Still no news about Kim Jong Un – even after TMZ reported (yet didn’t confirm) his death on April 25 and everyone outside the Intelligence community has been coming up with their own theories, whether he died during a botched heart surgery to whatever because he missed two major holiday appearances.
I don’t know. The logical side of my brain says that he’s probably smart enough to know that being a dictator of the country with rampant malnutrition, horrid living conditions and legalized crystal meth is doing far worse when their only trading partner is the epicenter of a deadly pandemic. He’s probably been self-isolating like everyone else in the world (except his countrymen).
But I’m still hoping the methed-out cardiothoracic surgeon did him in. Anyways, here are some memes…
One of if not the most dramatic moments in Avengers: Endgame is the scene in which a shieldless Captain America wields Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer that Odin enchanted so that only the worthy are able to lift it. There’s an entire scene in Age of Ultron showing the other Avengers trying and failing to pick it up. Or at least that’s what we thought was happening.
In a new interview, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo were asked why Cap is able to pick up Mjolnir in Endgame but not in Age of Ultron. What changed between the two films, about nine years of Marvel Cinematic Universe time?
Anthony replied: “In our heads, he was able to wield it. He didn’t know that until that moment in Ultron when he tried to pick it up. But Cap’s sense of character and humility and, out of deference to Thor’s ego, Cap, in that moment realizing he can move the hammer, decides not to.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Lifting Thor’s Hammer – Movie CLIP HD
There is a brief moment in that Ultron scene in which the hammer appears to move ever so slightly and a look of panic flashes across Thor’s face, so it’s not as though Russo’s explanation comes completely out of left-field. The problem is simply that his version is just not as interesting as the prevailing theory.
Many thought that in Ultron, Cap couldn’t quite pick up the hammer because he was keeping a huge secret from Tony. In Captain America: Civil War he was forced to admit that Bucky was the one who killed the Starks. So by the time that scene in Endgame rolls around, he is worthy of wielding Mjolnir. It’s a nice arc that makes narrative sense and puts adherence to a moral code, the foundation of any good superhero story, at the forefront.
And now the Russos have deflated it. Because as nice as it is to be humble and not show up your friends, it’s not nearly as interesting as telling your friend that you’ve been keeping the identity of his parents’ murderers a secret.
J.K. Rowling learned the hard way that fans don’t particularly like it when architects of elaborate fictional worlds make statements outside of their work that alters their experience.
So while theorizing about this stuff is fun, creators have to know that when they do it comes from a place of authority that can have the effect of erasing fan speculation. That robs fans of the fun of speculating themselves and, as in this case, it can provide a less interesting “answer” to the most exciting questions the work in question raises.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
“The F-35A experienced an in-flight emergency and returned to base,” officials said. “The aircraft landed safely and parked when the front nose gear collapsed,” the 33rd said.
One pilot was on board the aircraft, but did not sustain any injuries as a result of the mishaps, the Air force said. Fire crews “responded immediately,” officials said.
An F-35A Lightning II taxis down the runway.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Smallwood)
Lena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the 33rd Fighter Wing, told Military.com that an investigation into the incident “is just beginning.” Lopez did not specify a timeline when the Air Force may have an update into the incident.
The Air Force did not specify the extent of the damage.
Eglin is home to one of the busiest F-35 training units in the Air Force; The 33rd Fighter Wing is also the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots.
The 33rd maintains 25 F-35As. The U.S. Navy, which also has a presence at Eglin and sends pilots through the training pipeline at the base, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station.
Featured image: Contracted Logistics Maintenance personnel from Lockheed Martin at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., stop the pilot on the taxiway during the return of his flight in preparation to verify the F-35A’s brake temperatures are within safe limits to recover the aircraft March 13, 2012.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Facial recognition is being widely embraced as a security tool — law enforcement and corporations alike are rolling it out to keep tabs on who’s accessing airports, stores, and smartphones.
As it turns out, the technology is fallible. Researchers with the artificial-intelligence firm Kneron announced that they were able to fool some facial-recognition systems using a printed mask depicting a different person’s face.
The researchers, who tested systems across three continents, said they fooled payment tablets run by the Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, as well as a system at a border checkpoint in China. In Amsterdam, a printed mask fooled facial recognition at a passport-control gate at Schiphol Airport, they said.
The researchers said their findings suggested that a person who prints a lifelike mask resembling someone else could bypass security checkpoints to fly or shop on their behalf.
“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”
Some facial-recognition software proved impervious to the printed-mask test, however. The researchers said Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s system passed; both use more sophisticated technology known as structured light imaging. Kneron said its own facial recognition software also passes the test.
Researchers said that tests at security checkpoints were carried out with the permission of security guards supervising them — suggesting that as long as humans are present to notice the mask, facial-recognition checkpoints aren’t entirely unsecured.
In the month after its mask study went viral, Kneron announced that it raised million from investors including Alibaba, Qualcomm, and Horizons Ventures.
“We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device [and] democratize AI,” Liu told Business Insider after the fundraising was announced.
Here’s the pitch deck Kneron used to raise million.
Most troops and vets know very little about what the Coast Guard actually does. They’re often seen as either the “Navy National Guard” or as a bunch of puddle pirates trying to pretend like they’re one of the cool, DoD kids.
Yeah, sure; we’ll hear their name get brought up whenever a hurricane hits or they’ll be cursed at when they catch someone speeding on a private lake, but the truth is that they’ve more than earned their right to be a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
When they aren’t out helping idiotic boaters, they’re dropping narco-terrorists just like their grunt brothers.
When it kicks off, Coasties stay busy and can probably expect six or so busts in a week after that long-ass wait.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)
It all begins with actionable intelligence. Despite what you might think about gangs not snitching on each other to save their own hides — they absolutely do. Apparently, it doesn’t even take that much to get them to talk. A threat of extradition and being sent back to their home country (where they face grave, domestic threats) is usually enough to get them singing like a canary.
So, the Coast Guard goes out to the expected route of traffickers in their Cutters and they wait… and wait… and wait…
This process could take days, weeks, or even months. If it turns out that the collected information is indeed legit and they find the smugglers, then the fun begins.
First is the show of force and an appeal to try and get them to surrender peacefully. There’s literally no escape when the Coast Guard has you surrounded with much faster vessels and helicopters flying overhead. The ones who value their well-being will give themselves up.
If they don’t, warning shots will strafe the waters in front of the bow. If they still don’t get the message, snipers from inside the helicopters will disable the engines — that’s right: The Coast Guard has highly trained snipers who can hit speedboats from helicopters with surgical precision.
They should get the hint by now, but just in case they don’t, the Coast Guardsmen then board their vessel and detain the smugglers while remaining very weary of any potential threats that may appear. For a look at what that’s like, in a safe-for-television manner, check out the video below:
Ever wonder what half a billion dollars looks like? This was from just three busts.
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mariana O’Leary)
The traffickers will go into custody and may be sent back to their host nation for trial (or execution, depending on the country). Then, the drugs are incinerated or destroyed by other means.
We’re not talking small amounts either. We’re talking about cartel-level quantities. Each bust account for tons of narcotics that will never make it to the streets. When they’re set ablaze, that’s millions that will never make it back to the cartels. Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard took out 500 tons of cocaine — billion in street value.
The war on drugs is a constant battle, but busts like these make significant dents.
Let’s be real: Six-pack abs are a pretty dumb fitness goal. First and foremost, having a stomach that has ridges is not a barometer of health. In fact, in many ways it is quite the opposite. To have six-pack abs you need to have somewhere around the order of 6% body fat. Sounds good, right? Not exactly. Extremely low body fat (that’s below 5%) can put a strain on the system, causing testosterone to drop, the immune system to struggle, brain fog, splotchy skin… the list goes on. In other words, this is a vanity goal.
So you still want to give one a go? We get it, that six-pack is aesthetically pleasing and make anyone look damn good in a swimsuit. But be prepared to work for it. There is a very high bar you’ll need to hit repeatedly for workout dedication and dietary discipline.
So the first step to a six-pack is watching what you eat, and sticking to lean meats, vegetables, and cutting out all sweets and most carbs. The second step is committing to an intense ab-focused strength-training routine — not the twice a week deal you do now, but three to four times a week, with determination and focus — to see your abs transform themselves. The good news: Many of the moves don’t require machines or extra weights, so you can do them in the convenience of your own home.
The final ingredient to building your six-pack is a solid dose of daily cardio. Developing your overall fitness will help train your body to use energy more efficiently, and teach it to start torching calories the minute you begin to move. And that’s key because you can have the strongest abdominals in the world, but if they’re covered with a layer of fat, you’ll never see them.
Follow this 7-point checklist to take your six-pack fantasy one step closer to reality.
1. Eat less fat, and more protein.
Protein helps your body build muscle and recover from tough workouts. It also has the highest thermogenic property of the various food categories (carbs, fat, etc), meaning pound per pound it requires more energy to burn, helping you lose weight faster.
2. Count your calories.
Yes, your meals should be filled with high-quality nutrients and low on processed crap. But at some point, a calorie is a calorie, and to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you expend. The average guy needs about 2,500 calories to maintain his weight. Shoot for 200 less than that a day to help hit your target safely. (For easy reference, that means cutting out the bowl of chips before dinner, or skipping dessert.)
3. Pick exercises that hit multiple muscle groups.
Crunches and sit-ups have their place, but exercises that involve multiple muscle groups give you more bang for your buck. Two of the best ones, which should be performed to the point of temporary muscle failure (i.e., you cannot do another rep), are planks and reverse crunches.
Plank: Start lying face-down on the floor, torso propped up on your elbows. Engaging your core, raise your body up onto your forearms and toes, making sure your body forms one long line from shoulders to feet. Hold this position as long as you can, working your way up to 90 seconds.
Reverse crunches: Lie on the floor on your back, knees bent at 90 degree, feet raised several inches off the ground. Contract your abs and hike hips off the floor, keeping your spine rounded. Raise knees high toward the ceiling. Relax and repeat as many times as you can.
4. Make your cardio workouts more intense (and shorter).
Cardio is an essential component to getting your six-pack, because it speeds up the weight-loss process. Despite what you’ve probably read about moderate intensity cardio being the best method for burning fat (which is true), the fastest way to achieve overall calorie burn is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), which goes like this: 60 seconds of biking, rowing or sprinting as hard as you can, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat 10 times.
5. Hanging leg raises.
Don’t be fooled by its name — hanging leg raises are one of the best abdominal workouts you can do. The move works those deep, lower abdominal muscles that basic exercises like crunches miss. Start by hanging from a bar, legs straight. Engage your core and raise both legs straight in front of you (if this is your first time, it’s likely you will not be able to lift them very high — that’s OK). Repeat until failure.
6. Prioritize hydration.
It’s true, all the water in the world isn’t going to make your abs pop overnight. But it’s also true that drinking at least 8 glasses of water (or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages) a day helps boost your energy levels so you can commit to your next workout. It also helps prevent water retention, which can give your gut a bloated appearance.
Even though you’ll need to do some ab-specific exercises along with general strength and cardio work, you’ll see better results if you alternate the moves you do, as each one works the abdominals in a slightly different way. A few to add to your repertoire:
Pronated Leg Raises: Lie flat on your back, legs straight, hand tucked beneath your lower spine for support. Engage your abs and raise legs to about 45 degrees. Lower. Do 10 times.
V-Hold: Sit on floor, knees bent, hand tucked under your knees. Engage your core and slowly raise your feet off the floor several inches. Once you find your balance, extend your legs in front of you, creating a V-shape with your body. Hold 60 seconds.
Bicycle: This favorite of aerobic classes everywhere gets your heart rate up with working your obliques. Start on your back, knees bent, hands behind your head. Raise your head and feet off the floor and begin cycling your legs back and forth as it you re riding a bike. Bring opposite elbow to knee as you go. Do 60 seconds, rest 20 seconds, and go again.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, a former US senator, and former Marine aviator who saw combat in World War II and Korea, has died at 95.
Glenn is known for a number of accolades throughout his life of service, from the military to the astronaut program and eventually, into politics. So it’s worth looking back on his entry into politics, when he first ran for office against an incumbent named Howard Metzenbaum.
In 1974, Glenn’s military record offered an opening for criticism by his opponent, who was mindful of Americans’ anti-war fervor during the Vietnam War. Metzenbaum began calling him “Col. Glenn” to highlight his time in the Marine Corps, and later told him that he “had never met a payroll,” which Glenn perceived as being told that his military record and service with NASA didn’t qualify as “having held a job.”
His response during the debate was remarkable, and at the end of it, he received more than 20 seconds of sustained applause, according to PBS. Here’s what he said:
“I spent 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I lived through two wars. I flew 149 missions. I was in the space program. It wasn’t my checkbook, it was my life that was on the line.
You go with me as I did out to a veterans’ hospital and look those men with their mangled bodies in the eye and tell them that they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and you tell her that her son did not hold a job. You go to Arlington National Cemetery — where I have more friends than I’d like to remember — and you think about this nation, and you tell me that those people didn’t have a job.
I tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men, some men, who held a job. And they required a dedication to purpose, a love of country, and a dedication to duty that was more important than life itself.
And their self-sacrifice is what has made this nation possible.
I have held a job, Howard.”
Glenn went on to defeat Metzenbaum in the primary and win the general election. He served in the Senate from 1974 to 1999. His speech was also used to motivate a group of US Marines before they went into combat in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010.
The Royal Navy released on Twitter on Oct. 23, 2019 an image of the F-35 in “beast mode,” loaded during the tests of the Highly Automated Weapon Handling System with six (two of which internally) Paveway IV dual mode GPS/INS and laser guided bombs, two AIM-132 ASRAAMs (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on the wingtips and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) in the weapons bays.
The Paveway IV, latest iteration of the widely spread GBU-12 Paveway II developed for the UK with added GPS guidance, and the ASRAAM, British replacement for the AIM-9 Sidewinder, were specially integrated on the F-35 for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, since they don’t operate the GBU-12/EGBU-12 and the AIM-9X fielded by the USMC on their F-35Bs. The Meteor BVRAAM is also expected to be integrated on the aircraft, as the Royal Air Force recently declared it operational and will eventually replace the AMRAAM in the next years.
The first takeoff of a UK Lightning from the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
UK’s F-35B Lightning are currently deployed aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier for Operational Testing, while the ship is undergoing the Westlant19 Carrier Strike Group cruise off the East Coast of the United States.
As the Author wrote in a previous article, this deployment is meant to test personnel and aircraft to ensure they are compatible with the carrier. One of the key features of the ship that are being tested is the Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, a system derived from commercial automated warehousing processes that moves palletized munitions from the deep magazine and weapon preparations areas to the hangars and flight deck by using automated tracks and lifts.
One of the big advantages of the HAWHS is the reduction of manpower needed to handle munitions, thus reducing the risks for the crew during one of the most hazardous activities aboard the ship; the crew is now required to handle the weapons only during initial storage and the preparation for use on the aircraft.
The F-35s stored in the hangars of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
During the following days, the F-35s will fly from the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth with various weapon’s loading configurations, including the “Beast mode”, to continue the operational testing. Here’s what our editor David Cenciotti wrote about this configuration in a previous article:
“Beast Mode” is not an official or technical term. At least not within the U.S. Air Force. However is a pretty common way an F-35 configuration involving both internal and external loads is dubbed. Actually, others call any configuration involving external loads “Bomb Truck” or “Third Day of War” configuration. In fact, as opposed to a “First Day of War” loadout, in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability, the “Third Day of War” configuration is expected to be used from the third day of an air campaign when, theoretically, enemy air defense assets (including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft) have been degraded by airstrikes (conducted also by F-35s in “Stealth Mode”) and the battlespace has become more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on Low-Observability for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads. These conditions are not always met. For instance, LO was not needed when the F-35A was called to carry out the first air strike in the Middle East, nor when the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B carried out the first air strike in Afghanistan.
On the same day, the ship saw also the arrival of the other two UK F-35s scheduled to deploy for Westlant19. The aircraft currently aboard are now ZM148 (BK-14) modex 014, ZM149 (BK-15) modex 015, ZM151 (BK-17) modex 017 from the mixed 207 Squadron/617 Squadron fleet based at RAF Marham and ZM135 (BK-01) modex 001, ZM136 (BK-02) modex 002 and ZM138 (BK-04) modex 004 from the 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) based at Edwards Air Force Base.
USMC F-35Bs are expected to deploy on HMS Queen Elizabeth in the following days to conduct trials before a joint operational deployment with the RAF/RN F-35s in 2021.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Lockheed Martin’s mysterious “Skunk Works” experimental division has become famous for game-changing aerospace breakthroughs. The SR-71 Blackbird; the F-117 Nighthawk; the U-2 Dragon Lady; and the F-80 Shooting Star all were pioneering designs that came from this legend of research and development.
Now, joining those game-changing planes could be the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System, or ARES.
According to BreakingDefense.com, ARES is a joint product between the Skunk Works and Piasecki Aircraft, an aerospace company out of Pennsylvania. The prototype tiltrotor drone, which features a 41-foot wingspan, a combat radius of 175 miles, and a top speed of 170 knots, is slated to take flight sometime next year.
One other item of note is that the smaller payload will actually increase the tactical mobility of deployed troops.
“You could take a big Chinook or a [CH-53] and very efficiently drop 10,000 lbs. of stuff on a small unit, but then they’re no longer mobile,” Piasecki Aircraft CEO John Piasecki, told BreakingDefense.com, comparing the new logistics model that ARES could bring about to ordering products online using a smart phone. The Piasecki Aviation website on ARES notes that larger versions of the ARES could be designed, along with versions capable of operating off of ships.
ARES is not the only game-changer that could take flight next year. Bell Helicopter is introducing a pair of tiltrotors — the V-280 Valor and the V-247 Vigilant. The former is a manned tilt-rotor seen as a potential replacement for the UH-60 Blackhawk and the AH-64 Apache that has a crew of four and can carry 14 troops. The latter is an unmanned aerial vehicle that could see applications for the Marine Corps and the Navy.
Boeing and Sikorsky have teamed up to produce the SB-1 Defiant as a competitor to the V-280. The Defiant is based on the X2 prototype and the S-97 Raider, and features a pair of contra-rotating rotors on top and a pusher propeller that provide increased speed and range compared to conventional helicopters.
Compared to these protoypes, the H-13 Sioux helicopters seen delivering wounded personnel to the 4077th in the opening credits of M*A*S*H could very well look like a Sopwith Camel placed next to a F-16.
The act of conducting a ceremonial flyover is nothing new for naval aviators, but the flyover that occurred Dec. 6, 2018, is one that has never occurred before in our Navy’s history.
At approximately 4:15 p.m. (CST), aviators from various squadrons assigned to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic (CSFWL) and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) flew an unprecedented 21 jet flyover at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library to honor the former naval aviator and president at his interment in College Station, Texas.
Following six days of national mourning, the ceremony served as the third and final stage of a state funeral for President Bush who was laid to rest alongside his wife of 72-years, former First Lady Barbara Bush and their late daughter, Robin.
Planning of a state funeral typically begins around the time of a president’s inauguration; however, the execution of that plan may not happen for decades and often with little notice of a president’s passing.
Navy Conducts Unprecedented Flyover for President George H.W. Bush
The plan for President Bush’s funeral service called for a 21 jet flyover, which was the responsibility of the operations team at CNAL led by Capt. Peter Hagge.
“Before I even checked in to [CNAL] a year and a half ago, this plan was in place.” Hagge said.Following the former first lady’s passing April 17, 2018, Hagge and the CNAL team coordinated efforts with CSFWL to start making preparation for the president’s death. On Nov. 30, 2018, both teams snapped in to action to execute that plan.
“We coordinated with Joint Reserve Base (JRB) Fort Worth and reached out to the commanding officer, executive officer and operations officer to make sure we had ramp space and hangar maintenance facilities,” said Hagge. “Cutting orders for the aircrew and all 50 maintainers and the other administrative details was the easy part. The tactical level detail was a lot more complex.”
All told, 30 jets made the trip to JRB Fort Worth in addition to the ground team on station at the presidential library in College Station. The extra nine jets served as backups to ensure mission success.
“It was reactionary to make sure we had the requisite number of aircraft with spares to make sure we could fill [the request] with 21 aircraft,” Hagge said.
The extra nine jets comprised of five airborne spares with four more spares on ground ready to support.
Cmdr. Justin Rubino, assigned to CNAL, served as the forward air controller on the ground. He remained in radio contact with the aircraft to match the flyover’s timing with the funeral events on the ground.
Naval aviators from various commands under Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, operating out of Naval Air Station Oceana, fly a 21-jet missing man formation over the George Bush Library and Museum at the interment ceremony for the late President George H.W. Bush.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lindahl)
“I like the responsibility and feel like I had the most direct role in ensuring success — other than the aircraft of course,” Rubino said. “I like being the ‘point person,’ communicating what’s happening on the ground, relaying that information and directing when the flyover occurs.”
Rubino coordinates all of CNAL’s flyovers, but believes this one is special.
“It’s special because not only was he the 41st president, but he was also a naval aviator,” he said. “He flew off aircraft carriers just like we do today and that’s a bond all of us share. He’s one of us. Sure he was the president of the United States, yes, but he was also a naval aviator.”
Coordinating a nationally televised 21 jet flyover for a state funeral is no small task, but Hagge remains humble, giving much of the credit to the Joint Task Force National Capitol Region, which was responsible for the overall planning.
“As far as the complexity goes, for us, we are a really small portion of an incredibly complex machine.”
The “small portion” included executing the Navy’s first 21-jet formation that originated from an Air Force formation already in existence.
“We pretty much took the Air Force plan and put a little Navy spin on it,” Rubino said.
That “spin” included changing the distance between the aircraft and altering the formation to a diamond shape for the first four jets. The last formation utilized the standard “fingertip formation” in order to do the missing-man pull.
Hagge and his team were honored to support.
“A funeral is a family’s darkest hour and a flyover, an opportunity where we can support them in a time of mourning, means the world to them,” said Hagge. “But this one, I think, means the world to our nation.”
On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.
Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.
When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.
Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.
He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.
As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.
A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.
As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.
He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.
As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.
As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”
Robert Smalls was a slave.
His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!
The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.
As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.
They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.
Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.
When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.
You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.
Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.
Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.
Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.
In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).
In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.
After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.
And he did.
He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.
Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”
Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.
In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).
After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.
On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.
“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”