The bizarre history of the Naval Academy's mascot, 'Bill the Goat' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Every sports team needs their very own cartoony mascot to get the fans going. Sure, it’s a goofy tradition, but it gets the people cheering and those cheers spur the players on to victory, so no one ever questions it. Military academies are no different.

The Air Force Academy sports the high-flying falcon because it’s the apex predator across much of America’s sky. West Point is represented by the mule because it’s a hardy beast of burden that has carried the Army’s gear into many wars. The Naval Academy, in what seems like a lapse of logic, decided long ago that the best representation of the Navy and Marine Corps’ spirit is a goat.

The use of a goat as their mascot began in 1893 with El Cid the Goat, named after the famed Castilian general. Eventually, they settled on the name “Bill” because, you know, billy goats… And it just gets weirder from there.


The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

From 1847 to 1851, the Naval Academy used a cat as their mascot, which we can presume would’ve hated being paraded in front of large crowds.

(National Archives)

In the Navy’s defense, goats actually served a purpose on Navy vessels back in the days of fully rigged ships. Unlike most livestock that required specialized food, a goat can eat just about any kind of scraps, which is handy on a long voyage. And, once it fulfilled its purpose as a walking garbage disposal, as grim as it sounds, it provided the cooks with a fresh source of meat.

Yet, when the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845, then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft chose his favorite animal to be the official mascot of his newly established military academy: the monkey. This didn’t last long because the logo was actually of a gorilla and, as most people know, gorilla’s aren’t monkeys. The next idea was a cat (which actually have a place in Naval history), then a bulldog (before the times of Chesty Puller), and then a carrier pigeon.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Ever since, sailors have enjoyed a long tradition of giving their goats the clever name of ‘Bill.’

​(U.S. Navy Historical Center)

There are two different versions of the story of how the Navy finally got the goat.

The first of those version is simple: The previously mentioned El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game and its presence, supposedly, helped carry the team to victory. The Navy continued to bounce back and forth between mascots until officially sticking with the goat in 1904. Said goat was re-branded as “Bill,” named after the Commandant of Midshipmen, Commander Colby M. Chester’s pet goat, and the rest is history.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

The biggest takeaway from the legend is the difference between becoming a legend and getting a Captain’s Mast is whether or not you can attribute a Navy victory over West Point on your actions.

(U.S. Navy photo by Joaquin Murietta)

The other version is steeped in legend — and is entirely bizarre. As the story goes, a ship’s beloved pet goat had met its untimely end. Two ensigns were tasked with heading ashore to bring the goat to a taxidermist so that its legacy could live on. The ensigns got lost on their way to the taxidermist, as most butter bars do, and wound up at the Army-Navy game.

The legend never specifies who, exactly, came up with this brilliant idea, but one of them apparently thought, “you know what? f*ck it” and wore the goat’s skin like a cape. During halftime, one ensign ran across the sidelines (because sporting arena security wasn’t a thing then) donning the goat skin and was met with thunderous applause.

Instead of reprimanding the two idiots for clearly doing the exact opposite of what their captain had asked of them, the Naval Academy rolled with it and attributed their victory over the Army to the goat.

This version is kind of suspect because El Cid the Goat was at the fourth game so the goat-skin midshipman would have had to been at one of the three games prior. The first and third games were held at West Point (which is clearly far away from any wandering ensigns) and second Army/Navy game was a victory for Army. But hey! It’s all in good fun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy orders ships in the Pacific to stay at sea at least 14 days between port calls over coronavirus concerns

The US Navy has given ships operating in the Pacific new port-call guidance amid concerns over the coronavirus.

All US Navy vessels operating in the 7th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Asia-Pacific region, have been instructed to remain at sea for at least 14 days after stopping in any country in the Pacific before pulling into port elsewhere, US Pacific Fleet told Insider Thursday.


The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

The move is being taken out of “an abundance of caution,” a Pacific Fleet spokesman said.

The novel coronavirus, a severe respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year, has an incubation period of up to 14 days, during which time the infected may be asymptomatic.

Ships should monitor sailors between port calls, Pacific Fleet said.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

A US Navy spokesperson told CNN’s Ryan Browne, who first reported the news on Twitter, that while “there are no indications that any US Navy personnel have contracted Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” at this time, Pacific Fleet “is implementing additional mitigations to prevent Sailors from contracting COVID-19.”

The US military has already taken several drastic measures in response to the coronavirus, which has infected over 80,000 people in at least 40 countries and killed nearly 2,800 people, with the vast majority of cases and deaths in China. The majority of these measures have been taken in South Korea, home to more than 28,000 US troops and the first US service member to test positive for the virus.

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is headquartered in Japan, where about 50,000 US troops are stationed, has started screening everyone accessing the fleet’s warships and aircraft, Stars and Stripes reported on Monday.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How US soldiers keep Abrams tanks ready for action

The following is an interview with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ford, one of the soldiers entrusted with maintaining the tank capabilities at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.

Look through the pictures to see how Ford and a team of contractors reattach a turret on an Abrams M1A2. Ford also recently passed the board for entry into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and he talks about what he learned.

With nine years of service, Ford is on his third overseas deployment, having served in both Afghanistan and South Korea. (The interview was edited for clarity and length.)


The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Abrams M1A2 tanks stored at an Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 warehouse at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 10, 2019. APS-5 is a massive amount of ground force equipment positioned to provide strategic planners options to win in the US Central Command’s area of responsibility.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What is the most important thing to know about maintaining the Abrams M1A2?

Ford: The most important thing to know about the maintenance of tanks is that they are very big and very expensive. Even the smallest components can cost a lot more than the average military vehicle, which means it’s that much more important to get the maintenance on them right.

For example, the operation we recently did to put a turret back on a tank had to be completed with extreme care and precision as not to damage the vehicle. The cost of error is one of those things you can’t help but to think about when planning maintenance on these.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, watches as contractors at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 work to lift a 30-ton turret at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

I noticed a huge team effort in putting the turret back on the tank. Is that a special event for people here?

Ford: We rarely pull turrets off or put them on, so every time it does happen it seems like it becomes a bit of a spectacle. That’s because we are lifting a 30-ton piece of equipment and moving it around with no room for error. It’s definitely something to see and experience.

It takes a lot of eyes to ensure that turret is coming out and going in straight. The turret is a machine fit — only just big enough to get into the hole of the tank. If anything is off to the left or right, there is a possibility of damaging equipment and that equipment is very expensive. In this case, the turret was level and fit well into its proper place.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, stands in front of an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Oct. 6, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What is your role in a maintenance operation like this?

Ford: I fill the quality inspection role while [the contractors] are doing the majority of the work. As the contracting officer’s representative, I ensure the terms of the contract are fulfilled. I also verify and accept the completed work on behalf of the government.

As you can see there [in the third photo], the guy on the tank is in charge of the crane. I’m just there for safety reasons and then just to ensure it’s put together properly and safely. That’s all I’m looking for. But, if they need my advice as an expert on the vehicle, then I’ll interject when I feel it’s necessary. I try to stay back and let them do the job.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

A contractor with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 directs a crane operator to briefly stop lowering a 30-ton turret onto an Abrams M1A2 so others could check its alignment to the mount at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, September 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

I noticed you jumped in a few times to help give directions. Is that typical?

Ford: There were a couple instances where they were unsure on how to move forward on that operation and, you know, time is always of the essence. That’s when I stepped forward to provide another set of eyes. But this was their operation, and I was mostly just watching it come together.

Some of the contractors have more familiarity with older tank models because they used those when they served. Sometimes I have to help fill the knowledge gap they have to help things along. But they have familiarity with each other — using hand signals they worked out that I don’t know, and that’s important for working as a team.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Ernie Boyd, work center supervisor at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5, provides positioning guidance as a crew lowers a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

Can you tell me a little about the team doing the work?

Ford: I think the team takes their role very seriously. Take Ernie Boyd for example. He is a retired Marine with 14 years of experience working on tanks. He is one of my go-to guys for tanks and for solving work center issues.

He definitely takes his work seriously — you can tell. He’s a supervisor for the work center, but during this turret operation, he was doing a lot more than supervising. He was extremely hands-on in ensuring that operation went according to plan.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, provides another set of eyes for a maintenance operation to place a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What is Army Prepositioned Stocks-5?

Ford: APS-5 is a massive set of equipment placed here to make rapidly deploying units faster. We give the warfighter the material capability they need to complete their missions.

Looking at the big picture, our job is to ensure APS-5 continues to provide viable strategic options to win.

All of our tanks are stored inside our warehouses ready for issue. They are configured for combat, meaning a unit can come in, hop in a tank, and drive it off the lot. They’re quick and ready to roll out for any mission.

This mission is important because there will come a day when a deploying unit will need this equipment, and if it’s not ready, then it could slow their mission down. It can be a life or death situation. Being able to provide the warfighter with the most ready equipment is our focus every day.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

A maintenance crew at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 reattaches a 30-ton turret to an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

Tell me about the first time you saw Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.

Ford: I walked into one of our warehouses and saw an entire battalion worth of tanks. They were in lines all facing each other as far as I could see — 72-ton vehicles all the way down from wall to wall.

You don’t often get to see something like that. Usually tanks are scattered out in fragmented lines waiting for operations or maintenance.

When I first saw it, I definitely felt excited about our mission and my part in it because I am the only tank [quality assurance] soldier here. All those tanks sitting there embodied my reason for being in Kuwait.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Contractors with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 watch closely as a crane lowers a 30-ton turret back onto an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019. The turret is machine-fit to the tank, and must be placed carefully to avoid costly damage.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

What do you think of DFAC food?

Ford: Um, keeps me alive. I haven’t died or anything yet (laughter). Dry chicken and rice are great — just be sure you have plenty of water so you can swallow the chicken.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in lots maintained by the 401st Field Support Brigade at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2016.

(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

I know you will soon be inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Why did you decide to go to the board and what did you learn?

Ford: Sergeant Audie Murphy Club provides continuous opportunities to serve throughout a career and beyond. The club’s mission is to develop and build professional noncommissioned officers and to provide community service to every Army community. So every duty station I go to from here forward, I get to go out to do good things for people while representing the Army and the NCO corps.

I learned it’s a big challenge, and with big challenges like that you don’t succeed on your own. I had to seek out a lot of mentorship and leadership scenarios from my leaders and all the way up through brigade. I had to expose my flaws and weaknesses; that way, they could help me correct those weaknesses. It’s just not enough to go in having read a book. You have to have real-life application of regulations and policies.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Trucks bring in APS-5 equipment from Camp Buehring back to Camp Arifjan during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team turn-in, Feb. 5, 2019.

(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)

Of the Army values, which stand out most to you?

Ford: I think loyalty is a big one for me. Your loyalty is always being tested. You have to constantly be loyal to your seniors, your peers, your subordinates, your unit, the Army, and the nation. You have to buy into that mission to really give it all that you have – you can’t waver on that.

Respect is another huge value for me. Without respect, you can’t have trust. Without trust, you can’t be a leader and you can’t be led. That’s our primary job, and you can’t be a good leader without first being a good follower.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Soldiers assigned to the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team prepare to move 22 M1A2 Abrams Tanks from an Army Prepositioned Stock-5 warehouse to a remote staging lot during a large-scale equipment issue at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 29, 2019.

(US Army photo by Justin Graff)

What advice would you give to young soldiers?

Ford: Don’t be afraid to fail, just put yourself out there. You never really know how much support you have until you are out there asking for support, so put yourself out there and allow people to help you.

We have a lot of good leaders in the military. They see you taking initiative and they see your desire to better yourself, they’re going to pick you up and provide you with what you need.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

This is how to earn the Congressional Space Medal of Honor

It’s not an award just for the Space Force but it is something a Space Guardian can wear, if they earn it. The Congressional Space Medal of Honor is awarded to NASA astronauts who “has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind.”

The award is a civilian honor reserved for NASA astronauts, but is eligible for wear on military uniforms, considering how many astronauts come from the U.S. military.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson.

Like the Medal of Honor, which is a military award for valor in combat above and beyond the call of duty, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is a difficult award to earn. Of the 28 astronauts awarded the medal since it was created in 1969, 17 were awarded posthumously. 

Posthumous recipients of the Space Medal of Honor include the crews of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. Challenger broke apart during liftoff in 1986 and Columbia broke apart during reentry in 2003. Both crews were killed in the separate incidents. 

Astronaut Gus Grissom, a World War II and Korea veteran, was the second American in space. He died during a pre-launch test for the Apollo-1 mission. His crewmates, Naval Aviator Roger Chaffee and Air Force test pilot Ed White also died in the accident. All three received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. 

The recipients who did survive earning the medal performed daring feats of unimaginable bravery in the face of the unknown. John Glenn, the first American in orbit, received the award, as did Neil Armstrong, the first human on the moon. Astronaut Alan Shepard received it as the first American in space. 

Air Force test pilot and astronaut Thomas Stafford earned his by commanding the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. Naval Aviator Jim Lovell earned his as the commander of the aborted Apollo-13 mission. William Shepherd earned one as commander of the first International Space Station mission.

Civilian astronaut and chemist Shannon Lucid earned the medal while setting the record for longest spaceflight by an American and by a woman. Astronauts Robert Crippen and John Young earned it for their roles in the first launches of the Space Shuttle program. Frank Borman is an Air Force test pilot who earned his as the commander of the first orbit around the moon.  

Also receiving the award was Naval Aviator Pete Conrad, who physically pulled apart a jammed solar panel on the ill-fated Skylab 2 mission during a spacewalk. It was the United States’ first space station and Conrad’s effort likely saved the mission and its crew. 

Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, Thomas Stafford, William Shepherd, Shannon Lucid and Robert Crippen are the only living recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.  Shepherd, the youngest of the group, is 71 years old. 

While the U.S. space programs have been a footnote in recent decades, current efforts to return to the moon, commercialize low-earth orbit and take giant leaps in getting to Mars are underway. It’s likely that American heroics will soon return to space and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is a way to recognize the brave astronauts who step into the unknown.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to upgrade firepower for two brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.

“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.



This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.

This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A US troop helped an East German escape the Iron Curtain

There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.

One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.


The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”

It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.

One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Spitzner with his wife and daughter.

Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.

So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.

He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.

There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.

Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.

No one regrets a thing.

Articles

Why the US confronted Iranian-backed militants in Yemen, and the risks that lie ahead

In the early-morning hours of October 12, the USS Nitze fired a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen and thereby marked the US’s official entry into the conflict in Yemen that has raged for 18 months.


The US fired in retaliation to previous incidents where missiles fired from Iranian-backed Houthi territory had threatened US Navy ships: the destroyers USS Mason and USS Nitze, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.

Also read: Here’s what would happen if U.S. tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

After more than two decades of peaceful service, this was likely the first time the US fired these defensive missiles in combat.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’
The guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze underway in the Atlantic | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith

“These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. “Our actions overnight were a response to hostile action.”

But instead of responding to the attack with the full force of two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the Navy’s response was measured, limited, and in self-defense.

Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Yemen and Iran at the Foundation for Defending Democracies, said the US’s response fell “far short of what an appropriate response would be.”

“Basically, the US took out part of the system that would allow for targeting, protecting themselves but not going after those who fired upon them,” Schanzer told Business Insider.

Even the limited strike places the US in a tricky situation internationally and legally. TheObama administration has desperately tried to preserve relations with Iran since negotiating and implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure Iran doesn’t become a nuclear state.

But the pivot toward Iran, a Shia power, has ruffled feathers in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally and the premier Sunni power in the Middle East.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’
The guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett launches a Tomahawk missile. | U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 1st Class Stephen J. Zeller

By taking direct military action against the Houthi rebels, a Shia group battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, the US has entered into — even in a limited capacity — another war in the Middle East with no end in sight.

Iran and the Houthis

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’
Fighters from the Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah.

Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy told Business Insider that Iran views Shia groups in the Middle East as “integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen.

According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops.

These Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.

For Iran, supporting the revolt in Yemen is “a good way to bleed the Saudis,” Iran’s regional and ideological rival. Essentially, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.

“The Iranians are looking at this from a very, very strategic angle, not just bleeding Saudis and other Gulf States, but how can they expand their ideological and military influence,” Smyth said.

Yemen presents an extremely attractive goal for enterprising Iran. Yemen’s situation on the Bab-al-Mandab Strait means that control of that waterway — which they may have been trying to establish with the missile strikes — would give them control over the Red Sea, a massive waterway and choke point for commerce.

The risk of picking a side

The US officially became a combatant in Yemen on Wednesday night. In doing so, it has tacitly aligned with the Saudi-led coalition that has been tied to a brutal air blockade.

The Saudis stand accused of war crimes in connection with bombing schools, hospitals, markets, and even a packed funeral hall.

Internal communications show the US has been very concerned about entering into the conflict for fear that it may be considered “co-belligerents” and thereby liable for prosecution for war crimes, Reuters reported.

Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and a US Navy veteran, told Business Insider the “limited context in which these strikes occurred was to protect freedom of navigation and neutral ships” and likely doesn’t “rise to the legal state of belligerence.”

Yet Russian and Shia sources are quick to lump the US and Saudi Arabia together, Smyth added. Just as the US and international community look to hold Russia and Syria accountable for the bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, the indiscriminate Saudi air campaign in Yemen makes it “very easy to offer a response” to the cries of war crimes against them, he said.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’
Yemeni soldiers during a parade in 2011.

Indeed, now Russian propagandists can offer up a narrative that suggests a dangerous quid pro quo narrative, suggesting that the US and Russia are trading war crimes in the region, and to “throw out chaff” and muddy the waters should the international community looks to prosecute Russia and Syria, Smyth added.

Gone too far — or not far enough?

So, while the US has now entered the murky waters of the conflict in Yemen — where 14 million people lack food and thousands of civilians have been murdered — Schanzer says the US may not have done enough.

The Navy “didn’t hit the people who struck them,” Schanzer said. “They’re not looking for caches of missiles, not looking for youth hideouts, not looking to engage directly.”

For Schanzer, this half-measure “seems like it’s not even mowing the lawn.”

But with the US already involved in bombing campaigns in six countries, it is “loathe” to get mired in another Middle Eastern conflict and equally concerned about fighting against Iran’s proxies, whom it sees as extensions of Iran’s own IRGC.

For now, the Pentagon remains committed to the idea that the strike on Houthi infrastructure was a “limited” strike, and that it’s strictly acting in self-defense, which Schanzer said is “not really the way to achieve victory.”

But with just three months left in President Obama’s second term, there is good reason to question if the US’s objective is to help the people of Yemen and end the war, or to simply sit out the festering conflict as it balances delicate regional alliances.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Wildcat held the line against the Zero

When Japan introduced the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it gained a remarkable plane that racked up an impressive combat record through 1941. However, despite its incredible performance for the time, the Zero couldn’t hold up.

The Grumman F6F Hellcat achieved fame as a Zero-killer after it was introduced in 1943. But it was its predecessor, the Grumman F4F Wildcat, that held the line during the first campaigns of World War II.


So, how did the Wildcat match up so well against the fearsome Zero? First, it’s important to understand that a big part of the Zero’s reputation came from racking up kills in China against a lot of second-rate planes with poorly-trained pilots. After all, there was a reason that the Republic of China hired the American Volunteer Group to help out during the Second Sino-Japanese War – Chinese pilots had a hard time cutting it.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero had racked up a seemingly impressive record against second-rate opposition.

(U.S. Navy)

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

A damaged F4F Wildcat lands on USS Enterprise (CV 6) during the Battle of Santa Cruz. Japanese pilots would put hundreds of 7.7mm machine gun rounds into a Wildcat to little or no effect.

(U.S. Navy)

But, believe it or not, the Wildcat almost never made it to the field. The original F4F Wildcat was a biplane that lost out to the Brewster F2A Buffalo in a competition to field the next carrier-born fighter. Grumman, unsatisfied by losing out a contract, pitched two upgraded designs, and the F4F-3 was finally accepted into service. It was a good thing, too. As it turned out, the Brewster Buffalo was a piece of crap — whether at Midway or over Burma, Buffalos got consistently fell to Zeros, costing the lives of Allied pilots.

When the F4F faced off with the Zero, however, it proved to be a very tough customer. A Zero’s armament consisted of two 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon. The former had a lot of ammo, but offered little hitting power. The latter packed a punch, but the ammo supply was limited. As a result, in combat, many Japanese pilots would empty their 7.7mm machine guns only to see the Wildcat was still flying.

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

www.youtube.com

By contrast, the Wildcat’s battery of four to six M2 .50-caliber machine guns brought not only hitting power to bear against the lightly armored Zero, but also came with an ample supply of ammo. Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa was able to score seven kills against Japanese planes in one day with a Wildcat.

But ammo wasn’t the only advantage. Wildcat pilots had an edge in terms of enemy intelligence thanks to the discovery of the Akutan Zero, a recovered, crashed Zero that gave the U.S. insight into its inner-workings (this vessel made a cameo in a training film featuring future President Ronald Reagan).

Learn more about this plane that held the line against the odds in the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Portland Protests: Veterans aren’t special—the oath they swear is

The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.

Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.


David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:

‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’

By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’

Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’

Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.

Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.

Articles

That time Taylor Swift dropped in on a World War II vet

World War II vets often have tales of meeting Hollywood stars doing USO tours. Well, Clyde Porter has one that is a lot more recent.


According to a report by the BBC, Porter got something many vets wished they got from Ingrid Bergman (among others), 71 years after the end of World War II.

This visit was from none other than music superstar and sometime actress Taylor Swift!

Porter’s been a fan of Ms. Swift – one of her oldest – as a way to get closer with his grandchildren. He told a local TV station that he’d taken two of his granddaughters to some of her concerts.

Well, word got back to the superstar, and she decided to surprise Mr. Porter, who saw action in the European Theater of Operations.

And what a surprise it was! She dropped by the 96-year-old vet’s home, spending hours with the family, and giving them a private performance of her hit “Shake it Off.” Porter, who is fighting cancer, has expressed his goal is to catch a concert on Ms. Swift’s next tour.

Bravo Zulu, Taylor Swift! Here’s the video for the song she sang:

Articles

Navy puts plans to buy more ships and planes on hold

The Navy’s 2018 budget request is out – and it looks like more new ships and aircraft are going to be on hold for at least a year. However, if this proposal holds up, the recent trend of short-changing training and maintenance will be reversed.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Navy will get eight ships: A Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN 80, the new USS Enterprise), two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, a littoral combat ship (or frigate), two Virginia-class submarines, a salvage tug, and an oiler.

Aircraft procurement will include two dozen F-35B/C Lightning II multi-role fighters and 14 F/A-18E/F Hornets. Despite reducing the F-35C buy by two aircraft, the Navy still expects to be on pace to achieve initial operating capability with the carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in 2019.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The big focus on the fiscal 2018 budget, though, is restoring readiness. The Navy is getting a $1.9 billion increase in a category known as “Other Procurement, Navy.” This fund is used to purchase new electronic gear, and more importantly, spare parts for the Navy’s ships and aircraft.

The biggest winner in the budget is the operations and maintenance account, which is getting a $9.1 billion boost to a total of $54.5 billion. This represents roughly a 20 percent increase, with no category getting less than 87 percent of the stated requirements. Most notable is that Navy and Marine Corps flight hours have been funded to “the maximum executable level” – breaking a cycle of shortchanging training.

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’
A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)

The Navy and Marines have been hard-hit with readiness issues, particularly in terms of aviation. Last year, the Marines had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to have enough airframes for training. The Marines also had to carry out a safety stand-down after a series of mishaps in the summer of 2016. Even after the stand-down, the Marines lost four Hornets from Oct. 1, 2016 to Dec. 7, 2016.

“We tried to hold the line in our procurement accounts,” Rear Adm. Brian Luther, the Navy’s top budget officer, told BreakingDefense.com. He pointed out, though, that under Secretary of Defense James Mattis, “the direction was clear: fill the holes first.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s dictator was cheered like a rock star in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the man who has held Asia on the brink of nuclear war for years, was loudly cheered and celebrated as he made his way around Singapore on a night out.

Around Singapore, media outlets stood perched and ready to catch a glimpse of the young leader as he toured the city’s finer establishments. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has not been seen outside since getting off his airplane, as he crams for June 12, 2018’s summit.


Video taken at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and shopping center shows Kim heading in and likely up to SkyPark, the famous rooftop of the iconic hotel.

SkyPark features swimming pools, bars, and restaurants and is a big tourist attraction.

Hear the enthusiasm in the room as he enters:

Kim has lived in North Korea much of his life, and didn’t leave the country between 2011 and early 2018, when he went to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim was also photographed with Singapore’s minister of foreign affairs in what’s likely the first selfie of his life.

Kim lives under constant fear of assassination, as the administrator of a state that keeps untold thousands in political prisons while it seeks to threaten the world with nuclear weapons. He likely hasn’t had many nights out on the town like this.

Meanwhile, less than half a mile away, Trump is preparing for their historic meeting.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. threatens to expand sanctions on Nord Stream 2 as Russia moves to complete pipeline

WASHINGTON — The United States has threatened to sanction any individual or company helping Russia build a controversial natural gas pipeline to Germany as the Kremlin moves to complete the last kilometers of the nearly $11 billion project.

“Get out now — or risk the consequences,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said July 15 during a press conference in Washington announcing the new sanction guidelines for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.


The State Department essentially removed language that excluded the pipeline from the powerful Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was passed in 2017.

Unable to use CAATSA, the United States in December passed legislation to sanction any vessel laying underwater pipes for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, forcing Swiss-based Allseas to quit the project with just about 160 kilometers remaining.

The pipeline, which consists of two parallel lines running under the Baltic Sea, is a combined 1,230 kilometers in length.

Russia is now trying to use its own vessels to finish Nord Stream 2 after receiving permission from Denmark earlier this month. The unfinished portion of the pipeline lies in Denmark’s economic waters.

However, the Russian ship would still need to use the services of Western companies, such as port facilities and insurance, giving the United States the potential to hamper their efforts.

CAATSA allowed Congress to sanction Russian energy export pipelines but contained guidance put in by Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, that grandfathered in Nord Stream 2 and the second leg of TurkStream, which runs under the Black Sea to Turkey.

Pompeo said the State Department is updating the public guidance for CAATSA authorities to include the two Russian-led projects, which he described as “Kremlin tools” to expand European dependence on Russian energy supplies and undermine Ukraine.

Pompeo is set to visit Denmark on July 22 to discuss the pipeline, among other issues.

Nord Stream 2 would pump up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Germany annually upon its completion, doubling the European nation’s import of Russian gas.

The project enables Moscow to significantly reduce natural gas shipments through Ukraine, which currently earns billions of dollars annually in transit fees.

“They are winding up and laying the ground for the imposition of additional sanctions if Russia attempts to deploy its pipe-laying vessels,” said Dan Vajdic, an adviser to Ukraine’s state-owned energy firm Naftogaz, which lobbied Washington to impose more sanctions.

The United States is seeking to export more natural gas to Europe while helping Eastern and Central Europe develop the necessary infrastructure to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.

Congress last year approved up to id=”listicle-2646417365″ billion in financing for energy infrastructure projects in the region.

James Carafano, a national security and foreign policy fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told a congressional hearing on July 14 that the completion of Nord Stream 2 would destroy the economic rationale for such U.S.-backed projects.

The State Department has denied that the threat of new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are designed to help U.S. exporters of natural gas.

The State Department has denied that the threat of new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are designed to help U.S. exporters of natural gas.

Nonetheless, State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told RFE/RL in an interview that Russia and Gazprom are in a “difficult position” to be able to finish Nord Stream 2.

“Companies basically have to choose – you can do business with the Russians and Gazprom or you can do business with the United States. We think that companies will make the decision that it is more lucrative to do business with the United States,” she said.

Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) urged Congress to give the White House more firepower to stop Nord Stream 2 by passing legislation that would impose more sanctions on the pipeline, including on insurance and certification companies.

“The Kremlin will no doubt continue its frantic efforts to circumvent American sanctions, and so it is imperative that Congress provide the administration the broadest possible authorities to counter these ever-changing attempts at evasion,” he said in a statement.

Cruz’s home state of Texas is the largest producer of natural gas in the United States and a key energy exporter.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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