AFP is reporting that an American F-16 was hit by small arms fire over Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The damage to the jet was severe enough that the pilot decided to jettison all external stores (drop tanks and bombs) before returning to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.
Although a number of rotary wing aircraft have been shot down or damaged by ground fire while operating over Afghanistan, tactical jets have been basically untouched by the enemy since the first airstrikes started in October of 2001. The Taliban don’t have much in the way of an integrated air defense system (a la Desert Storm-era Iraq), and jets can usually remain out of the reach of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (like Stingers) and small arms fire by flying above 10,000 feet while delivering GBUs or JDAMs.
So, in order to have been hit by bullets, the F-16 pilot had to have been flying pretty low. Pilots generally fly low for two reasons: A “show of force” pass or a strafing run. Non-precision (“dumb”) bombing can cause a pilot to bottom out at low altitude, but it’s unlikely the Falcon was carrying other than smart weapons, even for a close air support mission.
The Taliban claimed to have downed the F-16 and pictures have emerged of them posing with wreckage, but the U.S. military responded with the following statement: “On October 13, a US F-16 encountered small arms fire in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. The surface to air fire impacted one of the aircraft’s stabilizers and caused damage to one of the munitions.”
Sure, quarantine might be lonely and lead to mild symptoms of desperation, boredom and straight up crazy, but this song by Black Rifle Coffee Company legends Mat Best and Tim Montana might be the best thing to come out of these dark days yet.
The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.
In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.
“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”
The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.
The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.
At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.
“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”
The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.
“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”
The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.
Receiving mail can seem like such a small thing, but it can have a positive effect on Airmen.
“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”
“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”
The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.
“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”
History buffs have one wish on the 275th birthday of a Revolutionary War general: That he’ll get the recognition he deserves.
Nathanael Greene was a major general in the Continental Army and a trusted adviser and good friend to George Washington. Historians say his decisions were crucial to the American victory in the South campaign, yet many people haven’t heard of him.
The anniversary of his birth will be marked July 29 at his homestead, a national historic landmark built in 1770 in Coventry, Rhode Island.
David Procaccini, president of the homestead, says Greene is an “important national hero” and he’s trying to get that message out.
Greene has been largely overlooked for many reasons, said Greg Massey, who co-edited a collection of essays about Greene.
Greene oversaw the Army’s supplies for part of the war, which was not a glamorous position. Greene also fought in the South. Especially after the Civil War, historians tended to write about the Revolutionary War through a northern lens.
Greene wore down British forces but never decisively won a major battle. He died shortly after the war. Had he lived, he would’ve likely been one of the early leaders of the federal government.
“We put a lot of stock in our independence, as independent people,” said Massey, a history professor at Freed-Hardeman University. “He’s one of the essential people to the winning of the independence.”
After the Army retired to Valley Forge, Washington asked Greene in 1778 to become the quartermaster general to improve the system of supplies. Greene accepted, though he knew such a position wouldn’t bring the military fame that many generals sought.
“It would be good if Americans knew about the contributions of someone so humble as to be willing to take a job like quartermaster when it was necessary to save the Army,” said Philip Mead, chief historian at the Museum of the American Revolution. “The willingness to sacrifice your own self-interest for the good of your country, that’s an aspirational value in that period and in ours.”
Greene then assumed command in the South. He fought the British in the Carolinas, weakening their forces enough so that the British commander, Charles Cornwallis, had to move to Wilmington, North Carolina, and then on to Yorktown, Virginia, where his forces were trapped by French and American troops in 1781.
“That’s the last big battle of the war. They were still fighting, but the British government began negotiating for peace,” Massey said. “Greene isn’t at Yorktown but everything he did set the stage for that. Without him, that didn’t happen.”
Massey describes Greene as one of the great American generals.
Procaccini is using social media to try to draw people to the homestead, hosting more events and improving the property. Attendance has been increasing in recent years. On July 29, there will be historical reenactors at the site to talk to the public about the war. The ceremony includes a cannon salute and speeches.
Procaccini said it’s an opportunity to tell people about the sacrifices that Greene and men like him made in forming the nation.
The two Broad Area Maritime System aircraft arrived in Guam in January.
The U.S. Navy deployed the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime System (BAMS) to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for the first operational deployment. According to the official photos, the two aircraft arrived at their forward operating base on Jan. 12, 2020, even though the deployment was announced only on January 26.
The Triton is operated by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) squadron of the US Navy, in an Early Operational Capability (EOC). VUP-19 will develop the concept of operations for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with the MQ-4C in the 7th Fleet, where it will complement the P-8A Poseidon. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC), planned for 2021, will include four air vehicles with capacity to support 24/7 operations, according to the Navy.
“The introduction of MQ-4C Triton to the Seventh Fleet area of operations expands the reach of the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force in the Western Pacific,” said Capt. Matt Rutherford, commander of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72. “Coupling the capabilities of the MQ-4C with the proven performance of P-8, P-3 and EP-3 will enable improved maritime domain awareness in support of regional and national security objectives.”
The Triton will bring in the Pacific theater new capabilities with an increased persistence, as wrote in a previous article by our Editor David Cenciotti:
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
An MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) taxis after landing at Andersen Air Force Base for a deployment as part of an early operational capability (EOC) to further develop the concept of operations and fleet learning associated with operating a high-altitude, long-endurance system in the maritime domain. Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Triton UAS squadron, will operate and maintain two aircraft in Guam under Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, the U.S. Navy’s lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.
This first deployment was actually expected to happen in late 2018, after the MQ-4C was officially inducted into service on May 31, 2018. However, in September 2018, VUP-19 had to temporarily stand down its operation following a Class A mishap with the new aircraft. As stated by Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic, to USNI News in that occasion, the Triton “had an issue during flight and the decision was made to bring it back to base. While heading in for landing, the engine was shut down but the landing gear did not extend. The aircraft landed on its belly on the runway. No one was hurt and there was no collateral damage.”
The announcement of this first deployment arrived just as Germany canceled its plans to buy four MQ-4C for signals intelligence missions (SIGINT), opting instead for the Bombardier Global 6000, as the Triton would be unable to meet the safety standards needed for flying through European airspace by 2025, as reported by DefenseNews.
With tensions high in numerous hot spots around the world America is looking at the possibility of war with a number of rogue states. One of those states is Iran.
So just what would a war with Iran look like?
War with Iran would look vastly different than war with a state such as North Korea.
Without an immediately adjacent staging area from which to launch an invasion American and its allies will have to build up forces in the region once a fight comes. This means that for the first time since World War II, American troops will have to invade a country from over the horizon.
The Fifth Fleet, based at NSA Bahrain, would have the initial task of fighting off Iranian naval forces. With Tehran’s limited power projection this would be the largest impediment to building up forces near Iran.
With the natural bottleneck at the Strait of Hormuz, this is likely where the Iranian’s would make their stand. Iran’s conventional navy has little means of dealing with the powerful American fleet. Bested by America before, they would likely suffer a second ignominious defeat.
The real naval threat comes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy. The IRGC has procured numerous agile speedboats armed with ship-killing missiles. Manned by fanatical defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran their mission is to swarm a hostile force, unleashing a barrage of missiles, and hoping to score a victory with sheer numbers.
While the U.S. Navy will not emerge unscathed, their force of destroyers and patrol ships will utterly destroy the threat. Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems will deal with many of the missiles, though there is likely to be extensive damage to some ships. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft will blow the boats not caught in the hellfire out of the water.
Those aircraft will also be actively engaging the Iranian Air Force as the battle for air superiority begins. Heavily outnumbered the planes will also have to rely on the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Navy ships below.
The Air Force will divert planes already operating in the area while other squadrons proceed to friendly bases within range of the fight. The Air Force’s B-52 and B-2 bomber forces will also begin flying strikes against critical Iranian infrastructure, particularly Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
While this fight rages over the Persian Gulf, ground forces will begin deploying to fight. The 82nd Airborne will have the Global Response Force wheels up in 18 hours though they will not immediately jump into action. The rest of the division will soon follow.
The Marines will look to I Marine Expeditionary Force to be the backbone of their fighting capability. Elements of the III Marine Expeditionary Force will bolster this force.
As the buildup of ground forces continues, and as the Navy eradicates Iranian naval resistance, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs – supported by Marine infantry – will assault and reduce Iranian naval forces on several islands in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. This will clear the way for the invasion fleet to strike.
Launching from bases in Kuwait and Bahrain the invasion fleet will then steam towards the port of Shahid Rejeai, adjacent to the city of Bandar Abbas. Striking here will allow for the capture of a large port facility while simultaneously conducting a decapitation strike against the Iranian Navy headquartered at Bandar Abbas.
Prior to the landings at the port itself, Army Rangers supported by a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will conduct a parachute assault on Bandar Abbas International Airport in order to establish an airhead.
The remaining two brigades of the 82nd will secure the flanks of the invasion against counterattack by conducting parachute assaults onto critical road junctions and bridges.
At dawn, the Marines will spearhead the assault. The Marines’ armor will be critical in supporting the light infantry forces as they storm ashore to capture facilities for follow-on armor. Staged on numerous ships offshore Navy and Marine helicopters will carry troops in air assaults against positions while others land ashore in landing craft and AAVs.
By evening, armored units aboard roll-on/roll-off ships will be unloading in the ports while Marine units will have driven forward to link up with the paratroopers. Light infantry and Stryker forces will be airlanding at the recently secured airport.
With the beachhead established the invasion force will launch a massive sustained drive on Tehran. While an armored thrust storms up highway 71, the 101st Airborne, held in reserve until now, will conduct an air assault from NSA Bahrain onto Bushehr airport to open the way toward Shiraz, an important military city.
The Iranian military, long-suffering from embargoes and sanctions lacks the technology and wherewithal to put up serious resistance. Iranian armor will lay smoldering in the wake of American firepower.The largest threat will come from the irregular forces of the IRGC and the Islamic militias, or Basij, which are prepared to defend Iran to the death. However, after years of counterinsurgency operations American forces will be ready to defend against such threats.
Light infantry and Special Forces will capture Shiraz eliminating a serious threat and providing a logistical support base for continued operations. Other special operations forces will be operating throughout Iran to bolster friendly forces.
The long supply line from Bandar Abbas to the front lines will mean the 82nd Airborne will be busy capturing more air bases to bring in more troops and sustain the prolonged ground assault.
Eventually, all necessary forces will be positioned around Tehran for a final push to destroy the Ayatollah’s regime. Thunder runs and air assaults will criss-cross the city as American and allied forces seek to drive out the last remnants of resistance.
With the Ayatollah deposed and victory declared American forces will settle in for a nation-building campaign while a new government gains its strength.
In the world of “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands,” the U.S. government has had enough of the shenanigans of the South American drug cartels and has dispatched their deadliest operators to kill the snake by cutting off its head.
The newly released trailer focuses on the tactics and capabilities of the “Ghosts,” Clancy’s fictional spec-ops creation and the subject of his games and novels dating back to 2001. So far, we know that “Wildlands” will allow small teams of players to fight in battlefields modelled after the Bolivian jungle.
Game developer Ubisoft Paris clearly wants to paint ‘Wildlands’ as a smarter alternative to more aggressive offerings from the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, and to that end the trailer showcases the Ghosts using an assortment of tactics and technology — stealth takedowns, scout drones, etc. — to overpower the cartels’ lethal enforcers.
Check out the trailer below:
It’s actually amazing the Galactic Empire managed to control as much of the galaxy as they did. Logistically, they had the funds and the manpower of a giant imperial power but there were serious issues with the Imperial Defense Contractors.
Frankly, the Empire seemed to buy anything and everything.
Like the United States and Russia during the Cold War, the Galactic Empire obviously bought technology and weapon designs with little consideration for anything other than their ongoing effort to have the latest and greatest.
Some are just cumbersome and inefficient, like a moon-sized space station. Others were egregiously flawed from the start, reckless enough to be considered treasonous.
1. The Emperor’s Royal Guards’ Armor
With what armor do you equip the guys who guard the most powerful person in the universe? Bright red robes, of course. Then give them a giant, long, plastic helmet which restricts their neck movement and you’ve got a winner.
It’s a good thing the Emperor moves like a senior citizen walking out of a Golden Corral, because his Royal Guardsmen only have a six inch slit in those helmets for what looks like a 60-degree range of vision. But that hardly matters anyway, because even if they had to defend the Emperor for any reason, they’ve been issued what looks like pikes to fight with in a world full of lightsabers and blaster rifles. Their unit patches should probably just say “cannon fodder.”
2. TIE Fighters
When you need a fleet of superfast fighter spacecraft to defend your giant, lumbering Star Destroyers and planet-sized space stations, what better way to pump out a bunch of placeholders than the TIE Fighter, the galaxy’s most elite floating targets?
With only two chin-mounted cannons, dual ion engines, these pilots are expected to tackle fleets of superior X-Wing and A-Wing fighters head to head, with the only strategy employed in their use being the Empire’s ability to throw an overwhelming number of them at any given time. Also, there is not pilot ejection system.
On top of all that, they come fully equipped with a set of giant walls acting as blinders on either side of the craft, effectively restricting the pilot’s vision of roughly half of the battlespace.
This is another example of the Empire favoring numbers over combat ability. The Empire’s signature shock troops, the average Stormtrooper hasn’t successfully killed anything since the Clone Wars ended.
The only exception was the Snowtroopers at the Battle of Hoth but lets be honest – the Rebel Alliance depended completely on ONE giant ion cannon to protect the entire planet from an invasion.
You might defend the stormtroopers by blaming their rifles but that’s all the more reason to execute whomever procured the rifles and/or negotiated the clone trooper deal. The blasters would be a lot more effective if they didn’t come permanently set to “miss.”
Finally, the white PVC armor does nothing for them either. Why bother wearing bright white armor if it does nothing to protect you from the flaming death bolts the other side is shooting your way. Han Solo does just fine in combat and he’s wearing a vest.
4. AT-ST Walkers
The All Terrain Scout Transport, the two-legged version of The Empire Strikes Back’s famous four-legged snow invaders, are supposed to be an environment-adaptable version of the same. Except whomever convinced the Empire to deploy them on Endor didn’t tell the Imperial Army about the height of the trees being taller than that of the walkers. It doesn’t take a protocol droid to know how to bust into one of those from the treetops.
And if the AT-ST was the right tool for the job on Endor, it would have been able to navigate a series of rolling logs, the armor shouldn’t have crushed like an empty beer can between two trees, and the Empire wouldn’t have been beaten by an army of Care Bears.
5. Speeder Bikes for a Giant Forest World
While we’re on the Battle of Endor, who put it in the Empire’s mind that the ideal ground transport for scouts was a hyper-fast moving, one person bike in a world full of giant primeval trees? These bikes are begging to be wrecked left and right.
The Ewoks could have just set up random strings of rope all over the forest and taken out half these Imperial Scouts. Speeder Bikes on Endor are a safety brief waiting to happen. Even in Return of the Jedi, no one who drives a Speeder Bike ever lands one, they all just wreck or are punted off in some way.
6. Death Star Exhaust/Ventilation Systems
It’s actually difficult to blame an engineer for putting a thermal exhaust port on a giant, roving space station. The thing’s gotta have a tailpipe. Should it have led directly to the Death Star’s reactor core? Why isn’t there a few twists and turns leading up to the core?
They should have installed a few vents, maybe a more complex system would have worked better. Still, at only two meters, it’s hard for any engineer to predict the effects of what is essentially magic on the trajectory of a proton torpedo.
Who we can blame are the engineers who designed the second Death Star’s reactor core. Despite the lessons learned from the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, the new team of engineers not only kept the big gaping hole design flaw, they made it so big it could fit the Millennium Falcon, two X-Wings, an A-Wing, and a few TIE fighters.
They didn’t need magic torpedoes the second time, the Rebels just flew right up to the reactor core and blew it to smithereens.
Update: The Star Wars film “Rogue One” covered #6 on the list. The design flaw was a purposeful attempt to give the rebels a chance against the space station.
The author stands by his assertion that the second Death Star didn’t need a hole leading directly to its core.
Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.
Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.
Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”
Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.
Then, he slowly faded from history.
Coming to America
Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”
No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.
Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.
Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”
Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.
According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.
Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.
Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.
“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.
Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.
Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.
Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.
Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.
His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.
Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.
The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.
For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.
Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers
Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”
Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.
“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”
No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.
“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.
There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.
“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”
Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”
“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.
Lost then found again
Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”
“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”
Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.
Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.
Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve
As the Allies put their plans into action in 1944 preparing for the eventual D-Day landings, they knew that they needed to break German logistics in Normandy. As part of the process, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the 8th Air Force targeted the rail networks that crisscrossed France.
But while the landings would be known as Operation Overlord and the evacuation of the Dunkirk was called Operation Dynamo, the rail bombings were named Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The operation wasn’t named after the “The Simpsons” episode. That would be ridiculous, reader who apparently doesn’t understand that World War II happened before “The Simpsons.”
No, it was named after a popular song of the day. Glenn Miller had recorded the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 and someone on the staff must have liked it. That would be similar to the missile strikes on Syria having been named after a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song.
Despite the silly name, the operation was a huge success. The air forces wanted to limit German logistics while obscuring the site of the upcoming landings in Operation Overlord. So they dropped bombs all over occupied France but stipulated that two bombs be dropped at Pas de Calais for every one that hit in Normandy.
Adolph Hitler and his cronies were convinced the landings could come at Calais. The bombs ripped through German railways, marshaling yards, wireless radio stations, and other key infrastructure, softening up Normandy for the invasion.
All thanks to Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.
In March 1941, over 500 British and Allied commandos, sappers, and sailors launched a daring four-pronged raid against Norwegian towns occupied by the German Army. Despite the German forces spotting the commandos 24 hours before the attack, the British suffered only one casualty.
An officer accidentally shot himself in the thigh.
Operation Claymore, as it was known, was a commando raid targeting fish oil factories in the Lofoten Islands. The fish oil was a prime source of glycerin which is a crucial propellant for most types of weapons ammunition in World War II.
The islands are 100 miles into the Arctic Circle and guarded by a force of over 200 German troops. The commandos expected potentially heavy resistance and spent about a week in the Orkney Islands rehearsing their assault plan.
On March 1, they began a three-day journey through rough seas to the targets. Two days later, they were spotted by a German aircraft but pressed forward, risking the possibility of hitting beaches with prepared and dug-in Nazi defenders.
When the British arrived, ice had formed further out than expected and the commandos were forced to get out of the boats early before running across it to hit the towns. All four groups managed to cross the ice and hit their targeted towns without facing any real resistance.
In fact, the local Norwegians watched the British coming at them like it was a small show, and the commandos made it into the buildings before they even began to see German uniforms. With many of the defenders separated or still asleep, the attackers were able to quell resistance with few shots fired.
They captured 225 prisoners while taking every one of their objectives. Despite the attack force having been spotted by the German plane, none of the defenders were ready.
The grateful locals brought out coffee and treats for the attackers, the sappers planted charges against the fish oil tanks, and the Norwegians started recruiting the citizens into the Free Norwegian Forces.
There was an additional lucky break for the commandos. They hit a German-held trawler and killed 14 of the defenders.
The ship commander managed to throw the Enigma machine over the side but the British still captured technical documents and spare parts for the machine, giving code breakers in Bletchley Park near London a leg up.
The mission was a huge success, but as mentioned above, the British did suffer a single casualty when an officer accidentally shot himself in his thigh with a revolver.
The British knew how well the mission had gone, and got a bit cocky about it.
One group sent a telegraph to Hitler with the captured communication gear asking him where his vaunted German soldiers were. Another group hit a nearby seaplane base and took all their weapons, just for additional giggles.
The German commander, who probably should’ve been grateful that he and his men weren’t added to the 225 prisoners the British had captured, later complained to his fuhrer that the commandos had displayed “unwarlike” behavior.
(Pretty sure the dudes captured without a shot fired were the “unwarlike” fellows, but whatever.)
When the commandos finally left, they blew the fish oil tanks, sending huge fireballs into the sky. They also sank some ships vital to the fish oil production including the most advanced fish factory-ship of the time.
As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.
To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.
Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant
While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.
While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.
Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.
While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.
As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.
Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump
(White House Photo)
Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war
As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.
Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.
Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.
Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.
[State Department photo/ Public Domain]
There seems to be no clear line of succession
While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.
While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.
(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)
A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button
If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.
A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.
Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.
A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.
North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea
A refugee crises in the making
Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.
In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.
Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.
The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.
If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
The devil you know
There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.
In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.