More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

With the Pentagon poised to announce details of a troop increase for the US mission in Afghanistan, the pending decision raises questions about the effect additional boots on the ground will have on the 16-year conflict.


Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made the rounds July 19 on Capitol Hill, reportedly briefing lawmakers on the White House’s strategy for Afghanistan and on the ongoing coalition campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon repeatedly has said its Afghanistan war plan would be on President Trump’s desk by mid-July.

For several weeks, defense officials led by Mr. Mattis have been assessing the progress of the Afghanistan war, determining what level of support — including a 3,000- to 5,000-troop increase — will be required to stabilize the country’s security forces.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Government-led analysis and reviews by private sector analysts say upwards of 60 percent of Afghanistan is heavily influenced by or under the direct sway of the Taliban. Afghan troops, advised by US and NATO forces, have suffered heavy casualties to maintain control over the 40 percent of the country ruled by the central government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan received little attention on the campaign trail last year, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focusing on the US-led coalition to defeat the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. But Washington refocused on Southwest Asia amid Taliban gains this spring and the increased Islamic State presence in the eastern half of Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

His comments echoed those of US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in the country.

Currently 8,400 US troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising local security forces. Should the top-end troop increase proposal go into effect, it would raise the number of US forces in the country to more than 10,000.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
DoD photo by Sgt. Edward Siguenza

On top of the increases sought by the Pentagon, NATO leaders have agreed to send surge forces into the war-torn country. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision during an alliance ministerial earlier this year.

Inside the Pentagon, hopes were high that President Trump’s emphasis on military might to achieve US national security objectives coupled with a hands-off management style would give the department the resources and leeway it needed to bring the Afghan war to an end. Those hopes were bolstered when the administration announced decisions on troop numbers would be the exclusive domain of Mr. Mattis and his staff.

But recent reports claiming that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster instituted a soft cap of 3,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that could be sent to Afghanistan has put a damper on such assumptions.

The Trump White House’s management of the Pentagon “is not the free hand that has been advertised,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal and an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Furthermore, any close study of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign would have proven things would be business as usual at the Pentagon. “The [war] policies are fundamentally the same at this point in time just with the reins loosened,” Mr. Roggio said.

The proposed 3,900-man troop cap is less an example of the war micromanagement of the Obama administration and more a way to get some breathing room as the Trump administration pulls together a long-term Afghan strategy, he added.

“It is a stopgap until we can come up with a complete strategy. It is not a permanent cap,” said Mr. Roggio.

Congressional hawks, led by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, have taken Mr. Trump’s national security team to task over its lack of an Afghanistan war plan.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Arizona Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

Last month Mr. McCain told Mr. Mattis and Gen. Dunford that he hopes they can “understand the dilemma you are presenting to us” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war.

But for all the rhetoric, the US does have an Afghanistan strategy in place — the one drafted by the Obama White House.

Mr. Roggio said he understands the frustration at the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill regarding the White House’s slow pace on the Afghanistan plan.

“But there is a strategy in place right now, and until there is a new one, you follow that,” he said, referring to the Obama plan.

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An Army medic was just returned to the US from the Chosin Reservoir

Corporal Jules Hauterman Jr. was part of the U.S. Army’s 31st Regimental Combat Team at the Chosin Reservoir when they were overrun by counterattacking Chinese troops.


Hauterman was 19 years old when he was among the 1,300 casualties of the 31st Regimental Combat Team.

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Chinese troops prepare to assault the U.S. 31st Regimental Combat Team. (Chinese Military photo)

Since neither the Chinese nor North Koreans listed Hauterman in their official records as a POW and none of the repatriated POWs could remember the corporal, he was declared dead at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Hauterman’s remains and those of other soldiers killed in action around the reservoir were actually repatriated to the U.S. after the war. Unfortunately at the time, he (at the time known as “Unknown X-15904”) and many others were buried in Hawaii after being declared unidentifiable.

According to a report from the Associated Press’ Mark Pratt, Hauterman and many others were successfully identified by the Department of Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

In Cpl. Hauterman’s case, they used his dental records.

Hauterman was a medic with the Medical Platoon, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team. The RCT occupied the east side of the Chosin River.

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A gunner with 31st Regimental Combat Team in Korea. (National Archives)

For three days and four nights, the unit battled the 80th Division of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces. Then they tried to fight their way to the Marines in the South at Hagaru-ri, but their entire column was destroyed.

No one from Jules Hauterman’s family is still alive, unfortunately, but he will be buried in his family plot in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

There are 7,757 U.S. troops still unaccounted for from the Korean War. To learn more about how the DoD’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency tracks America’s POWs and MIAs, check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkxi644lb9c
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The 5 best ways US troops can blow down enemy doors

A good, stout door will protect people from a lot of dangers. It will not, however, save enemies of the U.S. from America’s armed forces. While troops can usually open a door with a swift donkey kick or a battering ram, they also have more violent ways of making an entrance.


1. Rifle-fired grenades

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmRxCGskdAI

The Simon grenade rifle entry munition, or GREM, is mounted on the end of a M-16 rifle or M-4 carbine. The weapon’s standard 5.56mm round is fired, striking the grenade and sending it 15-30 meters to the target door. Once the grenade’s standoff rod strikes the target, the grenade detonates and opens the door — violently.

2. Standard breaching charges

When firing a grenade isn’t an option, troops can just plant an explosive on the door.

3. Water charge

A modification of the standard explosive charge, water charges reduce the risk of injury to the breachers or the people on the other side of the door. Standard explosives sandwiched between containers of water are placed on the door and detonated. Water bottles are commonly used, but this video was filmed using IV bags.

4. Shotgun

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmt8NyvcJgY

Of course, service members who are already carrying a shotgun would probably prefer to just use it. Troops press the barrel against the frame, aiming for hinge points or where bolts pass through the frame. Once the round rips through the wood, the door can be quickly kicked or pushed open.

5. Blowing out an entire wall

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to go through the door at all. In that case, there are a few ways to rig explosives to make a new opening in a wall. In this video, det cord was placed on a marksmanship target to create a large, oval-shaped explosive and the whole thing was stuck to the wall. When detonated, it makes a hole big enough to run through. To go straight to the explosion in the video, skip to 2:20.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the adorable way military working dogs retire

Military working dogs go through lives of intense national service, trained from near birth to mind human commands and either fight bad guys or hunt for dangerous substances and contraband. But they’re still living creatures, and they are allowed to retire and live out their days after their service is done.


And, since this is the military, there’s a ceremony involved. But when you do retirement ceremonies with healthy, eager dogs, it’s actually a pretty adorable experience.

In this video from Fort Benning, the 904th Military Working Dog Police Detachment held a ceremony to retire two of their working dogs. Max is a Belgian Malinois with 10 years of service and Grisha is a Malinois who had spent four years at Fort Benning. Both dogs received Army Commendation Medals and were slated to live out their days in the civilian world.

Military working dogs serve in a variety of roles. The most visible is likely the dogs trained to detect improvised explosive devices and similar threats like mines and suicide vehicles. These animals are employed across the world, especially at forward bases and combat outposts.

But the military also has dogs that detect drugs to aid law enforcement agencies on military installations, as well as cadaver dogs which are unfortunately required to help find bodies after disasters.

But the animals also serve on the front lines or in raids. Special operators like Navy SEALs now take dogs on some missions to help keep curious onlookers back or even to take direct action against enemy fighters, using their teeth to harm foes or just to pin people down so the SEALs can sort hostages and civilians from fighters in relative safety.

One of the newer ways for animals to serve is in emotional support roles, a job which hearkens back to some of the earliest animals in military units. Animal mascots have been common to military units for centuries, and troops have long looked to the mascots for companionship.

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This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

In early 1942, the British had a severe fighter problem. The German Focke-Wulf 190 had been cutting up Royal Air Force planes for nearly a year, and when the new A-3 model took to the skies, it dominated.


So the British began looking at some crazy plans to steal one for study.

The British relied heavily on the Spitfire, a capable design, and the Typhoon, which was visually similar to the 190 but was still outclassed. Neither of the fighters could hold up in aerial combat against the new German plane.

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The Spitfire was a capable fighter that struggled to keep up with the Fw-190 when it debuted over the skies of Europe. (Photo: Public Domain)

Royal Air Force pilots suffered heavy losses against the A-3 and immediately schemed to get one of their own. One early plan was probably the craziest.

Ace pilot Paul Richey proposed that a German-speaking British aviator be found. He would put on the uniform of a German fighter pilot and then take off in a captured Bf-109, decorated with battle damage, during a British fighter sweep.

After the British fighters engaged in heavy combat with a German formation, the Bf-109 and pilot would join the German forces headed home. He would land at a Fw-190 base and request a new plane so he could rejoin the fight. Since no Bf-109s would be available, he would accept an Fw-190 and then fly it low and fast back to England.

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Yeah, they were literally hoping that Germany was just giving these away like it was a bargain bin sale. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The plan glossed over a lot of potential problems. If the pilot screwed up any of his German or the base had a Bf-109 or it refused to let an emotional pilot take off in one of their cutting-edge machines, the pilot would’ve been stuck at a German base with a ticking clock counting until he was caught.

A more probable, but still gutsy, commando plan was laid out in June 1942. The operation, dubbed “Airthief,” was a repeat performance of a successful operation launched the previous February to steal a German radar station.

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In the late February operation, a British radar tech went with a group of commandos to a coastal radar station. As the commandos protected him, he grabbed the parts they wanted and then the group exfiltrated.

Airthief would work the same way but with a pilot instead of the radar tech.

Luckily for the British, the operation became unnecessary the same day it was supposed to be submitted for approval.

An aerial battle between Spitfires and Fw-190s ended with little damage to either side on June 23, but the Germans wanted another crack at the Brits before heading for home. The Fw-190 wing stalked the Spitfires back to Britain and then ambushed them from the clouds.

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Even Supermarine Spitfires struggled against the Fw-190 until new engines were incorporated. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

One of the pilots, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber, downed a Spitfire but became disoriented while maneuvering against him. As soon as he killed his enemy, he turned to follow what he thought was the English Channel south to France, but he was actually following the Bristol Channel north.

Desperate for fuel, he landed at the first airstrip he could find only to see a Royal Air Force officer sprinting towards him with his pistol drawn. Faber had landed at a British base and they were only too happy to take his plane for study.

Faber generously offered to show off what the plane could do if the British would be kind enough to refuel it for him, but the Royal Air Force decided to let their pilots do the flying instead. The British flew it on 29 short flights for just over 12 hours of total flight time before they disassembled it and subjected the pieces to destruction testing.

The destruction testing told the British the best vectors to attack the planes from and the flight testing told them where the Fw-190s’ weaknesses were. They found that the Fw-190’s performance suffered greatly at altitude, and so increased their operational heights to give some advantage back to the Spitfires.

They also incorporated elements of the Fw-190 design into future British planes, allowing later Spitfires and other planes to gain a quality edge.

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This B-29 is the only bomber to become a jet ace

The beginning of the jet age toward the end of WWII was a huge change in military aviation. Fast and powerful jet fighters could now climb to the high altitudes that heavy bombers like the Boeing B-29 Superfortress were thought to be safe at. Although the bombers could still fight back with their own guns, bombing raids in the next war would become even more dangerous.

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Airmen pose with the hole in Command Decision‘s flap caused by a MiG-15’s cannon (U.S. Air Force)

During the Korean War, the B-29 was initially employed in much the same way as it was during WWII. Large formations flew at high altitude on strategic daytime bombing runs. However, the B-29 quickly bombed itself out of a job as North Korea’s few strategic targets and industries were destroyed in a short amount of time. Moreover, the Soviet MiG-15 jet fighter posed a serious threat to the bomber formations. After the loss of 28 aircraft, B-29s were restricted to nighttime raids; primarily supply-interdiction missions.

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Command Decision‘s nose art depicting five MiG kills and 35 missions (U.S. Air Force)

The B-29 flew the duration of the Korean War, from 1950-1953. During that time, B-29s flew a total of 20,000 sorties and dropped 180,000 tons of bombs. Although 57 Superfortresses were lost to enemy action, B-29 gunners are credited with 27 enemy kills. The most notable of these was the B-29 named Command Decision, with a record five MiG-15 kills; the world’s only bomber “jet ace.”

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Guests can walk through the aircraft to view photos from Command Decision‘s missions in the bomb bay (Miguel Ortiz)

To become an ace, a pilot must score five aerial kills. Although bomber crews are not officially recognized as aces for their aerial kills, unofficial counts are recorded by the individual crews. However, the Air Force does officially recognize Command Decision‘s historic five jet kills. During the Korean War, Command Decision flew with the 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group. In addition to their five jet kills, the crew flew a total of 121 combat missions and dropped 2,500,000 millions pounds of bombs.

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The B-29 Command Decision exhibit at the Air Force Museum (Miguel Ortiz)

According to the Air Force, the aircraft was named after a popular 1948 film about the difficult decisions and heavy casualties faced by bomber crews over Europe during WWII. Today, Command Decision and her crew are honored with a walk-through fuselage display in the Korean War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Although the fuselage is not the original Command Decision, it is painted to represent the famous aircraft. The exhibit does feature equipment from the original aircraft including its compass, altimeter, and sighting station.

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Capt. Donald M. Covic makes a “command decision” by flipping a coin, just like the artwork on his B-29 (U.S. Air Force)
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Russia plans to build 100 of its most advanced Armata tanks

The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.


“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”

TASS also acknowledged that Moscow previously said it would make 2,300 T-14s by 2020, which The National Interest and other analysts dismissed as “ridiculous,” given the high cost of the tank.

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Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.

The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.

This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”

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Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.

It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.

The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.

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A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”

“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system …  There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.

While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

The U.S. Coast Guard has an under-recognized place in World War II history, fighting German spies before the U.S. entered the war and immediately taking on convoy escort duties, weather patrols, and anti-submarine missions after America declared war on the Axis Powers. One of the Coast Guard crews that bravely shouldered the load was the USCGC Campbell which, in icy Atlantic waters, took bold action to finish off a German U-boat that attempted to attack it.


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Crewmembers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell pose with their mascot, Sinbad, in World War II.

(U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)

The Campbell was part of a class of 327-foot Coast Guard cutters specially designed for high-speed service on the high seas. It spent much of World War II protecting convoys and, in February 1943, was one of the escorts for Convoy ON-166. This was before the bulk of German submarines were chased from the Atlantic in “Black May,” and the wolf packs were on the prowl to cut off supplies to Europe and starve Britain into submission.

On February 21, one of those wolf packs found and engaged the convoy. Over a dozen subs fired torpedoes and shells into merchant vessels as the Coast Guard and Navy vessels rushed to protect them.

The Campbell’s involvement started with rescuing 50 merchant mariners from the water. It had to dodge a German torpedo during the rescue, and then it pressed the attack against U-753, heavily damaging it and forcing its withdrawal. It spent the rest of the night driving off German U-boats until it finally attempted to get back to the convoy.

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Crewmembers load a Mk. VII depth charge onto the HMS Dianthus, another escort of ON-166, during World War II.

(Imperial War Museums)

In the pre-dawn darkness, Campbell was 40 miles behind the convoy, essentially alone and attempting to catch up and help kill more German submarines. But then a shape emerged from the inky blackness. U-606 was bringing the fight to the Campbell and attempting to engage it before it could meet up with the convoy.

U-606 had three kills to its name, including two ships of ON-166. But it had been damaged while sinking those earlier ships, and attacking the Campbell was a greedy and potentially risky move. Attacking from the surface exposed its position to the American crew and would allow the Campbell to employ its gun crews as well as depth charges.

When the Campbell spotted the sub, it went one step further. Cmdr. James A. Hirshfield ordered a ramming maneuver, swinging the ship about to slam its hull against the submarine.

The Campbell’s bold maneuver came at a cost, though, as the side plating ruptured and salt water began to pour in. Cmdr. Kenneth K. Cowart supervised damage control while also helping to ensure that sufficient engine power was on hand for the continued maneuvering and fighting.

Meanwhile, on the deck, the men controlling the depth charges had managed to drop two during the ram, damaging U-606 further. And deck gun crews began pouring fire onto the stricken sub, attempting to disable or kill it before it could unleash its own deadly barrage against the cutter.

In this melee, an all-Black gun crew of a three-inch gun battery distinguished itself for bravery, accurately concentrating its damage on the sub’s deck and conning tower.

But the salt water took its toll, finally shorting out Campbell’s power. The German sub was defeated, and the cutter took five prisoners, but Campbell was liable to sink at any moment. Hirshfield ordered the prisoners, the merchant mariners, and all non-essential personnel off the ship.

He led the remaining crew through four days of damage control without engine power before finally receiving a tow back to port for repairs. The Campbell survived the war. Hirshfield received the Navy Cross for his actions, and Cowart and Cmdr. Bret H. Brallier received Silver Stars for their parts in saving the cutter.

Louis Etheridge, the man who led that all-Black gun crew on the three-inch battery, later received a Bronze Star for his work that February.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time a US Navy blimp turned into a flying ghost ship

For as long as there have been men sailing the high seas, there have been tales of ghost ships. From legends of the Flying Dutchman appearing near ports during inclement weather to the very real tale of the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 completely abandoned and in good working order, it can be hard not to be drawn into these tales of mysterious happenings on the great waterways of our planet.


Of course, it makes perfect sense that men and women would occasionally go missing during an era of long and often grueling voyages across the high seas. For all of mankind’s domination of nature, the sea has long been too vast to manage and too treacherous to tame. For much of humanity’s history, traveling across the ocean was always a risky endeavor.

But by the early 1940s, however, sea travel had become significantly less hazardous, and mankind had even managed to find new ways to avoid the ocean’s wrath — like flying high above it in aircraft or hot air balloons. At the time, Americans had largely moved past their fear of the high seas in favor of new concerns about what was lurking within them: German U-Boats.

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The Navy’s L-8 blimp was a former Goodyear Blimp repurposed for naval duty.

(National Archives)

Concerns about encroaching Nazi U-Boats near American shores had led to a number of novel sub-spotting approaches. One was using L-Class rigid airships, or blimps, to float above coastal waterways and serve as submarine spotters.

On the morning of August 16, 1942, Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams climbed aboard their L-8 Airship, which was a former Goodyear Blimp that the Navy had purchased a few months prior to deliver equipment to the nearby carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) out at sea. Their mission that day was simple: head out from their launch point on Treasure Island in California to look for signs of U-Boats beneath the surf in a 50-mile radius around San Francisco.

A bit more than an hour into their patrol, the two sailors radioed that they had spotted an oil slick on the water and were going to investigate.

“We figured by that time it was a submarine,” said Wesley Frank Lamoureux, a member of the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit who was aboard the cargo ship Albert Gallatin. “From then on, I am not too positive of the actions of the dirigible except that it would come down very close over the water. In fact, it seemed to almost sit on top of the water.”

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This image of the L-8 was taken prior to the mission that would see Cody and Adams go missing.

(National Archive)

In Lamoureux’s official statement, he recounted seeing the blimp drop two flares near the slick and then circle the area — which was in keeping with sub-hunting protocols of the day. The nearby Albert Gallatin cargo ship, seeing the blimp’s behavior, sounded their submarine alarms and changed course to escape the area. Unfortunately, these reports would be the last time anyone would see the blimp with the crew onboard.

A few hours later, the former Goodyear Blimp appeared sagging and uncontrolled over the shores of Daly City, California. It drifted over the town until it finally dipped low enough to become snagged on some power lines and come crashing down onto Bellevue Avenue. Crowds quickly formed around the downed blimp, and a number of people ran to the wreckage in hopes of saving the crew… only to find the cabin was completely empty.

The pilot’s parachute and the blimp’s lifeboat were both right where they belonged. The pilot’s cap sat on top of the instrument panel, and the blimp’s payload of two bombs were still secured. A briefcase containing confidential documents that the crew had orders to destroy if they feared capture remained onboard as well.

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The Navy’s L-8 Blimp, crashed and crew-less.

(National Archives)

The L-8’s crew had seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting a slew of differing theories. Some assumed both the pilot and ensign had simply fallen out of the airship, though for such a thing to happen, they would have had to both fall overboard at the same time. If there was something damaged that required both men to address on the external hull of the vessel, there was no evidence to suggest what it could have been in the wreckage.

Another theory suggested the two men lowered their blimp enough to be taken prisoner by the crew of the U-Boat or a Japanese vessel in the course of investigating the oil slick. Still, others wondered if the two men may have been entangled in some sort of love triangle that drove one to kill the other and then escape by diving into the sea. Despite a thorough investigation, no conclusion could ever be drawn.

So what really did happen to the two-man crew of the L-8? Did they simply fall out of their blimp and die? Were they captured by Nazis that didn’t bother to check for any classified material on the blimp? To this day, their remains have never been found, and no other details have surfaced. For now, it seems, the legend of the L-8 “ghost ship in the sky” will live on for some time to come.

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This Desert Storm gun is a favorite for special ops units

Believe it or not, there is one gun very notable for having been taken by the United States Air Force to other planets. That said, it was only on TV.


The “Stargate” TV franchise — based on the 1994 movie featuring Kurt Russell — starred Richard Dean Anderson of “MacGyver” for its first eight seasons. The series was notable in having two separate Air Force Chiefs of Staff cameo as themselves, Gen. Michael Ryan in “Prodigy” and Gen. John Jumper in “Lost City, Part Two.”

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Pew pew.

The central premise around the series was that the Air Force had acquired a “stargate” that was set up in Cheyenne Mountain. The team led by Anderson’s character, SG-1, was pretty much carrying out a mission similar to of the Army Special Forces: building alliances with native populations.

The adventures eventually took SG-1 all the way across the galaxy and beyond, where they not only faced off against hostile nations, but also made contact with friendly aliens and acquired new technology.

And as is the case with special operations forces, SG-1 had gear that average grunts didn’t get their hands on — usually. In addition to all the alien tech, they did get some earth weapons, too. Notable among them was the P90 personal defense weapon from FN Herstal.

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FN P90 with accessories. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The P90 is a select-fire weapon that fires the 5.7x28m cartridge. It is a compact weapon with a 50-round magazine. The gun made its combat debut during Operation Desert Storm with Belgian special operations troops.

You can see a video about this PDW that has gone to other worlds below.

Articles

Air Force grounds F-35s after reports of serious oxygen deprivation

The Air Force has grounded 55 F-35s after several pilots reported serious oxygen deprivation during flights.


Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff released a statement Friday noting that in five cases pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying.” Luckily, a backup oxygen system on the F-35 kicked, which allowed pilots to land without further trouble, Defense One reports.

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U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

The incidents occurred at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, marking the second time Air Force F-35s have been grounded in a year.

According to Graff, the fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base will likely be cleared to fly again Monday.

“Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms,” Graff said in a statement. “Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”

In late March, Bloomberg reported that Navy pilots have suffered bouts of hypoxia because of a loss of cabin pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation. These issues have steadily increased every year since 2010 on all F-18 models, which includes the Super Hornet. Navy officials are still trying to get to the bottom of what they’re referring to as “physiological episodes.”

The Navy has also recently ground its T-45 Goshawk planes after pilots complained of headaches and oxygen deprivation. The problem was so dire that 100 instructor pilots flat-out refused to fly the planes, forcing the Navy to ground all 195 planes in the T-45 fleet.

Air Force F-35s on other bases like Hill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base are still cleared for flying, and next week, a group of F-35s will fly to France for the Paris Air Show. Those F-35s will come from the Hill base.

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In World War I, Alvin York captured 132 German soldiers pretty much single-handed

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Today I found out that in WWI Alvin York almost single handedly captured 132 German soldiers using nothing but a rifle and a pistol, while the German soldiers having among them 32 machine guns along with rifles and pistols and the advantage of being above him in the biggest of the forays.  And did I mention York was out in the open during the largest gun fight?  Ya, when the Germans attacked they pretty much mowed down almost the entire unit that York was with, including York’s commanding officer, which put him in charge.  The other soldiers left from the original group of 17, were busy guarding the previous prisoners they had taken behind enemy lines, which pretty much left York to deal with the 100 or so Germans in the largest of the gunfights he was involved in, which ended in the capture of those 132 Germans.


When the 1 against 100 gunfight started, York had no time to run for cover, so just started picking off the German soldiers he saw shooting at him as they showed themselves, one by one.

So there’s York, running out of bullets, exposed with about 100 German solders above him firing down at him and now a group of Germans breaks free and runs at him with their bayonets from a range of about 25 yards.  So does he run for cover?  Nope, instead he pulls out his pistol *puts on sunglasses* and kills all of the German soldiers descending on him.  Not only this, but he systematically picks off the back ones first so the front ones will keep running at him, thinking they have support behind them.

I might add, while York is down there picking off Germans left and right that he’s calling out repeatedly, telling the Germans they can surrender at any time;  he didn’t want to kill any more than he had to…  In a previous article, I mentioned that the Right whale has the largest balls of any animal on earth at about 1100 pounds each.  Now, though no official weighing has ever taken place to my knowledge, I think that it’s safe to say that Sargent York had that beat by a fair margin.

At this point, while York was busy taking out more of the German machine gunners who were firing on him, the German commander decided he was done seeing his boys being killed.  He was clearly facing Mr. Invictus himself.  So he convinced the remaining 100 or so Germans of his company to surrender.

York was now in the precarious position of having over 100 German soldiers being held prisoner by eight or nine of his remaining men.  And worse, he was well behind enemy lines with this group he had captured being the second line in the German ranks.  The German front line was between him and the Allied lines.  And all that with himself and his men standing there with his men outnumbered more than 10 to 1.  Obviously, for someone with this level of bad-assery, this was not a problem and by the time he got through the German front, taking a few more prisoners in the process, he had managed to bring back 132 German soldiers.

Here is York’s account of the incredible events, which are verified by the accounts of his fellow soldiers in the official report of the events:

“They killed all of Savage’s squad; they got all of mine but two; they wounded Cutting and killed two of his squad; and Early’s squad was well back in the brush on the extreme right and not yet under the direct fire of the machine guns, and so they escaped. All except Early. He went down with three bullets in his body. That left me in command. I was right out there in the open.

And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a ‘racket in all of your life. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn’t even have time to kneel or lie down.

I don’t know what the other boys were doing. They claim they didn’t fire a shot. They said afterwards they were on the right, guarding the prisoners. And the prisoners were lying down and the machine guns had to shoot over them to get me. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them.

I had no time nohow to do nothing but watch them-there German machine gunners and give them the best I had. Every time I seed a German I jes teched him off. At first I was shooting from a prone position; that is lying down; jes like we often shoot at the targets in the shooting matches in the mountains of Tennessee; and it was jes about the same distance. But the targets here were bigger. I jes couldn’t miss a German’s head or body at that distance. And I didn’t. Besides, it weren’t no time to miss nohow.

I knowed that in order to shoot me the Germans would have to get their heads up to see where I was lying. And I knowed that my only chance was to keep their heads down. And I done done it. I covered their positions and let fly every time I seed anything to shoot at. Every time a head come up I done knocked it down. Then they would sorter stop for a moment and then another head would come up and I would knock it down, too. I was giving them the best I had.

I was right out in the open and the machine guns [there were over thirty of them in continuous action] were spitting fire and cutting up all around me something awful. But they didn’t seem to be able to hit me. All the time the Germans were shouting orders. You never heard such a racket in all of your life. Of course, all of this only took a few minutes. As soon as I was able I stood up and begun to shoot off-hand, which is my favorite position. I was still sharpshooting with that-there old army rifle. I used up several clips. The barrel was getting hot and my rifle ammunition was running low, or was where it was hard for me to get at it quickly. But I had to keep on shooting jes the same.

In the middle of the fight a German officer and five men done jumped out of a trench and charged me with fixed bayonets. They had about twenty-five yards to come and they were coming right smart. I only had about half a clip left in my rifle; but I had my pistol ready. I done flipped it out fast and teched them off, too.

I teched off the sixth man first; then the fifth; then the fourth; then the third; and so on. That’s the way we shoot wild turkeys at home. You see we don’t want the front ones to know that we’re getting the back ones, and then they keep on coming until we get them all. Of course, I hadn’t time to think of that. I guess I jes naturally did it. I knowed, too, that if the front ones wavered, or if I stopped them the rear ones would drop down and pump a volley into me and get me.

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Photo: Wikipedia/Frank Schoonover

Then I returned to the rifle, and kept right on after those machine guns. I knowed now that if I done kept my head and didn’t run out of ammunition I had them. So I done hollered to them to come down and give up. I didn’t want to kill any more’n I had to. I would tech a couple of them off and holler again. But I guess they couldn’t understand my language, or else they couldn’t hear me in the awful racket that was going on all around. Over twenty Germans were killed by this time.

–and I got hold of the German major. After he seed me stop the six Germans who charged with fixed bayonets he got up off the ground and walked over to me and yelled “English?”

I said, “No, not English.”

He said, “What?”

I said, “American.”

He said, “Good —–!” Then he said, “If you won’t shoot any more I will make them give up.” I had killed over twenty before the German major said he would make them give up. I covered him with my automatic and told him if he didn’t make them stop firing I would take off his head next. And he knew I meant it. He told me if I didn’t kill him, and if I stopped shooting the others in the trench, he would make them surrender.

So he blew a little whistle and they came down and began to gather around and throw down their guns and belts. All but one of them came off the hill with their hands up, and just before that one got to me he threw a little hand grenade which burst in the air in front of me.

I had to tech him off. The rest surrendered without any more trouble. There were nearly 100 of them.

So we had about 80 or 90 Germans there disarmed, and had another line of Germans to go through to get out. So I called for my men, and one of them answered from behind a big oak tree, and the others were on my right in the brush.

So I said, “Let’s get these Germans out of here.”

One of my men said, “it is impossible.”

So I said, “No; let’s get them out.”

So when my man said that, this German major said, “How many have you got?” and I said, “I have got a-plenty,” and pointed my pistol at him all the time.

In this battle I was using a rifle and a .45 Colt automatic pistol.

So I lined the Germans up in a line of twos, and I got between the ones in front, and I had the German major before me. So I marched them straight into those other machine guns and I got them.

The German major could speak English as well as I could. Before the war he used to work in Chicago. And I told him to keep his hands up and to line up his men in column of twos, and to do it in double time. And he did it. And I lined up my men that were left on either side of the column, and I told one to guard the rear. I ordered the prisoners to pick up and carry our wounded. I wasn’t a-goin’ to leave any good American boys lying out there to die. So I made the Germans carry them. And they did.

And I takened the major and placed him at the head of the column and I got behind him and used him as a screen. I poked the automatic in his back and told him to hike. And he hiked.

The major suggested we go down a gully, but I knew that was the wrong way. And I told him we were not going down any gully. We were going straight through the German front line trenches back to the American lines.

It was their second line that I had captured. We sure did get a long way behind the German trenches! And so I marched them straight at that old German front line trench. And some more machine guns swung around and began to spit at us. I told the major to blow his whistle or I would take off his head and theirs too. So he blew his whistle and they all surrendered– all except one. I made the major order him to surrender twice. But he wouldn’t. And I had to tech him off. I hated to do it. I’ve been doing a tolerable lot of thinking about it since. He was probably a brave soldier boy. But I couldn’t afford to take any chances and so I had to let him have it.

There was considerably over a hundred prisoners now. It was a problem to get them back safely to our own lines. There was so many of them there was danger of our own artillery mistaking us for a German counter-attack and opening up on us. I sure was relieved when we run into the relief squads that had been sent forward through the brush to help us.

On the way back we were constantly under heavy shell fire and I had to double-time them to get them through safely. There was nothing to be gained by having any more of them wounded or killed. They done surrendered to me and it was up to me to look after them. And so I done done it.

So when I got back to my major’s p.c. I had 132 prisoners. We marched those German prisoners on back into the American lines to the battalion p.c. (post of command), and there we came to the Intelligence Department. Lieutenant Woods came out and counted 132 prisoners…

We were ordered to take them out to regimental headquarters at Chattel Chehery, and from there all the way back to division headquarters, and turn them over to the military police.

I had orders to report to Brigadier General Lindsey, and he said to me, “Well, York, I hear you have captured the whole —— German army.” And I told him I only had 132.

After a short talk he sent us to some artillery kitchens, where we had a good warm meal. And it sure felt good. Then we rejoined our outfits and with them fought through to our objective, the Decauville Railroad.

And the Lost Battalion was able to come out that night. We cut the Germans off from their supplies when we cut that old railroad, and they withdrew and backed up.

So you can see here in this case of mine where God helped me out. I had been living for God and working in the church some time before I come to the army. So I am a witness to the fact that God did help me out of that hard battle; for the bushes were shot up all around me and I never got a scratch.

So you can see that God will be with you if you will only trust Him; and I say that He did save me. Now, He will save you if you will only trust Him.

The next morning Captain Danforth sent me back with some stretcher bearers to see if there were any of our American boys that we had missed. But they were all dead. And there were a lot of German dead. We counted twenty-eight, which is just the number of shots I fired. And there were thirty-five machine guns and a whole mess of equipment and small arms.

The salvage corps was busy packing it up. And I noticed the bushes all around where I stood in my fight with the machine guns were all cut down. The bullets went over my head and on either side. But they never touched me.”

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Alvin C. York on the hill where his raid took place. Photo: Wikipedia

York survived WWI and fathered five sons and two daughters and founded a school which is still around today and is known for its academic excellence.

When WWII came around, not to be one to run from a fight, he tried to re-enlist in the infantry, but was denied due to his age and presumably for making all the other soldiers feel like pansies.  Denied from that, he instead convinced the state of Tennessee that they needed a reserve force at home and so founded the Tennessee State Guard in which he served as a Colonel.

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This pilot defected with the Soviet Union’s most advanced plane

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 


Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.

Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.

The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.

 

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Viktor Belenko

 

But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.

Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.

Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

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