Here's why the numbers don't tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

The figures are frightening.

Across the globe, the number of reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus is always higher than the day before, topping 1 million as of April 2.

But what if the true numbers are actually even higher?

Experts say data — and how it is reported, or not reported — can give us an incomplete portrait of the problem.


Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Testing, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons the true scale of the pandemic is unknown. And that may not be the fault of governments. Many of those infected show no symptoms and thus are not candidates for testing.

But there may be other problems with the data — namely, that some governments may be distorting figures to understate the scale of the problem in their respective countries.

U.S. media reported on April 1 that U.S. officials believe China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, with officials calling China’s numbers “fake.”

Like China, Iran has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. And like Beijing, Tehran is also suspected of tampering with its numbers to distort the situation there.

Questions have also been raised by Russia’s relatively low numbers as well.

While some governments minimize the problem at home, they may be behind efforts to maximize the scale of the pandemic elsewhere.

An EU watchdog tracking fake news said on April 1 that pro-Kremlin sources on social media were promoting a narrative that the European Union is failing to deal with the pandemic and is on the verge of collapse.

The more testing, the more likely countries will be able to curb the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

Data from the United States shows the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rising sharply as testing has improved.

But does that mean infections are rising? Not necessarily. Experts say more testing could explain, at least in part, the higher number.

As The Atlantic magazine put it in an article published on March 26:

“Is the U.S. currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both? The answer should sound familiar: We don’t know yet, and it will be a while before we do.”

While the United States has ramped up testing, India has taken a different tack.

New Delhi has refused to expand coronavirus testing, despite criticism that limited testing could leave COVID-19 cases undetected in the world’s second-most populous country.

As Al-Jazeera reported on March 18, Indian officials have said the WHO guidance on more testing didn’t apply in India because the spread of the virus was less severe there than elsewhere.

Balaram Bharghava, who heads the Indian Council of Medical Research, said more testing would only create “more fear, more paranoia, and more hype.”

As of April 3, India — a country of nearly 1.4 billion people — had just over 2,500 reported confirmed coronavirus cases and 72 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Silent Spreaders

But even if governments have the means and are eager to test, it may not always be clear whom should be tested.

That’s because not everyone reacts the same way to the coronavirus.

Jarmila Razova, the Czech Republic’s head hygienist, told Czech media on April 2 that up to 40 percent of people infected with the coronavirus may show no symptoms at all.

These so-called silent spreaders are feared to be fueling the coronavirus pandemic.

“Stealth transmission” is not only real but a “major driver” of the epidemic, said Columbia University infectious diseases researcher Jeffrey Shaman, who led a study published on March 16 in the journal Science. Its contribution to the virus’s spread “is substantially undetected, and it’s flying below the radar.”

But even when the data may be as close as possible to giving a true picture of the coronavirus problem, some governments may be opting to distort it.

China, where the outbreak began in late December, has reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

By comparison, the United States has reported more than 245,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths as of April 3.

Doubts that the Chinese numbers are accurate have been fueled in part by stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei Province, where the coronavirus was first detected.

U.S. intelligence concluded in a classified report that was handed over to the White house that China covered up the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on April 1.

U.S. officials refused to disclose details of the report, saying only, according to a Bloomberg report, that “China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.”

In the Middle East, no country has been harder hit than Iran. The Islamic republic has reported more than 50,000 cases and more than 3,100 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, many suspect the numbers being reported by Iran, notorious for its censorship and lack of transparency, are low.

Since the start of the crisis, members of parliament and local officials in some of the major centers of the coronavirus in the country have said the real number of dead and those infected is being grossly understated by the clerical regime that rules Iran.

Satellite images from mid-March appeared to show mass graves being dug in the area around the city of Qom, where the country’s outbreak is believed to have begun.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Faulty Russian Testing Tool?

With a population of over 144 million, Russia has reported some 3,500 confirmed cases and just 30 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

While Russia has been lauded for carrying out testing early and on a relatively large scale, some experts say the low numbers may be explained in part by the testing tool developed by a state-funded laboratory in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, known by its shorthand name Vektor.

A Russian science blog called PCR News, which said it had reviewed the specific protocols of the lab’s test, said it only detects the virus if it is over a certain threshold in a sample. The test also appeared to give a higher than expected number of “false positives.”

On March 23, Moscow’s coronavirus task force said the testing protocol would be changed, but it is unclear if the move will win over skeptics.

Within Russia itself, the Kremlin has moved to shut down domestic naysayers, accusing them of spreading disinformation on social media.

In early March, Russia’s Federal Security Service and Internet watchdog moved to take down a viral post claiming the real number of coronavirus cases had reached 20,000 and that the Russian government was covering it up.

Shortly after the move, Facebook and Instagram users in Russia started to see coronavirus awareness alerts linking to Rospotrebnadzor’s official website.

While the Kremlin has been quick to downplay crisis at home, it appears eager to promote it abroad.

According to an analysis released on April 1 by the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, “claims that the EU is disintegrating in the face of COVID-19 are trending on social media in all analyzed regions,” including EU states and Eastern Europe.

It also said RT and Sputnik — Kremlin-funded media — were peddling conspiracy theories that the virus was man-made or intentionally spread, while portraying Russia and China as “responsible powers.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the first all-female spacewalk isn’t gonna happen

With the first in a series of three spacewalks successfully completed at the International Space Station, NASA has updated astronaut assignments for the remaining two spacewalks and will preview the third in an upcoming news conference on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain conducted the first spacewalk in this series on March 22, 2019. Hague and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch now are preparing to conduct the second spacewalk Friday, March 29, 2019, during which they will continue work started on the first spacewalk to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station’s solar arrays.


Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, 2019, Koch will wear it.

Mission experts previewed the tasks for the first two spacewalks during a March 19, 2019 news conference.

McClain now is tentatively scheduled to perform her next spacewalk – the third in this series – on Monday, April 8, 2019, with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Assignments for this spacewalk will be finalized following completion of the second spacewalk.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are pictured in between a pair of spacesuits that are stowed and serviced inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

(NASA)

Experts will discuss the work to be performed on the April 8, 2019 spacewalk during a news conference at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Live coverage of the briefing and spacewalks will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Media wishing to attend the briefing in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2019. Media interested in participating by phone must contact the newsroom by 1:45 p.m. April 2, 2019.

Participants in the briefing will be:

  • Kenny Todd, International Space Station manager for Operations and Integration
  • Rick Henfling, spacewalk flight director
  • John Mularski, lead spacewalk officer

McClain and Saint-Jacques will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station’s backbone, during their April 8, 2019 spacewalk. This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They also will install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.

Live coverage of both spacewalks will begin at 6:30 a.m., and each is expected to last about 6.5 hours. The March 29, 2019 spacewalk is scheduled to start at 8:20 a.m., while the April 8, 2019 spacewalk is set to start at 8:05 a.m.

These will be the 215th and 216th spacewalks in the history of International Space Station assembly and maintenance. During the first spacewalk of the series, on March 22, 2019, McClain became the 13th woman to perform a spacewalk. Koch will become the 14th on March 29, 2019.

Learn more about the spacewalks and the International Space Station at: https://www.nasa.gov/station

Articles

Head of US Marine Corps aviation: The F-35B is ready to go to war right now

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation, discusses the future of Marine aviation at AEI in Washington, DC, on July 29. | AEI.org


When asked on Friday if the F-35B could fly combat missions to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the US Marine Corps’ head of aviation said, “We’re ready to do that.”

Noting that the decision to deploy the fifth-generation jet into combat would come from higher command, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation said that the F-35B is “ready to go right now.”

“We got a jewel in our hands and we’ve just started to exploit that capability, and we’re very excited about it,” Davis said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.

Davis, who has flown copilot in every type of model series of tilt-rotor, rotary-winged, and tanker aircraft in the Marine inventory, said that the F-35 is an airplane he’s excited about.

“The bottom line is everybody who flies a pointy-nose airplane in the Marine Corps wants to fly this jet,” Davis said.

Last summer, then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford declared initial operational capability (IOC) for 10 F-35B jets, the first of the sister-service branches.

“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,'” Davis said.

“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford,” he said.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic
An F-35B flies near its base at MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

Ahead of IOC, Davis said that the Marine Corps “stacked the deck with the F-35 early on” by assigning Top Gun school graduates and weapons-tactics instructors to test the plane.

“The guys that flew that airplane and maintained that airplane were very, very, hard graders,” he said.

Davis added that the jet proved to be “phenomenally successful” during testing: “It does best when it’s out front, doing the killing.”

The Marine Corps’ first F-35B squadron is scheduled to go to sea in spring 2018.

Meanwhile, the US Air Force could declare its first F-35 squadron combat-ready as early as next week.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Chinese spy was arrested for allegedly stealing aerospace secrets

A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States yesterday.

The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.


Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Eyebrows were raised when the designs for the Chinese J-31 surfaced and it looked a lot like the American F-35 Lightning II (pictured above)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)

“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”

“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”

“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.

Yanjun Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad.

Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. The government unsealed the charges today, following his extradition to the United States. The four-count indictment charges Xu with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.

​According to the indictment:

Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base.

(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years of incarceration. The maximum for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets is 10 years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché’s Office in Brussels. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in obtaining and coordinating the extradition of Xu, and Belgian authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and the assistance of the Belgian authorities in the arrest and extradition of Xu. Mr. Demers and Mr. Glassman also commended the cooperation of GE Aviation throughout this investigation. The cooperation and GE Aviation’s internal controls protected GE Aviation’s proprietary information.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy S. Mangan and Emily N. Glatfelter of the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler and Amy E. Larson of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy announced its first Black female fighter pilot in its history

The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.

“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”


Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.

Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”

Twitter

twitter.com

“Very proud of LTJG Swegle. Go forth and kick butt,” Paula Dunn, Navy’s vice chief of information, tweeted Thursday.

Others, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, also congratulated Swegle.

“You make the @USNavy and our country stronger,” Warren said.

Twitter

twitter.com

Twitter

twitter.com

According to January 2019 data, the US Navy is approximately 80% male and 62% white. Black women make up about 5% of the US Navy, according to the data.

As Stars and Stripes reported, Brenda E. Robinson became the first Black female pilot in the Navy, earning her wings on June 6, 1980. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, who retired from the Air Force in 2010, was the first woman to fly in combat the US military while serving in the Air Force in January 1995. She became the first woman to command a fighter squadron in 2004, according to the US Air Force.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Seventy years ago, with Adolf Hitler’s crumbled Third Reich still fresh in their memories and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union having a choke hold on their future, Berlin’s children were starving.

With the Nazi surrender in 1945, the Allies divided the defeated Germany. The French, British, and Americans took the western half of the nation spreading the ideals of democracy, while the Communist Russians occupied the eastern half of Germany. Berlin itself was divided into sectors between the allies, but was completely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled sector of Germany.


More than three years after World War II ended, Russian forces blockaded the Allied-controlled areas of Berlin on June 24, 1948, shutting off access to food, coal, and medicine to two million German citizens.

Berlin became the first front line of The Cold War and the nine-month old U.S. Air Force was charged with keeping Berliners alive while keeping the Cold War from turning hot.

The Berlin Airlift began two days later, with U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrains and C-54 Skymasters delivering milk, flour, and medicine to West Berlin. Throughout the duration of the blockade, U.S. and British aircraft delivered more than 2.3 million tons of supplies. At the height of the Berlin Airlift, aircraft were landing every three minutes, supplying up to 13,000 tons of food, coal and medicine a day, according to the Air Force Historical Support Division.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

German children who live near the Tempelhof Air Base use model American planes which were sold in toy shops throughout the western sector of Berlin to play a game called “Luftbrucke” (air bridge) while pretending they are American pilots delivering food and supplies for “Operation Vittles” during the Berlin Airlift in West Berlin.

(National Archive photo)

Then-1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1974, was one of the American pilots flying around-the-clock missions from Rhein-Main Air Base in West Germany to Tempelhof Air Field in Berlin. He flew 126 missions delivering supplies and food from July 1948 to February 1949.

“We learned very clearly that the new enemy was Stalin. He was taking over where Hitler left off. We knew exactly what Stalin had in mind,” Halvorsen said.

However, some Airmen had mixed emotions about aiding the former enemy that had been shooting at American pilots just three years before. Halvorsen admitting that he had issues at first with the mission, but it quickly changed when he talked with a fellow crewmember.

“He told me that it is a hell of a lot better to feed them (rather) than kill them and that he was glad to be back. That is service before self. That is what causes your enemy to become your friend,” Halvorsen said.

On one of his first missions, the American pilot learned in a conversation with German youth through the perimeter fence at Templehof, that West Berliners may have needed food, but they were even more hungry for hope and freedom.

Between missions, Halvorsen was filming aircraft landings with his Revere movie camera when he encountered about 30 German children between the ages of 8 and 14, he said in his autobiography, “The Berlin Candy Bomber.”

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

He greeted them with practically all the German he knew, but surprisingly, one of the group spoke English. Halvorsen was soon answering questions about how many sacks of flour and loaves of bread the airplanes carried and what other types of cargo were being airlifted.

He talked with the children for an hour before he realized not one had asked him for anything. Instead, they gave him something he didn’t expect: the best lesson on freedom he’d ever heard.

“I got five steps away from them, and then it hit me,” said Halvorsen, commonly known as the Berlin Candy Bomber. “I’d been dead-stopped for an hour, and not one kid had put out their hand. Not one.”

The contrast was so stark because during World War II, and dating all the way back to George Washington, if you were in an American uniform walking down the street, kids would chase you and ask for chocolate and gum.

“The reason they didn’t was they were so grateful to our fliers to be free. They wouldn’t be a beggar for more than freedom,” said Halvorsen. “Hitler’s past and Stalin’s future was their nightmare. American-style freedom was their dream. They knew what freedom was about. They said, ‘Someday we’ll have enough to eat, but if we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.’ These were kids, and they were teaching me about freedom. That’s what just blew me away… That was the trigger. I reached into my pocket, but all I had were two sticks of gum. Right then, the smallest decision I made changed the rest of my life.”

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

When he reached into his pocket for the two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum, Halvorsen debated the wisdom of giving it to them. Perhaps they’d fight over it. Yet, he broke each in half and passed four halves through the barbed wire, then braced for the rush of children to the fence.

It never came.

The children who didn’t get any of the gum only asked for a piece of the wrapper so they could smell the aroma. Their reaction, along with the surprise the pilot felt when they didn’t beg for anything, led to his decision to do more for them.

The man the German children would later call “Onkel Wackelflugel” or Uncle Wiggly Wings, came up with an idea that would not only change the lives of those children, but would also help the West win the ideological war with the Soviets for Germany’s future.

Halvorsen told the kids he would drop something to them on his next landing at Templehof if they promised to share. He would signal them on approach that it was his plane by wiggling the wings, something he’d done for his parents after he received his pilot’s license in 1941.

Back at Rhein-Main Air Base, just 280 miles away, he combined his candy rations with those of his co-pilot and engineer, made parachutes out of handkerchiefs and string and tied them to chocolate and gum for the first “Operation Little Vittles” drop from his C-54 Skymaster July 18, 1948.

“The only way I could get back to deliver it was to drop it from the airplane, 100 feet over their heads, on the approach between the barbed wire fence and bombed-out buildings,” Halvorsen said. “A red light came on that said you can’t drop it without permission. But I rationalized it by saying that starving 2 million people isn’t according to Hoyle, either, so what’s a few candy bars?”

The amount of candy steadily increased, along with the number of waiting children, for three weeks until a Berlin newspaper published a photo of the now famous “Candy Bomber.”

Soon, stacks of letters began arriving at Templehof base operations addressed to “Der Schokoladen Flieger” (the Chocolate Flyer), or “Onkel Wackelflugel.”

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gail Halvorsen, known as “The Candy Bomber”, reads letters from grateful West Berlin children to whom he dropped candy bars on tiny parachutes during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

One day, after he returned from Berlin, Halvorsen was summoned by Col. James R. Haun, the C-54 squadron commander. Haun had received a call from Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner, deputy commander of operations during the airlift, who wanted to know who was dropping parachutes over Berlin.

Halvorsen knew he was in trouble when Haun showed him the newspaper with the picture of little parachutes flying out of his C-54.

“You got me in a little trouble there, Halvorsen,” Haun told him.

“I’d had a long relationship with him, but he was put out because he was sandbagged,” Halvorsen said. “So when I talk to kids, especially high school kids, I say, ‘when you get a job, don’t sandbag your boss.’ He said to keep [dropping candy], but keep him informed. It just went crazy after that.”

Fellow pilots donated their candy rations. Eventually, they ran out of parachutes, so they made more from cloth and old shirt-sleeves until noncommissioned officers’ and officers’ wives at Rhein-Main AB began making them.

Later, the American Confectioners Association donated 18 tons of candy, mostly sent through a Chicopee, Massachusetts school where students attached it to parachutes before sending to Berlin through then-Westover Air Force Base.

By the end of the Berlin Airlift in September 1949, American pilots had dropped 250,000 parachutes and 23 tons of candy.

“Willie Williams took over after I left Berlin,” Halvorsen said. “And he ended up dropping even more candy than I did.”

Since the Berlin Airlift ended, Halvorsen has met countless Germans whose lives were changed because of “Operation Little Vittles.”

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

During the Berlin Airlift, then Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen dropped candy attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs to German children watching the airlift operations from outside the fence of the Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. One of those children was then seven-year-old Mercedes Simon whose father was killed during WWII. She and Halvorsen became pen pals and friends meeting many times later in life. The beginning of their friendship is recounted in the children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” by Margot Theis Raven held by Halvorsen.

(US Air Force photo)

One of them, a 7-year-old girl named Mercedes, wrote in a letter in 1948 that she loved “Der Schokoladen Flieger,” but was concerned for her chickens, who thought the airlift planes were chicken hawks. Mercedes asked him to drop candy near the white chickens because she didn’t care if he scared them.

Halvorsen tried, but never could find Mercedes’ white chickens, so he wrote her a letter and sent her candy through the Berlin mail.

The two would finally meet face-to-face 24 years later when Halvorsen returned to Berlin as Templehof commander in the early 1970s.

Mercedes’ husband, Peter Wild, convinced the Templehof commander to come to his home for dinner. Mercedes showed him the letter he’d written her in 1948, along with the chickens she’d written about in her own letter.

It was a friendship immortalized in Margot Theis Raven’s children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.”

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

Halvorsen has returned to Berlin nearly 40 times since the airlift. In 1974, he received one of Germany’s highest medals, the Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, and carried the German team’s national placard into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening march for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Halvorsen participated in a re-enactment of “Operation Little Vittles” during the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Berlin Airlift and also dropped candy from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Even at the age of 97, Halvorsen keeps a busy schedule as he and his wife, Lorraine, split their time between their homes in Arizona and Utah. Several times a year he would fly the C-54 “Spirit of Freedom,” with FAA certification to fly second-in-command.

He’s also visited many schools, both stateside and overseas, and visited Iraq to review Air Mobility Command transport operations and visit troops deployed in Southwest Asia.

Seventy years since the Berlin Airlift, the colonel remains universally beloved as the “Candy Bomber,” but enjoys one thing about his perpetual notoriety the most.

“The thing I enjoy the most about being the ‘Candy Bomber’ is seeing the children’s reaction even now to the idea of a chocolate bar coming out of the sky,” he said. “The most fun I have is doing air drops because even here in the states, there’s something magical about a parachute flying out of the sky with a candy bar on it.”

Halvorsen believes the praise he receives for bringing hope to a generation of Germans through his candy bombing deflects much of the credit to that first group of children at the barbed wire fence at Templehof.

Their gratitude and thankfulness for the pilots’ efforts to keep them free during the Berlin Airlift inspired him to reach into his pocket for those two sticks of gum.

That “smallest decision,” as Halvorsen calls it, led to 23 tons of candy dropped from the sky to the children of West Berlin and changed countless lives, not to mention the life of the Candy Bomber, himself.

Halvorsen’s dedication to helping those in need didn’t end after he retired with 31 years of service in the Air Force. In 1994, his request to assist in another humanitarian airlift was approved. He would fly with the Air Force again, this time delivering food to 70,000 refugees fleeing from the conflict in Bosnia.

“We have our freedom to choose, and when the freedom is taken away, air power is the only quick way to answer a crisis like that,” he recalled.

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster like the one he flew during WWII at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona.

(US Air Force photo)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Even Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces need heroes at times — those times when the fighting gets too thick and there are wounded that need attention on the ground. Those heroes are the Air Force’s Pararescue Jumpers; highly-trained airmen who will come retrieve anyone who needs it, almost anywhere, and in nearly any situation.

Just earning the title of what the Air Force affectionately calls a “PJ” is a grueling task. Dubbed “Superman School,” Pararescue training takes two years and has a dropout rate of around 80 percent. And PJs put all of this rigorous training to use in their everyday duties, when it matters the most. It’s not exaggeration to say they are among the most decorated airmen in the Air Force — and none of them are more decorated than Duane Hackney.


Over the course of his career, Hackney stacked on an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four distinguished flying crosses (with combat V), two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals, just to name a few highlights of the more-than-70 decorations he amassed in his life.

His achievements made him the most decorated airman in Air Force history.

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Like the rest of his fellow Pararescue Jumpers, he was in the right place at the right time to earn those accolades. Unfortunately, “right place at the right time” for a PJ means “terrible time to be anywhere in the area” for everyone else. Jumping into the dense jungles of North Vietnam to recover downed pilots and special operators was incredibly dangerous work.

With the rest of the allied ground forces in South Vietnam, once lowered into the jungles, PJs were truly on their own down there.

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Duane Hackney had no illusions about the dangers he faced when on a mission. The Michigan native joined the Air Force specifically to become a Pararescueman — and the NVA made sure Duane and his fellow PJs had their work cut out for them. The North Vietnamese air defenses were good — very good. Despite the massive air campaigns launched over Vietnam, the U.S. couldn’t always count on complete air superiority. Massive surface-to-air missile complexes and well-trained NVA pilots flying the latest Soviet fighters ensured plenty of work for the Air Force. Whenever a pilot went down, they sent the PJs to find them

Duane Hackney went on more than 200 search-and-rescue missions in just under four years in Vietnam. He lost track of how many times he went into those jungles or how many times the enemy opened up a deadly barrage as he went. It was part of the job, and it was a job Hackney did extremely well.

It wasn’t easy. Just days into his first tour in Vietnam, Hackney took a .30-caliber slug to the leg. He had another PJ remove it and treat the wound rather than allow himself be medically evacuated out of the country. He was in five helicopters as they were shot down over North Vietnam, putting himself and those aircrews in the same risk as the pilots they were sent to rescue — captured troops could look forward to a quick death or a long stay in the “Hanoi Hilton.”

On one mission in February, 1967, Hackney jumped into a dense area of North Vietnam, in the middle of a massed enemy force. He extracted a downed pilot and made it back to his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter. As they left, the NVA tore into the helo with 37mm flak fire. Hackney secured his parachute to the downed pilot and he went to grab another parachute. The rest of the people aboard the helicopter would be killed in the explosion that shot Hackney out the side door.

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Hackney managed to grab a chute before being fired out the side. He deployed it as he hit the trees below, fell another 80 feet, and landed on a ledge in a crevasse. The NVA troops above him were jumping over the crevasse, looking for him. Hackney managed to make it back to the wreckage of the helicopter to look for survivors. Finding none, he signaled to be picked up himself.

That incident over the Mu Gia Pass earned Hackney the Air Force Cross. At the time, he was the youngest man to receive the award and the only living recipient of it. But Hackney didn’t stop there. Despite that close call, he stayed in Vietnam for another three years — as a volunteer for his entire stay in country.

He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement as Chief Master Sergeant Hackney in 1991.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy exploring artificial intelligence for warfare network

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.


The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).

CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers, and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.

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Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) patrols the Pacific Ocean during flight operations in the 7th Fleet area of operation. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineers successfully completed the restrained firing test of the Longbow Hellfire missile for the Littoral Combat Ship Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, the Navy announced on Oct. 6, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer Second Class Michaela Garrison)

“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”

Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing, and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.

“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship, or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomalous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.

Also Read: Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship destroys swarming boat attack in test

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing, and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers and computing functions.

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Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Jeremy Seltzer monitors the installation of a Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Service cables on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson is currently pierside in its home port in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class D’Andre L. Roden/Released)

“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.

Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase onboard automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.

Along these lines, Navy engineers recently completed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.

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Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR) Pre-Installation Test and Check Out (PITCO) technicians Diana Burnside and Arnel Franswells perform acceptance testing on Consolidated Afloat Ships Network Enterprise Services (CANES) racks in SPAWAR’s Network Integration and Engineering Facility. As the Navy’s information warfare acquisition systems command SPAWAR develops, delivers, and sustains communications and information capabilities for warfighters. (U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt)

“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network (LAN) drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.

The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyber-attacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.

“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A major ISIS figure whom everyone thought was killed in Syria turned out to be living in a seaside town in Spain

The arrest in Spain of an infamous member of Islamic State from London who authorities thought had been killed in Syria has sparked fears among security officials that more foreign fighters survived the fall of ISIS-controlled territory than previously imagined.

Worse, sources tell Insider, he found a way to smuggle himself back into Europe by avoiding customs checks and biometric tracking at borders.


Abdel-Majed Abdel-Bary and two unnamed associates were arrested Monday by Spanish police in the Mediterranean port city of Almeria after coordination with the UK domestic intelligence service MI5, which had been attempting to track him since he left the UK to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.

He once posed with a severed head

Abdel-Bary is the son of Adel Abdel Bari, who has been accused of killing 224 people in various bomb attacks across Africa. Some believe he is linked to the terror cell that committed the Bataclan massacre in Paris in 2015.

He is one of the best-known of European ISIS members to have been arrested after returning to Europe from Syria since the arrests of members of the “Molenbeek Cell” in Brussels that conducted terror attacks across France and Belgium from 2014 to 2016.

Abdel-Bary grew up in a council house in Maida Vale, North London. His address was not far from that of Mohammed Emwazi, better-known as “Jihadi John.” When video footage emerged of three ISIS suspects putting a knife to the throat of American journalist James Foley, officials initially suspected Abdel-Bary might be “Jihadi John” before later attributing the identity as Emwazi. Abdel-Bary did, however, once pose with a severed head.

Intelligence sources said they were shaken that such a major figure could make his way back into Europe undetected.

“This is a major problem,” a counter-terrorism official in Belgium told Insider.

“Abdel-Bary isn’t some Syrian guy nobody has ever heard of. He’s a well-known jihadist from a well-known jihadist family who was active on social media from Syria and was closely linked to both the cyber-caliphate activities of Junaid Hussain and the cell of UK fighters who controlled the Western hostages in Raqqa. Now it turns out he’s not dead but rather living in a rented apartment on the Spanish coast.”

‘Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?’

Spanish police did not identify the men beyond a statement that claimed, “One of the most sought terrorists in Europe, both because of his criminal trajectory in the ranks of [ISIS] and because of the high danger that he represented.”

UK officials subsequently identified one of the men as Abdel-Bary to the British media, a claim confirmed by EU intelligence officials.

The official said the immediate suspicion was that Abdel-Bary was able to make his way back to Europe at some point in the last few years amid the ongoing flood of civilian refugees. More than 1.5 million people fled the region through Turkey and Greece in 2015. Tens of thousands more arrived in 2019 alone.

“There was an Interpol Red Notice on him, he could not have used his legal paperwork from the UK to enter the Schengen Zone and his biometric data was available because of previous drug arrests so if he tried to enter as a refugee since the new standards were implemented by Frontex that should have quickly flagged him,” said the official. The Schengen Zone is the area of 26 countries in mainland Europe through which citizens are allowed to move without passports.

“Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?” asked the Belgian official, who had tracked both the Molenbeek Cell and then assisted French and Belgian special forces in targeting Francophone fighters during the fighting in Mosul and Raqqa from 2016 to 2019.

His name should have been flagged the moment he entered Europe

A source with the Greek Interior Ministry told Insider that there was no biometric data that showed Abdel-Barry passed through Greece at any point, and that his name would have been flagged if he tried to enter Schengen on his UK passport.

While the UK targeted several of its own high-profile ISIS jihadists — Junaid Hussain and Mohammed Emwazi were both killed in drone strikes in 2015 — the French and Belgians, who had more than 1,000 suspects leave to join ISIS, were much more specific and aggressive. They targeted high-value French-speaking jihadists during the campaigns to retake Mosul and Raqqa.

The French intelligence services concluded around 2016 that there was little value in accumulating more defectors from the group, and switched to a policy of targeting French-speaking groups of fighters as they were detected in Iraq and Syria.

“The Brits sent troops to assist with the overall effort and they were very effective,” said one French official, who said he considers Abdel-Bary to be part of the same cell that did the 2015 Bataclan attacks, “But we specifically worked with the Belgians to make sure that most of ‘our’ guys couldn’t come home because they were dead. This is why we see more UK fighters detained by the Kurds than French of Belgian fighters. We worked very hard to kill as many as we could.”

They thought he had been killed in a drone strike

Abdel-Bary, 28, was involved in drug dealing and had a small star turn as a jihadi inspired rapper. He was influenced by his Egyptian-born father’s yearslong detention in the UK while awaiting extradition to the US on charges he was a member of al Qaida who helped plan the 1998 East African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

His family links to al Qaida, short career as a mediocre rapper, and heavy social media presence in 2015 made him one of the most visible UK members of ISIS before he disappeared, He was believed to have been killed as the group lost stronghold after stronghold in Syria and Iraq from 2016, until last year’s final collapse of the proto caliphate in Baghuz.

He was believed to have traveled to Syria with Hussain, a UK born ISIS member who was considered a top computer expert for the group before being killed in a joint UK-US drone strike in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2015.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thunderbird hits bird during Air Force Academy graduation

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird opted to depart early and land after apparently hitting a bird following May 30, 2019’s Air Force Academy graduation flyover, according to the team spokesman.

“The Thunderbirds Delta [formation] safely executed the flyover, when [Thunderbird No. 3] experienced a possible birdstrike,” Maj. Ray Geoffroy, spokesman for the demonstration team, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, he returned to the base and landed without incident prior to the aerial demonstration portion of today’s performance.”

The team typically returns after the flyover to perform an aerobatic demonstration for the event, Geoffroy said. The Thunderbirds fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


“The rest of the team safely completed the demonstration [and] all aircraft are now back at Peterson Air Force Base, [Colorado], safe and sound,” he said.

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The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation May 28, 2014, over Falcon Stadium during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

The Air Force is investigating May 30, 2019’s episode. It’s not the first time the Thunderbirds have experienced a mishap while performing at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony.

After the academy’s 2016 graduation event, attended by then-President Barack Obama, Maj. Alex Turner, pilot for the No. 6 jet, crashed in a nearby field in Colorado Springs. Turner was headed back to Peterson but felt that something wasn’t right.

“What was that that I just felt there, with my hand?” Turner said he asked at the time of the mishap. Turner sat down with Military.com in 2017 to recall the event.

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The Thunderbirds perform May 25, 2011, after a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The official investigation later found that an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall, causing Turner’s jet to crash.

Since 1995, the Air Force has recorded 105,586 wildlife strikes that damaged aircraft, according to data recently reported by Air Force Times.

Excluding injuries, the strikes have cost the service 7,546,884, Air Force Times reported.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman discovered the ecstasy of choriso while stationed in Guam

Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.


Christopher Allen’s time in the Air Force eventually brought him to the beautiful and isolated island of Guam for a stint as an Air Traffic Controller. It was in this exotic local that he was served chorizo for the first time, and it changed his life forever.

Yukon Chorizo Hash w/ Quail Egg and Yuzu Vinaigrette

Inspired by Chris’ service in Guam

Ingredients

Hash

2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (washed and peeled)

2 lbs fresh Mexican chorizo

1 jalapeno (seeded, stemmed and diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 lg. spanish onion (diced)

4 quail eggs

Yuzu Vinaigrette

3 tb yuzu juice

zest from 1 lemon

Also need

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

parsley (chopped) for garnish

Prepare

Add potatoes to a large pot, fill until covered with cold, liberally salted water and bring to boil. Once boiling, par-cook potatoes until almost fork tender (about 15 mins).

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs of olive oil on medium heat – add onion, garlic and jalapeño. Meanwhile, squeeze chorizo out of their casings and set aside. Once onion is translucent(about 5 mins) add chorizo and sauté (should look like ground beef).

Once potatoes are par-boiled, remove, cool (but don’t rinse), chop into same size and shape as onion and add to the chorizo mixture. Cook through, adding salt and pepper to taste and letting potatoes and aromatics incorporate flavors from the chorizo spices.

Prepare the vinaigrette by adding yuzu and lemon zest to a boil and adding 4-6 tbs of olive oil while whisking vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, fry quail egg in olive oil over medium low heat for 2 mins, take off heat, cover and serve over chorizo mixture in a ramekin. Garnish with parsley and top with yuzu vinaigrette.

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks
Dramatic Classical Hip Hop – Trent Williamson

Madridista-JP – The Beards

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how a physicist lit his cigarette with a nuclear-bomb explosion

There are all kinds of strange ways to light up a cigarette, from blowtorches to magnifying glasses. But few people on Earth have ever used as bizarre or overkill a method as devised by a Cold War physicist: the explosion of a nuclear bomb.

On Aug. 18, 2019, a thread from Reddit’s popular “r/TodayILearned” community mentioned the story of how the theoretical physicist Ted Taylor used the blinding flash of an atomic explosion to light a cigarette in 1952.

Records of “atomic cigarette lighter” events aren’t exactly robust, but it appears Taylor was the first to come up with the idea. That’s according to the author Richard L. Miller, whose 1986 book “Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing” chronicled the event in detail.


Taylor apparently lit his cigarette during Operation Tumbler-Snapper, which was a series of test blasts orchestrated by the US military at the Nevada Test Site. The operation happened in the throes of the Korean War — a conflict in which President Harry S. Truman considered dropping the bomb (again).

Operation Tumbler Snapper (1952)

www.youtube.com

Government officials code-named the test explosion or shot in question “George” because it was the seventh in a series (and “G” is the seventh letter of the alphabet). Its purpose wasn’t to light up a smoke, of course: Military researchers placed a roughly 3,000-pound nuclear-bomb design, known as the Mark 5, atop a 300-foot-tall tower in part to try out a new blast-triggering technology, according to the Nuclear Weapons Archive.

The day before the test shot, Taylor apparently found a spare parabolic (cup-shaped) mirror, according to Miller’s book, and set it up in a control building ahead of time. Taylor knew exactly where to place the mirror so that it’d gather light from the test explosion, which would release gobs of thermal energy, and focus it on a particular spot.

Next, Taylor hung a Pall Mall cigarette on a wire so that its tip would float directly in front of the focused light beam. The arrangement wasn’t too different in principle from holding out a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight on a piece of paper and light it on fire.

On June 1, 1952, Taylor and other weapons experts huddled into the bunkerlike control building near Area 3 of the Yucca Flats weapons test basin in Nevada. Then they set off the bomb.

“In a second or so the concentrated, focused light from the weapon ignited the tip of the cigarette. He had made the world’s first atomic cigarette lighter,” Miller wrote of Taylor’s setup.

‘It is a form of patting the bomb’

Taylor’s nuclear-age antics likely did not stop with him.

Martin Pfeiffer, an anthropologist who researches humanity’s relationship with nuclear weapons (and who frequently forces the release of documents related to the bomb), tweeted that a 1955 Department of Defense film appears to show the concept in action.

About 19 minutes into the half-hour movie, titled “Operation Teapot Military Effects Studies,” a narrator describes how parabolic mirrors were used to concentrate the light-based energy from nuclear explosions on samples of ceramics.

In the clip, a person’s hand holds the tip of a cigarette in a beam of focused light, causing it to smoke and ignite:

gfycat.com

Although this looks like another cigarette being lit by a nuclear weapon, that’s unlikely.

There’s no blinding flash — a telltale effect of a nuclear explosion — and the length of time the light beam stays on-screen is far too long as well. The person being filmed probably just held out his cigarette for the videographer so as to demonstrate the concept of a parabolic mirror focusing would-be bomb energy.

Still, it’s not hard to imagine the story of Taylor’s feat spreading among his colleagues over many years and hundreds of above-ground US nuclear test shots. A few others probably tried it themselves.

In any case, Pfeiffer isn’t enamored by such stunts.

“Lighting a cigarette with a nuclear weapon … is at least in part an effort of domestication of nuclear weapons through a performance articulating it to a most quotidian act of cigarette lighting,” he tweeted. “It is a form of patting the bomb.”

That is to say: The act risks trivializing nuclear weapons, which can and have inflicted mass death and destruction. The 1945 US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, for example, led to approximately 150,000 casualties, and decades of suffering for many who survived the attacks.

Today, above-ground nuclear testing is mostly banned worldwide, since it can spread radioactive fallout, mess with electronics, be mistaken for an act of war, and more. But US-Russia relations have deteriorated to the point that each nation is racing to develop and test new nuclear armaments.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, endeavors to ban nuclear explosions “by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground.” Russia has signed and ratified the treaty, but eight other nations have yet to complete both steps and bring it into effect.

The US signed on to the CTBT in 1996, but Congress has yet to ratify the nation’s participation in the agreement. There are also nearly15,000 nuclear weapons in existence today, which means the atomic-cigarette-lighter trick could, almost certainly for worse, be tried again.

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

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