • Before he was appointed Chief Aeronaut, Lowe was simply an aeronautic scientist. A week after the fall of Fort Sumter, which kicked off the Civil War, Lowe could be found on a nine hour balloon trip from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Union, South Carolina. When he landed, Confederate troops accused him of spying for the Union. They were eventually convinced of his innocence—something they regretted later—and Lowe returned to the North, where he learned that Mr. Henry wanted to talk to him.
  • Lowe continued to be passionate about flying. He also made the “railway into the clouds” in California, which took passengers to the summit of Echo Mountain. But one of his biggest legacies is that of his granddaughter, the remarkable Pancho Barnes, who also caught the flying bug.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is the spectacular view from a U2 spy plane at 70,000 feet

The U2 was produced in 1955 by Lockheed’s Skunk Works for aerial reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union. The proposal to build a plane that could fly 70,000 feet came from the need to fly beyond the reach of Soviet fighters, missiles, and radar; basically, anything that could threaten it.


Related: A successor to the storied U2 spy plane is reportedly in development

The U.S. Air Force solicited designs from several aircraft companies, including Lockheed before settling on the winning concept. Lockheed’s first try, by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson—its best aeronautical engineer at the time—included the base of an XF-104 with elongated wings and a shortened fuselage named CL-282. The design was essentially a jet-powered glider; it had a single jet engine, had no landing gear, but could reach an altitude of 73,000 feet. Gen. Curtis LeMay famously walked out during the design’s presentation, saying that he was not interested in an airplane without wheels or guns.

After the rejection and several iterations later, Lockheed submitted the design for the U2 spy plane, nicknamed “Dragon Lady.” Its basic design is still in use today, thanks to its meticulous Programmed Depot Maintenance inspections every 4,700 flight hours.

While the aircraft didn’t fully adopt the no wheels design, it did find a compromise. Instead of the typical tricycle landing gear used in most aircraft, the U2 uses a bicycle configuration with a forward and aft set of landing wheels. This minimalist approach and other design elements make the airplane lighter, which is one of the main reasons the airplane can cruise at such a high speed.

This video shows spectacular footage from the cockpit of the U2 spy plane at 70,000 feet above the Earth. Watch:

Gung Ho Vids, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Two US Air Force F-15s nearly took out some free-falling skydivers

A pair of skydivers nearly had an unfortunate run-in with two US Air Force F-15 fighter jets in the skies above southern England earlier this year, a British air safety board reports.

The US fighters out of RAF Lakenheath, home to the US 48th Fighter Wing, were flying at 345 mph above Cambridgeshire on April 17, 2019. Above Chatteris airfield, a popular skydiving location the fighter pilots were not aware was active, two parachutists were in freefall at roughly 120 mph, Stars and Stripes reported, citing a UK Airprox Board report released this past summer.

The skydivers captured video footage of the fighters passing beneath them.


“The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath,” the report read, further explaining that “once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in freefall.”

An F-15E Strike Eagle.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Couillard)

There was a debate about how close the fighters actually came to the skydivers, Airprox explained, adding that the board eventually concluded that “safety had been reduced much below the norm.” The pilots did not see the parachutists, nor were they aware of any planned jumps.

Chatteris airfield, according to the Airprox report, notifies Lakenheath every morning of its planned activities. The board agreed that “there was very little more that Chatteris could have done from an operational perspective to prevent” this near-miss, which was the result of problems both on the ground and in the air.

In response to this incident, the 48th Fighter Wing is briefing crews again and reminding everyone of the need to steer clear of the Chatteris skydiving site.

An Air Force F-15C Eagle.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

RAF Lakenheath is “using this incident to reinforce the vital importance of situational awareness and attention to detail for all of our air traffic controllers and aircrew,” Col. Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, told Stars and Stripes.

“UK airspace is incredibly complex and often congested, and the safety of our aircrew as well as those we share the skies with is our number one priority,” he added. The Airprox report noted that prior to the near-miss with the skydivers, the F-15s had been forced to change course to avoid a KC-135 refueling tanker that was determined to be “on a collision course with the formation.”

It was apparently that course change, combined with various other influencing factors, that sent the fighters over Chatteris and put the skydivers in danger.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Taliban have special forces and the tech to match it

In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.


This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.

Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.

The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.

No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.

How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?

“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”

Videos released by the Taliban depict their fighters training with even more advanced American weapons technology, including the FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle, AN/PEQ 5 visible lasers, and more. The SCAR is only used by the U.S. Special Operations Command, so seeing a Taliban insurgent carrying one came as a surprise to those in the know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy surveys ships lost in combat 100 years ago

The Navy announced plans in September 2017 to survey the wreck of the World War I U.S. Navy cruiser, on which six American Sailors lost their lives when she was sunk as a result of enemy action off the coast of New York on July 19, 1918.


The survey’s objective was to assess the condition of the wreck site and determine if the ship, the only major warship lost by the United States in WWI, was sunk as a result of a German submarine-launched torpedo or mine. Ultimately, data gathered helps inform the management of the sunken military craft, which lies only a few miles south of Long Island.

The announcement comes just weeks after the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, and the survey is timed to allow researchers to conduct a thorough examination of the site and prepare, then release, their findings around the date of the 100th anniversary. The U.S. is currently commemorating the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I.

Midshipman Nolan Brandon, a student at the U.S. Naval Academy, assisted with the survey. He recounts his experiences below, in the first of our three-part series on the survey:

U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Midshipman 1st Class Nolan Brandon monitors the cables leading to a remotely operated vehicle as it dives on the wreck of the World War I-era armored cruiser USS San Diego (ACR 6), Sept. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

“You’re holding onto a $500,000 sonar head. Don’t drop it.” These were the words of encouragement I received from Tim Pilegard, a graduate student at the University of Delaware. At that moment, Tim and I were struggling to bolt the sonar onto the side of the R/V.

After several failed attempts, we finally got the bolts secured, and my risk of being heavily indebted to the University was momentarily over. As I looked over at a very large number of pelican cases containing more expensive equipment still resting on the dock, I realized it was going to be a long night, but there’s no place I’d rather be.

My name is Nolan Brandon, a Midshipman in my final year at the United States Naval Academy. I’m working with team members from Naval History and Heritage Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the University of Delaware, to survey the wreck of the USS San Diego, help preserve the ship’s heritage, and hopefully, to lay to rest the debate over its sinking. The story of this ship and its men is not well known. I had never heard of USS San Diego until I was invited on this mission. But now that I have learned of what happened on that day 100 years ago, I hope more Americans can hear the story, too, and be awed by the courage and skill of United States sailors.

History of the Ship

San Diego was a 504-foot long armored cruiser commissioned into service on August 1st, 1907. San Diego, and the other ships of the Pennsylvania class, was a new breed of ships that were more heavily armed and armored than cruisers, yet still faster than the great battleships. San Diego served in a multitude of roles from testing the channel of the then brand-new Pearl Harbor to escorting convoys of merchant vessels against German U-boat attacks during World War I.

Also Read: This castaway airman helped map the entire world

It was during her time of service that San Diego met her sudden end. On the 18th of July, 1918, the ship was steaming towards her home port in New York through waters in close proximity to Fire Island, known to be hunting grounds for U-boats. San Diego’s commanding officer, Capt. H. H. Christy, was well aware of this threat and took every precaution to safeguard his ship, including stationing additional lookouts, zigzagging along his path, and closing additional watertight hatches. Unfortunately, these measures were not able to protect the ship from the explosion that rocked its port side below the waterline at 11:05 a.m. No one knows for certain whether this explosion was caused by a torpedo, a mine, or a spy onboard (that’s part of the reason why we’re here), but it was enough to cripple the San Diego. As the ship began listing to port, the captain kept his head and initiated evasive maneuvers while scanning for a suspected attacking U-boat. Despite the increasing list as San Diego took on water, Christy was reluctant to abandon ship in case a nearby U-boat could surface and take over San Diego. But as time passed, it became clear that the ship would soon capsize, and so, the call to abandon ship was sounded. Of the 1,183 men on the ship at the time of its sinking (including a few midshipmen), all but six safely escaped peril under the captain’s skillful command, and four of those six died in or as an immediate result of the initial explosion. As per tradition, Capt. Christy was the last to leave the ship. His actions, along with those of his men, reflect the competence, courage, and professionalism expected of United States sailors.

Photographed 28 January 1915, while serving as flagship of the Pacific Fleet. Her name had been changed from California on 1 September 1914. Note two-star Rear Admiral’s flag flying from her mainmast top. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The Prep

I’m excited and honored to be part of this mission. In addition to the $500,000 side scan sonar head, our equipment includes a fully autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with side-scan and bathymetric sensors, a remotely operated vehicle with a video camera, a drop camera, a quadrocopter, and a vast multitude of all the cables, tools, computers, monitors, and spares necessary to support our operation. After many hours of wrench-turning and troubleshooting preparations on Sunday, the team ate dinner and returned to the hotel, ready to hit the water and start the surveying work Monday.

Monday

We got an early start Monday morning in order to get a full day of surveying in with the AUV. After the team’s briefing with the senior Coast Guardsman at the base, the survey boat’s captain, Kevin skillfully steered the Daiber through the shoals of the inlet and out to the wreckage of the San Diego. As we made preparations to launch the AUV, I felt a little out of place surrounded by such capable individuals such as Dr. Art Trembanis, an oceanographer from the University of Delaware with a PhD in Marine Science and one of our team’s leaders, or Dr. Alexis Catsambis, an archaeologist with NHHC with a PhD in Nautical Archaeology and our team’s other leader. However, I did my best to prove my worth as a deckhand and to suck up as much knowledge and experience as possible.

Read Midshipman Nolan’s full account of the three-day survey here.

Military Life

6 things you didn’t know about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the greatest tragedies of war is when a troop falls and is lost amidst the chaos of combat — the troop’s body, for whatever reason, cannot be properly identified. To pay homage to these unknown troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Anonymous troops who have fallen in some of America’s greatest wars are interred within a tomb to honor those unaccounted for.

Every year, approximately four million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to these men and women. Most gather in solemn awe as they watch the proceedings at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


Highly-trained Tomb Sentinels protect every inch of the hallowed ground, 24 hours a day. Although the site is rich with history and tradition, there are many facts about the Tomb that most don’t know.

​Edward F. Younger recreating his selection at the Arlington National Cemetery, VA.

The first soldier chosen

In March of 1921, Congress approved a plan to return an unknown soldier from the first World War, burying him with full honors in a tomb at the memorial amphitheater in Arlington.

On Memorial Day of that same year, four American troops were exhumed from cemeteries in France. The deceased were placed in four identical caskets and placed in front of Army sergeant and World War I veteran, Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and given the distinct opportunity of choosing the first unknown soldier to be buried.

At the chapel, Younger paced around the caskets, holding roses. The coffin upon which he placed the roses was his choice. He made his selection and the casket sent back home aboard USS Olympia and buried at Arlington. The others remained in France and were transported to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and laid to rest.

The second soldier chosen

After the end of World War II, it was time to begin the selection process anew in order to honor those who fell. Unfortunately, the Korean war had also reared its ugly head, postponing the process. It wasn’t until 1958 that proceedings resumed.

On May 15, 1958, four unknown heroes were placed in identical caskets before Master Sgt. Ned Lyle, a Distinguished Service Cross recipient who had proved his valor in Korea. It was up to him to select the soldier to be entombed and represent those lost in the Korean War.

The decorated master sergeant placed a wreath atop his selection, followed by an honorary hand salute.

The two Unknown’s casket as they make their trips to Arlington

(LionHeart FilmWorks)

The third soldier chosen

The third unknown soldier, who would symbolize those lost in World War II, was selected aboard the USS Canberra just 11 days later. Hospital corpsman and Medal of Honor-recipient William R. Charette made the final selection.

Two unknowns were presented to Charette — one from the Pacific theater, the other from the European. The selected casket was returned to Arlington and the other was given an honorable burial at sea.

The unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were placed into the tomb at the same time.

The final soldier chosen

The Unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was selected by Medal of Honor-recipient Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a military ceremony at Pearl Harbor in 1984. The Unknown arrived at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.

President Ronald Reagan presided over the funeral and awarded the Unknown with the Medal of Honor.

In 1998, the body was exhumed and the DNA was tested. The body was later be identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in Vietnam, 1972.

The Greek sculptures depicting peace (left), victory (center), and valor (right).

(LionHeart FilmWorks)

The white-marble sarcophagus’ design

The sarcophagus is built using seven rectangular pieces of white marble and weighs 79 tons. The west-facing panel reads, “here rests, in honored glory, an American soldier, known but to God.” The north and south-facing panels display six inverted wreaths, signifying the major campaigns of World War I.

On the east-facing are three Greek figures, representing peace, victory, and valor.

The Tomb Sentinels

In April 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24 hours day. The guard changes every 30 minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Those who wish to become a Sentinel are hand-picked and undergo strict training. 60 percent of the hopefuls will not graduate the rigorous program.

Humor

6 disappointing things new recruits discover after basic training

Civilians have grandiose ideas about what happens in the military. Those fantasies drive eager, bright-eyed youngsters into recruiters’ offices who land in basic training thinking they’re going to be the most badass Green Beret sniper who’s ever lived.


Sadly, the actual number of badass Green Beret snipers out there is a tiny fraction of the people who think they can cut it. Keep that chin up, recruit. Ending up just another cog in the machine isn’t a bad thing.

An entire unit sweeping the sidewalk? It’s more common than you think.

(Photo by Glenn Sircy)

A solid 95% of military service is about cleaning and bureaucracy

So, you’ve learned that “Green Beret sniper” isn’t something you can enlist into right away and you’ve picked a far more boring job. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you likely won’t be doing that job, either.

You’ll actually end up somewhere between janitor and secretary. This isn’t even a grunt vs POG thing — if anything, grunts will be doing far more cleaning than anyone else. Everyone scrubs floors until they make rank enough to do paperwork on the guy who didn’t want to scrub floors.

Or you’ll be using gear your NCO just picked up at Walmart

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler)

You rarely do the things you learn in schools

Not only will you be spending god-knows-how-many weeks learning your less-fun profession, you can basically forget almost all of it because it’s either out of date, doesn’t apply to your unit, or your unit does things completely differently.

Take radios, for instance: New radios are fielded left and right. The last people to get the new stuff, however, are the schools. This means you’ll spend months trying to master a Vietnam-era radio system only to later be grilled at your unit for not knowing satellite communication.

There will also be so much commotion going on that you’ll forget how to PLF and probably eat sh*t upon landing.

(Photo by Spc. Henry Villarama)

You’ll find out that the things you learn at the “fun” schools still suck

Nearly every school that troops try to get into is fully booked. Most of the time, you’ll attend the ones that occasionally help make you more valuable to your unit. But every now and then, you’ll be thrown a bone and wiggle your way into something awesome, like Airborne or Air Assault school.

Just how “awesome” are these schools, really? First, you’ll be required to learn all the technical specs of every aircraft you may, possibly, one day (maybe) jump out of. Then, when it’s time to actually jump, well, the military has ways of making that less fun, too. Airborne jumps usually involve 14 hours of waiting for two minutes of action that you barely have control over.

Don’t worry, shared pain will get you there.

(Photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)

Camaraderie isn’t given to you — it’s earned

You’ll hear the phrase “one team, one fight” echoed by nearly every NCO to help motivate the formation. They’ll even assign you a battle buddy to help keep an eye on you. They’ll even toss you into the barracks where there’s basically a party every night.

But no one will automatically give a sh*t about you. You need to earn your right to make a brother for life.

Even grenades become boring once you learn they don’t explode like in the movies.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

You won’t be having much fun at the range

The most satisfying moment of any military career is range day — but don’t get your hopes up. The range safety NCO will rarely call weapons free. And when they do, don’t worry — the big green weenie knows how to suck the fun out of that, too.

Nearly every time you go to the range, it’s to qualify or to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. There’s a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into setting up a range for a single unit.

On the bright side, you’ll laugh at people who think the wait at the DMV is bad…

(Photo by Jesse Weinstein)

Most of your career will be spent waiting.

The one skill learned by all troops of all ranks across all eras is how wait in one place for long periods of time, doing nothing but standing still in absolute silence. You’ll wait on formation. You’ll wait on Pvt. Snuffy to arrive with the arms room key. You’ll wait on mission SP, on guard duty, and on the tarmac to fly anywhere.

If you think the waiting ends when you get out of the service, think again. Let me welcome you to the biggest waiting room of them all: the VA healthcare system.

Articles

WWII vet running across the country to honor the fallen


Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year. Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to attend a reception in his honor.  These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.

“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country.  That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run.  Plus I always wanted to do this.”

Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip.  In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging.  He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.

“As you can see from this large turnout,”  said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment.  But at 92, wow!”

Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.

Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war.  He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life.  He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.

“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”

As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war.  He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship.  As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood.  Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood.  He had to do this several times throughout the night.  He remembers feeling light headed and weak.

“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said.  “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”

Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so.  One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.

“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think.  So we began reminiscing about our time in the service.  And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.

“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.

So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial.  They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana.  The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered.  The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.

“We have a great country,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget how we got here.”

If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.

Articles

The Lightning will take concealed carry to a whole new level of lethal

Stealth is becoming more and more common — but just because you designed an invisible (to radar) plane doesn’t mean the job is done. Far from it, to be very blunt. In fact, the job’s only half done.


You see, the plane isn’t the only thing that the radar waves bounce off of. They also will reflect very well off of the missiles your F-35 carries. All the stealth tech does no good if the stuff you intend to drop on the bad guys is seen on radar while you’re still minutes — or even an hour — away.

An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. Note that the F-35 is carrying missiles externally, rendering it more visible to radar. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

At SeaAirSpace 2017, mock-ups of a number of new missiles in development were displayed, so more can be carried internally on the F-35 and other stealthy jets (like the B-21 and B-2, for instance). In essence, this is taking concealed carry to a whole new level.

For instance, one such weapon being displayed was the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range. The AARGM-ER is a development of the AGM-88E AARGM, in essence: a vastly upgraded HARM. AARGM is already in service with the Navy, with more being produced, and it is used on the F/A-18C/D/E/F Hornet and Super Hornet airframes on their pylons, easily the most capable anti-radar missile they have ever carried.

The AGM-88E AARGM on display at a 2007 air show. Note the huge fins, which limit it to external carriage on the F-35. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But with the F-35, there is a problem — those big-ass fins on the AARGM. That means AARGM has to be carried externally, which means the F-35 will be seen. If the F-35 is seen, an enemy will shoot at it. And when the enemy shoots at a F-35, they could hit it — and if the plane is hit, it could be shot down. That’ll ruin everyone’s day.

A mock-up of the AARGM-ER at SeaAirSpace 2017. Note the absence of the huge fins at the middle of the missile, and the clipped fins at the rear. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

Where AARGM-ER, though, seeing the F-35 becomes much, much harder. Why? The answer is what you don’t see. The big fins in the middle of the AARGM aren’t there. The tail fins have also been pared back. This means the missile can now fit in the internal weapons bay.

In this photo from a handout at ATK’s booth at SeaAirSpace2017, the AARGM-ER mock-up fits into the F-35’s weapons bay. (Scanned from ATK handout)

In other words, the F-35 now can get closer — and the AARGM-ER will not only fit in the weapons bay, it can also be fired from twice as far as the current AARGM. It’s as if this missile has been designed to put down the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-21 Gargoyle.

AARGM-ER isn’t the only missile at SeaAirSpace 2017 designed for internal carriage. Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile is also being designed for internal carry on the F-35. In short, the F-35 will be practicing a very potent form of concealed carry.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 stealth fighter is still struggling with some big problems

America’s most expensive weapon — Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter — is still struggling with a number of serious problems, such as destructive chain reactions triggered by a flat tire, a weird green glow on the helmet display that makes it difficult to land on aircraft carriers, and a loss of stealth at supersonic speeds.

Documents obtained by Defense News indicate that the US military’s fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters continue to suffer from more than a dozen issues that could potentially put pilots at risk or jeopardize a mission.

The F-35 program managed to cut the number of category 1 deficiencies down from 111 at the start of last year to 64 in May 2018 to just 13 as the aircraft headed into operational testing last fall. But some of the remaining issues are very problematic.


For instance, in cold weather conditions, the F-35 may falsely report that a battery has failed, a problem that has resulted in aborted missions.

When its hot out, older engines on the short takeoff/vertical landing variant sometimes have trouble producing the necessary thrust to keep the fighter in the air, leading to an unplanned a hard landing.

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

There have also been issues with unusual spikes in cabin pressure in the cockpit causing pain in the ears and sinuses, Defense News reports.

One particular problem that really stood out to a retired fighter pilot was that in some cases, after completing certain maneuvers, F-35B and F-35C pilots have lost the ability to fully control the fighter’s pitch, roll, and yaw.

The F-35 program, by the US military’s own admission, has been “troubled,” suffering from production problems, ballooning costs, delivery delays, and numerous technical challenges.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has colorfully described the F-35 program, the cost of which recently grew by tens of billions of dollars, as “f—ed up.”

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

News of the F-35s problems comes as the Pentagon and Lockheed discuss ramping up to full-rate production, increasing annual delivery from 91 to 160 jets within the next few years. The F-35 Joint Program Office told Defense News that not all of the problems will be addressed before the full-rate production decision.

While the problems reported by Defense News sound alarming, defense officials who spoke to the outlet downplayed their seriousness, with one explaining that the current category 1 deficiencies affecting the F-35 are ones “that have a mission impact with a current workaround that’s acceptable to the war fighter with the knowledge that we will be able to correct that deficiency at some future time.”

A naval aviator told the outlet that the current problems are “growing pains” that are to be expected.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is very sorry about the sky dick

Officials at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island are apologizing after photos of a skydrawing of male genitalia surfaced on the internet.


The image appeared in the sky over the town of Omak, where it was noticed by residents on the ground.

 

“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the Navy said in a statement to KREM in Washington.

 

The news station also reached out to the Federal Aviation Authority, where officials stated that the skydrawings posed no safety issues, and added that they could not be the “morality police.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s submarines are getting more lethal thanks to this upgrade

With more Chinese submarines roaming the Pacific and the Trump administration pushing US-made hardware, Japan is putting into play a new piece of gear that may give its subs an edge at sea and keep its defense firms afloat.

On Oct. 4, 2018, in the city of Kobe, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the Soryu-class diesel-electric attack sub Oryu, the 11th sub in the class and the first to be equipped with lithium-ion batteries.


The Oryu has a number of upgrades over previous Soryu-class boats, which are the biggest diesel-electric subs in the world, but the biggest change is the batteries.

The JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on Oct. 4, 2018.

(JMSDF / Twitter)

Diesel-electric subs use power from their diesel engines to charge their batteries, which they switch to during operations or in combat situations in order to run quietly and avoid detection.

The lithium-ion batteries in the Oryu — which store about double the power of the lead-acid batteries they replace — extend the range and time the sub can spend underwater considerably.

Mitsubishi turned to Kyoto-based firm GS Yuasa to produce the new batteries.

The latter company said in February 2017 that Japan would be the first country in the world to equip diesel-electric attack subs with lithium-ion batteries, putting them on the final two boats in the Soryu class: the Oryu, designated SS 511, and its successor, designated SS 512.

Japanese officials at the launch of the JSMDF submarine Oryu, Oct. 4, 2018.

(JMSDF / Twitter)

Previous Soryu-class subs used two Kawasaki diesel generators and two Kawasaki air-independent propulsion engines. (AIP allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.)

Both platforms have a top speed of 12 knots, or about 14 mph, on the surface and of 20 knots, or 23 mph, while submerged, according to Jane’s.

Soryu-class subs are outfitted with six tubes in their bow that can fire Japan’s Type 89 heavyweight torpedo. They can also fire UGM-84C Harpoon medium-range anti-ship missiles against targets on the surface.

Construction started on the 275-foot-long Oryu — which displaces 2,950 metric tons on the surface and 4,100 metric tons underwater — in March 2015. It’s expected to enter service with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in March 2020.

Under pressure

The Oryu’s launch comes as Japan’s military and defense industry face pressure from two vastly different sources.

The Trump administration has been pushing Japan to buy more US military hardware, which Trump sees as a way to cut the trade imbalance between the two countries.

Japan, which has tried hard to court Trump, has beefed up its purchases of US-made gear. Tokyo spent about .5 billion through the US’s Foreign Military Sales program in the most recent fiscal year, after never spending more than about 0 million a year through fiscal year 2011, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Those acquisitions have helped Japan get sophisticated US hardware but have been of little benefit for Japan’s defense industry, which has struggled to export its own wares. Additional purchases from the US are likely to leave Japanese firms with fewer orders.

Facing pressure from US military imports and with Chinese and South Korean firms gaining an edge in commercial shipbuilding, subs are the only outlet left for Japanese heavy industry, which has specialized technology and strong shipbuilding infrastructure, according to Nikkei.

A Chinese Shang-class (Type 093) nuclear-powered attack sub in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands, January 2018.

(Japanese Ministry of Defense photo)

The Oryu also launches amid rising tensions in the East and South China Seas, where a number of countries have challenged Beijing’s expansive claims and aggressive behavior.

China has put “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the Pentagon said in 2018. Beijing can now deploy 56 subs — 47 of which are believed to be diesel or diesel-electric attack boats. That force is only expected to grow.

While those subs need to surface periodically, they can still operate quietly and strike with long-range anti-ship missiles — capabilities that likely weigh on the minds of US and Japanese policymakers.

Of particular concern for Tokyo is Chinese submarine activity in the East China Sea, around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan controls but China claims.

In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the islands — the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub in that area. The presence of a concealed sub was seen by Japan as a much more serious threat than the presence of surface ships, and Tokyo lodged a protest with China.

Japan is using its own subs to challenge Beijing.

In September 2018, JMSDF Oyashio-class attack sub Kuroshiro joined other Japanese warships for exercises in the South China Sea — the first time a Japanese sub had done drills there, the Defense Ministry said.

The drills, done away from islands that China has built military outposts on, involved the Japanese sub trying to evade detection.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Master of Comedy and Army veteran passes away at age 98

Carl Reiner, the comedic presence that was know for various roles across many generations passed away yesterday at the age of 98 according to a statement from his son, Rob Reiner via Twitter.

Reiner’s career spanned decades from TV to the movies and gave us all millions of laughs along the way. But before his legendary Hollywood career, Reiner, like many from his great generation served our country during one of its darkest hours and put a smile on soldiers’ faces while doing it.


Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1922 to an immigrant Jewish family. In 1943, Reiner joined the Army Air Forces. He was originally slated to be a radio operator but contracted pneumonia and was sent to the hospital to recover for several months.

After recuperating, Reiner was sent to train as a French translator. While there at Georgetown, he got his first taste of directing. After learning French, the Army decided to send Carl to the next best logical place…Hawaii. There, he worked as a teletype operator. One day before he was to be shipped off on assignment, he saw a Special Services production of Hamlet. He managed to do a quick audition and was immediately transferred into Special Services himself. He spent the rest of the war touring the South Pacific while performing for GIs in places like Guam, Saipan and Iwo Jima. He was honorably discharged as a corporal in 1946.

Reiner later wrote about his time in the military, including his famous audition and how his buddies almost got court martialed for passing on a message that Japan surrendered three days early.

After his time in military service, Reiner started two enduring partnerships. He was cast to work with Sid Caesar in “Your Show of Shows.” While working with Caesar, he also met another World War II veteran who was a writer on the show. Mel Brooks and Reiner hit it off and began a partnership that culminated in the legendary routine, “The 2000 Year Old Man.” The routine made its way into five comedy albums, numerous TV show appearances and an animated series.

2000 Year Old Man Mel Brooks Carl Reiner Hollywood Palace 1966

www.youtube.com

Reiner also started working on a show based on his life. It was later turned into the massively popular Dick Van Dyke Show. He worked as a writer but also started cutting his teeth as a director. He worked on two incredible comedies, “Oh God” and “The Jerk” starring Steve Martin. Reiner directed and/or co-wrote three other Steve Martin films, helping him when his career took up in the late 70s.

The Jerk (7/10) Movie CLIP – He Hates These Cans! (1979) HD

www.youtube.com

For those younger people, Reiner was known for this portrayal of Saul Bloom from the Ocean trilogy. His last movie role was in Toy Story 4 as Carl Reineroceros (get it?).

Reiner was a true comedy legend and will be sorely missed. He also served our country with honor and we thank him for his service.