Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) held a commemoration ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the first combat firing of the naval railway gun, Sept. 6, 2018.

The ceremony took place at Admiral Willard Park at the Washington Navy Yard where on display is a naval railway gun still mounted on a railway carriage.

Master Chief Yeoman Nathaniel Colding, senior enlisted leader at NHHC, was the master of ceremonies for the event and shared the history of the naval railway gun with the guests in attendance.

Upon entering World War I in April 1917, the Navy was already developing long-range artillery primarily to counter the German army’s heavy guns capable of bombarding the English Channel ports used by the Allies.


The Navy’s initial idea was to employ several 14-inch 50-caliber Mark IV naval rifles, with a complete train of equipment for each gun, on railway mountings behind British lines in France. However, changing military conditions prevented British authorities from stating definitively at which port these batteries were to be debarked.

The Navy ultimately offered the guns to General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, who readily accepted them.

“In the summer of 1918, five U.S. naval railway guns made the journey across the Atlantic Ocean for use in France during the First World War,” said Colding. “Although they were assigned to the First Army’s Railway Artillery Reserve, the guns operated as independent units under the command of Rear Admiral Charles P. Plunkett. In early September 1918, Battery Number 2 went into action with a bombardment of a German-occupied railroad hub more than 20 miles away.”

Retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, director of NHHC, was the guest speaker for the commemoration ceremony and spoke about why this event is important for us to remember today.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

British 12-inch howitzers on top-carriage traversing mounts.

“The U.S. Navy was able to provide a quick solution using guns that were normally intended for battleships,” said Cox. “The key point of the U.S. Navy’s participation in the war was that although we only lost about 430 Sailors during the entire course of the war, we were able to get two million U.S. Army troops to France a lot faster than the Germans ever thought was possible. The Navy did this without any losses to U-boats, ending a war that at that point was the bloodiest in human history.”

While the naval railway guns were in operation, the crew had no support from the Army should the Germans unit advance on them and they were expected to “fight alone.” They did not have to face that fate, however; the Germans were in retreat throughout their period of service.

“The increased use and effectiveness of aircraft, particularly bombers, with their greater flexibility and mobility, meant that the naval railway battery would not be a mainstay in future wars,” said Conrad. “Nonetheless, its development and deployment highlights the U.S. Navy’s ability to think innovatively and create and deploy new and effective programs quickly. That skill is transferable and is a hallmark of the U.S. Navy in the twentieth century.”

Although the naval railway guns operated well behind the front lines and were not subject to the constant bombardment received by more forward positions, the U.S. naval railway batteries were hardly immune from enemy fire. Many of the units took counter-fire from German artillery. German observation planes flew above their positions during the day, and bomber aircraft were active at night. The units lost only one Sailor to enemy fire and other battery personnel were wounded.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

French 370 mm railway howitzer of World War I.

According to Dennis Conrad, Ph.D., a historian at NHHC, 530 officers and men made up the Naval Railway Guns command. The unit was subdivided into six groups, one for each battery and these groups were further subdivided into crews: a train crew, a construction crew and a gun crew.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

This is how much human blood you need to make a longsword

There’s a meme that occasionally makes the rounds on social media that claims you’d have to kill 359 people in order to save up enough human blood to get the iron required to make a longsword. Forging a weapon of war from the blood of your enemies? Sign us up.

But that number seemed a little suspect, so we decided to dig deeper.

It’s true, there is iron in red blood cells — mostly in hemoglobin — but trying to extract that iron from someone’s blood is no simple process. And, with a little math, we’ve determined that if you’re somehow able to get the iron out, the number of people you’d need to drain would be way higher than the meme suggests. Let’s explore this bloody question.


Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

Yes, this scene. Side note: This is why they had Mystique inject iron into the blood of the guard — to keep this scene scientifically accurate.

(20th Century Fox)

First of all, there are roughly 5 million red blood cells in a microliter of blood. Accounting for the tiny fractions of iron in red blood cells and the amount of blood in the body, the amount of iron within an average human body totals 4 grams, enough for about eight paperclips. We’re thinking that whoever invented the meme took this number, did the division, and came to the conclusion that you’d need 359 unfortunate souls to complete the diabolical process. But we’re not finished — not by a long shot.

A single molecule of hemoglobin is comprised of 2952 carbon atoms, 4664 hydrogen atoms, 832 oxygen atoms, 812 nitrogen atoms, eight sulfur atoms, and a whopping four iron atoms. You’d have to strip away the rest of the elements in the molecule to get to said iron. So, now we have to talk extraction — and since you’re probably already thinking of that scene from X2, let’s talk magnets.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

The quality of the iron in the blood might be tied to the healthiness of each individual — but we’re just going to assume that’ll average out over the several thousand souls required…

(Photo by Tamahagane Arts)

The iron in the metalloprotein hemoglobin isn’t in a metallic state, which is great for anyone who has ever encountered a magnet. This is why you don’t immediately collapse from a clogged artery when a magnet comes close to your veins. Instead, oxygenated hemoglobin is diamagnetic — meaning it repels magnets — at an extremely low level. The blood that travels between the heart and the lungs is deoxygenated, however, making it paramagnetic, so that’s the first place any chaotic-evil blacksmith should begin.

If you could manage to create a machine to pump and deoxygenate large quantities of blood, like a modified, artificial heart, it would then be prepped for a super-magnet to pull the raw iron out of the blood. Take the blood that’s been pulled out by a super magnet and set it on fire to burn away any remaining oxygen and hydrogen and, voila, you have something to work with — in theory, anyway. Nobody’s tested this, probably because they don’t feel like being labelled a mad scientist.

What you’d be left with is something similar to iron sand. You officially have a workable material for first step in the smelting process. But there’s a huge difference between raw materials and iron that’s able to be forged.

In the real world, for every 1 kg of workable iron ingots created, you end up with an average of 3.181 kg of impurities and slag byproduct — and that’s when working with the highest quality iron sand, stuff from Gampo, South Korea. We’ll give our theoretical blood-iron the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s about the same in terms of quality.

So, you’ll need a total of 4.181 kg of blood-iron sand to get 1 kg of workable iron. Now, let’s get back to the math.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

At this point, you’d already be considered a monster, so let’s keep going! To get 25 kg of usable blood-steel for a full suit of armor would require a messy 179,376 blood bags — which, surprisingly, is less than the amount of people killed annually by sugary drinks worldwide.

(Bethesda Game Studios)

An average longsword has a finished weight of around 1.5 kg — but typical generates an additional 0.75 kg of waste. That means we’ll need 2.25 kg of workable iron to make the sword. 2,250 grams of workable iron, factoring for the ratio of impurities, means we’ll need 9,407.25 grams of raw material — of blood-iron sand — to start. At 4 grams per person, you’d need at least 2,352 completely drained donors to make a iron longsword out of blood.

But if you’re going that far, why stop at iron? Why not work it into steel, which makes objectively better weapons?

Continuing folding and forging, removing the impurities, and adding carbon (which, presumably, could be found in the garbage shoot after all the work you’ve done so far) can harden that bad boy into something more durable. Granted, you’d need more blood-iron sand at a magnitude of 1 kg of blood-steel ingots to 27.7 kg of waste. That puts you at 64,749.9 grams of blood-iron sand, or a genocidal 16,188 doomed souls to create a single steel blade.

To put that in perspective, you’re looking at killing roughly half as many people as the bubonic plague did in 1625 London.

Brutal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the invasion of France you didn’t hear about

The landings on D-Day have become iconic in the minds of many people who think about World War II in Europe. But the landings at Normandy were not the only invasion of France that the Allies carried out. There was a second invasion – and it is not as widely recognized. In fact, if Winston Churchill had his way, it wouldn’t have happened.


Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the planning for D-Day, one of the biggest concerns had been to keep the Germans unaware as to the actual location of the invasion for as long as possible. Much of the decoy efforts were focused on the Pas-de-Calais region of France, but other areas were targeted as well. According to Volume XI of Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” The Invasion of France and Germany, one of the decoy locations was the Mediterranean coast of France.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
Landing at Normandy, D Day, June, 1944, War Photo: pixabay.com

However, Eisenhower saw the proposed Operation Anvil as a way to supplement Overlord with a second amphibious operation within days of the Normandy landings. Winston Churchill, though, was opposed to that idea, and that opposition strengthened after the landings at Anzio bogged down. But the port of Marseilles was seen as a valuable logistics hub – and Southern France was closer to the German border than Normandy.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
Scene from HMS PURSUER of other assault carriers in the force which took part in the landings in the south of France on Aug. 15, 1944. Leading are HMS ATTACKER and HMS KHEDIVE. Three Grumman Wildcats can be seen parked on the edge of PURSUER’s flight deck. (Royal Navy photo)

Finally, to get the British to approve Operation Anvil, it was delayed for two months. By then, it wasn’t so much a second front as it was the second part of a one-two-punch, and the codename was changed to Operation Dragoon. On Aug. 15, 1944, over 880 ships arrived off the southern coast of France. Three divisions, the 3rd Infantry Division, the 36th Infantry Division, and the 45th Infantry Division, went ashore. The landings faced much less opposition than the Normandy landings, and these forces helped send the Germans into full retreat from France.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
The Allied advance through Southern France. The Dragoon landings helped force the Nazis to retreat towards Germany. (US government map)

While Winston Churchill paid a visit to the landing beaches, he was never thrilled with the operation. However, it was a smashing success, described by Morison as “the nearly lawless [amphibious landing] on a large scale.”

Articles

New ‘Dunkirk’ trailer focuses on pilots, civilians who saved thousands

The main trailer for ‘Dunkirk’ is out, and it seems that Christopher Nolan will be telling the amazing story of Operation Dynamo from all angles as weekend sailors, Royal Air Force pilots, nurses, fishermen, and others appear in the footage.


Operation Dynamo, often called “The Miracle at Dunkirk,” was the evacuation of nearly 400,000 British and allied troops from the coast of France in 1940 after the German blitzkrieg cut through Allied defenses much faster than anyone anticipated.

The German invasion was expected to take months, but Nazi forces slashed a corridor through France to the English Channel in just over two weeks before they halted their advance. But the Nazis hadn’t been stopped by force of arms.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. (Photo: Public Domain)

Rather, the high command decided that they didn’t want to risk panzers in pitched fighting near Dunkirk. So the German army kept the expeditionary force pinned down on the beach and sent the Luftwaffe to kill British ships in the English channel and strafe and bomb survivors on the beaches.

On May 26, the British launched Operation Dynamo, a Hail Mary attempt to rescue those dying troops through Royal Navy assets and, when those proved to be too few, hundreds of small fishing and pleasure boats piloted by civilians. Nearly 340,000 troops were evacuated from May 26 to June 4.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

Previous trailers for Nolan’s movie about the event have focused on the plight of soldiers on the beach who waited for days, sometimes in shoulder-deep water while under fire from the Luftwaffe, for rescue. The new trailer shows them, but it also spends a lot of time on a father crossing the channel with his sons, as well as the nurses and pilots who made the mission possible.

It looks like World War II buffs may get to see one of the war’s most miraculous moments played out on the screen through perspectives of everyone who made it possible. Many of the troops rescued from the beaches went on to fight in North Africa, the D-Day landings, and on to Berlin.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump plans to gift Kim Jong Un a recording of ‘Rocket Man’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea on July 6, 2018, his third trip to the region, as part of an effort to solidify agreements on denuclearization.

Pompeo’s trip comes less than a month after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participated in a joint summit in Singapore.

But the US’s top diplomat also planned to give Kim a gift: an Elton John CD featuring the song “Rocket Man.” Trump’s inspiration for the gift reportedly stemmed from a conversation he had with Kim during the summit, sources told the conservative South Korean news outlet, Chosun Ilbo.


“Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no,” one diplomatic source reportedly said. Trump was said to have written a message on the CD and signed it, according to Chosun Ilbo.

At one of the lowest points in US-North Korean relations since Trump took office, the US president frequently called Kim “little rocket man” in Trump’s speeches and tweets in 2017.

“We can’t have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place,” Trump said at the rally in Huntsville, Alabama. “This shouldn’t be handled now, but I’m gonna handle it because we have to handle it. ‘Little Rocket Man.'”

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit.

But while it appeared Trump was mocking Kim at the time, he reportedly told people at a Republican fundraiser in September 2017 that his nickname for Kim was intended to be a compliment.

On July 5, 2018, Trump also mentioned Elton John during a campaign rally for Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale in Montana. Trump referenced the size of the crowds at his rallies and said he had “broken more Elton John records.”

Pompeo’s trip comes amid reports that various facilities at a North Korean nuclear complex are operating as usual, and a scathing US intelligence assessment that found the regime intended to “deceive” the US.

The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites. The officials said they believe Kim may be trying to conceal the secret facilities.

“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”

Despite the lingering questions, Trump expressed optimism about the efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

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

Articles

This Army veteran running for Senate assembles an AR-15 blindfolded in a new ad

Army veteran Jason Kander is running for the US Senate to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and he just dropped an incredibly effective ad pushing back on criticism of his gun rights positions.


He assembles an AR-15 blindfolded while simultaneously talking about his time serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “I approve this message, because I would like to see Sen. Blunt do this,” he says, holding up the finished rifle, in what is the political equivalent of a mic drop.

Last week, the National Rifle Association released an ad that criticized “liberal Jason Kander” for a 2009 vote against the defensive use of guns. The spot criticized the Democrat as being weak on Second Amendment rights.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
Missourians for Kander | YouTube

In response, Kander is seen blindfolded in a new ad released Wednesday, pushing back on that view.

“Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns. In Afghanistan, I volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs,” Kander says. “And in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights. I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

Brandon Friedman, a former Army officer and CEO of public relations firm McPherson Square Group, told Business Insider the spot was “a masterpiece.”

Still, Kander has an uphill battle in the race. His opponent Roy Blunt scored the endorsement of the influential NRA in April, and he currently leads the challenger by three points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Missouri’s US senate race.

Watch the ad below:

MIGHTY CULTURE

The crazy helpful guidance for the Army Combat Fitness Test

Look, most of us were trained with videos or guides from the 70s, so I was seriously surprised when I discovered the U.S. Army’s Combat Fitness Test page.

The page is modern, informative, and actually very helpful. Plus, the graphic designer was on point. (Kudos: Army Public Affairs Digital Media Division.)

I’m not in the army but I find myself wanted to go do some deadlifts.


Army Combat Fitness Test: 3 Repetition Maximum Deadlift (MDL) (Event 1)

youtu.be

The Army Combat Fitness Test is comprised of the deadlift, standing power throw, hand release push-up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck, and 2-mile run. When designing the test, they looked at the Marine Corps’ Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test, the Air Force TAC-P Operators Test, and physical performance assessments from 10-15 other sports programs and military/government tests.

All soldiers must be capable to deploy and fight. From the Army Vision: “The Army Mission – our purpose – remains constant: To deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt, and sustain land dominance by Army forces.” To accomplish that mission, the Army will “build readiness for high intensity conflict” with training that “will be tough, realistic, iterative and battled-focused.” The battlefields of today and tomorrow are increasingly complex, fluid, and uncertain; they demand that all Soldiers are physically fit and ready for full-spectrum operations. —U.S. Army Combat Fitness Test website
Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

To help prepare soldiers, the Army really went above and beyond with educational materials about the test. From videos of the exercises to training techniques and safety tips to highlighting the muscles engaged, the page is an incredible resource.

If I sound surprised, it’s because I am.

The military does not have a good reputation of taking care of service members’ bodies. There’s an underlying “suck it up” mentality that tends to prevent troops from treating injuries in a timely manner. When they do finally seek medical care, it’s often too late and they’re added to the end of a too-long list of patients needing treatment.

Cue the Motrin memes.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

Shameless plug for this T-shirt

U.S. troops deploy to combat zones and respond to missions that require physical strength, flexibility, and capability, so it’s important that they train hard — but it’s also critical that they learn how to prevent and treat injuries efficiently.

A minor training nuisance like a strained muscle or a shin splint can become a career-ending injury when ignored; instead it should be treated like a loose part on a weapon and it prioritized as such.

The effort the Army put into their website might seem like a small thing, but it actually communicates the importance of soldiers’ bodies — training them, honing them, and caring for them.

Sorry-not-sorry to call out the Marines, but their website is much more difficult to navigate and doesn’t really do much to educate anyone, even though they specifically acknowledge that injury prevention is important:

The mission of the Sports Medicine Injury Prevention (SMIP) Program is to reduce attrition and lost work-days associated with musculoskeletal injuries (MSKI) in order to increase operational readiness of individual Marine, Sailors, and their units. —U.S. Marine Corps SMIP website
Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

I wish I had this kind of stuff when I was active duty.

The Army, on the other hand:

The government knows that injuries are a detriment to the military, but the Army has currently has a lead in educating its troops about how to train. Physical health should be prioritized as part of the military culture, not just physical strength. Troops can’t be strong if they’re not healthy.

Check out the website here — and then get your ass to the gym!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan forces retake district from Taliban forces

The governor of Afghanistan’s northern province of Baghlan says Afghan security forces have recaptured a strategic district from Taliban fighters who have controlled the area in recent weeks.

Governor Abdulhai Nemati told RFE/RL the government’s offensive to retake the district of Nahrin ended on the morning on Sept. 4, 2018, after the Taliban withdrew during the night.

Nemati said at least six Taliban fighters were killed and 14 were wounded during an operation that began early on Sept. 3, 2018. Nemati did not provide casualty figures for government forces.


RFE/RL’s correspondent in Baghlan Province reports that hundreds of civilians fled their homes during the fierce 24-hour battle, which destroyed several houses in the district.

One disabled woman in the area told RFE/RL that she was “among very few people” from her neighborhood that did not flee the fighting.

“Almost everyone in our neighborhood fled. I couldn’t join them because of my disability. Had I been able to walk I would have left, too,” the woman said.

“People fled carrying their belongings,” a local man said. “Old and young, women and children, all fled, some by foot, some on donkeys.”

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

Afghan National Civil Order Policemen stand in formation, Dec. 27, 2011.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Perez)

Nemati said government forces were continuing a “search and clearing operation” in theNahrin district on Sept. 4, 2018.

There was no immediate comment about the battle from the Taliban.

Meanwhile, in the nearby province of Balkh, Afghan security forces have launched an offensive against Taliban fighters who seized a series of villages to the west of Mazar-e Sharif on Sept. 2, 2018.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said late on Sept. 3, 2018, that government security forces hoped to retake the Chari area of Balkh’s Dawlatabad district “soon.”

The Taliban in recent months has carried out a series of operations to expand its control over rural areas in northern Afghanistan and has briefly taken control of some urban areas in Afghanistan, including parts of the city of Ghazni to the southwest of Kabul during August 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army specialist helps save young boy after long fall

National Guard members spend countless hours every year training for the next big mission. For Army Spc. Nicole McKenzie, that mission wasn’t overseas — it was just below an overpass on her way home from the Yonkers armory on Aug. 3, 2018.

McKenzie, a cable systems installer and maintainer with Company A, 101st Signal Battalion, New York Army National Guard, saw a flash of red going over a guardrail on the Saw Mill River Parkway and immediately pulled her car to the side of the road.

“I saw what looked like the outline of a boy going over the side,” McKenzie said. “I knew something was wrong.”


Her instincts had been sharpened by nearly six years of Army training, which erased all doubt and hesitation at the scene.

“Thanks to my Army training, it was all automatic; everything was fluid,” McKenzie said.

She ran over to the edge where she saw Police Officer Jessie Ferreira Cavallo, of the Hastings-on-Hudson police department already assessing the scene.

Teamwork

When McKenzie saw the 12-year-old boy lying on the rocks below, she shouted to Cavallo, “Let’s go!” They both ran to the shallow end of the overpass, climbed over a fence, and dropped 10 feet to the jagged ground below.

The boy, a resident of the Bronx, had left the Andrus campus in the Bronx. Andrus is a private, nonprofit organization that provides services for vulnerable children, children with special needs, and children with severe emotional and behavior issues.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns

New York Army National Guard Spc. Nicole McKenzie.

Andrus staff were speaking with the boy when he jumped from the overpass he had been standing on.

McKenzie, who spent three years on active duty with the 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion and just completed combat life-saving training with the Guard, immediately began to triage the injuries the boy sustained in the fall.

Quick thinking, treatment

She used quick thinking to improvise a flashlight from her phone to administer a concussion test, took his vital signs, and kept talking to him so he stayed awake and alert.

Next, she shouted to a bystander above to grab the medical bag from her trunk and throw it down.

Working in tandem with Cavallo, they used splints from her bag to secure his neck, arm and leg, and stayed with him until the medics arrived and took him to the Westchester hospital.

The Westchester County Police records department confirmed the assistance from McKenzie and the pivotal role that both the National Guard and local police played in working together to assist the young boy.

McKenzie doesn’t think she’s a hero. For her, it’s all about loyalty to her unit and her community.

“I wear the uniform every day because I want to help soldiers — I want to help people,” McKenzie said. “This is my family.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.


Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.

Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
F-15Cs of the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron (US Air Force)

As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.

When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.

By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.

What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
A Soviet Air Force MiG-23 Flogger, similar to the one which flew pilotless across Europe (US Air Force)

After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.

Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
The crash site of the MiG-23 in Belgium (Public Domain)

Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.

As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.

But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.

The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS reappeared in Syria to fight Asad troops in the capital

Rockets fired on a market in a government-controlled neighborhood of Damascus on March 20, 2018, killed 35 people and wounded more than 20 others, Syrian state-run media said, marking one of the highest death tolls in a single attack targeting the capital.


The government blamed rebels in the eastern suburbs of Damascus for the attack on the Kashkol neighborhood. The capital, seat of President Bashar Assad’s power, has come under more frequent attack as government forces continue to pound rebel-held eastern Ghouta, with military backing from Russia.

Also read: Pentagon says everyone who watches terrorist video helps ISIS

With government forces tied up in the month-long offensive on eastern Ghouta, Islamic State militants seized a neighborhood on its southern edge, forcing the government to rush in reinforcements.

IS militants captured the neighborhood of Qadam on March 19, 2018, a week after rebels had surrendered it to the government. At least 36 soldiers and pro-government militiamen were killed in the clashes, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said dozens more were captured or wounded.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
A Shi’ite fighter clashes with members of the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army rebel in the town of Hatita, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria, Nov. 22, 2013.

In 2017, the Islamic State group lost the swath of territory it had controlled in eastern Syria since 2014 — and where it had proclaimed its self-styled “caliphate” — but it retains pockets of control in areas across Syria, including two neighborhoods on the southern edge of Damascus.

On March 19, 2018, the militants pounced on Qadam from the neighboring Hajr al-Aswad and Yarmouk neighborhoods, which they control. More than 1,000 rebels and their families had earlier fled Qadam for rebel-held territory in the north of the country, instead of submitting to the Damascus authorities.

There was no comment from the Syrian government following the IS seizure of Qadam.

The government’s assault on eastern Ghouta has displaced 45,000 people, the United Nations said March 20, 2018, while tens of thousands more are living in desperate conditions in northern Syria, where a Turkish military campaign is underway.

Related: A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

In eastern Ghouta, rescue workers were still retrieving bodies from the basement of a school that was bombed March 19, 2018, by government or Russian jets, a spokesman for the Syrian Civil Defense group said.

The bodies of 20 women and children were retrieved from the rubble, said the group, also known as the White Helmets. The school in the town of Arbin was being used as a shelter by residents.

Oways al-Shami, the Civil Defense spokesman, said continued bombing was slowing down rescue operations.

“They’re not able to use their heavy vehicles because the planes are targeting the Civil Defense directly,” al-Shami said of the rescuers.

Residents in Douma, the largest town in eastern Ghouta, also reported indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
The president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar Al-Assad

“I haven’t been able to go out to look for food since yesterday,” said Ahmad Khansour, a media activist who spoke to The Associated Press from a basement in the town. He reported 175 strikes since March 19, 2018.

At least 36 people were killed under the hail of strikes on March 20, 2018, according to the Observatory.

Government forces abruptly intensified their fire on Douma on March 18, 2018, after a six-day reprieve to allow a limited number of medical evacuations. In the meantime, they made sweeping advances against other areas of eastern Ghouta, leaving just a fraction of the enclave still outside the government’s control.

“There’s nowhere left to attack” but Douma, Khansour said.

More: Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva on March 20, 2018, that although tens of thousands have fled the fighting in eastern Ghouta, thousands more were “still trapped and in dire need of aid,” adding that a shortage of shelters was “a major concern.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. children’s agency said some 100,000 people were trapped in rural areas of the northern Syrian district of Afrin and in need of humanitarian aid after Turkish and allied Syrian forces drove out a Syrian Kurdish militia there.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said the agency hadn’t been able to deliver health and nutrition supplies to the district in 20 days, and water trucks had stopped deliveries since March 15, 2018. The agency estimates 50,000 children are among those who need humanitarian aid in Afrin.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school in al-Shaar neighborhood, in the rebel-held side of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

The International Committee for the Red Cross said it was able to deliver 25 tons of humanitarian aid items, like blankets, diapers, lamps, and water tanks, to displaced Afrin families.

Reports of looting in the largely deserted town spread on March 20, 2018, as more photos emerged showing allied Syrian rebel fighters attached to Turkey’s military campaign breaking into shops, stealing goods and cattle, and hauling off tractors and motorcycles amid scenes of celebration.

Related: These are the secret tunnels ISIS uses to launch sneak attacks in Syria

It is proving an embarrassment to Turkey, which is battling perceptions that the Syrian opposition forces it has aligned with are corrupt, unprofessional and jihadist.

A top U.N. representative in Syria, Sajjad Malik, raised the alarm on Twitter, reporting “looting, destruction of properties exodus of civilians” from Afrin.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said his country was “sensitive” to reports of looting and promised Turkey “will not allow it.”

A Syrian opposition body published the phone numbers of military police commanders in the area, urging anyone who witnesses looting to file complaints with them.

Also March 20, 2018, at least nine people were killed in airstrikes targeting a camp for displaced people in rebel-held Idlib province in the northwest of the country, according to the Observatory and the Civil Defense. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how going to space makes you a better person

When the Space Force eventually gets off the ground and troops start making their way toward the stars, they’ll be elevated as people. No, we’re not talking about physical elevation. And no, we’re not talking about the status that comes with being one of the elite few to break the Earth’s atmosphere. We’re talking about elevation on both a spiritual and moral level.

Every astronaut that has been to space shares an experience. From up there, they can look back at this tiny, pale blue speck of space dust, and it’s a life-changing, mind-opening sensation. This isn’t to say that “many” astronauts have this experience — it happens to every single astronaut from all walks of life and from every nation. It’s a feeling that astronauts have reported completely independent of one another.

It’s what they’re calling the “Overview Effect.”


You spend your entire life in one spot on this planet, or maybe you’ve traveled across it — regardless, you’re only ever seeing a small fragment of the whole. It’s only when you can step back (or out, in this case) and truly see the big picture that you can really take it all in.

By looking down at this planet from outer space, astronauts can see everything. Every life born. Every country and its cities. And the collection of glimmering lights on the surface is its entire living population. Photography from space has been around since the 1960s — the famous Blue Marble photo, the very first full-planet photo, was taken on December 7, 1972 — but it doesn’t elicit the same response as seeing it with your own eyes.

It’s been described as being set free from Plato’s Cave. Suddenly, you’re looking at Earthly issues from a galactic perspective — and it changes everything.

Funnily enough, the phenomenon wasn’t been recognized until 1987, when philosopher Frank White put a name to it, calling it the “Overview Effect.” The very first human being in space, Yuri Gagarin, first gave clues to his experiencing of the Overview Effect by saying,

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty and not destroy it.”

It’s also worth noting that he also never said, “I see no God up here.” That’s a myth.

Astronauts come back with a sense of purpose after taking in such an awe-inspiring view. It’s hard for minor problems to bother you, apparently, when you’ve been given a look at the true scale of such problems. They describe it as a form of transcendental meditation when they realize what they’re looking at.

Astronauts who’ve experienced this sensation say it never leaves them, and they’ll remember the feeling until the day they die. Ed Gibson, the science pilot aboard the Skylab 4 once said,

“You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things in the universe. Your life and concerns are important to you, of course. But you can see that a lot of the things you worry about do not make much difference in an overall sense.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Mattis fired a commander in the middle of combat

The effective end of Col. Joe Dowdy’s career in the United States Marine Corps came when he was relieved as commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 1 on April 4, 2003. The man who relieved him, then-Maj. Gen. James Mattis, also just served as Secretary of Defense.


The relief was so shocking it made national headlines. It was not unprecedented in modern warfare, though.

During the fighting on Saipan, Marine Lt. Gen. Holland Smith relieved Army Maj. Gen. Ralph Smith of command of the 27th Infantry Division over poor combat performance. The Marine general felt that the 27th’s lack of progress had caused unnecessary casualties to the Marine Corps. The relief generated a lot of controversy at the time. Ralph Smith would later command the 98th Infantry Division and would go on to lead the relief organization CARE.

 

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. Mattis visited Kuwait to attend their National Day celebrations that marked the 50th anniversary of their independence, and the 20th anniversary of their ousting of Saddam Husseins forces from their country during the first Gulf War. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

Then-Col. Dowdy was seen as a good officer prior to the relief. He had seen some action in Beirut and also served during Operation Restore Hope. According to a 2004 Wall Street Journal report, RCT-1 had only suffered one KIA during the fighting.

The report also noted that Dowdy was very focused on taking care of his troops, at one point declining an air conditioner when it was clear that the enlisted Marines were not receiving any.

When Dowdy’s unit was halted outside Nasiriyah for over a day, Mattis, who had commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment during Operation Desert Storm, was frustrated. In 2001, Mattis made a name for himself by leading a daring assault to take an air strip near Kandahar, which was crawling with Taliban at the time.

It didn’t help Dowdy’s case when Brig. Gen. John Kelly reportedly caught him dozing off. Then, Maj. Gen. Mattis noticed a captain reading a book next to a runway crater at a recently-captured airfield while sitting on a bulldozer. The captain told Mattis he hadn’t received an order to fix the crater.

Things came to a head on April 3. RCT 1 had managed to lure some of Saddam’s forces away from the western flank – and left it open for U.S. forces to charge into Baghdad. Sensing that Saddam’s forces had cracked, Dowdy was ordered to carry out an operation into al Kut, and was told to decide whether or not to push through. Dowdy ultimately elected not to push through, a decision that angered Gen. Kelly, who recommended his relief.

Navy celebrates its massive World War I railroad guns
Wikimedia Commons

The next day, Dowdy was reportedly summoned to a meeting with Mattis, and replaced with Col. John A. Toolan. In a performance evaluation, Dowdy was described as “being fatigued beyond normal” and “overly concerned about the welfare” of those under his command, which meant he was “not employing the regiment to its full combat potential.”

Dowdy would retire from the Marine Corps the next year, and eventually served for a time in the Office of the Director at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center as a special operations manager.

He later left NASA. In 2013, the Military Times reported that he would often be called for counsel by other Marine officers who were relieved of their commands.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information