Is North Korea’s air force selling canned soup and taxi rides to upgrade its runways and airstrips?
Amid the toughest sanctions ever against the North and its nuclear weapons program, there are some compelling reasons to believe the answer may well be yes. The story of how — and why — offers some insight into how North Korea’s economy functions under Kim Jong Un.
There’s a fine line between North Korea’s military and its private sector. To augment the already huge share of the country’s limited national resources earmarked for defense, North Korean military units control everything from restaurants to farms to the flagship airline.
Over the past several years, it has also become one of the country’s most recognizable consumer brands.
With only a dozen or so active-use aircraft operating on limited routes to China and the Russian Far East, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever been much of a money-maker for Pyongyang in the conventional, ticket-sales sort of way. But it is a symbol of national prestige and serves as a key lifeline to the outside world, transporting people and loads and loads of precious — and often not-very-closely-scrutinized — cargo.
Air Koryo runs at least one gas station and car wash in Pyongyang, has its own fleet of taxis, and operates several retail shops, including a boutique at the airport. At the relatively upscale Potonggang Department Store in central Pyongyang, whole aisles are devoted to Air Koryo brand products, from crates of liquor to row after row of Coke-like sodas and a half dozen varieties of canned goods, including pheasant soup and peaches.
The airline’s moves mirror broader shifts in the North Korean economy, which is still socialist and technically centrally controlled, but under Kim has shifted rapidly toward capitalist-style entrepreneurialism.
At the grassroots level, street vendors and small, bazaar-style markets are common. Higher up, state-run enterprises are adapting to become more productive and profitable — quite possibly because the regime, pinched by sanctions and shrinking trade possibilities, can’t afford to prop them up anymore.
It’s not just Air Koryo: Naegohyang, a major producer of cigarettes including the luxury “7.27” brand reportedly favored by Kim himself, has begun pushing its own line of sporting goods. They’re sold alongside Nike, Adidas, and other pricey imports at its flagship stores near Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter and in the exclusive Scientists’ Street district, a neighborhood built to reward the country’s scientists and technicians.
Air Koryo got a big boost with Kim’s decision to completely overhaul the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, which opened a shiny new terminal in 2015. The next year, Air Koryo started its taxi service. The Air Koryo soft drink line was launched in 2016. A gas station and car wash followed in 2017.
It’s impossible to say how profitable those initiatives have been. But the swelling variety of the goods and their ready availability in the capital and elsewhere is undeniable.
The appearance of a subsidiary company, Korea Hanggong Trading, at recent trade fairs suggests Air Koryo may be considering an export business, something of a stretch in the current political climate and sanctions aimed at cutting off the North’s ability to fund its nuclear program.
Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the North Korean Economy Watch blog, describes the airline as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the air force, which is using its consumer goods business to help finance reconstruction of its own infrastructure, including runway renovations and new revetments at remote highway airfields.
Selling Air Koryo-labelled products made by military factories can help the air force boost revenues outside of its official budget allocations, Melvin said.
A new headquarters for Air Koryo has been built near the international airport, he noted.
“For many years, North Korea has tried to turn its subsidy-dependent, state-owned enterprises into profitable operations that pay ‘taxes,'” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “Maybe Air Koryo’s time has simply come.”
Air Koryo’s connection to the military is not immediately obvious and is often overlooked.
But according to a 2014 United Nations Panel of Experts’ report, the airline, all airports, and airfields in North Korea are controlled by the Korean People’s Air Force through its Civil Aviation Bureau. The report added that the airline’s personnel are believed to be members of the air force and “all in-country maintenance is conducted by air force engineering staff.”
That makes it a natural target for sanctions, another incentive for diversification.
Though Washington-backed efforts to blacklist the airline entirely have failed, the U.S. Treasury Department in 2016 slapped sanctions on Air Koryo for doing a flyover during a 2013 military parade and for transporting spare parts used in Scud-B missile systems, among other things.
The listing does not ban Americans from flying on Air Koryo but restricts them from doing other kinds of business with it.
The U.N., meanwhile, has warned that “considering the control over and use by the air force of Air Koryo’s aircraft,” member states could be in violation of its arms embargo on the North should they engage with the airline in anything from financial transactions to technical training.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, Oct. 31, 2018.
The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.
For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.
“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”
Retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation addresses guest during an unveiling of the 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.
“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”
There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, left, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum along with retired Navy Vice Adm. Jim Zortman, middle, the chairman of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of NAMF prepare to cut the ribbon during an unveiling of a 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”
“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. It’s deployed today. It’s operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum prepares the Ouija board display before the unveiling of replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.
“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”
Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.
As corporate America recruits veterans who have led men and women under fire, Google has skimmed the cream of the crop to manage its global security.
Veteran Chris Rackow heads the team that protects the company’s 80,000 employees, its offices and property, in more than 150 cities across almost 60 countries. Google tapped Rackow’s experience just over a year ago, recognizing the value the former warrior would bring to the search powerhouse. He had spent years in two of the most elite military and paramilitary organizations in the world: the U.S. Navy SEALs and the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.
Rackow’s leadership illustrates how corporate America has caught on to the resource created by veterans of U.S. foreign interventions. An ability to manage complex, risky, and dynamic problems, especially in the rapidly changing technology industry, carries a premium.
Google brought Rackow on board in September 2016 as vice president of global security. He is one of many veterans at Google, which does not disclose the number it hires, but says they’re employed in every job category, including software engineering, sales, finance, and security.
“One of the highest values of veterans is leadership just because it is such a core element within the military, from junior-enlisted all the way up to senior officers,” Rackow said. “Everybody’s expected to exert some type of leadership, and that is baked into recruits from day one all the way through.”
“It’s a quality that I have seen to be slackening across the business world,” Rackow said. “That’s, I think, where veterans really can play a huge part – coming in and providing positive, respectful, and dignified leadership for organizations, especially multinationals.”
Rackow’s military career started in 1988 when he joined the SEALs, a Navy special forces unit known for its punishing selection program and high-stakes covert missions. He was a SEAL for nearly 23 years. He also spent 13 years in the FBI, for five years as a member of the Hostage Rescue Team, a counter-terrorism unit operating at home and abroad, and, like the SEALs, famed for its harsh induction and commando-style operations.
Now he works in an industry where the weapons of battle are code and silicon chips.
“I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” Rackow said. “In fact, I’m probably at the very low end of the totem pole based on the amazing skills we have here at Google.”
And for veterans, the corporate world has some significant differences from the armed services.
“The government and the military really are quite homogeneous. It really is not as truly diverse as a company is, and especially a global company,” he said.
“You really are presented with 360 degrees of various belief systems and ideas and concepts. That’s probably just the unique challenge for veterans, is to understand … the larger landscape that they need to be able to understand and learn how to operate within.”
Still, his service gave him deep expertise in areas where the skills needed for military operations overlap with those required in a global technology firm — teamwork, for example.
“A team is really a group that understands that we are sacrificing a small part of our individuality, but we’re coming together for a common good, a common goal,” Rackow said. “Whether you call it a common goal or you call it a mission, it’s all the same thing.”
“True leadership really means there’s no one model, and oftentimes within a team, let’s say of 10 people, you might have to exercise 10 different leadership styles … without it looking as if you’re catering to individual needs,” he said.
Along with his background in warfare, Rackow brought into the tech industry a solid civilian education – thanks to realizing during his time with the FBI that he was getting intellectually out-gunned.
“I was coming to the conclusion that I was going after people that were way smarter than I was, and I needed to go back to school,” he said.
He spent two years getting two degrees simultaneously: an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a master’s in global management from Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, the latter teaching him “how to be successful across different cultures and belief systems.”
Rackow, married with a teenage daughter, has bounced around the world for decades, mostly in the Middle East and the western Pacific. Now, working at Google and living in Half Moon Bay, he’s not so far from where he spent his formative years. Born in Los Angeles, he lived in Lake Tahoe from kindergarten through fourth grade.
When he was in fifth grade his family moved to San Diego. “I grew up pretty much a California water kid. I was always out in the water, surfing, sailing, diving. Surfing stuck with me – I go out when it’s appropriate for my age,” he said. “I’m not charging anything big anymore. But I love to go out and stand-up paddleboard, or go out and surf.”
He considers his hiring by Google “a stroke of luck” that started with a call from one of the company’s recruiters.
“It was of great interest to see if I could actually come and work and provide value here, and especially after doing the research on what Google believes and what they think they can do for the planet in general, I looked at it as another service-based environment,” he said.
Google supports veterans through grants to an education group and scholarships. It also hosts a veterans’ network among employees and resume-writing workshops pairing Google employees with veterans entering the civilian workforce, Rackow noted.
Though a commando for most of his career, he had prefaced his service with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I’m an engineer at heart,” he said. “But as my counselor in college told me, I probably should never practice engineering.”
In 1871, an American fleet led by a diplomatic and merchant ship entered Korean waters and were fired upon by antiquated shore batteries, leading to a battle where 650 Marines and sailors landed on one of the island and fought against Korean personnel to capture five forts.
Officers of the USS Colorado pose on the ship in Korean Waters near the end of the Korean Expedition in 1871.
The mission of the fleet was to open up trade and diplomatic relations with the Korean people, a mission that was fraught with dangers stemming from a bloody history.
Meanwhile, the General Sherman incident followed years of Korean atrocities against their Christian populations, largely a response to perceived encroachment by missionaries and other western influences.
U.S. Navy officers pose during a council of war aboard the USS Colorado in June 1871 while preparing to make landfall on a Korean island.
So, when the fleet arrived in Korea, they shouldn’t have expected a warm welcome. But they were still surprised when the lead vessel, an unarmed merchant ship, came under a sustained 15-minute barrage from shore batteries.
But the American fleet was only moderately damaged from the fusillade and the Americans simply withdrew. They returned 10 days later, made landfall, and spoke to Korean authorities.
The Koreans refused to apologize, and the Americans launched a concerted assault on Ganghwa Island, the source of the earlier fire. The island boasted five forts, but they were mostly armed with outdated weapons and the troops lacked training in the tactics of the day.
Marine Corps Cpl. Charles Brown and Pvt. Hugh Purvis stand in front of a captured Korean Military Flag in June 1871 following the capture of Korean forts on June 11. Brown and Purvis received Medals of Honor for their actions during the short conflict.
(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)
Approximately 650 Marines and sailors, nearly all the men of the expedition, attacked one fort after another, pushing the Korean forces back and inflicting heavy casualties while suffering relatively little in return. The fighting was over before nightfall, but the Americans achieved a dramatic success.
They captured five forts, killed 243 Korean troops, and suffered three deaths and little damage to equipment.
The Koreans refused to enter negotiations with the Americans, and simply closed themselves back off for another two years.
Korean troops killed during the 1871 Korean Expedition.
(Ulysses S. Grant II Photographic Collection)
While the force failed to meet its political and strategic goals, it had been a smashing tactical success. This was partially thanks to the superior American weaponry, but also thanks to the bravery of individual fighters.
This engagement took place before the Battle of Little Bighorn triggered a review of the Medal of Honor standards, resulting in a slow increase in what was necessary to earn one of the medals.
As for Korean relations, they wouldn’t take off until the 1882 Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation. Relations under the treaty continued until 1910 when Japan established colonial rule, which didn’t end until 1945 and Japanese capitulation in World War II.
U.S. Marines, sailors, and civilians participated in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, 2019.
The class is meant to teach students how to both fully understand and effectively respond to emergency situations where dangerous chemicals, substances, and materials are found on military installations.
The week-long class consisted mostly of classroom lectures in addition to an entire day devoted to practical application training exercises where the students worked together to solve applicable, but difficult scenarios.
“I think this class is a big learning curve for a lot of the students here,” says Ashley Hoshihara Cruz, the Camp Foster chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive specialist. “However, the students are really putting in the resources, time, and effort to make this a quality class.”
U.S. Marines prepare to enter a mock-contamination site during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)
To encourage teamwork and strengthen leadership capabilities in the class, Wood said that the junior Marines in the class may be placed in leadership roles and find themselves guiding officers and staff noncommissioned officers through tasks the senior Marines may primarily fill.
“It’s really rewarding,” Wood said. “To see these students take the information we, as instructors, gave to them and extract that out to things that we have not talked about, but figured out, nonetheless.”
U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hale, a native of Washington D.C. and an explosive ordnance and disposal chief for U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, attaches an oxygen tank to a fellow student during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)
The HAZWOPER class is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School and has been taught in Okinawa for the past eight years.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Navy’s got some planes that are capable of doing some amazing things. But, even with these amazing aircraft, are there some planes the Navy should bring back from retirement? For the following airframes, we think that answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Let’s take a look.
5. Lockheed S-3 Viking/ES-3 Shadow
The S-3 Viking was more than just a submarine hunter. This plane also could carry out aerial refueling missions, electronic intelligence, and carrier onboard delivery. The plane had a range of almost 3,200 miles and could carry anti-submarine torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, bombs, and rockets. With Russia and China deploying advanced attack submarines, this is a plane that would be very useful on carrier decks.
A S-3 Viking attached to Sea Control Squadron Two One (VS-21) conducts routine flight operations from aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). Kitty Hawk is operating in the Sea of Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Alex C. Witte)
4. Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior
The Skywarrior, often called the “Whale” due to its size, was a superb tanker and also served as a standoff jammer. This plane would still be very useful for the Navy and Marine Corps in either role. The baseline A-3 had a range of roughly 2,100 miles. As a tanker and jammer, it would help protect the carriers.
Yes, the EA-18G Growler has entered the fleet, but you can never have enough jammers. The return of the EA-6B would be useful, if only to further bolster those numbers. The Marines even equipped it with a targeting bod to designate for laser-guided missiles and bombs.
1. Grumman F-14D Tomcat
No, this is not a case of Top Gun nostalgia. The F-14D was actually a superb strike fighter on par with the F-15E in the 1990s thanks to the addition of Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN. With Russia and China becoming threats, the Tomcat’s long range (1,840 miles), powerful weapons, and high performance (top speed of 1,544 miles per hour) would be very useful, even today.
What planes do you think the Navy should bring back?
Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.
As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.
“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.
According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”
The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.
This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.
According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.
Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”
As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.
“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”
Sensational press accounts were just plain rabid about this man from the time he “escaped” a post-WWII “Officers'” holding camp, until the start of the Vietnam conflict. All he ever really wanted to be was a Mechanical Engineer and to serve his country honorably. Most of us would never have heard of this Commando’s successes were it not for the British desire to explain WWII in detail to the world (in terms of their victorious achievements). This man was Otto Skorzeny.
In the frantic change of the Austrian government on 12 March 1938, Skorzeny was a member of the Gymnastic Club which was trying to support the police and keep antagonistic political factions from breaking into rioting. He was a big man with a strong sense of duty, an energetic attitude, and a loud, commanding voice. It is reported that he personally prevented two armed groups from coming to blows at a critical moment. Then the war came on 1 September 1939, and he tried to get into the Luftwaffe, but, at the age of 31, was labeled “too old” to be a pilot — so he ended up in the Army.
In his regular army training regimentation, Skorzeny saw individuality and personality broken in most of the younger men by the time-honored methods heralding back to 19th century Prussia. Sent on a tour of France after its surrender as an officer-cadet (~E5) he amazed superiors by obtaining the cooperation of Dutch workers to construct a ramp that he designed for loading heavy tanks on to ships in preparation for the invasion of Britain. Later when his trucks needed new tires to complete a mission, he threatened the NCO of a supply depot with harm if he (without written authorization) didn’t get what he needed to carry out his verbal orders. He was reprimanded by a general for being aggressive and transferred to a unit in Yugoslavia.
When he was leading his first combat patrol, a larger group of enemies walked right into his area. Instead of opening fire, Skorzeny jumped up and demanded their surrender — and got it, without firing a shot. He brought in 63 prisoners, including three officers, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the spot. He thought his next assignment would be in the battle for North Africa, and picked up a copy of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence for reading on the train. The train stopped short and his unit was instead offloaded to participate in Operation Barbarossa and an extremely bloody Axis invasion of Russia, which began 22 June 1941.
He fought well and hard in the endless Russian forest and plains for the next six months, including during the Russian winter of 1941, when the German Army had no winter uniforms. Skorzeny developed colic, was invalided home to Vienna, and assigned as an Engineering Officer to a reserve regiment in Berlin. In the autumn of 1942, Waffen SS divisions were being converted into armored divisions, so he applied for a transfer and became the regimental Engineer of the 3rd SS Armoured Division. In mid-April 1943, he was sent to Waffen SS headquarters and informed that a technically trained officer was required for a special unit.
Why reserve 1st Lt. Skorzeny? What was going on?
The German scarface.
British commandos were causing a problem, so Hitler wanted to develop a commando team. Here was a reserve officer with combat experience, but not quite an exemplary service record. For the General Staff, Lt. Skorzeny was perfect — suitable, presentable, technically trained, and non-political. (It might be noted that Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1942 clearly stated that all Allied commandos captured “should be killed immediately without trial.”)
Skorzeny was promoted to captain and told to get to work on creating a special operations unit or two. Firstly, however, he had to be introduced to the “secret” side of the German military and was introduced to Admiral Canaris of the Military Secret Service (Auslands-Abwehr). He tried to get a number of junior officers transferred to his new unit — and was turned down. LTC Schellenberg of the General Staff advised him that he needed to collect all the information he could and start a School for Espionage and Sabotage while looking for men and equipment. His new command was already penciled in to take over a mission in Iran that was going badly.
Fortunately, the platoon of men he inherited were all combat veterans. Added to their number was a platoon size group of legal specialists from the Political Intelligence Section that knew how to gather surplus equipment and personnel. Finally, he was in contact with the Director of the State Security Department who he had known in his student days in Austria. This was the source of many enlightening discussions about Reichführer Himmler, who eventually became the sabot in all Military and Political machinery.
Fighting furiously against red-tape, Skorzeny located a 19th-century hunting lodge in a tract of forest and meadowlands at Friedenthal (Valley of Peace), close to Berlin. He then requested after-action reports on the British Commando attacks perpetrated since 1940 and received a vast dossier, which had been meticulously collected, but not well-reviewed. He learned from the apparent British mistakes. Immediately he realized that all training should be conducted at night because that is when small groups can beat larger formations. Everyone was to be trained to competency on every weapon and piece of equipment the units might carry into battle. Other training included parachutes and operation (and repair) of all sizes of transportation vehicles.
On 26 July 1943, Skorzeny took an afternoon off for lunch and a quiet chat with an old university professor — and the whole world changed. Checking with his admin office in mid-afternoon, he was advised that a plane would be at the aerodrome at 1700 to take him to the Führer’s Headquarters [FHQ]. He directed his XO to gather his uniform and meet him at Tempelhofer. No one in his office knew what or why. Upon arrival, he and five other officers — all more senior than him — were led into the command center of the Wolf’s Den and lined up according to rank. All made short statements about their military careers; his was the shortest. The Führer began asking about their knowledge of Italy and their thoughts on the Axis partner. The other five spoke the “party line,” but Skorzeny stated, “I am an Austrian my Führer.”
In order to understand that comment, it should be mentioned that as a result of WWI Italy took a portion of Austria — South Tyrol — that it could not win by combat. Hitler was also Austrian and understood what Skorzeny meant. The five other Commanding Officers of Special Force units were dismissed. Hitler personally charged Skorzeny with the rescue of Mussolini who had been arrested by Italian police in preparation for Italy’s surrender to the Allies and its change of sides. The location of the Duce was unknown.
Furthermore, Hitler did not want the German Army Commander in Italy or the German Ambassador in Rome to know of the operation. Skorzeny and his force were transferred to the Luftwaffe and reported directly to General Student. While discussing the situation with General Student, Himmler showed up to dominate the conversation with a short history of Italian vacillation since the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a ranting monologue of names of reliable Italians and traitors, and how to deal with each.
During a pause in the performance, Skorzeny requested to step out and call his commandos to put them on alert status. While waiting to have his call put through, he lit a cigarette to think of the scope of the assignment. Himmler came down the hall and chewed him out for smoking and declared him possibly unfit for the job. One of Hitler’s Staff Officers who overheard the remarks assured him that this was a trait of Himmler and General Student would fix everything once the operation got rolling. So began one of the great commando stories and the start of an amazing two years that ended with Skorzeny being declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”
Skorzeny’s phone call to his Chief-of-Staff was short and terse. Fifty of his best men and officers needed to be ready not later than 0500 for extended action in Tropical Uniform, with parachute gear, six days of emergency rations, and a teletyped list of equipment. Due to the mission’s classification, he could not tell them what they would do, or where and why they would be deployed. As he thought about a short nap, he realized that he had never made out a will. That was resolved immediately. He took a shower around 0600 and met General Student at 0730 at the aerodrome.
Skorzeny and Benito Mussolini surrounded by German commandos and soldiers.
The tale of the 12 September 1943 rescue of Mussolini is one of great adventure for both Skorzeny, as a leader, and his commando team. There was even a delayed-and-failed first effort due to confusing intelligence. (The Nazi Propaganda machine created a motion picture of the event to splash across the theater screens and demonstrate Nazi invincibility when the General Staff knew they were losing.)
Because of the mission’s success, he was rewarded by being allowed to recruit from the Brandenburg Division. This was the original German Army Special Force. The Division would slip behind the enemy front line and carry out sabotage or prevent vital bridges from being destroyed. By 1943 however, the German Army was on the defensive or preparing for the next Allied invasion. These highly-skilled and qualified soldiers were being used as gap-stopping cannon fodder in Africa and Eastern Europe. The now-famous Skorzeny, as a Division Commander, began to “borrow” supplies and equipment from every depot within reach, based solely on his relationship with Hitler. While training the enlarged command, he was called upon to plan the abduction of other well-known figures who seemed to be potential or actual problems. First on the list was Marshal Pétain, the Vichy France Head of State. Skorzeny and his commandos made plans and practiced to perfection while waiting for the order to go. After over a month of waiting, they were told to stand down and returned to the Valley of Peace in time for Christmas.
Next on the list was Marshal Tito of the Yugoslavian Partisans. Skorzeny dispatch his division intelligence team to the area. A great deal of work was expended to locate Tito’s constantly shifting HQ — then in western Bosnia. Skorzeny sent his Chief of Staff to meet with the German Army Commander in the area to work out last-minute details. The liaison did not go well. Out of the blue, Skorzeny’s intel team reported that the local Army Corps was preparing their own operation against Tito, which would commence on 25 May 1944. Skorzeny realized that if his people knew about it in advance, so did Tito. The operation failed. (If you are interested in the details of this failure see KOMMANDO by James Lucas.)
Skorzeny brought his intel team home and began to train for the next problem proposed by the High Command. Off and on during the first half of 1944, he had been working with the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS, led by Commander Junio Borghese, on special weapons for sinking ships. He received an order to report to Vice Admiral Heye who was forming up the Naval Small Battle Units (Kleinkampfverbånde) and was ordered by Himmler to assist in the training of the “K-men.” He also got involved with Luftwaffe Squadron 200, Hanna Reitsch, and the concept of piloted V-1 buzz bombs. Yet, most of his effort was spent dealing with entrenched bureaucracy. Once again, he was asked to train special pilots, but could not get any flight fuel for the effort.
The Western Front became active on 6 June 1944 and Skorzeny’s Commando Battalion 502 was put on alert. He was on his way to observe some frogmen exercises in Vienna on 20 July, when word of the attempted assassination of Hitler came. He was pulled off the train at the last station in Berlin and told to return to Berlin to deal with a military revolt. Confusion ran rampant and rumors were faster than speeding bullets. He was somehow detailed to protect the HQ of the Commender-in-Chief, Home Forces. High ranking officers were committing suicide or were being executed in the parking lot. Fear was gripping the staff at the Headquarters, and, according to Skorzeny, he took responsibility and got all the clerks back to work. Whatever he did, it raised his standing, and that of his battalion, in the eyes of Himmler and the political leadership. The Military Section D— the Counter-espionage unit — was attached to his command.
On 10 September 1944, he received a call to report to FHQ at a newly constructed Wolf’s Den in Berlin’s vicinity. After a three-day round of conferences and situation reports, he was briefed on his next mission. With Russian Armies breaking through Hungary’s defenses, the designated Hungarian head of state, Admiral Horthy, commenced secret negotiations with the Allies for surrendering. If successful, it would mean the loss of many German Army Divisions and Austria would become the next battleground.
Multiple German units were to be placed under Skorzeny’s command and he was directed to Budapest to see what could be done to prevent Hungary’s break away from the Axis camp. He was given a document that stated that he was on a personal and confidential mission for the Führer, and all political and military authorities were to assist him. It was essentially a Carte Blanche, personally signed by Hitler. The object this time was not to rescue anyone but to keep Hungary as a functioning Axis partner. Skorzeny sent in his command intel section and started quietly gathering his forces in and around Budapest. His favorite group was a battalion of cadets from the southern Austria Wiener–Neustadt Kriegsakademie. This may have been the first time he realized that he had become a legend.
Intelligence discovered that the son of Admiral Horthy was meeting with delegates from Tito’s partisan Army who was working for Russia as well. Another meeting was scheduled for the morning of October 15th. Working with great efficiency Skorzeny’s team rushed the meeting while others were fighting the Royal Hungarian Military guards. Within five minutes the son of Horthy and the Yugoslavians were captured, rolled up in carpets and loaded on a truck to the aerodrome, then flown across the border to Vienna. At 2 o’clock that afternoon a special announcement came over Hungarian radio: “Hungary has concluded a separate peace with Russia!” Orders for the German response “Operation Panzerfaust” were issued and German forces immediately took up planned positions around the Hungarian Government Citadel.
What occurred that evening and the next morning seems like a scripted scene from “Mission Impossible.” Skorzeny, with literally a handful of highly trained commandos, captured the whole Government Complex and Citadel and took the necessary steps to keep Hungary and its armed forces in the fight for the Axis. The whole action took less than thirty minutes and resulted in the death of three Hungarian soldiers and four Germans. Skorzeny was greeted by Hapsburg Archduke Frederick.
On October 18th, Skorzeny, now a LTC, escorted Admiral Horthy to meet with the Führer. He immediately returned to Budapest for joint ceremonial burial service. He would not see Admiral Horthy again until both were war-crime prisoners at the Nuremberg trials. Allied Intelligence took note of this event.
That evening, returning to Berlin with his primary commando officers, Skorzeny was given a written order to report to FHQ. After explaining details of the Hungarian Operation to Hitler, he was informed of the secret plan for December called the “Ardennes Offensive.” The big picture was to score a success in the West and work an armistice with Britain and the United States. Then Germany could send all remaining forces to fight Russia and thereby “save” Europe. His mission would be simple “just rush in to capture and hold three essential bridges, and, dressed in captured uniforms, have commando teams cause confusion behind Allied lines. All this was to be held in the strictest secrecy. Within a week, German High Command posted an order for English-speaking soldiers to be sent to LTC Skorzeny at Friedenthal for “Secret Commando Operations.”
Skorzeny, his Chief of Staff and one of his Battalion Commanders, held tight to the actual mission. Meanwhile, rumors were running wild through the collected gaggle of volunteers. Only half of about 400 English-speakers could communicate in that language. Captured American transportation equipment, which was promised, never materialized, and there was practically no ammunition for the larger U.S. guns. They only had one working Sherman tank, so a dozen Panther tanks were painted olive-drab with big white stars.
In the final phase of training, the rumor mill of the organization decided that the “real” mission would be to make a rapid dash to Paris and capture the Allied Headquarters and Eisenhower. Some of the junior officers and NCOs worked on various plans to get the organized groups to an assembly point in Paris — the Café de la Paix. Allied Intelligence and Security teams would spend the better part of December and January focused on that area.
There was a series of delays in commencing the operation and a series of final briefings at the Wolf’s Den. At some point, Hitler personally forbade Skorzeny from going behind enemy lines. This completely dismayed him. He was directed to coordinate the action by radio and stay with the 6th SS Armoured Army battle headquarters. His commando teams would operate in the battle area of the 1st SS Armoured Regiment under Colonel Peiper. At 0500 on Saturday, 16 December, the attack, known to the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge, began.
The primary mission of his battalion-sized “brigade” was to capture and protect three bridges across the River Meuse so that the Panzer Divisions could stream into Holland on their second day of the attack. When German forces failed to even make their first day goals, it became obvious to Skorzeny that making it to the Meuse wasn’t going to happen. His “brigade” was now used as a regular infantry unit.
However, he had sent half a dozen teams of English-speaking commandos in American uniforms to create confusion by changing or removing road signs and cutting phone lines between American front-line units. A rumor got out that Germans dressed like G.I.s were everywhere. The rumor took on a life of its own and a couple of hundred soldiers were arrested behind the lines, roughed-up to get information, and left in jail for a week — or more.
The outcome of Skorzeny’s last operation: German commandos disguised as American soldiers.
General Bradley was stopped numerous times by over-zealous MPs while trying to visit his front lines. General Montgomery could no get through to discuss the situation with his American counterparts. In Paris, Eisenhower became a virtual prisoner of his own Intel and MPs for five critical days of the battle. An officer resembling Ike was dressed up and driven around Paris trying to trick “Kraut Commandos” into making their move. The rumors’ results would haunt Skorzeny for decades.
The Battle of the Bulge ended in German defeat. It was supposed to impress the Allies of the German Army’sviability and hopefully lead to negotiations about a separate peace treaty on the Western Front. It was the last straw for any German commando action. The remaining German forces were thrown into the losing battles — usually in the East. All that remained was the relentless closing in of the Russian Eastern Front and the Allied Western Front until Berlin was taken.
To cover faulty intel about Skorzeny’s activities, in December the U.S. Army circulated a “Wanted Poster” describing him as a “SABOTEUR, SPY, ASSASSIN” and declared him “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.” He was tried in Nuremberg by the “Hanging Judge” but saved by the testimony of a British Special Operations Officer who claimed that everything Skorzeny was charged with (in violation of the pre-WWI “Rules of War”) had been done by Allied commando teams against the German Army. He spent years in courtrooms and prisons until finally cleared of all charges and false accusations.
He continued to be held in a detention center because the new German government was afraid to let him go. Finally, he told the warden he had enough and escaped. Not wanted for any crime, he quickly ended up in Spain and started a new life as a Mechanical Engineer.
A number of books were written about his actions: Charles Foley’s “Commando Extraordinary” was published in 1955. Ballentine’s illustrated history, compiled by Charles Whiting, and titled “Skorzeny,” was out in 1972. (Special forces were in the news then and back in vogue.) Skorzeny also released his own memoirs “Skorzeny’s Special Missions” which was written in 1957, immediately translated in English and published in London.
Editor’s note: This article was written by LCDR Sankey Blanton USNR (retired) and submitted by Robert Adams.
In May 2014 then-Tech Sgt. Kristopher Parker, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader, was out of comms in the middle of a firefight between U.S. troops and Taliban insurgents.
According to an Air Force release, the firefight started when Parker and other American forces who had been sent to clear an improvised explosive device factory came across the insurgents holed up in a cave.
Parker and his fellow troops faced RPGs, small-arms fire, and even hand-thrown IEDs during the 20-hour engagement with the enemy.
Despite all that incoming, Parker was doing a lot of multitasking. He swept the area for IEDs. He cleared routes. He pulled wounded personnel out of the line of fire. He marked cache locations.
“Kris saved the lives of so many Soldiers, Marines and Airmen,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Global Strike Command, said in the release. “He put their lives first and took care of them and that is so honorable.”
When the fight was done, 18 insurgents were dead. Parker had also cleared and destroyed over 200 pounds’ worth of homemade explosives.
On March 17, Parker, now a retired Master Sergeant, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during that 20 hour battle. The award is the third highest that can be presented for valor in combat.
“We are so lucky to be here with this true hero,” Rand said. “A hero who has deployed several times in harm’s way. A hero that saved lives. I’m so humbled and appreciative of his incredible service. It’s a great time to be an Airman.”
According to a new study, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine — known as MDMA — could be given to people who suffer with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to relieve their symptoms.
MDMA is the most common ingredient in ecstasy pills, and can also be taken on its own. An MDMA high tends to give people a buzz that makes them feel things more intensely, see sounds and colours more vividly, and feel affection for people around them. It was made illegal in 1977 in the UK, and 1985 in the US.
PTSD can affect people who have been through trauma from a distressing, dangerous, or shocking event. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and nightmares, making their every day life difficult. Many people lose their jobs or turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve themselves from their thoughts.
(Daiana Lorenz / Youtube)
Currently, the most common treatments for PTSD are cognitive processing therapy or antidepressants. But many people do not respond to currently available treatments, or drop out, the authors said in the study, so the need for new, more effective treatments is clear.
They were randomly assigned to take oral doses of MDMA of either 30, 75, or 125 milligrams for two psychotherapy sessions. Neither the participants or the therapists knew what dose of the drug they had taken.
One month later, patients in the higher-dose groups showed significantly more improvement than those who took 30 milligrams, which was believed to be too low to experience much psychoactive effect.
In fact, 68% of the patients in the two higher-dose groups were no longer diagnosed with PTSD, compared to just 29% of the lowest-dose group. After a year, 67% of all 26 participants no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis. Those who did still experienced a reduction in their symptoms.
Participants reported some side effects, such as headache, fatigue, and muscle tension. A week after the study, some also experienced insomnia. But major side effects —increase in suicidal thoughts, major depression, and appendicitis — were not attributed to the MDMA itself, so the researchers concluded the treatment was safe.
Although the results look promising, it’s important to remember the limitations of the study. For example, it’s very small, and a larger study would be needed to clarify the long term effects of the drug. Also, there was no placebo, and some of the participants could have continued to take MDMA after the study finished.
Neil Greenberg, a professor of defence mental health at King’s College London, told CNN that the results do not “fundamentally change” the current services offered for PTSD, and most of the participants were recruited from the internet so “one has to assume they were interested in taking a psychedelic drug.”
David Nutt, a British neuropsychopharmacologist, saw the results differently. Nutt was the drug adviser for the government until he stated in a research paper in 2009 that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than many illegal drugs, such as ecstasy, and was sacked. Since then, his research has focused on using MDMA to treat alcoholism following trauma.
“It could revolutionise the treatment of PTSD, for which there has been almost no progress in the past 20 years,” he told The Guardian.
Michael C. Mithoefer, lead author of the study and a psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the next phase of clinical trials will begin summer 2018, which will be larger, involving 200 to 300 participants in the US, Canada, and Israel.
If the results find MDMA to be a safe and effective treatment for PTSD, he expects FDA approval by 2021 — but only with use in combination with therapy sessions and not as a “daily drug.”
“If it is approved by FDA for clinical use, it will likely be restricted to specialized clinics with properly trained therapists, not as a take-home medicine that people get from the pharmacy,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.
According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.
However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.
This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.
It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.
In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.
AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.
For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.
Russia’s T-80 battle tank was once expected to be among the best in the world. They were the first tanks developed by the Soviet Union to utilize a gas turbine engine, giving it an impressive top speed of 70 kilometers per hour and a far better power to weight ratio than its predecessors. It was even dubbed the “Tank of the English Channel,” because Soviet war games calculated that it could plow through Europe and reach the Atlantic Coast in just five days.
Then it went into battle, and like so many Russian efforts since, reality failed to live up to the hype. When called into service to fight in 1994’s separatist war in Chechnya, the latest iteration of the T-80 (The T-80B) absorbed heavy losses against the lesser equipped Chechnyans. Inexperienced operators combined with fuel-hungry engines left some T-80s useless, as they burned through their fuel reserves idling before the fighting even began.
Others were quickly destroyed by Chechnyan RPGs thanks to a significant design oversight. The T-80 was among the first Russian tanks to utilize an auto-loader for its main gun, which kept stored propellant in the vertical position beneath the tank where it was only partially protected by the tank’s wheels.
Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank shown while not serving as a fruit chef
All it took was a few well-placed shots with RPG-7V and RPG-18 rocket launchers to literally pop the top off of a T-80, as the propellant exploded and destroyed the vehicle. T-80s, the Chechnyans quickly assessed, were easy targets — especially when they were out of gas. All told, nearly a thousand Russian soldiers and 200 vehicles were lost in the conflict, with the T-80s serving as both the most advanced vehicles present and the most often destroyed.
Today, the 51-ton T-80 remains in service in the Russian military in rather large numbers, despite its embarrassing debut. Some 5,500 total tanks were produced during its run, and thanks to Russia’s stagnant economy and the limited production run of their latest advanced tank, the T-74, it seems likely that Russia will continue to rely on the T-80 as a main battle tank for years to come.
History may have already shown that the T-80 is a troubled platform that’s perpetually thirsty for fuel and that harbors at least one fatal flaw along with a laundry list of lesser issues. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its uses. Sure, the T-80 may not hold up to ground troops armed with RPGs, but it actually makes for a pretty decent stand-in for your SlapChop.
T-80 tank VS battle group of fruits (watermelon, pear and apple) ARMY-2019, Kubinka, Russia
As you can see in this footage, surely meant as a demonstration of the stability and precise control allotted by the T-80s 125mm main gun, this vehicle really can do a passable job at slicing fruit.
Of course, you’ll need a Russian soldier that’s willing to stand there and do most of the busy work (like moving the fruit into the tank’s reach, separating it, and moving it away again) but that’s just the price you pay for a fresh fruit Soviet-Smoothie. I suppose this video would still be pretty impressive, if Russia weren’t the first to show off their tank skills using food. Long ago, Germany released a video of their own Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (designed and built in the same era) hitting the trails with a stein of beer sitting comfortably on its turret.
If you think chopping a watermelon is good, you’ll love this.
Unlike slicing fruit, this actually serves as a good demonstration of the Leopard 2’s ability to keep its main weapon pointed at distant targets, even as it traverses all sorts of terrain. In a fight, that serves a far greater purpose than any fruit salad might, no matter how well prepared.
The Russian video does, however, offer a glimpse into what may be another secret weapon Russia has maintained since the cold war. If all else fails, their tanks can always fix bayonets.