DoD releases new assessment on China's growing power - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

China is not an enemy, but it is certainly an adversary of the United States, and the Defense Department’s 2018 report to Congress examines the trends in Chinese military developments.

Congress mandates the report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” While the report highlights military developments, it also addresses China’s whole-of-government approach to competition.


China’s economic development is fueling extraordinary changes in relationships it maintains around the world, according to the report. On the face of it, China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative sounds benign – it looks to build infrastructure for developing countries and Chinese neighbors.

Chinese leaders have funded serious projects as far away as Africa under the initiative. They have built roads in Pakistan and made major inroads in Malaysia. China has a major stake in Sri Lanka. Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Laos and Djibouti also are involved.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

People’s Liberation Army troops demonstrate an attack during a visit by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to China, Aug. 16, 2017.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Chinese government seeks to overturn the established international order that has kept the peace in the region since World War II and allowed Asian countries to develop.

But “One Belt, One Road” money and projects come with strings. The “one road” leads to China, and nations are susceptible to Chinese influence on many levels – political, military, and especially, economic.

Economic clout

In 2017, China used its economic clout in South Korea as a bludgeon to get Seoul to not allow the United States to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in the country as a counterweight to North Korea’s nuclear missile program. The Chinese government informally lowered the boom on South Korea economically to influence the THAAD decision.

South Korean cars and other exports were embargoed. About a quarter of all goods South Korea exports goes to China, so this had an immediate effect on the economy. In addition, tourism suffered, as nearly half of all entries to South Korea are from China, and South Korean retail stores in China were crippled.

The South Korean government decided to allow the THAAD to deploy, but China’s economic muscle movement had to be noted in other global capitals.

South China Sea

“In its regional territorial and maritime disputes, China continued construction of outposts in the Spratly Islands, but also continued outreach to South China Sea claimants to further its goal of effectively controlling disputed areas,” the DoD reports says in its executive summary. In other words, China is using military power and diplomatic efforts in tandem to claim the South China Sea.

The People’s Liberation Army has come a long way from the human-wave attacks of the Korean War, and Chinese leaders want to build a military worthy of a global power. “Chinese military strategy documents highlight the requirement for a People’s Liberation Army able to secure Chinese national interests overseas, including a growing emphasis on the importance of the maritime and information domains, offensive air operations, long-distance mobility operations, and space and cyber operations,” the report says.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with China’s Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe at the People’s Liberation Army’s Bayi Building in Beijing, June 28, 2018.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Chinese military planners looked at what the United States accomplished in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 and charted their way forward. The PLA is fundamentally restructuring to challenge and beat any military in the world.

The PLA – still the largest force in the world – actually cut people to streamline command and control and modernize forces. The Chinese seek to win at all levels of conflict, from regional conflicts to wars with peer competitors. “Reforms seek to streamline command and control structures and improve jointness at all levels,” the report said. The PLA is using realistic training scenarios and exercising troops and equipment regularly.

New capabilities

China is investing billions in new capabilities including artificial intelligence, hypersonic technology, offensive cyber capabilities and more. China also has launched an aircraft carrier and added many new ships to the PLA Navy. The Chinese Navy is more active and making more port calls than in years past. Further, the PLA Marine Corps is expanding from 10,000 personnel to 30,000.

The PLA Air Force has been reassigned a nuclear mission, giving China a nuclear triad — along with missile and subs — for the first time.

Cyber operations play a significant role in the Chinese military. The PLA has a large corps of trained and ready personnel. Cyber espionage is common, and there are those who believe China was able to get plans of the F-35 Thunderbolt II joint strike fighter, which they incorporated into its J-20 stealth fighter.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Aug. 17, 2017.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy recognize that China and Russia are strategic competitors of the United States. Still, the United States must engage with China, and maintenance of cordial military-to-military relations is in both nations’ best interests.

“While the Department of Defense engages substantively with the People’s Liberation Army, DoD will also continue to monitor and adapt to China’s evolving military strategy, doctrine and force development, and encourage China to be more transparent about its military modernization,” the report says.

The United States military will adapt to counter and get ahead of moves by any competitor, DoD officials said.

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

Intel

This video shows that the King Stallion is an absolute beast of a helicopter

A helicopter doesn’t fly; it beats the air into submission.


With the capacity to lift 88,000 lbs, the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is a true workhorse. It’s primed to be the premier lift helicopter by leveraging the lessons learned from its predecessors, the CH-53A, D and E.

The new metal beast of the air had its first flight on October 27, 2015. The 55-minute flight at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach flight test center was a real milestone considering the technical delays since 2014, mainly from the main gearbox.

The King Stallion will replace the current largest and heaviest helicopter in the military, the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion, which has been in service since 1980. Like the CH-53E, the King Stallion will also serve in the Corps. Although it’s not a game changer, it’s an overall improvement in power, speed, lift, structure, and more.

Here’s its first performance:

YouTube: Sikorsky Aircraft

MIGHTY MOVIES

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part II)

The movie “12 Strong” arrives in theaters this Friday, and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. special forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following is the second part of an Army.mil exclusive three-part feature recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in that country.


ON THE GROUND

Special operations forces have a famously tight bond. As the Green Berets stepped off the SOAR’s highly modified MH-47 Chinooks into Afghanistan, they stepped back in time, to a time of dirt roads and horses. They stepped into another world, one of arid deserts and towering peaks, of “rugged, isolated, beautiful, different colored stones and geographical formations, different shades of red in the morning as the sun came up,” said Maj. Mark Nutsch, then the commander of ODA 595, one of the first two 12-man teams to arrive in Afghanistan. The world was one of all-but-impassable trails, of “a canyon with very dominating, several-hundred-feet cliffs.” It was a world of freezing nights, where intelligence was slim, women were invisible, and friend and foe looked the same.

They arrived in the middle of the night, of course, to the sort of pitch blackness that can only be found miles from electricity and civilization, at the mercy of the men waiting for them. “We weren’t sure how friendly the link up was going to be,” said Nutsch. “We were prepared for a possible hot insertion. … We were surrounded by — on the LZ there were armed militia factions. … We had just set a helicopter down in that. … It was tense, but … the link up went smoothly.”

HORSEMEN

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
Starting Oct. 19, 2001, 12-man Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) began arriving in Afghanistan in the middle of the night, transported by aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion (Airborne). They were the first ground Soldiers of the war on terrorism following 9-11 and their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

The various special forces teams that were in Afghanistan split into smaller three-man and six-man cells to cover more ground. Some of them quickly found themselves on borrowed horses, in saddles meant for Afghans who were much lighter and shorter than American Green Berets. Most of the Soldiers had never ridden before, and they learned by immediately riding for hours, forced to keep up with skilled Afghan horsemen, on steeds that constantly wanted to fight each other.

But that’s what Green Berets do: they adapt and overcome. “The guys did a phenomenal job learning how to ride that rugged terrain,” said Nutsch, who worked on a cattle ranch and participated in rodeos in college. Even so, riding requires muscles most Americans don’t use every day, and after a long day in the saddle, the Soldiers were in excruciating pain, especially as the stirrups were far too short. They had to start jerry-rigging the stirrups with parachute cord.

“Initially you had a different horse for every move … and you’d have a different one, different gait or just willingness to follow the commands of the rider,” Nutsch remembered. “A lot of them didn’t have a bit or it was a very crude bit. The guys had to work through all of that and use less than optimal gear. … Eventually we got the same pool of horses we were using regularly.”

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

Nutsch had always been a history buff, and he had carefully studied Civil War cavalry charges and tactics, but he had never expected to ride horses into battle. In fact, it was the first time American Soldiers rode to war on horseback since World War II, and this ancient form of warfare was now considered unconventional.

“We’re blending, basically, 19th-century tactics with 20th-century weapons and 21st-century technology in the form of GPS, satellite communications, American air power,” Nutsch pointed out.

AUDACITY

And there were military tactics involved. Even the timing of the attacks was crucial. Nutsch remembers wondering why the Northern Alliance wanted to go after the Taliban midafternoon instead of in the morning, but it accounted for their slower speed on horseback, while still leaving time to consolidate any gains before darkness fell. (They didn’t have night vision goggles.)

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
U.S. Army special operators confer with Afghan chieftains and resistance fighters. Starting Oct. 19, 2001, 12-man Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) began arriving in Afghanistan in the middle of the night, transported by aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion (Airborne). They were the first ground Soldiers of the war on terrorism following 9-11 and their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. They scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. Some of the Green Berets found themselves riding horses, becoming the first American Soldiers to ride to war on horseback since World War II. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

Supported by the Green Berets, Northern Alliance fighters directly confronted the Taliban over and over again. Some factions, like Nutsch’s, relied on horses for that first month. Others had pickup trucks or other vehicles, but they usually charged into battle armed with little more than AK-47s, machine guns, grenades and a few handfuls of ammunition. Meanwhile, the Taliban had tanks and armored personnel carriers and antiaircraft guns they used as cannons, all left behind by the Soviets when they evacuated Afghanistan in the 1980s.

It took a lot of heart, a lot of courage. “We heard a loud roar coming from the west,” said Master Sgt. Keith Gamble, then a weapons sergeant on ODA 585, as he remembered one firefight. “We had no clue what it was until we saw about 500 to 1,000 NA soldiers charging up the ridge line. I called it a ‘Brave Heart’ charge. What the NA didn’t realize was that the route leading up the ridgeline was heavily mined. The NA did not fare too well, as they received numerous injuries and had to retreat. We continued to pound the ridge line with bombs until the NA took it that evening.”

“They weren’t suicidal,” Nutsch, who worked with different ethnic groups, agreed, “but they did have the courage to get up and quickly close that distance on those vehicles so they could eliminate that vehicle or that crew. We witnessed their bravery on several occasions where they charged down our flank (to attack) these armored vehicles or these air defense guns that are being used in a direct fire role, and kill the crew and capture that gun for our own use.”

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

Intel

The Navy’s New Weapon System Is A Laser Pointer On Steroids

The U.S. Navy Research team published a video on Wednesday showing off the capabilities of its new “Laser Weapon System” or LaWS, and it’s terrifying. It shoots a 30 kilowatt blast within 2 nanometers of its target according to Defense One.


Also Read: 7 Jobs That No Longer Exist In The Modern Navy

Simply put, it’s an oversized laser pointer on steroids.

The video starts with a time lapse of the weapon aboard a Navy ship while a boat appears over the horizon. It quickly cuts to an operator housed somewhere within the vessel. He’s standing in front of several screens holding what looks like a glorified X-Box controller. A blast is fired but there’s no bang, no smoke, no projectile, and no tracer, all you see is an explosion.

The video switches to a camera aboard the approaching boat for a close-up of the target. It’s a small stack of shells next to a cut-out of a human. The stack is precisely destroyed without damaging the wooden dummy.

Maybe I’ve seen too many comic book movies, but this is like X-Men’s Cyclops with an invisible laser beam.

Defense One reported that this is the Navy’s answer to drone attacks. Drones are becoming cheaper and more accessible, we’ve had them for years, but now American adversaries have begun to roll out their own versions. The LaWS will hopefully help the Navy keep drones at bay.

According to the Office of Naval Research, this isn’t the final version of the weapon. A more powerful 150-kilowatt version is scheduled for testing in 2016.

Check out the video:

usnavyresearch, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

What every soldier wishes they could vote on

Since the ultra-new and always-correct rules of social correctness have dictated that the only acceptable thing we can discuss or see online from now until election day is voting, we thought it only appropriate to create an article on everything the military wishes they could have some say in, but in reality, never will.

Appropriate labels for MRE sides and snacks.  

It is probably a good thing that MRE ingredients will always remain a secret. There is a big difference between assuming you are eating flame retardant and knowing it. If nothing else, soldiers should be allowed to suggest and vote on accurate MRE snack labeling.

Crackers to be re-labeled “desert sand molded to resemble inedible wafer.”

Bread to read “crust flavored chew toy similar to what you give your dog.”

Teriyaki beef sticks are really “tastes nothing like meat but we’ll fool you with the looks.”

All Captains must run for office

Enlisted ranks everywhere cannot wait to stand at attention for a “short” speech on what is inevitably to be an hour-long retelling of your life’s story. Imagine a world where Company Commander’s have to depend on how well they convinced Private I-just-want-to-go-play-XBOX-in-my-room of their ability to lead the Company. 

All we’re asking is a choice between two, maybe three twenty-somethings in charge of telling a 40-year-old First Sergeant how “in their experience” the Company should fix bayonets for every field problem and assault across that open field like it’s 1918.

Weapons spending 

In the movies, every soldier carries top-of-the-line gear straight out of a Bond film. Yet, actual soldiers know this could not be farther from the truth. Try driving your 1970’s vehicles into battle with a Desert Strom-era issued carbine with night-vision goggles straight out of the Cold War instead. The job definitely lacks sex appeal when you realize that the Army is nothing like Call of Duty.

While opting for a vintage-looking dress uniform (the second change and counting in less than a decade) seems to be the most pressing thing to spend money on up at the top, we’re betting the Infantry may have other suggestions. After all, uniforms don’t kill the enemy, weapons do!

Warning labels for MRE consumption 

You will only make the mistake once of consuming a new MRE flavor without first asking your veteran peers of the inevitable side effects unique to each meal. We think every soldier would benefit from putting up to date feedback on the packet. Besides, who wouldn’t love to vote on the year’s best review?

Beef taco
Severe explosive diarrhea is likely. Best consumed within crawling distance of a latrine.

Chili with beans
Days long blockage likely, leaving consumers with walking-fart syndrome. Public shunning period necessary due to lung health of the platoon.

Mandatory “fun day” funds 

Nothing says fun like mandatory fun. To kick off the only free day you will have in the foreseeable future, Company Commanders seem to think that there’s nothing better than a day full of mandated activities and awkward bonding over low-quality meat and the local grocery’s prepared foods section.

Ah, yes, much better than an actual day off. Especially when you are forced to spend it with the same group of people you see all day for five days straight every single week for years on end. Year after year the idea that soldiers possess the ability to have fun outside what is regulated continues to perplex leadership. Is this the year to hear the will of the people?

Term limits for CIF staff 

“This is dirty. Clean it and make an appointment to come back another day,” says the CIF employee with a shit-eating-grin about the still factory sealed part you just turned in. Good thing it was the last item you needed to turn in so you can clear CIF and PCS from the seventh circle of Hell you currently call home.

We’re not sure what the Training Manual on CIF Operations reads like, but find it likely that any study would show a correlation between the years a human spends at CIF and an increase in unrealistic, even psychopathic expectations. Save a soul, impose CIF term limits.

Holding a new private draft like schoolyard dodgeball

It’s no secret that standards at basic have slipped with each passing decade, resulting in Privates showing up to companies expecting amenities straight out of the Ritz. Nothing would bring more joy to sadistic Sergeants everywhere than to line up and publicly select incoming Privates to their unit like it’s the NFL draft. Perhaps a more accurate welcome to the company than what is currently in place would help the poor darlings adjust a little better.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Record-breaking NASA sun probe could change Earth’s electric grid

NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.

Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.

On Wednesday, NASA scientists announced the probe’s biggest discoveries so far, in four papers published in the journal Nature.

The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.

NASA image

‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field

This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.

By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.

“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.

NASA/SDO image

NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?

The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.

Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

The sun blowing out a coronal mass ejection.

NASA/GSFC image

The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.

“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”

The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.

“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.

Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.

The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.

The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.

The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.

“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.

NASA/JHU/APL image

Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun

Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.

For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.

Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.

“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”

That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.

6 more years and 21 more flybys

More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.

In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.

In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.

Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.

During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.

“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Coast Guard’s largest loss of life in a single event

“I felt and saw two flashes after which only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated and the bow sank soon afterwards.” – Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, USS Serpens commanding officer

The quote above refers to the Coast Guard-manned USS Serpens. Nearly 73 years ago on Jan. 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the transport. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in Coast Guard history.


In March 1943, an EC-2 class “Liberty Ship” was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract as “Hull #739” by the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Wilmington, California. It was launched less than a month later as the SS Benjamin N. Cardozo. Two weeks later it was transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated AK-97. The transport was 442 feet in length, displaced 14,250 tons and had a top speed of 11 knots. For defense it carried one 5-inch gun, one 3-inch gun, two 40mm and six 20mm anti-aircraft cannons. Its crew consisted of 19 officers and 188 enlisted men. In late May, the Navy renamed the transport Serpens, after a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, and commissioned the vessel in San Diego under the command of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Magnus Johnson.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
USS Serpens at anchor somewhere in the Pacific islands with derricks extended to take on cargo.
(U.S. Navy photo.)

Following a shakedown cruise off Southern California, Serpens loaded general cargo at Alameda, California, and, on June 24, set sail to support combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. It steamed between the supply hub of New Zealand and various Pacific islands, such as Tonga, Vitu Levu, Tutuila, Penrhyn, Bora Bora, Aitutaki, and Tongatabu. In early December, Serpens moved its operations into the southern Solomons, re-supplying bases and units on Florida Island, Banika Island, Guadalcanal and Bougainville. In February 1944, its crew was ordered back to New Zealand for dry-dock and, for another four months, they delivered materials to bases in the New Hebrides and Solomons.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
An aerial view of Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, during World War II showing the airfield captured by the U.S. Marines early in the campaign.
(U.S. Navy photo)

In late July 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson assumed command from Johnson. From that time into the fall of 1944, Serpens resumed operations carrying general cargo and rolling stock between ports and anchorages within the Solomon Islands. In mid-November, it loaded repairable military vehicles from the Russell Islands and Guadalcanal and sailed for New Zealand. After offloading in New Zealand, three of its holds were converted for ammunition stowage. Late in December 1944, Serpens commenced loading at Wellington, completed loading at Auckland, New Zealand, and returned to the Solomons in mid-January 1945.

Monday, January 29, found Serpens anchored off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Lunga Point had served as the primary loading area for Guadalcanal since the U.S. military’s first offensive of World War II began there in August 1942. Serpens’s commanding officer, a junior officer and six enlisted men went ashore while the rest of the crew loaded depth charges into the holds or performed their usual shipboard duties. Late in the day, in the blink of an eye, the explosive cargo stowed in Serpens’s holds detonated. An enlisted man aboard a nearby Navy personnel boat gave the following eyewitness account:

“As we headed our personnel boat shoreward, the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and, as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
A chart of Iron Bottom Sound, located north of Guadalcanal, showing the numerous ships lying on the seafloor, including the remains of USS Serpens at Lunga Point.

After the explosion, only the bow of the ship remained. The rest of Serpens had disintegrated, and the bow sank soon after the cataclysm. Killed in the explosion were 197 Coast Guard officers and enlisted men, 51 U.S. Army stevedores, and surgeon Harry Levin, a U.S. Public Health Service physician. Only two men on board Serpens survived–Seaman 1/c Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1/c George Kennedy, who had been located in the boatswain’s locker. Both men were injured, but were later rescued from the wreckage and survived. In addition, a soldier who was ashore at Lunga Point was killed by flying shrapnel. Only two Coast Guardsmen’s bodies were recovered intact and later identified out of the nearly 250 men killed in the explosion.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
USS Serpens crew’s caskets arrive at Arlington National Cemetery from Guadalcanal in 1949.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At first, the loss of Serpens was attributed to enemy action and three Purple Heart Medals were issued to the two survivors and posthumously to Levin. However, a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from surviving evidence. By 1949, the U.S. Navy officially closed the case deciding that the loss was not due to enemy action but an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
Retired Coast Guard officer Richard Stoud plays taps at the Serpens Memorial in November 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today, all that remains of the Serpens is the bow section sitting upside down on the sea floor off Lunga Point. The dead were initially buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Cemetery at Guadalcanal. The crew’s mortal remains were later exhumed and shipped to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On June 15, 1949, Serpens’s Coast Guardsmen were interred on Arlington Cemetery’s Coast Guard Hill. A monument to the Serpens listing all of the lost crewmembers was erected over the gravesite and dedicated on Nov. 16, 1950.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy is sending Russia a message in the Black Sea

The US Navy sent an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer into the Black Sea on Feb. 17, 2018 to “conduct maritime security operations” in the region.


The USS Carney joined the USS Ross to patrol a body of water that has become increasingly tense since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Crimea is the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and is where Russian jets have had close intercepts with US Navy aircraft in recent months.

“Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” Vice Adm. Christopher Grady said in a Navy release. “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing in this strategically important region.”

This is the first time two US Navy warships have been in the Black Sea since NATO and Ukraine conducted naval defense drills in July 2017. The exercise involved more than 3,000 members.

Also read: Navy names Arleigh-Burke destroyer after World War II Marine hero

US military officials told CNN that the purpose of the deployment was to “desensitize Russia to the presence of US military forces there,” and to help “establish rules for how the two countries should safely operate in proximity to each other, as they did in the Cold War.”

Russia responded to the announcement on Feb. 20, 2018, and said they are tracking the destroyers. “If they demonstrate any hostile or provocative actions … they will get a response and will be served accordingly,” Russian Admiral Vladimir Valuev said.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
The guided missile destroyer USS Ross. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg)

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union effectively controlled the entirety of the Black Sea, though Turkey has determined who can enter and exit the body of water since the sixteenth century.

But in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, almost all of the Black Sea nations have either joined NATO, or had their relations with Russia deteriorate due to armed conflict.

Related: Here is how Burke-class destroyers will be able to zap incoming missiles

Russia is very sensitive about the Black Sea and has been militarizing Crimea since its annexation in 2014. “Basically anything new that they have they are putting in Crimea,” a US defense official based in Europe told CNN.

In addition to close intercepts with the US Navy, the sea has seen a number of incidents with other nations. In 2016, Turkish President said that the Black Sea had “nearly become a Russian lake,” and Ukraine claimed in 2017 that guns from a Russian-occupied oil rig had shot at a military plane, which Russia subsequently denied.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ensign took command of a destroyer at Pearl Harbor and took the fight to the Japanese

Destroyers, in general, don’t get as much love as they deserve for their contribution to World War II. The USS Aylwin is not different, even though her crew managed to do what few others could, which was to take the fight to the sucker-punching Japanese Navy and naval air forces during and after its attack on Pearl Harbor.

Despite having only half the necessary crew and being commanded by an Ensign, the Aylwin was out on patrols immediately.


DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

The Aylwin was moored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with other ships from her Pacific squadron. Like most ships, roughly half of its crew were out on liberty or leave when the Japanese arrived in Hawaii. She had only one boiler going, strong enough to power only a few of the ship’s systems. That’s when the Utah was hit by a torpedo.

Even with only half her crew and being under the command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan – that’s an O-1 for you non-Navy folks – the Aylwin was returning fire within three minutes of the Japanese attacks. A few minutes after that, her remaining boilers were lit. And a few minutes after that, Aylwin was making her way into the channel and into the open sea. This destroyer wasn’t going to be a sitting duck if she could help it.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

As she left the harbor, Aylwin maintained a deadly, continuous rate of fire that would have dissuaded even the most daring of pilots from pressing their attack on the destroyer. Pearl Harbor, at that moment however, was a target-rich environment for both sides. The skies were filled with Japanese planes, and the grounds and harbor area were littered with military targets, planes, ships, and more. Zero after Zero came after the U.S. ship but were chased away as Ensign Caplan and his men fired everything they had at their pursuers. The machine gunners on the decks of the Aylwin claimed to have downed at least three enemy fighters.

Caplan and company began an immediate combat patrol, looking for enemy submarines in the area, as were her standing orders in case of such an attack. An unknown explosion and an attempt to depth charge an enemy submarine were the most notable events of the next few days. For 36 hours, Ensign Caplan knew what it meant to be the captain. The ship and the rest of its crew joined the task force around the USS Lexington and headed to Wake Island by Dec. 12.

The Aylwin would survive the war mostly intact, but with 13 battle stars for her contributions to the fighting at Midway, Attu, and Okinawa, just to name a few.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Korean War POW escaped from captivity after 55 years

In June 2008, a 74-year-old North Korean farmer and former coal miner was swimming across the Tumen River, where it makes the border between the reclusive North Korean regime and Communist China. He was escaping the Hermit Kingdom like many North Koreans before him, except Kim Jin-Soo wasn’t North Korean.


The onetime South Korean Army soldier was born in the South, but enlisted in the Republic of Korea Army during the 1950-1953 Korean War. That’s how he ended up in the North.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power
Suwon Airfield being evacuated by South Korean troops as North Korea advances in 1950.

The young South Korean was just 17 years old when he signed up to fight the Communist advance in 1950 but was wounded in action by small arms fire. That’s how the young soldier was captured. He was taken by his captors North to recover from the wounds, but his own army, believing him dead, stopped looking for him. When prisoners were exchanged after fighting stopped, no one thought to look for a dead man.

The definitely not dead Kim Jin-Soo did eventually recover from his wounds, only now he was trapped in the North’s Stalinist “utopia.” Unfortunately for him, he was still a prisoner and was sent to work in the coal mines in North Korea’s North Pyeongan Province for nearly 40 years.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

North Korean troops prepare for battle in 1950.

In the time that passed, the captive’s parents in the South both passed away. He even had four daughters and one son while living in the North. His surviving brothers in the South had no idea he was alive, let alone that they now had a nephew and a handful of nieces.

In the early 1990s, around the time of North Korea’s deadly and disastrous famine, Soo was sent to another province to work as a farmer. The harsh life of a North Korean POW had taken its toll on his body. He shrunk by nearly six inches over 55 years of captivity and weighed barely 105 pounds when he escaped to China.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard about to miss first paycheck, but getting it done

A surprise maneuver at the end of December 2018 ensured Coast Guardsmen got their final paychecks of 2018, despite the government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, 2018.

But the shutdown has dragged on, and the income for some 50,000 personnel, including 42,000 deemed essential personnel and required to work during the shutdown, remains in doubt as the first payday of 2019 approaches.


Salaries for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are covered by the Defense Department, which got its full funding the for the fiscal year in the fall of 2018. But while the Coast Guard is a military branch, it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, funding for which had not been approved by the time the shutdown began.

Coast Guard operations have continued, however.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

Coast Guard personnel prepare a sling that will hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts, May 9, 2017.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

On Dec. 23, 2018, Coast Guard crews on training exercises in Hawaii were diverted twice, first to medevac a snorkeler who was having a medical emergency and then to rescue passengers from a capsized vessel. In January 2019, Coast Guard crews in the Pacific have been involved in searches for crew members from two different vessels.

Officials said on Dec. 28, 2018, that the Homeland Security Department had found a way to supply about million needed to cover pay for the Dec. 31, 2018 pay period, but they said they would be unable to repeat it for the Jan. 15, 2019 payday.

There is some money within the Homeland Security Department that has moved around to keep things going, but some activities, like issuing licenses, has been curtailed. Funding for other services, like child-care subsidies, is also running out, further complicating life for service members and their families.

During the first week of January 2019, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced to the Senate by Republican Sen. John Thune, cosponsored by Republican Sens. Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, Cindy Hyde Smith, and Democratic Sens. Marla Cantwell, Richard Blumenthal, Doug Jones, and Brian Schatz.

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, May 29, 2017.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)

The bill would pay active, retired, and civilian Coast Guard personnel despite the shutdown. It would also fund benefits for retired members, death gratuities, and other payouts.

Thune’s measure was first introduced in 2015 but died after being referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. After a grassroots effort generated 141,015 letters to congress members asking for its reintroduced, the bill was resubmitted on Jan. 3, 2019, the first day of the 116th Congress.

“All we know so far, is that if this isn’t resolved by the 10th they will not get paid on the 15th,” Coast Guard spouse Stephanie Lisle told ConnectingVets.com. “Hopefully the bill gets passed.”

The bill garnered support from more than a dozen veterans groups, but it would also have to pass the House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats, and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Early January 2019 Trump said he was prepared to keep the government shut down for “months or even years” after he and Democratic leaders again failed to resolve his demand for billions in funding for a border wall.

“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said on Jan. 4, 2019. “I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a Biden administration, changes for the military could start on day one

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.

Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.

In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.

“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”

Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.

The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.

To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.

South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.

Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.

At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.

By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon sets aside a 6th military base for quarantining people fleeing the coronavirus outbreak in China

The Pentagon has approved the use of six military installations, the most recent being a National Guard base in Nebraska, for the quarantine of evacuees returning to the US from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of a novel coronavirus outbreak.


The Department of Defense approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services to quarantine up to 75 people for a period of 14 days upon their return from overseas at Camp Ashland, a Pentagon spokesman said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that it would allow up to 1,000 people to be quarantined at Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in California, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and the 168th Regiment Regional Training Institute in Colorado.

Prior to that announcement, the Department of Defense approved the use of March Air Reserve Base in California for the quarantine of 195 passengers who arrived back in the US last week.

“This week,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday, “several planes carrying passengers from Wuhan China will arrive in three states. These locations are Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, NE.”

Two aircraft arrived at Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar carrying 350 passengers Wednesday morning, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The CDC said that the planes will be met by CDC teams upon their arrival. While the health statuses of the passengers were assessed before takeoff and during the flight, each passenger will undergo additional screening once they arrive in the US.

The passengers will then be quarantined for 14 days. The CDC explained that this is “intended to protect the travelers, their families, and the community.”

As of Wednesday, the novel coronavirus that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, had infected more than 24,000 people and killed nearly 500. While the outbreak is most severe in China, the virus has spread to more than two dozen countries.

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