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Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.


Barrage balloons over London in World War II.

(Public Domain)

Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.

But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?

Well, no.

First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets

(Australian War Memorial)

So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.

Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.

It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.

(Royal Air Force)

Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.

Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.

But the barrage balloons couldn’t be ignored either, because they had thick steel cables or else entire nets hanging from them in order to catch enemy fighters attempting to fly under them. And they flew high enough that few World War I fighters or bombers could come over the top and still be effective. By World War II, the balloons were set lower, but only to steer the enemy aircraft up to over 5,000 feet where anti-aircraft artillery was most effective.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.

(Public Domain)

So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.

Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.

America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.

(State Library of New South Wales)

Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.

Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.

Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.

He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

16 facts you never knew about the American flag

It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.


Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
upload.wikimedia.org

1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer

Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.

2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
live.staticflickr.com

3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag

On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.

4. The colors of the flag have important meanings

Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.

5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student

In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather.
– It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
– No other flags should be placed above it.
– When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size.
– It must be flown at every school and during all school days.
– If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated.
– Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown.
– And many more.

7. You can’t sign your name on it

Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.

8. … or put it on a t-shirt

Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.

 

9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful

At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.

10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal

Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.

11. Indestructible flags exist

Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
upload.wikimedia.org

 

12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans

While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!

13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag 

We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.

14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer

National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.

15. There are 6 American flags on the moon

…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.

16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.

During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.

You don’t have to walk to the moon to honor our flag. Kick off the Flag Day festivities by learning how to properly fold a flag, learn more about its history, or try one of these tasty, patriotic treats!

Which fact was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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Cyber-attack wreaks havoc on US Internet traffic

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
A large scale cyber-attack was launched yesterday in waves against Dyn, an infrastructor company who monitors 150 companies, 77 of which were impacted


The Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI are investigating what is being called possibly the largest scale cyber-attack ever, according to Aljazeera.

On the morning of Oct. 21 the first wave of the cyber-attack began on infrastructure company Dyn, based in New Hampshire. The company is responsible for connecting individual internet users to websites by routing them through a series of unique Internet Protocol numbers. CNN reported that the company monitors more than 150 websites.

Friday’s cyber-attack used botnets — or devices connected to the internet that have been infected with malware — to launch a distributed denial of service attack that impacted companies like CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, PayPal, and others, Aljazeera reported.

USA Today explained that denial of service attacks turn unsuspecting devices into weapons by downloading malware to unprotected devices that allows them to be controlled by hackers. Hackers then use these weaponized botnets to overload the traffic to websites by sending hundreds of thousands of requests through the IP address, giving a false signal that the website is too busy to accept normal requests for access to the site.

While the cyber-attack was mostly annoying for internet users, it ultimately impacted the U.S. on a much larger scale, denying the 77 companies affected by the attack up to $110 million in revenue, according to Dyn CEO John Van Siclen.

The greater security concern is the access to individual devices that is granted because the devices were left with their default password intact, according to The Guardian. The devices used in Friday’s cyber-attack were all traced back to one company, the Chinese tech company XiongMai Technologies, which makes, ironically, security cameras.

The cyber-attack was felt as far away as Europe, and across the U.S. Wikileaks suggested in a tweet late Oct. 21 that its supporters were responsible for the breach, sending out a picture of the most affected areas in the U.S.

Military members can help protect their devices from being used as weapons by following their training on cyber awareness. Consistently changing passwords, logging out of accounts when on public computers, and protecting personally identifying information are recommended.

 

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
Wikileaks tweeted this photo along with a plea for supporters to stop the cyber-attack

MIGHTY TRENDING

Microsoft takes sides in the ongoing tech battle over military

On Oct. 26, 2018, Microsoft said it plans to sell artificial intelligence and any other advanced technologies needed to the military and intelligence agencies to strengthen defense, the New York Times reported.

Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Oct 25, 2018, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.


“Microsoft was born in the United States, is headquartered in the United States, and has grown up with all the benefits that have long come from being in this country,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was quoted in the report as saying.

The debate about military AI among US tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies’ involvement in military and federal law enforcement work. For example, thousands of employees signed a petition, and some even resigned, after revelations that Google had sold artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to analyze drone footage.

Others, such as Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have shown their support for the U.S. military. In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, “I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking.”

Likewise, Amazon is seen as the forerunner for winning a cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Google recently dropped out of that same bid, saying it would conflict with corporate values. As for Microsoft, it’s also seen as a strong contender for that contract.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA postpones 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration events

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the COVID 19 virus, is postponing Vietnam War commemoration events until further notice.


As a commemorative partner to the Department of Defense led 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration program, hundreds of events were planned for late March and early April to coincide with the National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance on March 29.

VA’s event coordinators will retain all commemorative lapel pins and other materials shipped from the Department of Defense to support events in the future. Please visit www.vietnamwar50th.com for more information about the program.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

For Veterans with a Facebook account, they can download a frame at www.facebook.com/profilepicframes/?selected_overlay_id=908037382943967 to place a picture and show their pride for serving. The frame ­­­­shows the Vietnam War Veteran day pin and the text “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and common-sense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

For more information about coronavirus, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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Navy standout safety says he’s transferring a month after pro policy change

An about-face from the Department of Defense appears to have been a factor in Navy losing a top player.


Safety Alohi Gilman announced he was transferring from Annapolis, Md., earlier this month on Twitter.

“We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette, which reported Gilman’s departure.

A direct path to the NFL was possible when Gilman entered Navy this past summer after spending a year at its prep school. But during the NFL draft in late April, the Department of Defense shifted its policy to again require service academy graduates to serve two years on active duty before applying for a shift in status to pursue professional sport. That two-year requirement had been removed in the summer of 2016.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stan Parker

The shift was felt heavily at Air Force, where baseball player Griffin Jax had given up eligibility as a senior after last year’s MLB draft and several players had NFL aspirations. Most notable among them was receiver Jalen Robinette, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection. Robinette was not drafted and after spending time in mini-camps with the Bills and Patriots his future is further clouded by what his representatives call an ongoing discipline situation at the academy that prevented him from graduating with his class.

Gilman didn’t specifically cite the policy change in his social media post announcing his intentions to leave Navy.

“Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy,” he wrote.

Gilman was an honorable mention all- American Athletic Conference pick as a freshman this past season after finishing second at Navy with 76 tackles. He made six stops, including three solo, in a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Oct. 1.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell

It is not unique for players to leave service academies during their first two years before their commitment becomes binding. And it can be even more tempting for players who have enjoyed on-field success immediately to consider boosting their stock in less-restrictive environments.

Air Force basketball, for example, has lost standout players Tre’ Coggins and Matt Mooney in recent years as they transferred after excelling early. Coggins left for Cal-State Fullerton after averaging 16 points as a sophomore in 2013-14. Mooney transferred to South Dakota after his freshman campaign in 2014-15.

So, while Gilman’s path isn’t new, its timing is certainly noteworthy in that it came a month after the DOD reversed course on an athletic-friendly policy.

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America’s Patton tanks saw combat from Korea to Desert Storm

For over 40 years, some variant of the Patton family of tanks served America. From the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and through the deserts of the Middle East Patton tanks bested America’s enemies time and again.


In 1950, the first Patton tank, the M46, entered service. The M46 was originally based on the WWII M26 Pershing heavy tank. However, after extensive redesigns and improvements, it received its own designation and a new namesake — Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of WWII.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
A Marine checks his tank after taking Howitzer hits. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M46 was armed with a 90mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, and two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted coaxially, the other forward-firing in the hull.

The arrival of the Patton into service was just in time as in June of that year North Korea, armed with formidable Russian T34 tanks, rolled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. Fighting alongside WWII-era M4 Shermans and the M26 Pershings it was meant to replace, the M46 would see heavy combat in Korea.

Also read: This is what makes tankers so deadly

The first M46 tanks landed inside the Pusan Perimeter in August 1950 as part of the 6th Tank Battalion. They would prove critical in the defense. More M46s landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
Pro tip: the paint doesn’t need to be realistic if your enemy is superstitious. (U.S. Army photo)

In an attempt at psychological warfare, the tankers of the 24th Infantry Division’s 6th Tank Battalion painted tiger faces on their tanks thinking it would demoralize their superstitious Chinese adversaries.

By mid-1951 the Patton tanks had replaced all M26 Pershings in service in Korea. However, the M46’s own shortcomings had already led to the development of a replacement — the M47 Patton.

Though the M47 was introduced in 1952, it would be too late for it to see combat in Korea. However, the M47 was important because even though it shared design features and components with the M46 Patton, it was considered America’s first all-new tank design since WWII.

The M47, though, was just an interim design while engineers completed work on its successor, the M48 Patton. The M47 would never see combat but the M48 would be a workhorse of American and allied armored units.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

Like its predecessors, the M48 also mounted a 90mm main gun; it was the last tank to do so, but had significant improvements in armor and performance.

The M48 was also introduced too late to see combat in Korea, but just over a decade later the Marines would take it to Vietnam. Soon, Army units were bringing their own Pattons to the fight.

Due to the nature of the conflict, the M48s did not often have the chance to go toe-to-toe with North Vietnamese armor. One of the few instances of tank combat came during the NVA assault on the Ben Het Camp where elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment were stationed. The American Pattons easily defeated the NVA’s PT-76 tanks and BTR-50 APCs.

More often than not though, the M48s were relegated to infantry support — a role they excelled at. The Patton’s ruggedness allowed it to absorb a good amount of damage and its 90mm main gun was a welcome addition against dug-in enemies. A favorite of the troops was the Patton’s canister rounds, which acted like a giant shotgun through the jungle, cutting down man and tree alike.

A number of M48s were also converted to M67 “Zippo” tanks that mounted flamethrowers for dealing with stubborn Vietcong and NVA soldiers.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
An M67 throwing flames. No big deal. (U.S. Army photo)

The Patton was also one of the few vehicles that could withstand the landmines that were employed against American forces. As such, it was often used as a route clearance vehicle to “sniff out” the explosive devices.

While the M48 was slogging it out in Vietnam, the next in line of the Patton family of tanks was coming into service with the American military: the M60 Patton, the M48s eventual replacement.

The M60 was the final tank in the Patton family line and America’s first Main Battle Tank. It mounted a modern 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun for the commander, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.

The M60 also was the basis for the M60 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, both of which were deployed to Vietnam alongside the M48s.

The M60 itself would not be deployed to Vietnam, but would be a mainstay of American armored formations, particularly in Europe.

One of the more interesting developments of the M60 Patton was the M60A2. Derisively known as the “Starship” because of its overly complex technology, the M60A2 mounted the same 152mm gun/missile system as the M551 Sheridan. A redesigned turret and an abundance of new technology gave the A2 variation a distinct look. However, the design was an overall disappointment and it was quickly retired.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
An M60A2 tank driving off an amphibious landing craft. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite entering service some 30 years’ prior, the M60 Patton would not see significant combat until the end of its service history during the Persian Gulf War. Outfitting Marine tank battalions, the M60s performed admirably.

The Marines’ M60s spearheaded the assault to liberate Kuwait. In the fighting for Kuwait City, the M60 bested its original rival, the Soviet T62, time and again while sustaining only one tank lost to combat and no casualties. Marines manning Patton tanks destroyed over 100 Iraqi tanks and numerous other vehicles in the fighting.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Shortly after the Gulf War the M60 Patton was retired from combat service in favor of the new M1 Abrams. The last Pattons would return to Germany, the final resting place of their namesake, where they acted as OPFOR at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels before they too were retired in 2005.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

After 33 days stranded on a deserted island, three Cuban nationals were rescued by the United States Coast Guard. 

After losing their boat when it capsized, the two men and a woman swam to a nearby island. Far from any kind of civilization, they became stranded on the remote island for 33 days. The Coast Guard pilot flying a HH-144 Ocean Sentry plane from Air Station Miami saw them waving makeshift flags down below as they were patrolling the area.

Lieutenant Riley Beecher was first on scene. He shared that it was a normal patrol and he was flying at around 500 feet, until he saw something flickering in the distance. Beecher quickly told the crew he wanted to turn back around to get a better look. “We dropped down to about 200 feet and low and behold, there was a flag waving. As we got closer, two people came out waving their hands trying to get our attention showing that they were in distress,” he explained. 

The crew signaled that they saw the people and then radioed back to their command center. They were directed to drop a radio, water and food. “We didn’t have any Spanish speakers unfortunately but in my broken Spanish I was able to ask where they were from, how many people were there, how long they’d been there and if there were any medical concerns. They were pretty relieved,” Beecher said. 

He was due back to Miami and was unable to do much else. But Beecher was quickly replaced by Lieutenant Justin Dougherty, flying in with another crew who had two Spanish speaking Coasties on board. “The plan for us was to get on scene and establish communications with them. We were really concerned about their medical state,” Dougherty said, adding that it was essentially a miracle that Beecher had found them at all. “It was tough to see even though we knew exactly what we were looking for. It was unbelievable.”

Unfortunately, they were unable to immediately rescue the stranded Cuban nationals. “Being a fixed wing aircraft, we can’t do a water landing. We also can’t hover so the most we could do was drop them supplies,” Dougherty shared. The island was also just out of range for their helicopters in Miami. But more help was on the way. 

The command at Miami began communicating with Air Station Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump out of Key West was headed their way in the meantime. “We dropped them another radio…bottled water and some MREs,” Dougherty said. They also gave them signaling devices and life vests. “We let them know someone would be there to pick them up whether it was a Coast Guard boat in the morning or a helicopter sometime in the evening.” 

When Coast Guard Pilot and Lieutenant Mikel “Mike” Allert arrived on scene, there were piles of shells were clearly visible next to the makeshift flags. Although the national news media reported that the Cuban nationals had been surviving on coconuts, that wasn’t true. It was confirmed that they were sustained on conchs and rats, according to Allert. “They also had a makeshift cross that they had made with driftwood,” he shared. With no where safe for them to land near them due to the narrowness of the island, they made the decision to hover and launch a rescue swimmer.

“He assessed them medically because he is a qualified EMT and his assessment showed that they needed to go to a hospital. They were showing obvious signs of fatigue, dehydration and they were relatively gaunt for being out there for that extensive period of time,” Allert explained.

All three pilots expressed their awe in the survivors. “The fact that they had been there for 33 days on the sheer willpower to live is impressive,” Beecher said.

“Thanks to our aircrews diligently conducting routine patrols, we were able to spot people in distress and intervene,” said Sean Connett, Command Duty Officer at Coast Guard Seventh District said in a press release. “This was a very complex operation involving asset and crews from different units, but thanks to good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots, we were able to safely get everyone to a medical facility before the situation could worsen.”

“As Coast Guard operations go, it just goes to show the coordination involved in utilizing these assets all across the state,” Allert said. “We were fortunate to find them and blessed to be able to go pick them up.” Although this case definitely got a lot of media attention, much of what occurred is just a normal day in the life of a Coast Guardsman, always ready for any and everything.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bail denied for suspected Russian spy

A U.S. judge has denied a request by a Russian woman accused of working as a foreign agent who sought to be released on bail pending her next hearing.

Prosecutors have charged that Maria Butina had worked for years to cultivate relationships with U.S. political organizations and conservative activists.

They have charged that her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who allegedly has ties to Russian organized crime and who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in early 2018.


Butina’s defense lawyers sought to persuade a Washington judge to release Butina to house arrest pending her November 2018 hearing.

But Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that request, agreeing with prosecutors who said Butina might flee the country.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

Maria Butina’s mugshot after being booked into the Alexandria detention center.

Federal prosecutors said in court filings that they had mistakenly accused Butina of trading sex for access. They said they misinterpreted one of Butina’s text-message exchanges but said there was other evidence supporting keeping her in custody.

Butina, 29, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Everything ISIS has lost at Mosul . . . so far

The battle for Mosul kicked off Oct. 17, and ISIS is falling back faster than anticipated. Iraqi, Kurdish, and various small militias have moved a force of over 100,000 soldiers against the estimated 1,000 to 6,000 ISIS fighters in the “crown jewel” of the terror group’s territory.


The Iraqi Army has been pushing forward with its tanks and infantry but has not released exact numbers for what they gained on the second day of fighting. According to reporting in Al Jazeera, they liberated 20 villages in the first day.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
Iraqi forces launch rocket attacks against ISIS positions near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: YouTube/FRANCE 24 English)

Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces attacked and cleared nine villages around the outskirts of Mosul, freeing 200 square kilometers from ISIS control, according to CNN.

Both the Kurdish and Iraqi commanders told reporters that they expected gains to slow after the first day. ISIS has buried IEDs along most major roads and throughout many of the nearby villages, forcing troops to slow down to avoid the explosives and to create clear paths.

Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Sirwan Barzani told CNN that it would take two months to clear the city.

The international coalition supporting the ground advance releases a daily list of targets struck by air and artillery. Four strikes were launched against ISIS forces near Mosul on Oct. 18.

The release claims that these four strikes destroyed 10 mortar systems; five artillery systems; four buildings; four fighting positions; four vehicles; two supply caches; two generators for radio repeaters; a factory for creating suicide car bombs; and a car bomb.

The coalition also hit targets around the nearby city of Qayyarah where Iraqi forces are moving towards Mosul from the south. Strikes there destroyed a mortar position, a building, a tanker truck, and a rocket-propelled grenade.

On Oct. 17, strikes in the same areas hit three tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, a bridge, six tunnel entrances, five supply caches; four generators for radio repeaters; four solar panels; two artillery systems; two vehicles; two tunnels; and an anti-air artillery system.

All that seems to spell a pretty horrible first 48 hours for ISIS at Mosul.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WATCH: MilSpouse in quarantine performs hilarious coronavirus balcony concert

Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.

Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”


We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.

WATM: What prompted this?

Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!

I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.

Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.

One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!

So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.

And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.

Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!

So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?

Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!

Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.

WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?

Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

Articles

This heroic Marine saved a man from a burning car

Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug 8, 2017.


Peach earned the award for rescuing a man from an overturned and burning vehicle on his way back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in 2015.

“We were driving down I-5 in California heading back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and a car pulled out in front of us, swerved, hit a wall going about 65 mph and then rolled a couple of times,” said Peach.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
Sgt. Kevin Peach delivers the battalion safety brief after being awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 8, 2017. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Peach then pulled in front of the vehicle and rushed to the man’s aid.

“I was scared the entire time but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it,” said Peach. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”

Peach then tried, without success, to break the windows of the car.

“One of my best friends and I ripped off the back hatch and I just barreled right in there,” said Peach. “The whole time I was feeling around for other people because I couldn’t see anything. Once I found him he was tangled up in his seat belt and I couldn’t get him loose.”

Peach then left the car and grabbed a flare from another driver who had pulled over to help. He then went back into the vehicle, cut the seat belt and fireman-carried the man out. He attended to the injured man until paramedics arrived.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I
Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. Reginald McClam. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Following the incident, Peach was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

“Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our [non-commissioned officers],” said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I’m proud of him and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there.”

After putting his life on the line Peach found himself gaining more than a new medal.

“I talk to the family every other day,” said Peach. “It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this [award]. I’m just glad I was there and able to help.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China plans new satellites to spy in South China Sea

China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.

Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.


“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”

The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.

The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.

Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.

In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.

The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.

“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.

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

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