Just under 54 years ago, two years into his presidency, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a visit to Dallas, Texas.
An investigation by the Warren Commission determined a former US Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a nearby book depository, but the murky facts of the case have led to a number of alternate theories.
They include a CIA conspiracy, a mafia hit job, a covert operation by Lyndon B. Johnson, and more.
In anticipation of the National Archives releasing 3,100 documents related to the assassination on Oct. 26, here are the top theories that have swirled ever since.
The CIA theory
People who believe the CIA was behind Kennedy’s assassination speculate the agency strongly opposed a number of the president’s stances on Cuba and Communism.
The theory posits that Kennedy’s refusal to offer air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a CIA-sponsored mission to overthrow Fidel Castro, triggered the CIA to eliminate Kennedy from the picture altogether.
Theorists tend to believe the CIA set Oswald up as its scapegoat.
The Mafia theory
A related theory suggests the CIA worked with the Mafia to have Kennedy killed. At the time, the two organizations had a shared interest in overthrowing Castro, as the Mafia held a number of investments in Cuban casinos at-risk of being shut down.
Government documents show the CIA did work with the Mafia to take down Castro; some conspiracy theorists claim the two also worked together, along with anti-Castro Cubans, to assassinate Kennedy.
The Cuban exile theory
Some believe the effort was far less sophisticated than a federal conspiracy, but carried out by a group of rogue Cuban exiles who saw the failed Bay of Pigs invasion as sufficient evidence that Kennedy was unfit as president.
Between 1959, when the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power, and Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, his popularity among exiles had eroded considerably. In October of 1963, anti-Castro Cubans met with right-wing Americans to discuss frustrations with Kennedy.
Theorists speculate the meeting may have been a tipping point for the assassination a month later.
The Lyndon B. Johnson theory
One theory speculates that LBJ feared getting dropped from the Democratic ticket in the 1964 election so intensely that he plotted to have Kennedy assassinated.
According to a 1968 memoir written by Kennedy’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, it is true that Kennedy planned to replace Johnson as vice president. Kennedy told Lincoln as much on Nov. 19, 1963 — three days before he was killed.
Conspiracy theorists point to the timeline as partial evidence that Johnson might have had a hand in orchestrating the murder.
The KGB theory
Some theorists believe a band of Soviet officers carried out Kennedy’s assassination, directed by Premier Nikita Krushchev.
Toward the end of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev was ultimately forced to remove the intercontinental ballistic missiles he’d deployed in Cuba due to US militaristic threats against the Soviet Union.
Conspiracy theorists claim the move motivated Krushchev to have Kennedy killed.
Russia’s escalation of cyber-space intelligence operations in recent years may overshadow concerns over its increase in the number of US-based spies, CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“There are more Russian operatives, declared and undeclared, in the United States now than at any other time in the past fifteen years,” a senior US official declared to The New Yorker August 7. “They’re here in large numbers, actively trying to penetrate a whole host of sectors—government, industry, and academia.”
Hoffman cautioned that “numbers can be misleading,” acknowledging that while it certainly matters how many spies are in the US, the real Russian escalation has occurred in cyber-space. “The Russians are using cyber-space very, very aggressively, and it’s not cost-prohibitive,” he told The DCNF.
He explained how Russians who’ve never set foot in the US can now collect and carry out operations, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “much more bang for your ruble.”
“In the past 15 years since Putin became PM, he has resurrected Russia’s influence in the world and increased its operational tempo in Africa, Europe, and the US,” Hoffman declared. This influence campaign has morphed into a sophisticated cyber campaign that escalated in the cyber domain in 2016.
These cyber escalations include Russian-sponsored dissemination of false information via social media, hacking attempts throughout the 2016 US presidential election, and ties to cyber criminals targeting American companies.
“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users,” a January 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election noted.
“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” the report added.
The increased number of spies in the US may even be in service of bolstering Russian cyber operations. Two suspected Russian spies were discovered lingering near underground fiber optic cables in recent months, US officials recently told Politico.
“It’s a trend that has led intelligence officials to conclude that the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure,” Politico noted in June 2017.
Ukrainian lawmakers are to decide whether to introduce martial law after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.
The Verkhova Rada is to vote on Nov. 26, 2018, on a presidential decree that would impose martial law until Jan. 25, 2019, the first time Kyiv has taken such a step since Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Before submitting the decree, President Petro Poroshenko demanded that Russia immediately release the ships and sailors, who he said had been “brutally detained in violation of international law.”
He also urged Moscow to “ensure deescalation of the situation in the Sea of Azov as a first step” and to ease tension more broadly.
European Council President Donald Tusk condemned the “Russian use of force” and tweeted that “Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels refrain from further provocations,” adding: “Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine.”
European Council President Donald Tusk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Ukrainian sailors would be held responsible under Russian law for violating the border, but did not specify what that meant.
Poroshenko earlier said he supported the imposition of martial law, which could give the government the power to restrict public demonstrations, regulate the media, and postpone a presidential election slated to be held in late March 2019, among other things.
Yuriy Byryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, said on Facebook that his administration does not plan to postpone the election or restrict the freedom of speech.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of violating international norms with “dangerous methods that created threats and risks for the normal movement of ships in the area.”
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called for later in the day, and NATO ambassadors were meeting their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels to discuss the situation.
In a sharp escalation of tension between the two countries, Russian forces on Nov. 25, 2018, fired on two warships, wounding six crew members, before seizing the vessels along with a Ukrainian Navy tugboat.
Kyiv said it had not been in contact with 23 sailors who it said were taken captive.
The three Ukrainian vessels were being held at the Crimean port of Kerch, the Reuters news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying on Nov. 26, 2018. The witness said people in naval-style uniforms could be seen around the ships.
The announcement of the hostilities on Nov. 25, 2018, came on a day of heightened tension after Russia blocked the three Ukrainian Navy ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait.
The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency session on Nov. 26, 2018, to discuss the matter.
The AFP news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying the meeting was requested by both Ukraine and Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukrainian authorities of using “gangster tactics” — first a provocation, then pressure, and finally accusations of aggression.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border-guard service, said its forces fired at the Ukrainian Navy ships to get them to stop after they had illegally entered Russian territorial waters.
“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” the FSB said. It also confirmed that three Ukrainian Navy ships were “boarded and searched.”
But the Ukrainian Navy said its vessels — including two small artillery boats — were attacked by Russian coast-guard ships as they were leaving the Kerch Strait and moving back into the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s “aggressive actions” violated international law and should be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response.”
Demonstrators protested outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv late on Nov. 25, 2018.
Earlier on Nov. 25, 2018, Kyiv said a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian Navy tugboat in the same area as three Ukrainian ships approached the Kerch Strait in an attempt to reach the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted a video of the ramming on his Facebook page.
Mariupol is the closest government-controlled port to the parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
It has been targeted by the anti-Kyiv forces at times during the war that has killed more than 10,300 people since it erupted shortly after Russia seized Crimea.
In a reference to Russia, the Ukrainian Navy said the collision occurred because “the invaders’ dispatcher service refuses to ensure the right to freedom of navigation, guaranteed by international agreements.”
“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Ukrainian Navy said in a statement. “All illegal actions are recorded by the crews of the ships and the command of Ukraine’s Navy and will be handed over to the respective international bodies.”
“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Navy said in a statement.
After that incident, Russian authorities closed passage by civilian ships through the Kerch Strait on grounds of heightened security concerns.
Russian news agencies quote a local port authority as saying that the strait was reopened for shipping early on Nov. 26, 2018.
In Brussels, the European Union late on Nov. 25, 2018, called upon Russia “to restore freedom of passage”‘ in the Kerch Strait.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO was “closely monitoring developments” in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and was “in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, adding: “We call for restraint and deescalation.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he supports a move to introduce martial law.
“NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters,” Lungescu said. “We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”
The spokeswoman stressed that at a summit in July 2018, NATO “made clear that Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea, and the Azov Sea pose further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region.”
Russia claimed it did nothing wrong. The FSB accused the Ukrainian Navy ships of illegally entering its territorial waters and deliberately provoking a conflict.
The Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea waters off Crimea have been areas of heightened tension since March 2014,when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and began supporting pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the region, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of harassing ships heading toward Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, such as Mariupol and Berdyansk.
The Ukrainian Navy said it was a Russian border-guard ship, the Don, that “rammed into our tugboat.” It said the collision caused damage to the tugboat’s engine, outer hull, and guardrail.
Russia’s ships “carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian naval ships,” the statement said, adding that the Ukrainian ships were continuing on their way “despite Russia’s counteraction.”
But the Kyiv-based UNIAN news agency reported later that the two small-sized armored artillery boats and the tugboat did not manage to enter the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian Navy spokesman Oleh Chalyk told Ukraine’s Kanal 5 TV that the tugboat “established contact with a coast-guard outpost” operated by the FSB Border Service and “communicated its intention to sail through the Kerch Strait.”
“The information was received [by Russian authorities] but no response was given,” Chalylk said.
But the FSB said the Ukrainian ships “illegally entered a temporarily closed area of Russian territorial waters” without authorization. In a statement, it did not mention the ramming of the Ukrainian tugboat.
A few hours before Russian forces fired on Ukrainian Navy ships, the FSB said two other Ukrainian ships — two armored Gyurza-class gunboats — had left Ukraine’s Sea of Azov port at Berdyansk and were sailing south toward the Kerch Strait at top speed.
Russian officials said after the reported shooting incident in the Black Sea that those Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov turned back to Berdyansk before reaching the Kerch Strait.
The FSB also warned Kyiv against “reckless decisions,” saying that Russia was taking “all necessary measures to curb this provocation,” Interfax reported.
When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.
The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.
An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.
The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.
While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”
Amid growing calls for an end to the seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan, the President of the embattled country is looking for a political solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, Reuters reports the terror group will refuse to participate in any peace talks until after a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.
American officials call this refusal, “unacceptable.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)
“Frankly, it’s Taliban leaders who aren’t residing in Afghanistan who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, a top State Department official in Afghanistan.
In June, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani successfully negotiated a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the most important religious holiday for Muslims worldwide. It’s a three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which the devout fast during the day. Ramadan is important to the worldwide Muslim community as one of the five pillars of Islam.
It was the Taliban’s first-ever agreement to any ceasefire since the 2001 start of the war in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams)
The ceasefire actually lasted longer than three days and was “98 percent successful.” Reports say Afghans across the country, both military and civilian, were “jubilant.” Afghan government forces and Taliban fighters alike hugged each other and took selfies together in scenes reminiscent of the “Christmas Truce” of World War I, during which German and British troops spontaneously left the trenches to celebrate Christmas together in peace.
But, in both cases, the party had to end. In 1914, British and Germans were shooting at each other again the next day. In Afghanistan, the truce lasted 18 days, but fighting soon resumed.
Still, the ceasefire gave many civilians in the country the hope that a negotiated peace may soon be at hand. That includes President Ghani, who says the jubilation and happiness surrounding the ceasefire is proof that the country is ready for peace.
“I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready,” he said at a press conference.
The Taliban ordered its fighters back to the trenches. The group says a negotiated peace is playing into the hands of the U.S. In response, President Ghani ordered his troops back to the fighting as well.
Around midnight on Jan. 30, 1968, Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops began a massive surprise attack on U.S., South Vietnamese, and allied forces across South Vietnam.
The Tet Offensive, as it came to be known, was actually a three-phase campaign, lasting from Jan. 30 – March 28, May 5 – June 15, and Aug. 17 – Sept. 23.
“The event really defined the course of the rest of the [Vietnam] war and how it ended, which was a pretty inglorious ending,” said former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Hagel, who was with the 47th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam during Tet, spoke at the “Vietnam: The Tet Offensive” panel discussion, Jan. 25, at the National Archives.
Then a 21-year-old private first class, Hagel, just two months in country, said his mechanized infantry unit sustained heavy casualties in the vicinity of Long Binh.
The attack was a complete surprise, he said. What happened in Long Binh was typical of what was happening across the country.
The U.S. had completely underestimated the strength of the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerrilla forces from South Vietnam, he said. It came as a shock to the American public and turned public opinion against the war.
One of the myths of Tet, he said, is that it was a big enemy military victory, he added. It wasn’t. “Our military actually did very well considering.”
Erik B. Villard, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said there were other myths about Tet, some of which he wrote about in his Center for Military History book, “Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968.”
One myth, he said, was that the North Vietnamese orchestrated a number of major battles prior to Tet in the autumn of 1967 to draw U.S. forces away from the cities so they would be in a better position to succeed in capturing the urban areas.
The real story is more interesting, he said. The 1967 battles were local and regional campaigns, planned over the spring and summer of that year.
The idea for the Tet Offensive did not even occur to the enemy at the time, as their strategic planning process tended to be short-term and, at times, very chaotic, he said.
Also, why would they want to launch a major battle in November 1967, just months before Tet when full strength would be needed? There wouldn’t be adequate recovery time, he said, noting that the National Archives provided some key documents he used in his research.
A second myth, Villard said, was that Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, “was wedded to this notion of victory through attrition; that the way to succeed was to kill enough of the enemy that you crossed this imaginary threshold and you could just kind of grind your way toward success.
“Westmoreland deserves far more credit than he’s gotten in my view,” he added.
He was a shrewd person who understood the value of pacification and cutting enemy supply lines, as he was doing in secret operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Villard noted.
A third myth, he said, is that U.S. military policy changed when Westmoreland was replaced by Gen. Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. in June 1968, in the middle of the Tet Offensive.
Abrams and Westmoreland saw mostly eye-to-eye on strategy, he said. The mission continued to be defending bases and lines of communication, as well as air interdiction operations and supporting pacification.
Pacification was a term used at the time to denote counterinsurgency operations, which included advise and assist missions and winning over the loyalty of the local population.
Policy didn’t actually change until after mid-1969 when Vietnamization took hold, he said. Vietnamization consisted of drawing down U.S. forces and transferring responsibility to the South Vietnamese forces.
The buildup of forces into 1968 and the draw down a year later had already been planned on Westmoreland’s watch, he said.
Merle L. Pribbenow II, an author specializing in the Vietnam War, with five years of service in Vietnam during the war as a CIA operative, said that a widespread myth was that the Tet Offensive was a well planned and executed enemy attack.
That’s completely false, he said, referencing documents and interviews of NVA and VC commanders after the war.
Many of those generals became bitter with the way they and their units were treated by their own military and political leaders and the high numbers of casualties that resulted, he said.
“We focus on how we felt Army commanders screwed up and were unprepared. [The North Vietnamese] were saying the exact same things again and again,” he said.
After the war, the Vietnamese did tactical reviews and battle studies, just as the U.S. Army did, to learn lessons and assess strengths and weaknesses, he noted.
The takeaway from that assessment, he said, was that the communists acknowledged that a lot of the poor decision-making during Tet resulted from underestimating U.S. military response, as well as the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people.
Like the Americans, the communists also inflated their own body counts, minimized their failures, and exaggerated their accomplishments, he said.
The biggest problem, he added, was that shortcomings were not reported up the chain of command and authorities refused to listen to subordinates.
As a result of the assessment, he said the military leadership of Vietnam decided on a new approach. From then on, leaders were instructed to encourage subordinates to tell the truth, even if it wasn’t something they wanted to hear or went against their own thinking.
Gregory Daddis, an associate professor of history and director of Chapman University’s Master of Arts program in War and Society, said another myth was that the U.S. media was to blame for the lack of political will after the Tet Offensive.
There’s a tendency, he said, to find someone to blame when a bad outcome occurs.
Looking back 50 years ago to the Tet Offensive gives everyone an opportunity to gain a better perspective on everything that took place, he said.
An important takeaway from Tet, he said, is that sometimes military action might not be the best tool in all situations to achieve the desired political effect.
Hagel added that “in the end, war is determined not by military might but by the support of the people. We found ourselves on the wrong side of that.”
He concluded: “The sacrifices made by over 56,000 Americans who lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of individuals who were wounded, and all who served, were never really given much recognition for an assignment they didn’t choose. But they served and they served honorably, and did what their country asked them to do. And I think that’s a part of this story that needs to be told more often.”
Imagine how long it takes to reprogram millions of years of evolution in the human brain, trying to snuff out the instincts that kept early humans alive. Forcibly changing those instincts to instead train an individual to put themselves in harm’s way. If you ask a Navy SEAL, he’ll tell it takes about about six months, give or take — the amount of time you need to get through BUD/S.
If it ever seemed like SEALs and SEAL veterans just tend to think differently than most other civilians and veterans, then you’re on to something. Their brains have actually been reprogrammed, specifically within the amygdala, to process fear differently from everyone else.
Fear is a primal instinct that kept a lot of early humans from becoming food for dire wolves and cave hyenas. These days, humans have fewer cave hyenas to worry about, but that instinct still keeps us from walking down a dark alley in a tough neighborhood at night. Fear helps us manage risk and book it out of a situation that overwhelms us. The part of the brain that processes fear is the amygdala, which actually processes all emotions.
With fear present, the amygdala alerts the brain stem, which causes you to sweat, causes your heart to race, and initiates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The amygdala’s emotional response process is twice as fast as the frontal lobe’s logical decision-making processes.
Humans, as it turns out, are emotional creatures. The Navy takes full advantage of that.
“We introduce our students, on day one, to absolute chaos,” Capt. Roger Herbert, then-commander of the SEAL training program at Coronado Island, told the History Channel. “When you look at historic mistakes on the battlefield, they’re almost always associated with fear and panic. So, the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Zack Schaffer, U.S. Navy SEAL and an advanced training instructor, engages targets during a close quarters defense hooded-box drill at Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. The drill tests operators’ ability to quickly react to lethal and non-lethal threats with the appropriate use of force. Individual augmentees are used as role players during each scenario.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)
Navy SEAL recruits are put through special training to change how their brains react to fear. The Navy wanted to know why lifelong athletes could fail BUD/S training while some kids who never saw the ocean before the Navy could succeed.
One close-quarters combat exercise, the hooded box drill, involves putting a hood on a SEAL candidate that renders them blind and deaf, and then putting them in a combat situation. The hood is then ripped off and the candidate has to respond in seconds.
Sometimes, the response needs to be lethal and sometimes it needs to be nonviolent. Panic is not an option. Constant exposure to fear results in experiencing suppressed emotional responses and less lag time between the fear response and the frontal lobe logic process.
A gap between the two responses could leave a special operator standing frozen, unable to respond, not knowing what to do next. Navy SEALs do not have this problem.
One of the things that often shocks new pilots is how brutally honest our debriefs can be. After nearly a full day of planning, briefing, and flying a mission, we’ll gather in a room and spend hours picking apart everything that went wrong. Even if all our objectives were met and the mission was a success, we’ll still comb through a “god’s eye view” of the flight, along with the various recordings from inside our cockpit.
Rank comes off in the debrief, meaning the most senior officer, or the most senior pilot, are open to just as much criticism as the newest wingman. I’ve been in debriefs where a young Captain held the Wing Commander’s feet to the fire over mistakes he made in the air. This usually comes as a shock to many in the military who are typically required to follow a strict hierarchy.
When is comes to mistakes, fighter pilots worry more about improvement than they do about rank. (USAF Photo)
As with all things related to flying, prioritization is key—we’ll start with the biggest things that went wrong and try to uncover their root causes. I was recently explaining to a civilian pilot that in the debrief we spend 90% of our time on the 10% that didn’t go according to plan. They were amazed that 10% doesn’t go according to plan. In reality though, it can often be much higher.
The type of flying we do has more in common with sports than a typical commercial flight. We are fighting a thinking adversary that is specifically targeting our weaknesses. We, in turn, are making decisions that are trying to exploit theirs. As we fight to seize the initiative inside this decision loop; dozens of potential outcomes can occur at each phase of the mission. A mission therefore almost never goes exactly according to plan. It’s a dynamic environment that forces the pilot to perceive, decide, and execute in a harsh environment, often with limited information and time.
A three-ship formation of Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons flies over Kunsan City, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
In training, if the bomber we were escorting was shot down, or if an enemy aircraft bombed the point we were defending, it’s usually multiple overlapping mistakes that led to the failure. In fact, everyone probably had an opportunity at some point to intervene and save the day. The fighter pilot debrief works because everyone is willing to take ownership of their mistakes.
Taking ownership is a skill. As fighter pilots, most of us are predisposed to win at all costs—within the rules and regulations. In the debrief though, with the mission already flown, the way to win is to accurately identify lessons that will make everyone better for the next flight. It’s a fragile environment that only works when everyone is willing to first look inward for failures to the mission.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation with F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
It only takes one person trying to pass the blame for the collaborative environment to fall apart. Because it’s not stable, it requires constant maintenance, especially by those who could use their status to get by. The mission commander must be the first person to call themselves out for a mistake they made. Likewise, the pilot with the most experience must be willing to say they made a basic error that even a new pilot shouldn’t have made. The officer with the highest rank must be willing to set the example that rank doesn’t shield mistakes.
By treating everyone equally in the debrief, the mission can be analyzed in a sterile environment. We can figure out what went wrong and capture those lessons for future flights. To the casual observer it’s a brutal environment, but to the pilots in the debrief it’s just a puzzle on how to get better.
We’ve all seen “Florida Man” show up in ridiculous headlines. You know the ones: “Florida man calls 911 over missing beer so many times he gets arrested.” Or how about, “Florida man claims wife was kidnapped by holograms.” The list goes on. In fact, headlines coming out of Florida are so often outrageous that “Florida Man” has become something of a pop culture myth, known for getting into trouble in the most ridiculous ways — ways that only someone in an altered state of mind to conjure up.
Alcohol is undeniably a big part of military culture. Troops are constantly pushing the boundaries of what defines alcoholic behavior. The most prolific offender among the branches is, without a doubt, the Marine Corps. Drunk Marines are notorious for getting into trouble and, by now, it’s practically expected because it happens so often.
At the end of the day, the “Florida Man” has a lot in common with a drunk Marine. Here’s why:
Then the Army has to come clean up the mess.
1. The antics are surprisingly similar
For some reason, “Florida Man” is always noted for his intoxication — and even if it doesn’t make the headline, you can safely assume his state of mind. Drinking, getting rowdy, and stripping in public are some of Florida Man’s favorite pastimes — just like Marines! In fact, if you were to take some of his greatest works and replace “Florida Man” with “drunk Marine,” nobody would bat an eye at it.
No, really. Try it with us:
“Naked Florida Man drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down house baking cookies on George Foreman Grill”
And make these changes:
“Naked, drunk Marine drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down barracks baking cookies on George Foreman Grill“
Seamless, right? That’s why we’re not allowed to have toasters in our rooms.
Seriously? Over chicken?
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. They both exhibit aggressive tendencies
Drunk Marines are, quite possibly, the most irritable people on the planet. Making simple requests or doing anything that might accidentally upset one will likely result in violence.
Tell me, which of these is the real headline?
“Florida Man swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken“
“Drunk Marine swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken“
Can’t tell? Us neither. This is what happens when you don’t have a battle buddy.
3. Playing with dangerous, live animals
Both Marines and Florida Man have a penchant for messing with whatever wildlife happens to share their environment. Add a little bit of alcohol to the situation, and you might end up with this:
“Florida Man enters convenience store carrying live gator, chases customers“
That could easily be this:
“Drunk Marine enters PX carrying live gator, chases customers“
I feel like I’ve seen both of these before…
Why do drunk people always want to fight cops?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
4. Trying to fight cops
To be fair, drunk Marines will fight anyone when given the chance. But, of course, any challenge of authority will result in direct confrontation. That’s how you get headline swaps like this:
“Florida Man trashes McDonald’s, challenges cops to fight him at jail”
“Drunk Marine trashes chow hall, challenges PMO to fight him”
After evaluating the evidence, we can conclude with near certainty that Florida Man is indeed a US Marine.
The Danish Royal Air Force posted a video on August 22 of two of their fighter jets intercepting a Russian bomber, Newsweek International first reported.
The video shows two Danish F-16s flanking a Russian Tu-95 on both sides, and one Danish pilot signaling towards the bomber, near the island of Bornholm, which is between Poland and Sweden according to Newsweek.
The Danish Air Force posted the video on Facebook, but did not detail when the incident took place.
When the US Navy accused Russia of “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior at sea after a dangerous close encounter between a Russian destroyer and a US cruiser June 7, 2019, Russia quickly released a statement countering the US version of events.
Each side blamed the other for the run-in — which was close enough for US sailors to spot sunbathers topside on the Russian ship. But an expert who viewed the US Navy’s images concluded the Russians were to blame for the near-collision and were “operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
The US Navy says the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov nearly collided when the Russian ship sailed as close as 50 feet off the US Navy vessel while it was recovering a helicopter in the Philippine Sea. Russia claims that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian ship in the East China Sea, where the two warships came within 50 meters (150 feet) of one another.
“While USS Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet,” 7th Fleet said in a statement, adding that the US warship was forced to execute all engines back full and to avoid a collision.
The US Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD 572), closing to approximately 50-100 feet putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk.
Russia responded with its own statement, pinning the blame for the close call on the US Navy.
“The US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship,” the Russian Pacific Fleet said. “In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
Russian media has invoked the rules of the road, arguing that a vessel approaching another ship on its starboard, or righthand, side has the right of way. Indeed, that is the rule for a routine crossing situation, but there’s more going on here.
The US Navy released photos and videos. Based on these, a retired US captain concluded that the US Navy cruiser had the right of way — and Russia was at fault.
“If the cruiser was actually conducting helicopter operations. That trumps everything,” explained retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded two US warships. “If she’s operating a helicopter, she’s constrained and permitted by the rules of the road to maintain course and speed. She has the right of way.”
In this situation, the USS Chancellorsvilleis considered a “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.” A ship in this category is “a vessel engaged in the launching and recovery of aircraft,” according to the internationally-accepted navigation rules for preventing collisions at sea.
Near collision between Russian destroyer and US cruiser.
(US 7th Fleet)
Furthermore the Russian destroyer appears to have been approaching from behind (astern) at high speed at an angle that would make this an overtaking rather than a crossing. In that scenario, the vessel being overtaken (the US warship) has the right of way.
The Russian ship “was clearly approaching from astern, clearly maneuvering to close the cruiser, and was clearly in violation of the rules of the road and putting the ship at risk,” Hoffman said. “The Russians were clearly operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
He added that the wake indicated the “Russians had altered course several times,” more proof that the destroyer was purposefully closing with the US cruiser.
Another possible sign that this may have been a planned provocation on the part of the Russians is that there were sailors sunbathing on the helicopter pad. Were the Russian naval vessel actually concerned about a possible collision, there would have almost certainly been an all-hands response.
The ships alarm would likely have sounded, and sailors would have been ordered to damage control stations or braced for impact.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
Close encounters like the one involving the USS Chancellorsville and the Admiral Vinogradov are particularly dangerous because a ship is hard to maneuver at close range and a steel-on-steel collision can damage the ships and kill crewmembers.
“Unlike a car, a ship doesn’t have brakes, so the only way you can slow down is by throwing it into reverse,” Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert and former US Navy officer, explained to BI recently. “It’s going to take time to slow down because the friction of the water is, of course, a lot less than the friction of the road. Your stopping distance is measured in many ship lengths.”
A US Navy cruiser is 567-feet-long and unable to move its hull right or left in the water very quickly, making a distance of 50 feet dangerous.
“When someone pulls a maneuver like that,” he added, “It’s really hard to slow down or stop or maneuver quickly to avoid the collision.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After World War II, the Allied powers divided Germany, giving the eastern part of the country to the Soviet Union and the Western part to the United States, Britain, and France. The capital city of Berlin was also divided, but in 1948, the Soviets established a blockade to ensure Germany could not reunify and rise to invade them again.
Refusing to withdraw, the Allies began to supply their sectors of Berlin with food, fuel, and necessities in Operation Vittles — perhaps best known as the Berlin Airlift.
True to his word, Halvorsen collected candy rations from his fellow pilots and, on his next mission to Tempelhof, he wiggled the wings of his C-54 Skymaster and instructed his Flight Engineer to drop three parcels of the candy out the flight deck. They floated to the ground in handmade parachutes made of white handkerchiefs and, when he checked on the children later, three handkerchiefs waved back.
“Uncle Wiggly Wings” was born.
Once newspapers learned about Halvorsen’s “Operation Little Vittles,” pilots were flooded with candy donations from the United States. A humanitarian mission launched — and it continued well after Halvorsen returned home.
Halvorsen’s gesture — and the humanitarian mission that followed — built a bridge of healing between the American people and war-torn Germany, which paved the way for the friendship that would follow in the years to come.