Thomas H. Begay didn’t want to be a radio operator. In fact, up until he graduated from bootcamp, he thought he was going to become an aerial gunner for the Marine Corps during World War II.
“They sent me to a confidential area,” he said. “I walked in and there’s a whole bunch of Navajo.”
His previous MOS didn’t matter. Begay would attend code talking school.
The Navajo language had become the basis of a new code, and they were going to train to become code talkers. It was hard to see it then, but Begay and his fellow Navajo would help turn the tides of war and save countless lives.
An unbreakable code
The Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was successfully used during World War I. But the Marine Corps needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.
Thomas H. Begay recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima
Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.
But just because a person understood Navajo didn’t mean they could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.
In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.
Peter MacDonald Sr. recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima
Begay did well in training and picked up the code quickly. A month after arriving at code talking school, he was given orders to his new unit and sent overseas.
“They told us we were going to Tokyo,” he said with a chuckle. “In February, we were told we’re supposed to land on Iwo Jima.”
On Feb. 19, 1945, at 0900 hours, Begay landed on the north side of the island with the 5th Marine Division. One code talker had already been killed during the first wave of attacks, and five more would be injured by the time the fighting stopped. In the face of machine gun fire and mortar rounds, Begay and his fellow Navajo Code Talkers continued to relay messages that were vital to the eventual victory on the island.
In all, nearly 800 coded messages were sent during the assault on Iwo Jima. There were zero mistakes.
“I was protected by the Marines,” Begay said. “They were protecting us; we were protecting them. I was lucky. But some didn’t get lucky – like those who got killed on the beach.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officers interested in transferring to the Air Force’s newest enlisted aviation Air Force Specialty Code have until Nov. 15, 2017, to submit their applications to meet the next selection board.
More than 800 applicants submitted for the program last year; those who were not selected by the inaugural board are highly encouraged by officials to apply again this cycle.
“This is an opportunity for active-duty Airmen in the ranks of staff sergeant-select through senior master sergeants who meet and complete the application requirements to be considered for the 1U1X1, Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot, career field,” said Master Sgt. Mark Moore, Air Force’s Personnel Center Career Enlisted Aviator Assignments Manager. at the Air Force’s Personnel Center.
Moore stressed that the new AFSC is not part of the formal Air Force Retraining Program, but rather a career opportunity for qualified NCOs to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
“Just like officers from other career fields apply to become pilots, AFPC will conduct annual selection boards every January to select qualified enlisted Airmen for entry into this new, exciting career field,” he said. “Applicants have no need to be in their retraining window or be concerned about the end date of an overseas assignment.”
Candidates will be evaluated based on their entire military personnel record and pilot candidate selection method, or PCSM, test score. The average PCSM score for those selected by the inaugural board in February 2017 was 73, with overall select scores ranging from 55 to 96.
Airmen who have already amassed off-duty flying hours are also able to apply the experience toward their PCSM, which Moore said is the same scoring system used to select Air Force officer pilots.
Integrating enlisted pilots into RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations is one of many ways the Air Force is tapping into the talent of its skilled, diverse and innovative enlisted force as a part of the deliberate approach to enhance the Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission. The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.
For more information on the enlisted RPA pilot selection process, visit the active duty enlisted Assignments page on myPers from a CAC-enabled computer, or select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the myPers dropdown menu and search “Enlisted Pilot.”
As tensions between the U.S., North Korea, and South Korea reach a fever pitch, military planners in Seoul are considering turning one of their small Dokdo-class helicopter carriers into an F-35B carrier.
“The military top brass have recently discussed whether they can introduce a small number of F-35B fighters” to new South Korean helicopter carrier ships, a military source told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
South Korea operates a small but capable navy featuring a single 14,000 ton helicopter carrier known as the ROKs Dokdo. Seoul is planning to build an additional two ships of this type, with the next expected to be ready in 2020.
But the F-35’s Marine variant, the F-35B, isn’t a regular plane. It can takeoff almost vertically and also land straight down. With minor adjustments to the already-planned aircraft building — mainly strengthening the runway material to withstand the friction and heat of jet engines landing — South Korea’s small helicopter carriers could become potent F-35B carriers.
South Korea already plans to buy 40 F-35As, the Air Force variant that takes off and lands on runways like a normal plane. The F-35B would be a new addition that would require additional planning and infrastructure.
Should South Korea decide to make the leap into the aircraft-carrier club, they would end up as a potent sea power and with a plane that’s capable of taking down ballistic missile launches. With its advanced sensors and networking ability, the F-35 could provide a massive boost to South Korea’s already impressive naval capabilities.
Additionally, the presence of stealth aircraft in South Korea presents a nightmare scenario for Kim Jong Un, whose country’s rudimentary defenses and radars can’t hope to spot advanced aircraft like the F-35.
The US built the F-35 to penetrate the most heavily guarded airspaces on earth and to fool the most advanced anti-aircraft systems for decades to come. Built to counter superpowers like China and Russia, the F-35 could handily overpower anything North Korea could throw at it.
The craziest thing we could do for this franchise was to fly people and equipment to Hawaii and try to tell a story that has all the elements people love about Jurassic Park but from a tactical military perspective,” producer and Army veteran Gregory Wong told We Are The Mighty.
It was crazy — and somehow he pulled it off.
Wong brought members of the military, firearms, and Jurassic community together to execute his vision: an epic fan film for one of the most iconic franchises of all time.
Hold on to your butts.
Whatever it takes to get the shot.
“We had so many partners on this project and every one of them helped with different aspects of the film. Paradise Park welcomed us in to their home for two days in the most authentic ‘Jurassic Jungle’ any filmmaker could dream of,” said Wong.
The cast and crew had 5 days to get every shot they needed on the island. Like any indie filmmakers could attest, it meant a brutal schedule. Dogs of War helped with three locations and active duty service members stationed on the island helped transport cast and crew — and jumped in for stunts and background work.
Back at base camp, Travis Haley conducts tactical training.
Force Reconnaissance Marine Travis Haley, along with his company, Haley Strategic, was involved with development of prototype gear and equipment just for the film. Haley brought his Spec Ops background and weapons expertise to the film, and he got to learn first-hand how challenging it can be to navigate the military-Hollywood divide.
His knowledge brought authenticity to the film that’s often difficult for filmmakers to get right. Military operations might not always look dynamic on film, but Haley was up to the challenge of portraying realistic tactics while telling an entertaining story.
“The filming schedule was rough but the people made it worthwhile. Most of us did this on our own dime and I hope the audience sees the passion we had for bringing this vision to life,” reflected Jones.
Baret Fawbush, a pastor and fundamental shooting instructor, was another social media influencer new to a narrative film set, but he was more than prepared to lend his expertise to the film, personally demonstrating the “manual of arms” for each cast member with a weapon.
U.S. Marine Robert Bruce conducts location scouting on Oahu.
Many, many brands came together to help Wong bring the film to the screen. A few of the major ones included Evike, JKarmy, PTS, Krytac, GP, and GG, who donated replica prop firearms and uniforms for the production. Ballahack Outdoor helped outfit the film’s leads with tip-of-the-spear footwear. There’s even a raptor puppet involved, created by Marco Cavassa, a prop builder for the film industry.
“I think a lot of people will appreciate the attention to detail and production value. Never before has a Jurassic fan film been so ambitious and daring. The making of such a project was a wild ride which we hope to embark on again soon,” said Wong.
Congratulations, Greg, you did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it.
A Hawaii lawmaker and Army officer who was serving his first term in the U.S. Congress died July 20 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.
Congressman and Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Takai succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his home in Aiea surrounded by his family, USA Today reported. He was 49.
Takai was born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii. Before being elected to Congress, Takai represented his home district in the Hawaii state House of Representatives for 20 years. He joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 1999 and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.
The first-term Democrat announced earlier in 2016 that he would not seek re-election due to his condition.
His military service took him to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He first served as a company commander for the 29th Brigade Support Battalion and then as the Camp Mayor for Camp Patriot, Kuwait. He not only served in the military in Hawaii, he also represented the military in Hawaii, as his district included Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Fort Shafter.
“To honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must renew our commitments to those currently serving our nation, many currently in harm’s way around the world,” Takai said in a statement on Memorial Day. “Their willingness to answer the call of duty deserves our unwavering gratitude every day.”
Takai served on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Small Business. In November 2015, he introduced the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, extending government compensation to those affected by cleanup operations after bomb tests on Pacific islands.
Takai’s military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
“Today, the people of Hawai’i mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawai’i Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”
Iran was rocked this week by the largest protests in the country since 2009.
Pro- and anti-government demonstrators took to the streets starting Dec. 28, 2017, and gradually moved from the outer cities into the capital, Tehran, and Iran’s second-largest city, Mashhad.
At least 20 people were dead as of Jan. 2. As of Jan.1, six people were dead in the small city of Tuyserkan, two in the city of Dorud, two in the southwestern city of Izeh, and two in Lorestan province.
The protests have attracted global attention, and footage of the action has been shared hundreds of thousands of time on social media.
The demonstrations became so widely publicized that Iran blocked access to Instagram and a popular messaging app used by activists to organize and discuss the protests.
Here’s what you need to know about the demonstrations:
Demonstrators began taking to the streets on Dec. 28, 2017.
At first, they were protesting against Iran’s dire economic downturn and the skyrocketing prices of basic necessities like eggs and poultry.
As things gained steam, however, the demonstrations took on a more political edge, with activists accusing the Iranian government of corruption and calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.
The protests drew global attention as activists began posting photos and videos of the demonstrations to social media.
Footage of the action has been shared hundreds of thousands of time on social media. Some videos showed protesters chanting “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to Rouhani,” the Iranian president.
Other footage showed activists shouting slogans like “We don’t want Islamic Republic!”
As the demonstrations escalated, pro-government protesters flooded the streets on Saturday to counter the anti-corruption activists.
Iranian hard-liners who support President Hassan Rouhani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the clerical establishment of the Islamic Republic came out in droves this weekend to retaliate against the demonstrators.
And when that happened, state media was also forced to acknowledge that it had not initially reported on the protests on the orders of security officials.
“Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos,” state TV said of the protests.
But Iranian officials and state media added that citizens had the right to protest and have their voices heard on social issues.
Two people were killed overnight, becoming the first deaths attributed to the rallies.
That number grew to 12 deaths by Monday and at least 20 by Tuesday.
In addition to the 20 reported deaths, hundreds of protesters have been arrested since Thursday. One Iranian, who requested anonymity, told Reuters there was a heavy police presence in Tehran.
“I saw a few young men being arrested and put into police van,” he said. “They don’t let anyone assemble.”
On Sunday, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said on Twitter that authorities had cut off access to the app.
.@statedeptspox: We support a freedom of the press. When a nation clamps down on social media, we ask the question — what are you afraid of? We support the people of #Iran, and we support their voices being heard. pic.twitter.com/4dG4FlWTMJ
Authorities said Iranian security forces were not responsible for the deaths and instead blamed Sunni Muslim extremists and foreign actors.
Rouhani said demonstrators had the right to protest the government, and he also acknowledged that some of the protesters’ grievances were legitimate. He added, however, that the demonstrations should not devolve into violence or anti-government chants.
“The USA is watching very closely.”
US President Donald Trump weighed in on the unrest this weekend.
“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….” he tweeted. “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”
“Big protests in Iran,” he later added. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”
Trump continued tweeting about the Iran protests on Tuesday, writing, “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
.@USUN Ambassador Haley: In these first days of 2018, nowhere is the urgency of peace, security, and freedom being more tested than in #Iran. It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government. pic.twitter.com/feHu152sGd
Admit it — you like seeing the low-level flyovers by Air Force or Navy planes. Especially when they are sleek and just exude the notion that they are flown by pilots who appreciate fast jets and faster… well, you get the idea. But while fighters often have that distinction, the B-1B Lancer has shown it, too can exude that — while still carrying a lot of firepower.
During President Trump’s trip to East Asia, the sailors on three Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers got to see a pair of B-1B Lancers do just such a flyby. The carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) operated with a Japanese “helicopter destroyer” during that time.
Each of these carriers usually operates with four squadrons of strike fighters, either F/A-18C Hornets or F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. That’s a powerful force, but the F/A-18Cs are limited to two missiles like the AGM-84 Harpoon/SLAM or AGM-158C LRASM, while the F/A-18E/Fs can carry four.
F/A-18E Super Hornets, assigned to the “Fist of the Fleet” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25, fly over the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Flynn/Released)
By comparison, a B-1B Lancer can carry twenty-four. So, the two Lancers in the video below can deliver the same number of missiles as an entire squadron of F/A-18Cs. In a naval battle with China, eight B-1s with LRASMs could conceivably take out two Chinese carrier groups. What those bombers could do with the AGM-158 JASSM and JASSM-ER to land targets would be equally devastating.
You can see a video of the Lancers doing a flyby of the three carriers and the Japanese “helicopter destroyer” below. The video was taken from a Navy helicopter orbiting the three-carrier formation.
On the morning of July 6, 2020, Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Daniels died at the age of 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Aside from his own band, Daniels played with other music legends like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Dylan.
Daniels was a highly-skilled fiddle player.
Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His musical upbringing consisted of Pentecostal gospel and local bluegrass, rhythm blues and country music. By the time he graduated high school in 1955, Daniels had become adept at playing the guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. After high school, Daniels moved to Nashville to pursue his music career.
Most famous for his fiddle-sawing, number-one country hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Daniels also co-wrote It Hurts Me with friend and producer Bob Johnston, which was later recorded by Elvis Presley. It took Daniels a little more time to get his own big break.
Daniels’ first hit, Uneasy Rider, was off of his third album, Honey in the Rock, and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100. During this time, he continued to play fiddle for other acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Barefoot Jerry.
In 1979, Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 in September of that year. The song became Daniels’ most iconic and continues to be played regularly on classic rock and country music radio stations across the country.
Though Daniels never served in the military, he was a strong supporter of the men and women of the armed forces, having played multiple USO Tours for troops overseas. Charlie Daniels Band even released an album called Live from Iraq in 2007. The album was recorded during the band’s 2006 USO tour of Iraq. Daniels was also a supporter of numerous charities, including The Journey Home Project, which aims to help returning veterans adjust to civilian life. “Only two things protect America,” Daniels often said. “The grace of almighty God and the United States Military.”
Daniels’ hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, has also become a popular song for fiddle players to cover and demonstrate their skills. One such player named Paddy was covering the song at his bar, Paddy’s Irish Public House, in Fayetteville, North Carolina in early 2007. The establishment was frequented by a Fort Bragg soldier who was there that evening.
It was a slow night and the soldier took no notice of the older man sitting next to him at the bar. As Paddy sawed away and recounted the tale of the battle between the young fiddle player and the Devil, the old man began to chuckle. “This is my song,” he said.
“Yeah, I love this song too.” The soldier responded.
“No, this is MY song!” The old man said with a grin.
“Holy crap! You’re Charlie Daniels!” The soldier was amazed at the country music legend’s presence in the bar. “Hey Paddy!” The soldier called out. “How ’bout letting Charlie here play?”
Similarly amazed at Daniels’ presence in his bar, Paddy gladly gave up his fiddle for the legend to play. That night, Daniels gave a hard-played and passionate performance for a small, but incredibly appreciative audience. In fact, Daniels played so hard at Paddy’s that he broke two of the man’s bows sawing away at the fiddle. It was intimate performances like this that Daniels enjoyed the most. His patriotism and passion for music will be greatly missed.
A UK intelligence agency might have based part of a report on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction on a movie starring Nicolas Cage, according to a government report released Wednesday.
The report contends that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war was based on “flawed intelligence and assessments” that were “not challenged” when they should have been. The 2.6-million word document, known as the Iraq Inquiry, or the “Chilcot report,” is the culmination of a huge investigation that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched in 2009.
One volume of the inquiry focuses on the UK’s evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. These intelligence assessments turned out to be false, as both the US and the UK discovered after the 2003 Iraq invasion turned up no such weapons.
The inquiry notes that two Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) assessments from September 2002 were called into question months later. Some within the intelligence agency, which is also known as MI6, began doubting the source of the information that was included in the assessments.
The intelligence reports stated that Iraq had “accelerated the production of chemical and biological agents.” Officials believed the source of this information was reputable.
But one of the reports mentioned glass containers that supposedly contained the chemical agents the Iraqi government was supposed to possess.
Here’s the relevant section from the Iraq Inquiry:
“In early October, questions were raised with SIS about the mention of glass containers in the 23 September 2002 report. It was pointed out that:
Glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions; and that a popular movie (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres.
Iraq had had difficulty in the 1980s obtaining a key precursor chemical for soman [a chemical agent].
“The questions about the use of glass containers for chemical agent and the similarity of the description to those portrayed in The Rock had been recognized by SIS. There were some precedents for the use of glass containers but the points would be pursued when further material became available.”
The movie the report refers to is the 1996 Michael Bay action thriller, “The Rock,” starring Nicholas Cage playing an FBI chemical-warfare expert. Sean Connery plays a former British spy who teams up with the FBI agent to prevent a deranged US general from launching a chemical-weapons attack on San Francisco.
The Iraq Inquiry goes on to state that intelligence officials were meant to do further reporting on the questionable intelligence contained in the September 2002 report.
By December, doubts emerged within SIS “about the reliability of the source and whether he had ‘made up all or part of'” his account.
Later that month, there were still “unresolved questions” about the source of the chemical-weapons intelligence. But the UK was under considerable pressure to produce evidence of these weapons.
Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary for the UK, was reportedly concerned about “what would happen without evidence of a clear material breach” of Iraq’s December 2002 declaration that it did not have weapons of mass destruction.
SIS eventually determined that their source was lying about the supposed chemical agents, but intelligence officials did not inform the prime minister’s office, according to the inquiry.
While chemical weapons are different from weapons of mass destruction, these intelligence reports still informed policy-makers’ opinions of the extent of Iraq’s weapons programs. And the evidence of these weapons programs was eventually used as a justification for going to war in Iraq.
David Manning, a former British diplomat, told former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in December 2002 that there was “impatience in the US Administration and pressure for early military action” in Iraq, according to the inquiry.
“There were concerns about the risks if the inspections found nothing,” the inquiry noted. UK and US officials also worried about “the difficulties of persuading the international community to act if there were a series of ‘low level and less clear-cut acts of obstruction’ rather than the discovery of chemical or biological agents or a nuclear program.”
The inquiry states that Manning told Blair: “We should work hard over the next couple of months to build our case.”
Blair reportedly said the UK would “continue to work on securing credible evidence” that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “was pursuing [weapons of mass destruction] programs.”
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.
According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.
The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.
The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”
In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”
Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.
“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know. Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”
Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”
Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.
The trio shuffled into the small room with canes and walkers to record their testimonies of the first confrontations of the Cold War and how the allies prevailed without firing a shot, saving a former enemy from oppression.
The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Berlin Airlift at their annual “Spirit of the Battle of Britain” banquet October 2019 to honor these veterans for their contributions to the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The trio retold their stories of using soft air power to deter Soviet aggression in post-World War II Berlin, and current U.S. Air Force and RAF airmen were honored for continuing to further the partnership between the two nations.
Prior to the dinner, the trio transported family, listeners and caregivers back to 1940s Germany.
“I remember the war,” said Mercedes Wild, who was seven years old at the start of the Berlin Airlift. “They (Allied bombers) destroyed Berlin. It was a hard time for the kids in West Berlin. Berlin is a destroyed city. We will never forget the sound of the bombers.”
After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism.
A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Enter, veterans and the Berlin Airlift.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, widely known as the “Candy Bomber,” described volunteering for the mission that changed his life and the lives of millions in West Berlin. Halvorsen, a 28-year-old lieutenant at the time, grew up on a farm in Utah, where helping a neighbor in need was a way of life.
“My dad was an example to me,” he said. “He had plenty to do himself, but when a neighbor, a farmer, needed help and couldn’t get enough help, my dad would drop some of the things that weren’t so important on our farm to help the next-door neighbor.”
Halvorsen saw his first aircraft flying overhead on the farm while he was working the fields. He was hooked and signed up for a non-college pilot training program. Soon he received his flight training and was flying cargo aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. When the word came of the attempts by Russia to stomp out freedom in West Berlin by starving its residents, there was no doubt of his next step.
“I volunteered to fly supplies in early,” Halvorsen recalled.
At first, the citizens of West Berlin didn’t know what to think of hearing heavy aircraft over their heads again.
“The noise of the airplanes during the airlift in the beginning I feared, because it was the same noise while bombing Berlin,” Wild said.
They would soon learn the aircraft were not carrying bombs but food and supplies to keep them alive. The logistics of flying 2.3 million tons of goods and equipment was not without risks. In total, 101 airmen from around the world perished in the Berlin Airlift.
“Two hundred meters from our house, there was the first airlift airplane crash in the night,” Wild remembered. “The next morning I went with my mother. It was destroyed. The two pilots were dead. The people were very sorry about this … They feared that the west allies would now stop the airlift.”
A hard winter already made food in short supply, Wild explained. The only meal she might get would come from school and she would sneak part of this food to her mother, who was sick. She also took care of the family chickens, whose eggs she would trade on the black market for meat or shoes. Still, none of these hardships compared to the fear of the Russians returning to West Berlin as they had done in the final days of the war.
“The normal West Berliner did not want to become Soviet,” she said. “The Soviet regime was near the same as Nazi time and they feared the Russians. They remembered the Russian soldiers.”
As Halvorsen flew food and coal into the city of Berlin, a 19-year-old RAF pilot flew gasoline into Berlin.
Then-Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The Halifax aircraft was a converted bomber,” said Dereck Hermiston. “The bomb racks had been taken and we flew, I think it was 40 or 41, 45-gallon tanks of gasoline. They had wooden beams, and they (used them) to roll these drums up. Quite unstable, and it stank to high hell.”
The son of a WWI pilot, Hermiston was among the youngest airmen to participate in flying the airlift. Yet, even as a teenager, the reversal of roles did not escape him.
“I realized, as a British officer, that we had bombed, and bombed, and bombed Berlin with the Americans, and it was a reversal,” he said. “We were now trying to save the Berliners from what was quite an oppressive regime from the Russians. I met a few Russian officers, and they were very sure they wanted to stop Germany from growing ever again.”
There was always worry of an international incident turning the Cold War operation hot, as Hermiston told.
“We were buzzed by a Russian MiG-9 one morning,” Hermiston, very much still a kid at heart, said with a chuckle. “I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was just getting daylight. There was this great shudder, and this fighter aircraft flew underneath us … and looped around us. As he came down, I had no room to maneuver. I suppose he missed us by about 200 to 300 feet. It was enough to make the aircraft shudder. Little things like that I remember because I was frightened.”
Despite the harsh weather conditions and aero acrobatic antics of the Soviets, the Allies continued to do what was needed to feed and fuel a city. In some cases this involved evacuating Berliners in need of medical attention.
“I flew out something like 220 people in my aircraft from Berlin that were sick or were children needing operations,” Hermiston said. “My aircraft was a tanker aircraft, so they had to sit on these wooden beams that were going up the fuselage in stinking conditions. It stank of petrol oil from all the gasoline. Yet, they were all so very grateful — very, very grateful. I found the people extremely grateful.”
The British pilot was not the only person struck by the grateful nature of the people of Berlin. In a previous interview, Halvorsen recalled how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” after a trip to Berlin, seeing children line up along the fence line outside the flightline of the Templehof airport.
“I had been to other countries where the kids had chocolate,” he said, recalling that moment nearly 70 years later. “When George Washington visited his troops, he had little hard candies in his pocket for the kids. That was nothing new. But these kids had not had chocolate for a couple of years. Not one out of the 30 broke ranks and said, ‘do you got candy?’ When I realized that, it just hit me like a ton of bricks — black and white. I just could not believe that quality of character called gratitude. They were so grateful. They were thankful for their freedom. When I realized that, I thought I got to do something. I reached in my pocket, and all I had was two sticks of gum.”
Convinced that everyone deserved a treat or no one did, Halvorsen took about three more steps and the little voice came clear as a bell directing him back to the fence.
Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“Boy, when I stopped and started back, those kids came to attention,” he said. “I pulled out two sticks of gum and broke them in half and passed it to the kids doing the translating. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other kids didn’t push or shove or try to grab it. The kids that got half a piece of stick of gum tore off the wrapper and passed it. The kids that got a strip of paper, put it up to their noses, smelled it and their eyes got big. They were dumbfounded. They clutched it in their hands to go home and show their parents, if they had any.”
An idea came to Halvorsen — return the next day.
“I will be flying overhead, and I will drop enough chocolate for all of you,” he announced to the children. “When that translated to everybody, there was a celebration going on.”
Halvorsen made one demand of the children. They must share the candy. They agreed, but another question arose. With planes arriving every few seconds, how would the children know which one was Halvorsen’s?
“When I would fly over the farm (back home), I would wiggle the wings back and forth. So I said, ‘kids, you watch the airplane. When I come over the center of Tempelhof, if it is clear, I will wiggle the wings.’ That is how it began.”
The “Candy Bomber,” with his parachutes of chocolate, was born, and the act would soon be named operation Little Vittles.
One little girl never caught one of the treats — the 7-year-old Wild.
“I was never quick enough,” she said.
Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
To make matters worse, the chickens whose eggs brought a fortune on the black market had stopped laying because of the noise from the aircraft landing every few seconds over head.
“Therefore, I decided to write a letter because I was so sad about the situation, and I cried,” she said. “My grandmother told me don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t weep, do something. I decided to write a letter.”
The letter was addressed to her “Chocolate Uncle,” and she asked him to aim his parachute for the garden with the white chickens.
No parachute ever came, despite nearly 20 tons of candy being dropped from the C-54 Skymasters flown by the Americans.
A letter from her “Chocolate Uncle” did come, with two special treats — a lollipop and peppermint-flavored stick of gum. Between the war and the blockade, the smell of peppermint was unknown to the child.
“I exchanged it on the black market, this peppermint gum, for a glass marble; I have this glass marble,” Wild said, pulling the smooth glass toy from her pocket and placing it on the table with as much pride as any seven-year-old. “This is the same glass marble.”
The lollipop was saved for a Christmas treat, but the greatest gift that day was not the candy.
“The most important was the letter; the letter changed my whole life,” she said.
Offered a chance to join an aunt in Switzerland where food and supplies were not held hostage by the Soviets, Wild turned it down with the hopes of one day meeting her “Chocolate Uncle.”
Around-the-clock supplies continued flying into Berlin as British and American pilots made three round trips a day. After nearly a year, the Soviets lifted the blockade, reopening the transportation routes on the ground.
“The Soviets gave up,” Halvorsen said. “They said we can’t compete with that. They got red-faced and backed off. The airlift was the reason they had to do that; it broke the blockade. I was proud to be a part of that.”
With the blockade lifted in May 1949, British and American aircraft continued to fly supplies into Berlin to rebuild the stocks. On Sept. 23, 1949, the last RAF aircraft landed in Berlin with supplies.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
Time passed, and in 1970, Halvorsen returned to Germany, now as a colonel and the commander of Tempelhof. A now grown and married Wild decided now was the time to meet her “Chocolate Uncle.”
“First, we went to airport Templehof, and I took the letter with me,” Wild said. “Then I invited him to our home for dinner with the family.”
The two families have remained close all these years.
Seventy years later, these veterans of the Berlin Airlift travel the world telling the story of how the gratitude of the Berlin Airlift shaped their lives and the world.
“We must give the good spirit to the kids to have good society and future…” Wild said. “This was a very good thing that Colonel Halvorsen decided to have those candy droppings because I think he is the best ambassador for mankind–for humanity. It is not only Col. Halvorsen, but the other pilots and the people of Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and USA. The people were standing behind the airlift.”
The service announced in May 2018, it will adopt the Army Combat Uniform, known as the ACU, which sports the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. The Air Force plans to have all airmen wearing the new uniform by April 2021.
“The decision to move to this new uniform outfits our airmen in the best utility uniform available in the inventory,” Maj. Kathleen Atanasoff said in a statement.
So far, the Air Force is calling the uniform the OCP.
“The [OCP] is proven for better form, fit and function and will be an important part in preserving our service and squadron identities,” Atanasoff said
Here’s a look at the different features of the new Air Force Uniform:
The OCP has two slanted front chest pockets compared to the ABU‘s four pockets on the blouse, which date back to the Battle Dress Uniform design. It has two shoulder pockets, with side zippered closures and Velcro for mounting unit patches.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The rank identification patch for both officers and enlisted personnel is located in the center of the chest instead of on the sleeves for enlisted and collars for officers on the ABU. Name and service tapes, rank and patches are all attached with Velcro.
Airmen will have the option to sew on their name tape and service tape, Air Force officials say.
Officers will wear their rank on their patrol caps. The OCP’s patrol cap features a Velcro-mounted name tape on the back.
The Air Force uniform will differ from the Army’s in Velcro patches, name tape and insignia by using a “spice brown” color, service officials said. The Air Force will redesign patches used for commands down to the squadron level so they incorporate the spice brown color.
The OCP’s blouse has a front zippered closure instead of the ABU’s buttons. Similar to the ABU, the OCP has a two pen slots on the blouse sleeve.
The OCP’s trousers feature slanted cargo pockets as well as smaller pockets above each ankle.
For female airmen, the OCP is less boxy and includes multiple sizes for women.
Airmen will also be required to wear the same coyote brown boots as the Army, Air Force officials said.
Both the OCP and the ABU fabric weight and same 50/50 percent nylon-cotton blend, Atanasoff said. There is no permanent press treatment on the OCP like the ABU. In addition, the OCP has an “insect shield” permethrin treatment.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.