This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

Carl Brashear was no stranger to adversity. A sharecropper’s son, he grew up on a farm in Kentucky and attended segregated schools his entire life. He enlisted in the Navy the same year that President Truman effectively ended segregation in the military by issuing Executive Order 9981. Brashear was told repeatedly that he couldn’t be a Navy diver: no black man ever had. His application was ignored and lost, over and over until 1954 when he made the cut. But those struggles paled in comparison to the mission that cost him his leg.


When Brashear enlisted, black sailors were only offered jobs like serving white officers meals or cleaning up. Brashear knew he was meant to do more. He wanted to be a Navy diver.

In addition to the physical attributes it takes to be a Diver, you also have to have a bit of smarts too. There is a science to diving and understanding it is a key prerequisite to becoming and advancing through the Diving hierarchy. Brashear had grown up in rural Kentucky and, because of the lack of education in segregated schools, had the equivalent of an 8th grade education. While he had become a salvage diver which was difficult in and of itself, in order to get to the next step, he had to pass a grueling science component.

It took him almost 9 years, but he was able to do so, and became a First-Class Diver in 1964. Braesher made history as the first African American to become a Navy diver.

Then the accident happened.

In January 1966, off the coast of Spain, two Air Force planes collided while attempting to link up to refuel. A B-52G Stratofortress Bomber collided with a KC-135A Stratotanker causing both planes to go down. All four of the refueler’s crew perished while three of the seven crew died on the bomber when their plane broke apart.

While the loss of life itself was devastating, the cargo of the bomber was cause of grave concern as well. Falling to the earth were four MK28 Hydrogen bombs.

Three of the bombs were found immediately in a Spanish fishing village. The fourth was believed to have fallen into the Mediterranean.

The Air Force asked the assistance of the United States Navy. After 80 days of searching, the bomb was finally located. It took over 20 ships, thousands of men and about 150 Navy Divers, one of whom was Carl Brashear.

Two months into the search, a tow cable snapped and sent a pipe into Brashear’s leg almost shearing it off. Brashear was medevaced to Germany and then Virginia. Despite all attempts to save his left leg below the knee, doctors could not stop the infections and necrosis that set in.

Brashear would have to lose his leg.

For most of us who served, this should have meant the end of his career and most certainly should have ended his time as a Navy Diver.

For Carl Brashear, that was not an option. His journey in the Navy had already been long and arduous, and he had his eyes set on something bigger. One of his personal beliefs was, “It’s not a sin to get knocked down; it’s a sin to stay down”.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

It should have been the end of his career. For Brashear it was just another fight he was going to win. The Navy set about the process to medically retire him.

Brashear refused to show up for his med-board meeting and instead went about proving to the Navy that he could be returned to active duty. As reported by the L.A. Times, Brashear said, “Sometimes I would come back from a run, and my artificial leg would have a puddle of blood from my stump. In that year, if I would have gone to sick bay, they would have written me up. I didn’t go to sick bay. I’d go somewhere and hide and soak my leg in a bucket of hot water with salt in it — an old remedy.”

It took almost two years of determination, but in 1968, Brashear was able to be recertified as a Navy Diver.

Again, for most people this would have been a remarkable finale. For Brashear, there was one more major goal he wanted.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

Master Diver.

Brashear pushed through the limitation of having a prosthetic leg and studied master the scientific criteria that was needed to get to the next level.

In two years, he did it. In 1970, he became the first African American to become a Master Diver in the United State Navy.

Brashear retired in 1979 as a Master Chief Petty Officer and Master Diver.

Through his career he told people, “I ain’t going to let nobody steal my dream”.

No one did.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

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Wounded Warrior Project reportedly accused of wasting donor money

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden | U.S. Army


The charity for wounded veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, is facing accusations of using donor money toward excessive spending on conferences and parties instead of on recovery programs, according to a CBS News report.

Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.

“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he told CBS News.

Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.

“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he told CBS News.

According to the charity’s tax forms obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery.

Two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.

“He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He’s come in on a Segway, he’s come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.

About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado, which CBS News reported cost about $3 million.

Wounded Warrior Project declined CBS News’ interview requests for Nardizzi, but instead sent Director of Alumni and a recipient of their services, Captain Ryan Kules, who denied there was excessive spending on conferences.

“It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality,” he said.

Kules added the charity did not spend $3 million on the Colorado conference, but he was not there and was unable to say what it did cost. He also told CBS News that the charity does not spend money on alcohol or engage in any other kind of excessive spending.

 

MIGHTY SPORTS

Competing in pain, Navy veteran captures medals in Golden Age Games

Navy Veteran Angela Walker is competing in the National Veterans Golden Age Games for the third time. She’s in five activities in the ongoing VA sports event in Anchorage, Alaska.

At the same time, Walker admits that participating in the Golden Age Games isn’t easy. She’s been in a wheelchair for six years and has chronic pain throughout her body. Even a sport like archery, where one has to pull the bow and hold the arrow, triggers pain from her naval down, she says.

Yet, she perseveres, knowing there’s a therapeutic component to the games. One of the best things about the games is that “you learn how to turn off the pain a little bit and dial it down while you’re competing,” as she put it.


“I’m never without pain,” Walker says. “I can’t remember the last time I haven’t had pain all day. (It) makes it really challenging to play. But you have to push through in order to play. You might see the tears coming down. But I don’t like to quit unless I absolutely have to. It happens with every sport. So it’s kind of like, should I go to the games or not go to the games? I want to win, and I want to play, and I don’t want to quit.”

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

Angela Walker competes in horseshoes at the 2019 National Golden Age Games.

She finds it encouraging and inspiring to be among other veterans who are in wheelchairs. She’s competing in the wheelchair division of air rifle, horseshoes, boccia, bowling and shuffleboard.

“I’m motivated because everybody is doing their best using whatever skills and strength they have to win and to have a good time,” she says. “We’re all aware of what’s going on with our bodies. But doing my first Golden Age Games [in 2017] just let me know that, `Hey, you don’t have to just sit at home. You can do other things.’ So I’m taking my body to the limit in trying to do all of these different sports.”

Her determination is paying off. Competing in the 60 to 64 age category at this year’s games, she’s thus far won gold medals in boccia and horseshoes. She also earned three medals at both the 2017 Golden Age Games in Biloxi, Mississippi, and at the 2018 Golden Age Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Walker’s success at the 2018 games qualified her for the National Senior Games in Albuquerque from June 14 to June 25. The foundation for the games selected her to receive the Hurford Memorial Award that provides some financial assistance to attend. In the nationwide event, she’ll test her skills in the wheelchair division of bowling and horseshoes.

If not for a chance encounter with another veteran who competes in wheelchair sports, Marine Corps Veteran Johnny Baylark, Walker may not be competing. The two met several years ago at Naval Station Great Lakes outside of Chicago. Baylark encouraged Walker to come out for the VA sports event.

Johnny Baylark: More than a Miracle

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“I was looking for a parking space, I thought he was getting out, and I was going to take his space,” Walker remembers. “We both left our vehicles. He approached me and said, `Hey, you’re in a wheelchair. You should do bowling.’ I was like, `Bowling, I don’t know about bowling.’ But it made me think. So I talked to my doctor and he agreed that I should get involved.”

Walker has since tried to influence other veterans to take part in the National Veterans Golden Age Games. She volunteers as a motivational speaker and sings regularly at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in Illinois and at veterans’ organizations, such as the American Legion. An accomplished singer, Walker has won gold medals at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Competition, another VA-sponsored event.

In front of a waving Red, White, and Blue, she gracefully sang the “The Star Spangled Banner” before the start of June 7, 2019’s horseshoe event. At one point, Daniel Dela Cruz, coordinator of the horseshoe competition, remarked to Walker that “this is harder than it looks. It’s not easy.”

Walker knows all about that. But it seems that nothing will derail her drive to compete.

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

Articles

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

Most people know the basic history of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy — that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, who had briefly defected to the Soviet Union, fired the shots that killed the 35th president using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that had been purchased from a mail-order catalog.


This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald with rifle, taken in Oswald’s back yard, Neely Street, Dallas Texas, March 1963. (Photo released by the Warren Commission)

But could there be more to the story behind one of the most dramatic events of the 20th Century? With the declassification of over 2 million documents, now the assassin’s activities can be traced in weeks, months, and years before Oswald fired the shots that altered the course of history.

A former CIA agent and a former LAPD detective are now looking into these documents – carrying out an independent investigation spanning the entire world in order to answer the many questions about the assassination of President Kennedy that have divided America for decades: Did Oswald act alone, or did he have help? If so, who helped him, and why?

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
The moment before Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The upcoming HISTORY series “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” premieres April 25, 2017, and features a bombshell – a document showing that Oswald had met with Soviet officials in Mexico City six weeks before he assassinated John F. Kennedy.

The series features a host of interviews and new revelations, including insight from experts and former special operations soldiers like WATM friend Marty Skovlund. Check out the short trailer from HISTORY below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why the new ‘John Wick 3’ trailer has us pumped

It’s rare for a film franchise to come out of nowhere and blow everyone away to the magnitude of Summit Entertainment’s John Wick. It’s a masterclass in storytelling through a character’s actions as opposed to pointless, exposition-heavy dialogue. The beautiful cinematography and the use of color to tell a story is, frankly, mind-blowing. But all of those elements pale in comparison to the breathtaking action sequences that make up the bulk of the series.

Today, the first trailer for the third installment dropped and it looks like it’s going to be an insane ride from the very beginning. In true John Wick fashion, the trailer doesn’t outright tell you what’s happening, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can piece together everything.


This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

Even the poster basically tells you everything about the film if you’ve paid enough attention.

(Lionsgate)

We last saw Keanu Reeves’ John Wick running away from the Bethesda Terrace in New York City’s Central Park. He had a -million bounty on his head after being forced into a hit-job he didn’t want to take. Eventually, Wick kills his mark, but does so in the Continental Hotel, a place designed to be a safe space for assassins. Suddenly, that -million bounty on his head doubled in value.

Now, he’s got to outrun every hitman looking to score a cool million and he no longer has access to any of the amenities offered by the Continental Hotel. The final film will take place moments after he was given a one-hour head start. In this hour, John Wick has to bandage up his wounds and get ready to fight (almost literally) everyone in the underworld.

In the freshly released trailer, John Wick is seen talking to Anjelica Huston’s character, simply known as The Director, who holds a presumably important position on the High Table (basically the UN for crime bosses). Wick asks for safe passage and is, of course, denied. The important detail to note here is that John is wearing the same outfit as he was when he was taking out every assassin in New York, so we can assume he’s still in the Big Apple, and he’s holding a rosary.

Next, we see him running into the New York Public Library and places that rosary along with his marker (a coin that can grant any desire, in the vein of asking a don on the day of his daughter’s wedding), several gold coins, and a photo of he and his wife inside a hollowed-out book. Wick knows he’s about to go to war, but this shows us he intends to return and claim his cache of prized possessions — and we all know that when Wick returns, he does so with a vengeance.

The clock strikes 6 P.M. and all hell breaks loose. The text, “If you want peace, prepare for war” flashes on screen between intense action shots and John Wick arrives in Morocco, where he meets Halle Berry’s character, Sophia, before the action rolls on.

To watch the trailer for yourself, check out the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

It was a beautiful June day in Contra Pria, Italy. Families enjoyed a picnic together, and the refreshing water served as a welcome refuge from the heat and humidity of the last weekend leading into summer.

It was Father’s Day in America, and Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, decided to take advantage of the weather to bring his grandsons to a popular nearby swimming hole.


The tiny hamlet of Contra Pria is made up of a few houses that appear lost in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. The half-dozen houses follow the course of the Astico, a small river created by the melting snow of the mountains that flow down into the rocky valley creating deep chasms with frigid still waters that invite adventure seekers escaping the summer heat.

When Hall and his family arrived early on June 17, 2018, they were surprisingly greeted by Army Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and his family, who were picnicking and swimming with some friends in the remote swimming area. They introduced their children to each other who then played in the beach areas together.

“We noticed a few people jumping from the 20-30 foot cliffs that formed a small canyon along the stream,” said Hall’s wife, Laura Hall. “Jumpers would often pause for scuba divers in wet suits exploring the glacial waters that feed into the chasm below.”

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

U.S. Army Paratrooper Lt. Col. John Hall

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)

Deep, Frigid Water

This peaceful scene completely changed in the blink of an eye.

“The boys were taking a break from the cold water when I decided I would climb up on the cliff to see what the divers were exploring,” Hall said. “Just as they swam away, four Italian men, probably somewhere in their twenties, appeared above the river on the opposite cliff. They seemed to be daring each other to jump. Two immediately jumped and then challenged their friends. One chose not to jump at all, while the other hesitated, but after a few minutes I saw him falling through the air.”

Hall said that when the man hit the deep, frigid water, he began to thrash about, yelling for his friends to help as he repeatedly went under water. The two men who jumped in earlier leapt from the cliff to attempt a rescue, but as they swam up to him, the scene turned into what appeared to be a fight or wrestling match in the water.

Hall could see from his vantage point on the opposite cliff that the struggling man was drowning, and would possibly drown his companions, as they all began to go under water together.

“I jumped from the cliff,” Hall said.

‘That’s Just John’

“I swam over to the three men, firmly wrapped my arm around the chin of the drowning man and pulled him onto my hip. The other men briefly continued pulling at us and one another. Once we broke free, I swam the man to the cliff, pulled him around, and placed his hands on the rocks.”

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, saves a man from drowning in the frigid waters of Pria Park.

(Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

One of the man’s friends swam over to help Hall hold him in place while he caught his breath. The men swam toward the water’s edge, but the group was still in deep water without a foothold. Exhausted and in shock, the man was unable to work his way along the rocky face to reach the shallow waters. As they both clung to the rock face, Hall indicated to him that he would help him climb and push him up to safety.

“Once he was safe, I swam over to a rocky outcropping and climbed to verify that he was ok,” Hall said. “Still shaking from the experience, the man turned and gave me a hug.”

“John Hall will claim he was just in the right place at the right time to save that guy’s life, and that may be partially true,” Keirsey said. “But it really takes the right person to recognize somebody is in jeopardy and then have the courage to do something about it.”

“At first, I thought he was just jumping to amuse our grandsons who were watching. When I saw him swim into a group of splashing men and pull one out, it was then that I realized that he was saving the man,” Laura said.

“I was surprised that someone who couldn’t swim well would jump into those waters, but I wasn’t surprised that John helped him,” she said. “That’s just John.”

“I am just so glad that someone was there to help him. After it was over, I couldn’t help thinking it was Father’s Day,” Hall said. “No man should lose his son on Father’s Day.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Military Life

This is the Communists’ perfectly-bred military working dog

After the end of World War II, the Red Army was looking to create the “supreme” military working dog. After combining 17 different breeds, the Communists created a marvel of animal husbandry: the Black Russian Terrier.


The Soviet-run Red Star Kennel mated Giant Schnauzers, Airedales, Rottweilers, and Moscow Divers as the primary breeds. These were chosen for the Schnauzer’s agility and sharp guarding instinct; the Airedales’ happy disposition, perseverance, and staying power; and the Rottweiler for its massive make, shape, and courage.

Other breeds included Newfoundlands, Caucasian Shepherds, and others – including the now-extinct Moscow Water Dog.

They created the ideal working dog, a large breed that stays alert, is protective without being aggressive, and is able to withstand the extreme climates of Russia – which ranges from frozen Siberia to dry, hot desert. By 1983, it was declared a new breed worldwide.

As a result of the extremely selective breeding, the Black Russian Terrier is a big dog, upwards of three feet tall and 130 pounds – and needs a job to do in order to be happy.

 

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

While initially used to guard prison camps and against potential industrial sabotage, the dogs were needed at a time when the population of the Soviet military’s working dogs was on the decline. While not added to the American Kennel Club until decades later, the young breed was at work in the Soviet Union by 1954.

They love to run around in big spaces and a reportedly very lovable pets. But they need to be around people. Think of it: a specifically bred large, powerful dog with big teeth, who only wants to cuddle. Some owners report they will destroy your house like German Panzer Army if you leave them alone too long!

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Tuskegee Airman reunites with Red Tail

Expressions of excitement and astonishment were painted on the faces of onlookers, as a relic from World War II flew down the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Oct. 4.


U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George E. Hardy, one of the 18 remaining Tuskegee Airmen, was aboard the aircraft.

Also read: The Tuskegee Airmen’s trial by fire in ‘Operation Corkscrew’

The Tuskegee Airmen, who were referred to as “Red Tails” due to their brightly painted aircraft tails, were an all-black fighter group during WWII and consisted of more than 900 pilots. Hardy, among 354 others, were sent overseas to conduct bomber escort missions.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Peter Teichman, left, Hangar 11 Collection pilot, and retired Tuskegee Airman U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George E. Hardy, stand on top of Hardy’s former P-51D Mustang at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield

“The greatest thing about this is that there’s a Red Tail flying in England,” Hardy said. “It means so much to us that there’s a Red Tail still around.”

A bomber was never lost to enemy fire during their escort missions. However, the group lost 66 Tuskegee Airmen during the war.

Flying the restored P-51D Mustang, nicknamed “Tall in the Saddle”, was Peter Teichman, Hangar 11 Collection pilot. Teichman tracked down Hardy through history groups after acquiring the retiree’s original P-51.

“Colonel George Hardy is a real war hero, the real deal,” Teichman said. “I never thought I would get to meet the colonel or to take him flying. He’s a very remarkable man, and men like him need to be remembered.”

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
A World War II era P-51D Mustang sits next to a 493rd Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield

Hardy completed 21 sorties in his P-51 during WWII. He was only 19, and he didn’t even have a driver’s license.

“So many great pilots, and I was flying with them,” Hardy said. “You couldn’t beat that – I was on top of the world. We demonstrated that we could fly like anyone else. ”

Hardy, 71 years later, reunited with his plane, completed one last flight to RAF Lakenheath to share his story with the Liberty Airmen who awaited his arrival.

“This is a huge honor for us here at the 48th Fighter Wing,” said Col. Evan Pettus, 48th Fighter Wing commander. “The Tuskegee Airmen have a very rich history and an incredibly important place in the culture and heritage of the United States and the United States Air Force. To see him here on RAF Lakenheath in his aircraft is very, very special for us.”

Following the heroics of the famed Red Tails during WWII, the U.S. Air Force was established and became the first service to integrate racially. Many attribute this milestone in U.S. history to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen and those who served with them.

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China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

The Chinese are illegally deploying missiles on at least one of its island bases in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.


According to recent analysis, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been deploying SA-21 “Growler” surface-to-air missiles. The system is also known as the S-400 Triumf, and is considered to be one of the most advanced Russian designs in the world.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The news of the deployment comes days after the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that China was building what appeared to be underground structures at three of their bases, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef. The Chinese bases are capable of supporting a number of aircraft, and serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers. China also has launched its first Type 55 destroyer, a vessel roughly comparable to the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers, and also deployed new maritime patrol aircraft to the disputed region.

China’s seizure of the uninhabited islands in the South China Sea was ruled illegal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year. The proceedings prior to the sweeping ruling, though, were boycotted by China, which has been aggressively asserting its nine-dash-line claims on the maritime flashpoint.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.

A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.

The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.

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This is how British Commandos pulled off ‘The Greatest Raid of All’

During World War II, there were many ingenious and courageous raids, but only one would come to be known as “The Greatest Raid of All” – the British raid on St. Nazaire.


Since the beginning of hostilities, the German Navy had wreaked havoc on shipping in the Atlantic. With the fall of France, the Nazis had ample facilities on the Atlantic to service their fleet, well away from areas patrolled by the Royal Navy. The British wanted to take this away and force them through the English Channel or the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) gap, which they heavily defended. To do this, they devised a daring raid that would put the port of St. Nazaire out of action.

The plan, codenamed Operation Chariot, was to assault the port with commandos supported by a converted destroyer, the HMS Campbeltown. The British planned to load the Campbeltown with explosives and then ram it into the dry docks where it would detonate. The commandos would also land and destroy the port while up-gunned motor launches searched for targets of opportunity.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

The raiding force consisted of 265 commandos (primarily from No.2 Commando) along with 346 Royal Navy sailors split between twelve motor launches and four torpedo boats.

The raiders set out from England on the afternoon of March 26, 1942, and arrived at the target just after midnight on March 28. At that point, the Campbeltown raised a German naval ensign to deceive German shore batteries. However, a planned bombing by the Royal Air Force put the harbor on high alert, and just eight minutes from their objective they were illuminated by spotlights.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
British Commandos, 1942

A gun battle between the approaching ships and the Germans ensued. At one mile out, the British raised their own naval ensign, increased speed, and drove through the murderous German fire. The helmsman of the Campbeltown was killed, his replacement wounded, and the whole crew blinded by searchlights. At 1:34 a.m., the destroyer found the Normandie dry dock gates, hitting with such force as to drive the destroyer 33 feet onto the gates.

As the commandos disembarked, the Germans rained small arms fire on the raiders. Despite suffering numerous casualties, they were able to complete their objectives, destroying harbor facilities and machinery.

The commandos on the motor launches were not so lucky. As the boats attempted to make their way to shore, most of them were put out of action by the German guns. Many sank without landing their units. All but four of 16 sank.

The motor launches were the means of egress from the port for the commandos already ashore. The image of many of them burning in the estuary was a disheartening sight.

Lt. Col. Newman, leading the Commandos on shore, and Commander Ryder of the Royal Navy realized evacuation by sea was no longer an option. Ryder signaled the remaining boats to leave the harbor and make for the open sea. Newman gathered the commandos and issued three orders: Do the best to get back to England, no surrender until all ammunition is exhausted and no surrender at all if they could help it. With that, they headed into the city to face the Germans and attempt an escape over land.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Commando prisoners under German escort

The Commandos were quickly surrounded. They fought until their ammunition was expended before proceeding with their only remaining option: surrender. Five commandos did manage to escape the German trap though and make their way through France, neutral Spain, and to British Gibraltar, from which they returned to England.

As the Germans recaptured the port, they also captured 215 British commandos and Royal Navy sailors. Unaware that the Campbeltown lodged in the dry dock was a bomb waiting to explode, a German officer blithely told Lt. Commander Sam Beattie, who had been commanding the Campbeltown, the damage caused by the ramming would only take a matter of weeks to repair. Just as he did the Campbeltown exploded, killing 360 people in the area and destroying the docks – putting them out of commission for the remainder of the war.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
HMS Campbeltown wedged in the dock gates. Note the exposed forward gun position on Campbeltown and the German anti-aircraft gun position on the roof of the building at the rear.

The British paid dearly for this success. Of over 600 personnel involved, only 227 returned to England. Besides those taken prisoner, the British also had 169 killed in action. The raid generated a large number of awards for gallantry, one of the highest concentrations for any battle. Five Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, were awarded, two posthumously. There were a total of 84 other decorations for the raiders ranging from the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal to the Military Medal.

Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel. Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel.

The raid infuriated Hitler and, along with other raids by commandos, caused the Germans to spread troops all along the coast to defend against future raids or invasions. More importantly, the destruction of the St. Nazaire port denied the Germans repair facilities for large ships on the Atlantic coast. Due to the daring nature of the operation and the high price paid for success, the action came to be called “The Greatest Raid of All.”

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4 key differences between the Green Berets and Delta Force

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta — or “Delta Force” or CAG (for Combat Applications Group) or whatever its latest code name might be — is one of the best door kicking-units in the world.


From raining hell on al Qaeda in the early days of the war in Afghanistan to going after the “deck of cards” in Iraq, the super-secretive counterterrorism unit knows how to dispatch America’s top targets.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy. Courtesy of Dalton Fury.

But during the wars after 9/11, Delta’s brethren in the Army Special Forces were tasked with many similar missions, going after top targets and kicking in a few doors for themselves. And Delta has a lot of former Special Forces soldiers in its ranks, so their cultures became even more closely aligned.

That’s why it’s not surprising that some might be a bit confused on who does what and how each of the units is separate and distinct from one another.

In fact, as America’s involvement in Iraq started to wind down, the new commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School — the place where all SF soldiers are trained — made it a point to draw the distinction between his former teammates in Delta and the warriors of the Green Berets.

“I hate analogies like the ‘pointy end of the spear,’ ” said then school chief Maj. Gen. Bennett Sacolick.

“We’re not designed to hunt people down and kill them,” Sacolick said. “We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations.”

So, in case you were among the confused, here are four key differences between Delta and Special Forces:

1. Delta, what Delta?

With the modern media market, blogs, 24-hour news cycles and social media streams where everyone’s an expert, it’s tough to keep a secret these days. And particularly after 9/11 with the insatiable appetite for news and information on the war against al Qaeda, it was going to be hard to keep “Delta Force” from becoming a household name.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The dam actually broke with Mark Bowden’s seminal work on a night of pitched fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, which later became the book “Black Hawk Down.” Delta figured prominently in that work — and the movie that followed.

Previously, Delta Force had been deemed secret, it’s members signing legally-binding agreements that subjected them to prison if they spoke about “The Unit.” Known as a “Tier 1” special operations unit, Delta, along with SEAL Team 6, are supposed to remain “black” and unknown to the public.

Even when they’re killed in battle, the Army refuses to disclose their true unit.

Special Forces, on the other hand, are considered Tier 2 or “white SOF,” with many missions that are known to the public and even encourage media coverage. Sure, the Green Berets often operate in secret, but unlike Delta, their existence isn’t one.

2. Building guerrilla armies.

This is where the Special Forces differs from every other unit in the U.S. military. When the Green Berets were established in the 1950s, Army leaders recognized that the fight against Soviet Communism would involve counter insurgencies and guerrilla warfare fought in the shadows rather than armored divisions rolling across the Fulda Gap.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
This Green Beret is helping Afghan soldiers battle insurgents and terrorists in that country. (Photo from U.S. Army)

So the Army Special Forces, later known as the Green Berets, were created with the primary mission of what would later be called “unconventional warfare” — the covert assistance of foreign resistance forces and subversion of local governments.

“Unconventional warfare missions allow U.S. Army soldiers to enter a country covertly and build relationships with local militia,” the Army says. “Operatives train the militia in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.”

According to Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” — which chronicles the formation of Joint Special Operations Command that includes Delta, SEAL Team 6 and other covert commando units — Delta’s main mission was to execute “small, high-intensity operations of short duration” like raids and capture missions. While Delta operators surely know how to advise and work with foreign guerrilla groups, like they did during operations in Tora Bora in Afghanistan, that’s not their main funtion like it is for Green Berets.

3. Assessment and selection.

When Col. Charles Beckwith established Delta Force in 1977, he’d spent some time with the British Special Air Service to model much of his new unit’s organization and mission structure. In fact, Delta has units dubbed “squadrons” in homage to that SAS lineage.

But most significantly, Beckwith adopted a so-called “assessment and selection” regime that aligns closely with how the Brits pick their top commandos. Delta operators have to already have some time in the service (the unit primarily picks from soldiers, but other service troops like Marines have been known to try out) and be at least an E4 with more than two years left in their enlistment.

From what former operators have written, the selection is a brutal, mind-bending hike through (nowadays) the West Virginia mountains where candidates are given vague instructions, miles of ruck humps and psychological examinations to see if they can be trusted to work in the most extreme environments alone or in small teams under great risk of capture or death.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Army Special Forces are the only special operations group trained specifically to aid insurgents in overthrowing foreign governments. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Special Forces, on the other hand, have fairly standard physical selection (that doesn’t mean it’s easy) and training dubbed the Q Course that culminates in a major guerrilla wargame called “Robin Sage.”

The point of Robin Sage is to put the wannabe Green Berets through a simulated unconventional warfare scenario to see how they could adapt to a constantly changing environment and still keep their mission on track.

4. Size matters

Army Special Forces is a much larger organization than Delta Force, which is a small subset of Army Special Operations Command.

The Green Berets are divided up into five active duty and two National Guard groups, comprised of multiple battalions of Special Forces soldiers divided into Operational Detachments, typically dubbed “ODAs.” These are the troopers who parachute into bad guy land and help make holy hell for the dictator du jour.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Delta is a small, elite unit that specializes in direct action and other counter-terrorism missions. (Photo from YouTube)

It was ODA teams that infiltrated Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and Pashtun groups like the one run by Hamid Karzai that overturned the Taliban.

These Special Forces Groups are regionally focused and based throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Delta, on the other hand, has a much smaller footprint, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 operators divided into four assault squadrons and three support squadrons. Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” even hints that Delta might have women in its ranks to help infiltrate operators into foreign countries for reconnaissance missions.

And while Special Forces units are based around the world, Delta has a single headquarters in a compound ringed with concertina wire at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much the Milky Way weighs (probably)

We can’t put the whole Milky Way on a scale, but astronomers have been able to come up with one of the most accurate measurements yet of our galaxy’s mass, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

The Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun), according to the latest measurements. Only a tiny percentage of this is attributed to the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and includes a 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Most of the rest of the mass is locked up in dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that acts like scaffolding throughout the universe and keeps the stars in their galaxies.


Earlier research dating back several decades used a variety of observational techniques that provided estimates for our galaxy’s mass ranging between 500 billion to 3 trillion solar masses. The improved measurement is near the middle of this range.

“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” said Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “Not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way presents a problem for a lot of cosmological questions.”

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

On the left is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a portion of the globular star cluster NGC 5466. On the right, Hubble images taken ten years apart were compared to clock the cluster’s velocity. A grid in the background helps to illustrate the stellar motion in the foreground cluster (located 52,000 light-years away). Notice that background galaxies (top right of center, bottom left of center) do not appear to move because they are so much farther away, many millions of light-years.

(NASA, ESA and S.T. Sohn and J. DePasquale)

The new mass estimate puts our galaxy on the beefier side, compared to other galaxies in the universe. The lightest galaxies are around a billion solar masses, while the heaviest are 30 trillion, or 30,000 times more massive. The Milky Way’s mass of 1.5 trillion solar masses is fairly normal for a galaxy of its brightness.

Astronomers used Hubble and Gaia to measure the three-dimensional movement of globular star clusters — isolated spherical islands each containing hundreds of thousands of stars each that orbit the center of our galaxy.

Although we cannot see it, dark matter is the dominant form of matter in the universe, and it can be weighed through its influence on visible objects like the globular clusters. The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity. Most previous measurements have been along the line of sight to globular clusters, so astronomers know the speed at which a globular cluster is approaching or receding from Earth. However, Hubble and Gaia record the sideways motion of the globular clusters, from which a more reliable speed (and therefore gravitational acceleration) can be calculated.

The Hubble and Gaia observations are complementary. Gaia was exclusively designed to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and track their motions. It made exacting all-sky measurements that include many globular clusters. Hubble has a smaller field of view, but it can measure fainter stars and therefore reach more distant clusters. The new study augmented Gaia measurements for 34 globular clusters out to 65,000 light-years, with Hubble measurements of 12 clusters out to 130,000 light-years that were obtained from images taken over a 10-year period.

When the Gaia and Hubble measurements are combined as anchor points, like pins on a map, astronomers can estimate the distribution of the Milky Way’s mass out to nearly 1 million light-years from Earth.

Hubblecast 117 Light: Hubble & Gaia weigh the Milky Way

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“We know from cosmological simulations what the distribution of mass in the galaxies should look like, so we can calculate how accurate this extrapolation is for the Milky Way,” said Laura Watkins of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, lead author of the combined Hubble and Gaia study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. These calculations based on the precise measurements of globular cluster motion from Gaia and Hubble enabled the researchers to pin down the mass of the entire Milky Way.

The earliest homesteaders of the Milky Way, globular clusters contain the oldest known stars, dating back to a few hundred million years after the big bang, the event that created the universe. They formed prior to the construction of the Milky Way’s spiral disk, where our Sun and solar system reside.

“Because of their great distances, globular star clusters are some of the best tracers astronomers have to measure the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk of stars,” said Tony Sohn of STScI, who led the Hubble measurements.

The international team of astronomers in this study are Laura Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany), Roeland van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Astrophysical Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland), Sangmo Tony Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland), and N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom).

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

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Marines elevate marksmanship standards

Marines qualify on the rifle range every year and train to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. In October 2016, the Marine Corps has presented a new challenge for Marines on the range — a modification to the second half of the marksmanship program was implemented with hopes to better train Marines for combat.


Marines will still complete table one, which trains Marines on the basic fundamentals and techniques of rifle marksmanship.

Also read: Army round triggers problems in Marine M27 auto rifle

According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Luis Carrillo, the officer in charge on Camp Hansen ranges, table two takes the training to the next level. This table focuses more on combat and teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat related environment.

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

The following changes have been implemented for table two:

• Keeping up the heart rate: Instead of Marines staying stationary while shooting, they are required to start at the standing position and quickly get into the kneeling or prone position when the targets are ready to appear.

• Engaging the enemy: Marines begin qualifying at the 500-yard line then advance towards the 100-yard line, where previously they trained the other way around.

• Maintaining situational awareness in combat: New targets show both friendly and enemy forces and Marines must maintain awareness of the targets to determine when to shoot forcing them to make combat decisions.

This half of the marksmanship program focuses more on teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat-related environment, which Carrillo, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, said helps in real life scenarios.

“There are several situations this will come in handy,” said Carrillo. “When I was in Afghanistan there were several times we would get ambushed or we would respond to fires across the valley and a lot of those times the enemy wasn’t close. We had to move closer to the enemy and maneuver against them.”

The modification to table two allows Marines to experience the different types of ranges they may see in combat.

“The good thing about table two is it presents Marines with different ranges,” said Carrillo. “You have the long ranges, which I experienced in Afghanistan; and you have the short ranges, which I experienced in Iraq.”

Marines are America’s expeditionary force in readiness and need to be ready to move in a moment’s notice. Table two helps train Marines to respond quickly and aggressively in real-world scenarios, according to Carrillo.

“I think it gets the Marines more in a combat mindset while closing in on the enemy,” he said.