MIGHTY CULTURE

The first Muslim Green Beret was also in Iran’s Special Forces

The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.

He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.


Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service.

(Changiz Lahidji)

The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.

He was on his way back to Iran.

Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.

(Changiz Lahidji)

In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.

The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.

Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army.

(Changiz Lahidji)

After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.

He writes about all of his worldly adventures in some 33 countries in his memoir, Full Battle Rattle: My Story as the Longest-Serving Special Forces A-Team Soldier in American History. In it, you can read about him helping to bust drug rings in Spain, capture the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and what it was like on the ground during the “Black Hawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was there for all of it.

But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.

Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldier’s tattoo documents the trauma of losing his legs in Afghanistan

Noah Bailey was an Army specialist serving as an M2 .50 cal. gunner in an Army scout sniper platoon when the Humvee he was patrolling in was struck by an IED.


The explosion was part of a complex ambush, and the platoon quickly came under fire. Both of Bailey’s legs were amputated because of the trauma he sustained.

Bailey went through a dark period after his amputations, almost committing suicide before a well-timed phone call saved his life.

See Bailey tell his full story — complete with cool tattoos that put a twist on his experiences — in the video above.

Bailey’s story is part of a series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 military terms that aren’t as pleasant as the FNG might think

The military is known for its clever vocabulary. If you cut out the obscenity, you’re left with a collection of terms that are either more accurate (i.e. it’s not exactly a ‘shovel,’ it’s an “entrenching tool”) or overly sarcastic (i.e. it’s not “beating the crap out of someone,” it’s “wall-to-wall counseling”).

This overly sarcastic way of referring to things that generally suck is a coping mechanism. It’s a way to add color to the typical monotony that comes with military service. The following terms might sound exciting on the surface, but there’s a general understanding among troops to not get hyped over any of them — but it’s always a good laugh when the new guy doesn’t get it.


Cleaning connexes… Just as much fun as getting drunk in the barracks.

(U.S. Army Photo by Spc James C. Blackwell)

“Working party”

Out of context, this one sounds like a couple of guys within the company getting together, having a good time, and maybe accomplishing a few things in the process — and, to be honest, that’s how it almost always turns out when the NCOs turn their back for longer than two seconds.

In actuality, a “working party” is four or five lower enlisted and two NCOs. The troops will do most of the heavy lifting while the NCO that still has a spine remembers what it was like to be a private joins in. The other supervises while pretending to do work. The moment the lazy NCO turns away, three of the original lower enlisted will start slacking until the motivated NCO says something like, “the faster this gets done, the sooner we can go.” But that never happens. Ever.

There are always more pointless details to be done.

Want a real force multiplier? Why not boost morale or, you know, add more troops?

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

“The Good-Idea Fairy”

It almost sounds whimsical. It’s as if, out of the blue, a good idea was magically sprinkled into the heads of the chain of command and logic reigned supreme.

In practice, this term is used when a lieutenant gets a wild hair up their ass after coming to an agreement in the echo chamber that is staff meetings. Suddenly, that lieutenant can’t wait to implement the newest and best “force multiplier” that has never been thought of before.

These force multipliers never really have an end-game, though, so it’s basically just a fancy way of saying, “I wonder how the troops would react if we did this?”

You can typically tell if someone earned their stuff or if they’re just really good as ass kissing by checking their ribbons rack. If they have multiples of lesser awards that are common among the lower ranks, you know they’ve worked hard from the beginning.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paris Maxey)

“Chest candy”

Certain awards, medals, and badges confer the highest amount of respect. In some cases, a highly-decorated troop commands greater respect from those around them than the unproven leaders above them.

When the awards, medals, and badges are referred to as “chest candy,” however, it’s basically saying that none of those awards have any real substance. Take the airborne wings in the Army, for example. They look nice and say that the person is airborne qualified — but don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, think that means that “five jump chumps” are actual paratroopers. Same goes for many other awards that are handed out like it was Halloween to troops — typically anything given to staff officers who found that week’s “force multiplier” without doing a fraction of the work their subordinates did.

Chances are high that your training room clerk is dealing with more secret information than you ever will.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

“Some secret, squirrel-type sh*t”

There’s nothing wrong with being in the conventional military, and yet troops will jump at any conceivable chance to play the “if I told you, I’d have to kill you” card at the bar. If it’s labelled confidential, you know they’re going to see “some secret, squirrel-type sh*t!”

In actuality, unless you’ve got CIA operatives coming into your S3 and demanding confidentiality agreements, the red stickers are actually really f*cking boring. The closest any regular military troops are ever going to get to secret information are personnel records. They’re confidential because they could realistically be used against someone. “Secret squirrel” is almost entirely used for this kind of mundane crap that is technically classified.

If you honestly think the General nothing better to do than to inspect every single room in the barracks for lint, you’ve lost your mind.

(DoD Photo by Gloria Montgomery)

“Dog and pony shows”

The military is all about prestige and perfectionism when it comes to general officers swinging by to “inspect the troops.” Everyone will spend days getting ready to impress the two-star and get the nod of approval.

Nine times out of ten, the general won’t come to the barracks. They’ll meet at the company area and talk for thirty minutes before they go on their way. That one time they do inspect the troops, the chain of command will try to guide the general to the room that they know is spotless — typically an empty room that was quickly converted to look like it’s actually occupied.

This drawn-out procedure is known as putting on a “dog and pony show” and, unfortunately, neither dogs nor ponies are typically involved.

Even worse is when troops get reprimanded for speaking to the Chaplain. Which, unfortunately, does happen in some of the toxic units…

(U.S Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)

“Open-door policy”

You’ll often hear the commander or first sergeant tell you that their door is always open if you need to talk. When this policy works the way it should, it’s fantastic. It gives the little guy in the formation a strong ally when it comes to personal or professional issues.

Unfortunately, although their door may indeed always be open, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from reprimand. There are those in the chain of command who take it way too personally when a troop goes directly to the commander. They feel like the troop “jumped” the chain of command to fix something.

The hurt feelings are doubly potent if the problem is “toxicity in the troops’ leadership.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard leadership is sounding off about the shutdown

Thirty-three days into the US government shutdown, the only military branch affected has missed one paycheck and is on the verge of losing its next.

The Coast Guard and its roughly 41,000 active-duty members are part of the Homeland Security Department, which wasn’t funded before the government shut down last month. The other branches are part of the Defense Department, which is fully funded.


Officials found a way to pay Coast Guard members on Dec. 31, 2018, but no such maneuver was possible for Jan. 15, 2019. Legislative action is needed this week to make sure a check comes on Jan. 30, 2019. Pay and benefits for Coast Guard civilian workers and retirees are also on the line.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Evans, a Coast Guard Air Station Miami rescue swimmer, conducts a free-fall deployment from a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter east of Miami Beach, June 6, 2017.

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodal)

‘We are in uncharted waters’

Some Coast Guard operations, like safety boardings and license services, have been curtailed, but missions related to saving lives and national security continue. Now the service’s current and former commandants have weighed in, rebuking the inaction prolonging the shutdown.

In a video posted Jan. 22, 2019, commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told service members that he, the service’s leadership, and the public “stand in awe of your continued dedication to duty and resilience and that of your families.”

“We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay. You as members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder this burden,” Schultz said.

Schultz said he was heartened by assistance being officer to service members. “But ultimately I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life.”

Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome, Aug. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)

Paul Zukunft, who retired in June 2018 as an admiral after his four-year term as commandant, was more blunt in a column for the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine titled “Breaking Faith with America’s Coast Guard.”

Despite the service’s extensive and varied responsibilities and continuous operations, the Coast Guard is often overlooked by the public and by congressional appropriators, Zukunft writes.

“To add insult to injury, the Coast Guard is no longer ‘doing more with less,’ but ‘doing all with nothing,'” Zukunft says. “I have served shoulder to shoulder with our service members during previous government shutdowns and listened to the concerns of our all-volunteer force. This current government shutdown is doing long-term harm and is much more than pablum to feed the 24-hour news cycle.”

“We are now in uncharted waters given its duration and the hardship it’s causing, particularly at many Coast Guard installations that reside in high-cost communities along the US coastline where service personnel already live paycheck-to-paycheck to pay the bills and meet childcare costs that can exceed ,000 per month for one child.”

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

‘We can only take it day by day’

For the more than 14,000 junior members of the Coast Guard — about one-third of the active-duty force — base pay is considered to be at or just under the poverty level, three former master chief petty officers said in an op-ed, adding that most of them don’t have the resources to live without pay “over any extended period.”

“We chose to make some sacrifices when we signed up or married into the Coast Guard,” Coast Guard spouse Susan Bourassa told Military Times. “We’re proud to be there. But part of making those sacrifices is that we thought there was a paycheck we could count on, through thick or thin.”

Communities have rallied to support Coast Guard families — including in Alameda, California, home to four of the service’s new national-security cutters.

In January 2019, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered there for a giveaway of everything from fresh fruit to diapers. The cutter Bertholf and its more than 100 crew members left Alameda for a months-long Pacific deployment. The Defense Department will reimburse the Coast Guard for the mission, but the personnel won’t be paid until the shutdown ends.

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

In a Jan. 18, 2019 letter, vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit charity that assists the service, had increased the value of and expanded eligibility for interest-free loans it was offering.

Mutual Assistance is partnering with the Red Cross to distribute those funds, Schultz said in January 2019. CGMA has “secured sufficient funds to put money in your hands to bridge through your personal financial challenges,” Schultz said in his video message. “That is your fund. That is your safety net.”

Ray’s letter said the service was working with the Defense Department “to notify all privatized government housing sites that Coast Guard [basic allowance for housing] allotments will not be available until funding is restored.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just arrested an alleged Russian agent

U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.

In U.S. court filings in Washington late on July 16, 2018, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.


The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun-rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki.

The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.

In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.

Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.

According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”

That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.

Aleksandr Torshin (right)

Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions in April 2018 because of their ties with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.”

Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which the senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.

In addition to seeking out meetings with U.S. lawmakers and candidates, the complaint says Butina attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that attracts leading conservative politicians.

Butina allegedly organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington and New York with the goal of developing relationships with U.S. politicians and establishing “back channel” lines of communication, as well as “penetrating the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the complaint says.

Court papers say that an unnamed American who worked with Butina in an October 2016 message claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a U.S. political party through the National Rifle Association.

Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law that until recently was rarely enforced.

In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities.

Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the United States on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.

“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.

“The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”

Court papers charging Butina with conspiracy to inflitrate U.S. political organizations include several e-mails and Twitter conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”

Prosecutions under the U.S. foreign-agent law picked up in 2018 amid growing concern in Washington about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the case against Butina was connected to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The charges against her were brought by a different Justice Department office: the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.

Among the most prominent people to face charges under the foreign-agents law is Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller in 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 8

So, I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Space Force recently. It’s nowhere near as bad as critics are making it out to be. The writers knew enough about military culture to poke fun at our soon-to-be real sister branch while simultaneously giving it a solid storyline to keep me invested. And, uh. Yeah. That’s about it. Pretty solid and I enjoyed it. I hope it gets a second season, but I hope it can flesh out some of its side characters a bit more.

If you can’t tell, my normal schtick of riffing on military news in the opener of these memes pieces is going to be a lose/lose situation this time for fairly obvious reasons. There are many more voices out there that could probably articulate the proper words for this situation far better than I could. I don’t want to take anything away from those conversations. I curate memes and practice a stand-up routine that will probably never get me to a late-night writer gig. I think I’m funny, but I’m probably not.


But that’s why we love memes, isn’t’ it? It’s a brief distraction from the sh*tstorm of daily life and outside is currently a Cat-5 Sh*ticane. It’s the slight exhale of breath at a mildly funny meme followed by a, “Heh. That sucks. I remember doing that sh*t.” That gets us through whatever we’re doing. Memes won’t undo whatever it is that’s going on around us, but it’s a good quick break from it all.

So just sit back. Relax. And remember what Bill and Ted taught us… Just be excellent to each other. Anyways, here’s some memes.

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

(Meme via Not CID)

(Meme via I Am an American Soldier)

(meme via The Enlisted Club)

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Private News Network)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

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

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


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

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

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

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

British Commandos, 1942

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

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

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

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

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

Commando prisoners under German escort

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

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

HMS Campbeltown wedged in the dock gates. Note the exposed forward gun position on Campbeltown and the German anti-aircraft gun position on the roof of the building at the rear.

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This dad asked about his son, and the Bismarck was doomed

In the early days of World War II, battleships were still considered kings and all of the combatants hunted for their enemies’ greatest ships. The battleship Bismarck, the largest battleship in commission at the start of 1941, was the pride of the German Kriegsmarine and an epic combatant. Britain desperately wanted to sink her before she could break into the open Atlantic.

Luckily for Britain, a badly timed, badly encoded radio transmission allowed British warships to find and kill the vessel.


The Bismarck fires during the Battle of the Denmark Straits in May, 1941. It sank the pride of the Royal Navy, the HMS Hood, during the engagement.

(German federal archives)

In May, 1941, the U.S. and Russia had not yet joined the Allies as combatants, and Britain had already been pushed entirely off the continent. Morale was low in Great Britain, and its control of the seas was challenged by German U-boats that preyed upon convoys from the U.S.

One of Britain’s greatest fears was that Germany would starve the island kingdom out, potentially by sending more and larger ships into the Atlantic to prey on shipping. One of the most frightful possibilities was the Bismarck, a massive craft that was, at the time, the largest battleship in active service in the world (Japan’s Yamato-class and America’s Iowa-class would later beat its records).

The Bismarck had 16-inch guns and thick armor, and it could hit most convoys with impunity if it ever broke out of the Baltic and North seas. In May, 1941, it attempted to do just that.

Spoilers are above, but this story originally played out over 70 years ago, so you should’ve seen it already by now.

(Citypeek, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Bismarck left port on May 18 and attempted to slip out undetected. It made it through the North Sea with the Prinz Eugen as well as a number of smaller vessels. But when the flotilla passed between Denmark and Sweden into the North Sea, Norwegian resistance members and Swedish forces got a good look at the ships, and someone passed the report to Britain.

It’s unsure how much detail Britain received (Norwegian resistance members only identified “two unidentified major ships”), but British naval officers immediately suspected that the Bismarck was breaking out.

On May 21, the ships were spotted, and the British gave chase. The full story is great, from British cruisers tailing the massive vessel to attackers hiding in fog banks to when the Bismarck sank Britain’s pride and joy, the HMS Hood, with a single hit from the Bismarck’s main guns. The YouTube channel Extra History has a great series on the hunt, available here for all who want to watch it.

But we’re going to skip ahead to the final days of the chase.

By dawn on May 25, the Hood was sunk, the Prinz Eugen had escaped into the Atlantic, and the Bismarck had evaded the British cruisers in pursuit. But the Bismarck had been wounded and was now leaking oil across the ocean, limiting its range and speed.

The British, more desperate than ever to prevent the Bismarck from joining the war in the Atlantic as well to avenge the loss of the Hood, had called every available ship into the hunt.

But the days of naval maneuvering had left the Bismarck hundreds of miles out to sea, and the British didn’t know if the ship would head to Norway or France for repairs. Britain didn’t have enough ships to search both routes.

Hunting the Bismarck – A Chance to Strike – Extra History – #3

youtu.be

The British commander sent most of the fleet north to search the route to Norway, leaving one battleship and a few other vessels within range of the route to France.

This problem was compounded when the Bismarck made a monumental mistake, sending two 30-minute radio transmissions, but some of the British intercept officers made a mistake and pinpointed the transmission as coming from the route to Norway, when the transmission actually came from the route to France. It would take them hours to catch the mistake.

At this moment, the Bismarck’s path into France was relatively clear. The German vessel had the lead, and the British fleet was headed the wrong way. But the rumors of the Bismarck’s fighting had made it to the continent, and a concerned father made one of the worst mistakes of the war.

The general had a son on the Bismarck, and he asked after his son’s status. The request was transmitted to the Bismarck, and the Bismarck responded. Then, that response was relayed back to the general. It said the Bismarck had suffered no casualties and was now headed to Brest, a port city in France.

When the message was relayed, though, it was done on a Luftwaffe enigma machine with only four wheels instead of the more secure, five-wheel model used by the Admiralty. The British quickly decoded the message, and the entire British fleet turned back south to intercept the Bismarck before it could reach Brest.

On May 26, the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier, was chasing down the Bismarck as night came on. It was mere hours till darkness would halt any more attacks. By morning, the Bismarck would be under the protection of Luftwaffe planes taking off from France.

It was now or never, and the Swordfish planes flying from the Ark Royal had just enough time for two attacks. But the first attack was a ridiculous catastrophe. The British planes made a mistake, attacking the British ship chasing the Bismarck instead of the Bismarck itself. Luckily, they were equipped with magnetic detonators that set off the torpedoes as they hit the water.

The Swordfish returned to the Ark Royale to re-arm, and then headed back out for Britain’s last chance at the Bismarck before it was safely in France.

The HMS Ark Royal sails with its swordfish overhead.

(U.K. Government)

The planes chased down their quarry, and the Swordfish flew into the teeth of the Bismarck’s guns. The rounds shredded the canvas wings of the planes, but the planes managed to drop a spread of torpedoes anyway.

There were two hits. One struck the Bismarck’s armor belt and did little damage, the other struck low in the water but did no visible damage. The Swordfish pilots turned home in dismay.

But when they landed, they learned glorious news. The Bismarck had been in a hard turn to port when the second torpedo struck, and the strike had knocked out rudder control. Since the Bismarck had been in a hard turn at the time, it was now stuck turning in tight circles in the Atlantic, out of range of Luftwaffe protection.

The HMS Dorestshire rescues survivors of the Bismarck. Only about 114 sailors made it out.

(Royal Navy)

The rest of the British fleet barreled down on the stricken foe, and eventually, four battleships and cruisers were circling the Bismarck, pounding it with shell after shell. They knocked out turrets, they shredded the decks, and they terrified the crew.

It only ended when the British fleet ran low on fuel. It was under orders to sink the Bismarck at all costs, so as most of the ships headed to refuel, the HMS Dorsetshire was left to finish the job. It dropped torpedoes into the water, and finally, the Bismarck suffered holes beneath the waterline. The Bismarck sank. The pride of the German fleet was done. Just over 100 sailors survived of the 2,200-man crew.

If the general had loved his son a little less, or, you know, if signals officers had been more careful to use the best available encryption or leave the ship’s destination out of the message, the Bismarck likely would have made it to France without further damage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s mysterious explosion caused by Putin’s doomsday missile

US intelligence suspects that a mysterious and deadly explosion in early August 2019 was caused by Russia’s efforts to recover its new nuclear-powered cruise missile after another unsuccessful test, CNBC reports, adding another twist in the saga of what exactly happened at the Nyonoksa weapons testing range.

An explosion that killed at least five people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby towns on Aug. 8, 2019, has been linked to Russia’s development of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new doomsday weapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. While the prevailing theory was that the blast was caused by a failed test, US intelligence has a slightly different explanation.

“This was not a new launch of the weapon, instead it was a recovery mission to salvage a lost missile from a previous test,” a source with direct knowledge of the latest intel reports told CNBC. Russia was reportedly salvaging the weapon from the ocean floor at the time of the incident.


“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which led to the radiation leak,” said another source. This is not the first time Russia has had to go fishing for its nuclear-powered cruise missile, but this appears to be the first time a recovery effort has exploded.

A still image said to show Russia’s Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.

(YouTube/Russian Defence Ministry)

Using nuclear reactors to fuel missiles or airplanes has proven to be a “hazardous” technology that’s probably unnecessary, a leading defense expert told Insider.

Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details, sparking concerns of a cover-up.

The death toll has risen from two to five and could potentially be higher. Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging radiation leaks. Local authorities ordered an evacuation but then mysteriously cancelled it. Nuclear monitoring stations nearby unexpectedly went offline due to technical problems. And the system that triggered the explosion has been described as everything but the nuclear-powered cruise missile Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted would be unstoppable last year.

“This is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” Putin said recently, adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”

Russian data on the brief radiation spike in Severodvinsk, which state authorities finally decided to release, indicated that a nuclear reactor was involved, experts said. Russia, which has a history of covering up nuclear disasters, has yet to acknowledge that this was a nuclear accident despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

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

Military Life

This is how much sleep you should be getting before a mission

On deployment, troops are asked to complete some pretty intense missions under hostile conditions. Half of the time, they leave the wire with little-to-no sleep and still have to perform at a high level. Due to our crazy schedules, we are required to be up at the butt-crack of dawn for PT, eat chow, and prepare for the 12-16 hour workday ahead. After all that, we try and get some rest before we have to do it all over again the next day.

That sh*t can burn a troop out in no time.


Since we’re dedicated as f*ck, we suck it up and move on. Unfortunately, being sleep deprived increases the risk of some significant health problems, like diabetes, strokes, and even heart attacks. Aside from these major problems, running on too little sleep can cause troops to make dumb mistakes and severely lowers reaction times.

Soldiers from the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment try to sleep during a 19-hour flight.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to maintain a high quality of life. Unfortunately for some troops, that simply can’t happen. In fact, some people don’t even produce the sleep hormone called “melatonin” until way later on in the night. We call those guys and gals “night owls.”

Now, we can’t blame this hormone entirely — today’s technology plays a unique role among those who might have a little insomnia.

In 2002, scientists found a sensor in our eyes called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells that, apparently, do not like many forms of blue light — which is likely found in the very computer screen you’re using right now.

When blue light interacts with those cells, they send messages to our brain that tell us the sun is still out, which can inhibit your body’s natural melatonin production. The takeaway from that study is you might want to start reading a book (instead of staring at your phone) on your way to sleepy land.

For those who have naturally lower melatonin production in their brains, food like almonds, raspberries, and gogi berries can help boost levels.

Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to get a humorous take on catching enough sleep.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Here’s your weekly ration of memes to make Black Friday a little brighter. (And be safe out there, troops):


1. The Light Anti-tank Weapon usually wins (via The Most Combat Engineer Man In The World).

But Sergeant Major is going to win when he sees you weren’t wearing gloves or a helmet.

2. ISIS has a lot of demented dreams that will never work out (via Team Non-Rec).

After they fail to invade Russia, they can go ahead and fail to invade other places.

SEE ALSO: The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

3. When you know that 5-kilometer ruck march is really going to be a 20K.

You could use that thing as an auxiliary fuel bladder for a Humvee.

4. Don’t mess with his pile (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

His pile is pretty much all he’s got in this world.

5. Air Force embracing the suck:

(via Air Force Nation)

6. The new 5.56mm lightbulbs (via Funker 530).

They can get really bright.

7. Coast Guardsmen have their own motivations (via Coast Guard Memes).

I like turtles too, buddy.

8. Marines know every discipline except “ammo.”

(via Devil Dog Nation)

They throw ammo discipline out the window — along with a bunch of grenades.

9. Til Valhalla!

(via The Senior Specialist)

10. Aviation is for the elite (via Air Force Nation).

Doesn’t matter what they are elite in. Bus driving experience is helpful.

11. How medical section does poetry:

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

12. McDonald’s makes the years of war worth it (via Military Nations).

Apparently, Freedom tastes like unidentifiable meat and thin barbecue sauce.

13. Stop playing …

(via The Senior Specialist)

… we know you’re going to sham.

popular

This legendary sword – which may belong in a museum – was found at a pawn shop

Not too often do you find something good in a pawn shop. It’s usually cheap crap that was probably stolen or someone couldn’t get out of hock. Occasionally, you find something perfect or useful.


But every now and then someone finds the jackpot item — such as the Mameluke sword of Lt. Gen. Homer L. Litzenberg Jr., Commander of the 7th Marine Regiment during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Related: Why the ‘Frozen Chosin’ is the defining battle of the modern Marine Corps

Lt. Gen. Homer L. Litzenberg Jr. led his men from the Battle of Inchon to Yalu and through 17 of the most brutal days of combat during at the “Frozen Chosin.” He led alongside Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. “Chesty” Puller who commanded the 1st Marine Regiment.

Then-Col. Litzenberg addressing his Marines on Christmas day.

Chris Anderson, Anne Arundel County police officer and prior service Marine, and his fellow Marines were about to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday at an Annapolis saloon. Anderson noted that they were missing the traditional Mameluke sword of a Marine Corps officer to cut the cake. He did what every Marine would do: he looked for one on eBay.

He found one but it was inscribed with the name “Homer L. Litzenberg Jr.” on the blade. He knew that this blade couldn’t go to some private collector, so he snagged the sword at $255 because of wear and tear. The authenticity hasn’t been determined yet, since the pawn shop can’t disclose prior owner information. However, the pawn shop did say that with its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground, it’s extremely common for them to receive military items.

$255 for a legendary sword? Deal! (Screen-cap via eBay)

Anderson has since made it his personal crusade to get the sword verified and put into the National Museum of the Marine Corps. On Dec. 22, he sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis also commanded the 7th Marine Regiment, so if anyone could help Anderson out, maybe — just maybe — it could be “Chaos.”

Articles

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

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


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

Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

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

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

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

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

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

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