The Navy will launch formal flight testing in 2021 for a new, first-of-its kind carrier-launched drone engineered to double the attack range of F-18 fighters, F-35Cs, and other carrier aircraft.
The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a new unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.
“The program expects to be in flight test by 2021 and achieve initial operational capability by 2024,” Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Navy recently awarded a development deal to Boeing to further engineer and test the MQ-25.
A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?
The Navy believes so; “the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability, extending the range of the carrier air wing to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters,” Cosgrove said.
Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?
Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray.
The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about these weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers of course are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.
In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.
Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided long-range missile to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.
A U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator aircraft prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.
The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-cancelled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.
A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.
An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.
The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Although we commemorate Memorial Day each year, the holiday’s origins are rarely discussed. Many countries, especially those that were involved in World War II, have their own iteration of the monument to the soldiers who dedicated their lives to their country’s cause. From its earliest version as Decoration Day, Memorial Day has been a part of an important, reflective moment in the United States. Trace the history of the holiday from its earliest incarnation to the major occasion it is today with these little-known Memorial Day facts.
1. Memorial Day began as a day honoring Union soldiers killed during the Civil War.
After the end of the Civil War, General John A. Logan became the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Union veterans. Logan issued a General Order declaring May 30 as Memorial Day for fallen Union soldiers. For the first years of celebration, Memorial Day and Decoration Day were used interchangeably to refer to the day.
2. Some Southern states still have a separate day of remembrance for Confederate soldiers.
Not long after the Grand Army of the Republic established Memorial Day, Confederate groups organized to create their own commemorative holiday. Although a number of women’s groups, primarily the Ladies Memorial Association, had started to organize day outings to tidy graves and leave flowers, a larger movement began in 1868. By 1890, there was a specific focus on commemorating the Confederacy as well as the soldiers lost. Today, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina continue to celebrate a separate day for the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy.
3. The original date of ‘Decoration Day’ was May 30, chosen because it was not associated with any particular battle.
General Logan chose the date of the original Memorial Day with great care. May 30 was chosen precisely because no major battle occurred on that day. Afraid that choosing a date associated with a major battle like Gettysburg would be perceived as casting soldiers in that battle as more important than other comrades, May 30 was a neutral date that would honor all soldiers equally.
4. The tradition of red poppies honoring fallen soldiers comes from a Canadian poem written during WWI.
Although the wearing of red poppies to honor fallen soldiers is more popular in the United Kingdom and throughout the former British empire, poppies are also associated with Memorial Day in the United States. This tradition was started after Moina Michael, a young poet, was inspired by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. The opening lines read, “In Flanders field the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row”. The imagery moved Moina, and she decided to wear a red poppy as a symbol of her continued remembrance of those who fought in World War I.
5. The Vietnam War was responsible for Memorial Day becoming a national holiday.
Memorial Day was celebrated regularly across the United States from the mid-1800s on—while it nearly ceased in the early 20th century, the world wars made its commemoration important once more. Yet Memorial Day was not federally recognized until the height of the Vietnam War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday rather than their original day, including Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. In 1971, the Act took effect, making each holiday federally recognized and giving workers additional three-day weekend—in part thanks to the lobbying efforts of the travel industry.
6. Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit that brings attention to prisoners of war and those who remain missing in action, holds a rally every Memorial Day.
In 1987, a group of veterans visited the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. While there, they realized just how pervasive the issue of missing Vietnam soldiers was. The status of over 1,000 soldiers remains unknown to this day. In the ’80s, as many as 2,700 soldiers’ fates were unknown. The men decided to organize a motorcycle rally the day before Memorial Day, hoping to create enough noise—both literal and figurative—that political groups would be forced to pay attention. Since the outset of their rally, an additional 1,100 unknown soldiers have been identified or discovered.
7. Although many towns claim to have been the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York is officially recognized as the first to commemorate the day.
General Logan may have made the first call for a national Memorial Day, but, as discussed earlier, it was far from the only day of remembrance. As early as 1866, people throughout the North and South gathered to memorialize fallen soldiers. Waterloo, New York was one of many towns to have a city-wide commemoration of those lost in the war. And while over two dozen towns and cities claim to be the first to have celebrated this day of remembrance, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day—in part because it was the only town to have consistently memorialized the day since its inception.
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in Laos during the Vietnam War, Army Capt. Gary Michael Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor.
“This will enshrine him into the history of our nation,” said President Donald J. Trump, during the Medal of Honor ceremony Oct. 23 at the White House.
Rose served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Army Special Forces. He was recognized for his actions between Sept. 11-14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.
Trump said Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation involved about 136 men, including 16 American soldiers and 120 Montagnards — indigenous people from Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
The men were inserted by helicopter deep inside Laos.
“Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much-needed cover,” Trump said. “Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety.”
That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.
“Mike and his unit slashed through the dense jungle, dodged bullets, dodged explosives, dodged everything that you can dodge because they threw it all at him, and continuously returned fire as they moved deeper and deeper and deeper into enemy territory,” Trump said.
“Throughout the engagement, Mike rescued those in distress without any thought for his own safety,” Trump said. “I will tell you, the people with him could not believe what they were witnessing. He crawled from one soldier to the next, offering words of encouragement as he tended to their wounds.”
Rose would repeat those selfless actions throughout the four-day Operation Tailwind mission.
Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.
“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded,” he said. “Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.”
On the fourth day in Laos, Rose and others boarded the third of four helicopters that had been sent in to evacuate participants of Operation Tailwind. So many troops had boarded the first three helicopters that the fourth remained empty. It seemed to be the end of the mission and a return to safety. But it was not.
That third helicopter was already damaged by enemy fire when it picked up Rose and the remainder of the fighters, and it took off with only one working engine. Shortly after lifting off, its remaining engine failed, meaning the aircraft would have to be “auto-rotated” to the ground.
On board was an injured Marine door gunner who had been shot through the neck and was bleeding profusely. As the helicopter pilots attempted to safely land a helicopter with no power, Rose tended to that young Marine’s neck — saving his life.
Ultimately, the helicopter crashed, and Rose yet again proved his valor.
“Mike was thrown off the aircraft before it hit the ground, but he raced back to the crash site and pulled one man after another out of the smoking and smoldering helicopter as it spewed jet fuel from its ruptured tanks,” Trump said.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American soldiers were able to return home. All of them had been injured. All but three of the Montagnards returned as well.
During those four days in Laos, “Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men,” Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, “their company disrupted the enemy’s continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives.”
Medal of Honor
At the White House for the event were members of Rose’s family, including his wife, Margaret, his three children and two grandchildren, and nine previous Medal of Honor recipients.
Also in attendance were 10 service members who fought alongside Rose during the operation: Sgt. Maj. Morris Adair, Sgt. Don Boudreau, 1st Sgt. Bernie Bright, Capt. Pete Landon, Sgt. Jim Lucas, Lt. Col. Gene McCarley, 1st Sgt. Denver Minton, Sgt. Keith Plancich, Spc. 5 Craig Schmidt, and Staff Sgt. Dave Young.
“To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You’ve earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation,” Trump said. “You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much.”
After speaking, Trump placed the Medal of Honor around Rose’s neck.
Following the Medal of Honor ceremony, Rose said he believed the medal he received was not only for him, but for all those who served — especially those who had fought in combat but who had not been able to be recognized due to the classified nature of their operations.
“This award, which I consider a collective medal, is for all of the men, to include the Air Force and the Marines who helped us,” Rose said. “This is our medal. We all earned it. And to a great extent, it is for all the men who fought for those seven years in MACSOG, and even further than that, for all the Special Forces groups who fought and died in that war.
“In honor of all those individuals that went for so many years, when the military didn’t recognize the fact that MACSOG even existed, and all of those men that fought — this kind of brings it home. And now our story has been told, and now with this award I am convinced that they have been recognized for the great service they provided to this country. Thank you and God bless the republic of the United States.”
Sylvester Stallone has been a role model for generations of men. He taught men how to box, how to fire a bow and most importantly, how to train abs. For me, the scene I still dream about to this day comes from that film where Sly single-handedly ended the Cold War, avenged his best friend’s death, and got a sick pump in the Russian countryside…Rocky IV.
The first time I can recall seeing Rocky IV was a dark and cold winter night a few days after the first time my dad let me and my brother stay up late and watch HBO fight night with him and my grandfather.
Something happened in the fight that spurred one of the elders to say something about Rocky defeating communism once and for all. At that moment, it was brought to my dad’s attention that my brother and I had no idea who Rocky was, let alone what soviet-style communism was. He planted the seed of patriotism in my soul that day…
Actually, watching Rocky IV a few nights later, I started to develop my idea of what it means to be a man and a patriot… you need to fight communism and have abs (pretty simple). Everything you need to know is in the epic seven-minute-long training sequence allow me to sum it up for you in a few bullet points:
Hero trains in a barn using everyday stuff to train for the fight of his life.
Villain trains in a lab with cutting edge technology and daily steroidal cocktails.
Hero runs through snow in boots with a beard… the working-class hero.
Villain runs on an indoor track in a spandex suit while pervy scientists take notes.
Hero chops wood, saws wood, carries wood, does pull-ups over burning wood.
Villain gets strapped into every type of metallic fitness machine you can think of.
Hero chops down a tree that is clearly much bigger than him.
Villain KOs sparring opponents that are clearly much smaller than him.
Hero climbs a mountain and hops up-and-down in some victory type dance.
Villain sprints on a steep incline treadmill and hangs his head in “defeat” when finally finished… foreshadowing?
The one clip from that montage that has been seared into my brain ever since my first viewing. Rocky does an ab exercise known as the Dragon Flag. The only thing Drago seared into my brain was his spandex suit crotch bulge (that’s a whole other article though…).
The dragon flag is the ultimate ab exercise. Let’s get into the specifics of the dragon flag next: what it does, how to do it, and how to train with it so that you’re ready when your country calls on you to end the current Cold War.
Bruce Lee is also famously known for crushing this exercise.
(Bruce Lee Foundation)
What it does
This is a great opportunity to discuss contraction types. There are three types that you should be concerned with: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. In a nutshell:
Concentric contractions shorten the muscle.
Isometric contractions don’t change the length of the muscle.
Eccentric contractions allow the muscle to lengthen while contracting.
The majority of your directed ab work probably includes concentric work. Think crunches, leg lifts, and sit-ups. You know, like the old, outdated ab strength PT tests… The muscles of the core do have the responsibility to flex the spine occasionally, but the majority of their job is actually to prevent the spine from moving…that’s isometric and eccentric work.
The Dragon flag is an eccentric and isometric exercise for those of you with some serious core control already. As you hold your legs extended straight out, like a long lever, and hold that position, you’re working isometrically. Then as you slowly and in a controlled fashion let your body lower to the ground you’re working eccentrically.
The dragon flag requires a strong anchor of support to be able to do it correctly. In the movie, Rocky uses a solid piece of wood to hold on to just behind his head. You need the same or a bar that is firmly fastened to the ground. Don’t try to do this on a crappy free bench at the gym; you’ll very quickly crack the flimsy particle board that it’s made out of.
Check out the Fitness FAQs video above for the exact details on how to train this exercise.
Be smart about how often you train this exercise. If you already have weak abs and are spending a lot of time in lower back extension, you are only going to make your pain worse. ONLY TRAIN GOOD REPS. You’re wasting your time if you don’t fully commit to this exercise.
If you guys like this type of article where I highlight a specific exercise, let me know in the Mighty Fit FB group here, so I keep doing more like this.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Mighty Fit plan here. Get in the best shape of your life in a smart and concise way that won’t injure you.
If you have specific questions about your training or how to prep for an upcoming military school send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.
“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.
Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.
“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.
The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:
Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.
Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Our assault team leader, Daddy-Mac, who would also accept Mac-Daddy as his call sign, had come to frown over the team’s overall performance during our pre-alert cycle weapons shake-out at Ft. Bragg’s Range 44, the most all-encompassing free-firing-est range on post.
We just didn’t take the shake out for what it was really worth. There was an opportunity there to train up and improve on skill sets… not just spray bullets down range to check the function of the gun. Really, that IS what the shake-out was about, but D-Mac saw it as an opportunity wasted; he was correct of course.
Shake-out meant we brought everything we had in our team room weapons vault and rocked the bejesus out of the Casbah for a day and night free-fire episode to make sure every aspect of our weapons were on point. Soldiers headed home for the evening would pull over and line the road shoulders to gaze at the spectacle; one they had never witnessed.
We focused our attention on crew-served machine guns, AT-4 anti-tank rockets, and the Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle (also an anti-tank weapon). Since our team weapons were already loaded for alert, we grabbed extra machine guns from the Unit arms room.
M-240 7.62 x 51mm (short barrel) crew-served machine gun.
We the men of Daddy-Mac’s assault team drove to the range to set up and wait for Mac-Daddy to arrive with the ammunition he brought from the Unit’s magazine. A potential easy day of zero coordination at the Unit ranges turned into one of modest coordination due to us not being allowed to fire automatic weapons on our Ranges.
On our compound our ranges were always open, so we never had to call up Range Control to request permission to open fire; we just coordinated for space internally and started shooting. To shoot machine guns and rockets meant we had to schedule a time and place to train from Range Control, then report when we started and stopped our training.
That restriction never actually stopped us from grabbing a few Ak-47s on an occasional day off from the usual grind to just blindly pump full-auto magazine after magazine of hate into a dirt berm. This was typically coupled with a thunderous “GET SOME” to compliment the cloud of erupting dirt plumes.
7.62 x 39mm AK-47, AK: Автома́т Кала́шникова, Avtomát Kaláshnikova — (“Kaláshnikov’s Automatic Rifle) 47 is the year that Kaláshnikov invented it.
There were times when we pumped a little too much hate into the berms, and Range Control would literally hear the automatic fire, or some loser would hear it and rat on us to Control. That typically lead to a report of admonition to filter down to team level whereby Daddy-Mac would quiz with an arched brow:
“Were any of you potato-head pipe-hitters rock-n-rollin’ on the ranges last week?”
“Gosh, Mac-Daddy… no Sir; none of us were doing that. That’s just awful; why, there ought to be an investigation and men severely punished!”
AT4 Anti-tank rocket.
“Lose the bullcrap. If you find out or you think you know who did it tell them to nix the Tom-Foolery.” Sure, message delivered in his Dad-Mac style; message gratefully received by us all. The fact was, Mac-Daddy always had our six, and by Lucifer we all had his too.
Daddy Mac pulled up in a cargo truck, and we started to pull and stack crates of ordnance. As shirts came off, we the almighty men of Mac-Daddy’s assault team became painfully aware that there was far, far more ammunition than we could ever expend ourselves:
“Lord Jesus, Daddy-Mac… just what time are you expecting the Chinese hoards to attack? Aha…”
Mac-Daddy returned regard with just a heavenward arch of brow: “Right now, so let’s get started!”
Author (left) and Daddy-Mac joking as they prep for range fire.
In all, there were 17,000 rounds of 7.62 x 51mm for the machine gun, 25 AT-4 Anti-Tank rockets, and 50 rounds for the recoilless rifle. Every single report of either of those rockets was a guaranteed bell ring for the gunner. My head hurt just looking at it all.
“Daddy-Mac… we can’t shoot all these rockets, not by regulation we can’t; we’ll tear our pericardiums with all that concussion… we won’t be fit for duty with shredded heart sacks,” I whined.
“Guys, today is a good day to get good,” he began with a sinister grin that was developing across his face, “and that’s what we are going to do; we’re going to get good on all these weapons. Lock and load; I’ll open the range,” and Mac-D fenced with Range Control to open his range.
One of the bros grabbed an AT-4 and plopped in a firing pit behind cover and started to administratively prepare it for fire.
“Nope, nope, nope… not like that.” Mac-Daddy interrupted, “That is no longer how we employ AT. Sling that rocket and stand back 50 meters from the pit. At my signal you’ll, sprint to the pit and take cover. Once you start your sprint, I’ll call out your target. You need to have your distance figured out during the sprint. Once under cover, prep your rocket then pop up and fire. If you take longer than five seconds on your pop up… you fail whether you get a hit or not.”
Now I was pumped. This was realistic training, yes it was!
84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.
I did field a reservation about this training scenario: range conduct was very rigid and confining. Weapons were only to be loaded strictly on the firing line under strictly-controlled guidelines. Sprinting with loaded ordnance from a distance behind the firing line was absolutely out of bounds!
“Daddy-Mac, Range Control would crap a cinder block if they saw this,” warned a pipe-hitter.”
“Well Range Control ain’t here are they, so there’ll be no masonry crapping… now on your mark, get set, GO!”
So it went, and the competition was red-hot with second after second being shaved off of best times. Expended AT-4 tubes were strewn about making the firing line look the blast side of Mt. St. Helen. The machine gun rattled away thousands of rounds of jacketed lead further heating the already blazing-hot North Cackalacky summer day.
“Good Christ… you could glaze ceramics out here…” lamented a gunner.
Mac-Daddy: “What you meant to say was, RELOAD!” The gun spat and the rockets belched on.
A Range Control truck hockey-slid at our firing line and a cantankerous man scowled from his window:
Firing the 84mm Carl Gustav Recoilless rifle.
“Cease fire, cease fire!! …you’re destroying my range!”
The machine gun had been digging deeper and deeper V-shaped ruts into the known-distance berms, and some of the armor target subjects were just… simply… gone.
Mac Daddy closed the distance to the truck’s window and:
“How about you get off my range, tough guy! You can’t put me on check fire; I own this range! What you need to do is, first of all, get the f*ck off MY range, and second, you need to get some more armor out here and fill in those ruts in the berms before I come out here next. Fire at will, boys!!” And the machine gun rumbled, and the rockets red glared.
“You probably should send this one to depot,” I suggested as I turned in the machine gun to the armorer that night, “she’s seen better days.”
The moral of the story is: when Daddy-Mac tells you to jump, you request how high and crouch, because Mac-Daddy is going to make you jump.
As for what we took away from Mac-Daddy’s lesson, there was palpable embarrassment how we pissed away a live-fire opportunity on an admin shake-out, and we never treated it the same way. Every belt of machine gunfire, every rocket salvo was preceded by a physically taxing event that mimicked an engagement under the stress of combat. How could we have been so obtuse? We didn’t know, but it wasn’t going to happen again.
In 2011, the Carolina Panthers were up 14-0 against the Houston Texans. With time running out in the first half, Carolina ran a trick play that saw quarterback Cam Newton secretly slip the ball between the legs of tight end Richie Brockel after quickly taking the snap. Brockel ran the ball in for another touchdown and the Panthers would win the game, 28-13.
After the game, reporters wanted to know where head coach Ron Rivera drew inspiration for the play. The answer was the movie, Little Giants.
The play even has a name – “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” – and it was devised by the tiny computer nerd, “Nubie,” who explained it to John Madden as a slow fake play with the quarterback running to one side of the field and a tailback picking up the ball and swinging around the opposite way.
“The Annexation of Puerto Rico” from the 1994 movie “Little Giants”
The play in Little Giants sounds a lot like the legendary trick play, the fumblerooski, where the hidden ball is purposely set down by the QB who then distracts the opposing team by running with the “ball” or “handing it off” to another player. Then, another player, usually a player no one would suspect, like a lineman, picks it up, and runs it home.
It might literally be the oldest trick in the book, which is what might have attracted Ron Rivera to the “Annexation of Puerto Rico” in the first place.
For the Carolina Panthers, they couldn’t purposely forward fumble the ball, that’s illegal in the NFL. And they still had to fool the Texans defenders. So Cam Newton takes the quick snap and most of the Carolina players continue the play as if it’s moving to the right, while others make key blocks to keep the way clear for Brockel.
Who says real life is nothing like the movies?
Actor Ed O’Neill played Kevin O’Shea, the coach of the Little Giants’ number one enemy: the Cowboys. During an interview with NFL analyst Rich Eisen, Eisen told O’Neill the play had actually been used by an NFL team. O’Neill is an avid football fan and former NFL player who was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being cut by the team in 1969.
He had no idea. His response (with a smile): “You gotta be kidding me.”
For a lot of sailors serving in the Vietnam War, especially those on aircraft carriers, the war effort was a matter of routine. For many, that daily routine didn’t involve much combat. But for the Navy’s river force, among a few other units, it was a different story. The pilots who flew from carriers or land bases, the SEALs and members of the Underwater Demolition Teams, and Navy corpsmen all saw plenty of action, among others.
One other group of sailors who often saw combat was the Navy’s riverine force. This force, known as the “Brown Water Navy,” took on the Viet Cong (and later, the North Vietnamese Army) in the Mekong Delta. These days, there are much newer, riverine combat vessels in service, and “brown water” sailors have seen action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Vietnam, two classes of vessel primarily carried out operations. The first were PBRs (Patrol Boat Riverine). The Navy bought 32 of these 32-foot long vessels, each of which displaced seven tons. For small ships, they packed a huge punch: Three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher came standard. These small boats could be loaded up extras, too, including 7.62mm machine guns, 60mm mortars, and even flamethrowers!
Whatever configuration, these river force boats brought a lot of firepower for a crew of four to unleash on the enemy.
A crewman rests near the forward gun turret of a PBR.
The other vessel was the Patrol Craft Fast, known as the PCF or “Swift Boat.” This vessel, famous for being served on by former Secretary of State John Kerry (whose service drew controversy in 2004), packed three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and had a crew of six. 193 were built, and while they’re most famous for their service in Vietnam, the PCF was also exported.
Swift Boats take South Vietnamese Marines to their infiltration point.
While the sailors who went into harm’s way deserve our thanks, they could never have done it without the help of those who carried out maintenance on the vessels that brought them to the fight.
See how those maintainers kept the PBRs and Swift Boats in service and in action below!
The day started out with a close-air support mission and ended with the first Navy air-to-air “kill” since 1991.
Three months after an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the carrier George H.W. Bush shot down a Syrian Su-22 Fitter near Raqqa, Syria, on June 18, 2017 the four Navy pilots who participated in the mission offered a blow-by-blow account during a special panel at the Tailhook 2017 Symposium.
In a recording first uncovered by The Drive, the pilots describe an operating environment that had become more unpredictable and dynamic.
The George W. Bush, which had been launching daily airstrikes from the Persian Gulf, had moved into the Mediterranean in early June, just days before the mission.
“Everyone’s kind of heading to the same place that day, to Raqqa,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael “MOB” Tremel, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the “Golden Warriors,” who would ultimately execute the shoot-down that day.
“At that point in time, the [area of responsibility] was pretty hot in that general vicinity and a lot of guys were dropping bombs,” he said.
Walking to the jets, the mission of the day was close-air support, and that’s what the pilots on board the Bush were prepared for.
But there was time en route for a cup of coffee — both Tremel and his wingman, VFA-87 training officer Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, enjoyed some java at 22,000 feet inbound to Raqqa, Tremel said.
“Again, we briefed to CAS and that was going to be our mission that day, so we felt like it would be in our wheelhouse, what we were doing,” he said. “But we also trained to all the air-to-air contingencies we might have and we talked about that.”
Eventually, the aircraft arrive in the region and coordinated with two other Hornet pilots, all in a “stack” above the area of operation. All four were communicating about events playing out on the ground far below.
“We’re hearing that the situation’s getting more heated on the ground with some of the friendly forces getting closer to some of the Syrian forces so, based on that, we get Jo Jo and MOB on the radio,” said Lt. Cmdr. William “Vieter” Vuillet, a pilot with another squadron attached to the Bush, VFA-37 “Raging Bulls.”
As the pilots prepared to execute their CAS mission, someone spotted a Russian Flanker aircraft circling overhead, an occurrence the pilots said was not unusual in the region.
Throughout the deployment, the pilots said, their interactions with Russian fighters were professional.
But as a cautionary measure, Tremel, who previously had some minor technical issues with his aircraft, volunteered to follow the aircraft and monitor its actions.
Picking Up the Syrian Aircraft
“I’ll extend out in air-to-air master mode while these guys are in air-to-ground master mode to monitor the situation on the ground,” Tremel said. “That’s when I’ll pick up an unknown aircraft approaching from the south.”
Observers, including Air Force assets in the region, were sending conflicting information about the identity of the aircraft, but eventually a consensus emerged that it was a Syrian plane.
Tremel decided the best thing he could do is get a visual ID on the aircraft and its activities, so he decided to descend and get a better look.
Meanwhile, Krueger worked to streamline radio communications, shedding secondary tasks and focusing on keeping information flowing as the situation unfolded.
As Tremel neared the Syrian aircraft, he emphasized that he was ready to return to his primary job as soon as he could be sure it posed no danger to friendly forces.
“Our whole mission out there was to defeat ISIS, annihilate ISIS,” he said. “So as quickly as we can get back to that mission, that was our goal that day … At any point in time, if this had de-escalated, that would have been great. We would have gotten mission success and [gone] back to continue to drop bombs on ISIS.”
But that was not to happen. The Hornets began putting out radio warning calls to persuade the SU-22 Fitter to turn around, but it kept approaching friendly ground forces.
Krueger then advised that the U.S. aircraft should execute “head-butts,” close overhead passes on the Syrian aircraft with warning flares, Tremel said.
They ultimately did three such passes, with no effect on the Syrian plane.
Su-22 Releases Ordnance
“After that third one, he [proceeded] to execute a dive and release ordnance in proximity of friendly forces,” Tremel said.
As the Syrian aircraft climbed after dropping ordnance, Tremel would respond, firing an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. For reasons he didn’t explain, the sidewinder missed the Fitter.
“I lose the smoke trail and I have no idea what happened to the missile at that point in time,” he said.
Losing little time, Tremel let another missile fly — an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM. This time, it had the desired effect.
“The aircraft will pitch right and down and pilot will jump out and left in his ejection seat,” he said.
Wanting to stay clear of the debris field, Tremel executed a quick turn to the left, he said, allowing the ejection seat to pass to the right of his canopy.
The pilots described the events in understated terms, but acknowledged adrenaline was high as they returned to operations.
Vieter, who descended to get a visual following the air-to-air engagement, said he and the pilot flying with him, Lt. Stephen “Scotty P” Gasecki, could not resist getting on a secure communication channel to tell the tanker crew what happened when they went to refuel.
Vieter and Gasecki opted to continue with their mission, while Tremel and Krueger soon decided to return to the ship.
‘No Small Feat’
Krueger said it was “no small feat” for Tremel to take the initiative to arm his aircraft and fire ordnance at an armed aircraft for the first time in two-and-a-half decades.
“Looking at the wreckage down below us, It was a different feeling,” Krueger said. “… We had to make some decisions pretty quickly, and I thought that the training and commander’s guidance that we got at that point was a big deal.”
Upon return to the ship, the fanfare was underwhelming; the sentiment was merely that “the show goes on,” Tremel said.
He shook a few hands on the flight deck, then was ushered away, the ordnance remaining on his aircraft quickly reloaded onto other fighters that would launch within the hour.
He even completed his scheduled safety officer duties once back aboard the ship, he said.
As he addressed the Navy’s annual convention of fighter pilots, though, the atmosphere was different.
“It’s extremely surreal to be sitting here in this environment,” Tremel said. “I couldn’t have done it without the guy sitting next to me, Jo Jo, and the other guys that were airborne. It was an absolute team effort, to include all the coordination that went on with the Air Force the entire time we were in the AOR.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Franciscoadan Orellana, a Gretna, Louisiana, resident assigned to the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Mission Support Group, donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Alejandra Orellana, April 11.
Alejandra’s health issues began 10 years ago when she was pregnant with her son. She suffered from eclampsia, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes, which caused her son to be born premature at 31 weeks.
Although her son was healthy, the doctors said her veins had collapsed and her organs were shutting down. During the following years she experienced further complications, including being diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease.
“The whole family was there for me, but mainly my brother took the role of, ‘What do you need? or What can I do for you?'” she said. “He was really wonderful.”
Not wanting to continue with hemodialysis because of the stress on veins in her neck and chest, her doctor recommended peritoneal dialysis which uses the lining of the stomach as a natural filter. Ultimately, her kidney disease progressed and her case was presented to the kidney transplant board.
In November 2016, after numerous tests and reviews of her medical history, Alejandra Orellana’s case was accepted and she was placed on a transplant waiting list. That’s when Franciscoadan took action and informed his family that he would donate one of his kidneys.
“I still remember telling my family the good news, and my sister responding, ‘No, I couldn’t live with myself if something were to happen to you,'” Franciscoadan said. “That’s when I told them I wasn’t asking them for permission and immediately started the process of testing to see if we were a match.”
Out of five siblings, Franciscoadan and Alejandra are particularly close. Franciscoadan describes his sister as the backbone of the family, a confidant who is very supportive of his career in the military.
Franciscoadan was determined to donate a kidney to his sister, regardless of personal health risks or career consequences. Knowing that a health issue could potentially have an effect on his military career, he met with his commander and the 159th Medical Group for advice.
“When Staff Sgt. Orellana first told me about his desire to determine his compatibility I was not surprised he was contemplating this,” said Air Force Col. Brian Callahan, the 159th Mission Support Group commander. “When he sees a need, he automatically goes into a ‘fix it’ mode.”
Over the next few months, Franciscoadan underwent a series of tests and interviews. To ensure he was a match and was healthy enough to donate, he had between 20-30 vials of blood drawn, X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs.
He also had to meet with social workers, psychologists, financial advisors, and the transplant team to make certain he wasn’t being coerced and to assure he was acting of his own free will.
“The fact that it was his sister only increased his desire to find a successful outcome. He went through all of the testing and when it was determined he was a match, there was no turning back,” Callahan said. “He went through all of the proper steps to determine if this would impact his military service and, upon hearing there wouldn’t be, he went full speed ahead to help his sister. He attacks his work with that exact fervor.”
Franciscoadan said his military training and mindset is what allowed him to act swiftly and expedite the screening process.
“Warrior ethos came into play. This is a mission,” he said. “It’s a confidence, being in the military. There’s a warrior mind frame and sometimes you don’t get a chance to the think; you just execute.”
The seven-hour surgery was successful, and the siblings were soon on the road to recovery. Overcoming this challenge has strengthened their relationship and allowed them to grow even closer.
“Our relationship is stronger than ever, just like my family’s relationship is stronger than ever,” Franciscoadan said. “It’s humbling to know that you have that support always.”
Alejandra’s new kidney took effect immediately. She was retaining fluid before the surgery, but that is now going away and she hopes to soon reach an ideal weight to be eligible for a pancreas transplant as she continues her battle with diabetes.
Today, she looks to the future as an advocate for organ donations and plans to speak at schools, businesses, and fundraisers to educate people about the screening process and motivate them to act.
As for Franciscoadan, he wants people to understand that donating a kidney was a privilege and an honor. He has a healthy life, and continues to serve his country, and be an active community volunteer with one kidney. He is scheduled to deploy next year, once he is fully recovered.
“I have noticed that life will put you in situations where all you can do is act. It is at those times when you must stop thinking and simply execute,” Franciscoadan said. “I truly feel God gave me two healthy kidneys knowing that when the time came, I would have the ability to give one up.”
The scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who are accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group is much larger than has been reported, Business Insider has learned.
The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May 2016. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.
The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations of men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or by where they are currently stationed.
The revelation comes on the heels of an explosive story published earlier this week by journalist Thomas Brennan. He reported on a Facebook group called “Marines United,” which was home to approximately 30,000 members that were sharing nude photos of colleagues, along with personal information and even encouragement of sexual assault.
The report led the Marine Corps to open an investigation, spurred widespread outrage in the media and in Congress, and prompted sharp condemnation from the Corps’ top leaders. According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, investigators in that case are considering felony charges that could carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.
An official familiar with the matter told Business Insider the Marine Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, would be briefing members of the House Armed Services Committee on the scandal some time next week.
“We’re examining some of our policies to see if we can make them punitive in nature,” the official said, adding that the Corps was taking the issue very seriously.
Facebook group exodus leads to message board’s popularity
Brennan’s story also led to an apparent exodus of members from the private Facebook group, though some appeared to have found the publicly viewable message board soon after — with the express intent of finding the cache of nude images Marines in the Facebook group were sharing.
“Come on Marines share the wealth here before that site is nuked and all is lost,” wrote one anonymous user who posted on March 6, just two days after Brennan’s story was published. Follow-up replies offered a link to a Dropbox folder named “Girls of MU” with thousands of photographs inside.
Dropbox did not respond to a request for comment.
Members on the board often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of a female service member.
For example, after posting the first name and photograph of a female soldier in uniform on January 21, one board member asked: “Army chick went to [redacted], ig is [redacted].” Another user, apparently frustrated no pictures had yet been found, posted a few days later: “BUMP. Let’s see them t——.”
On another thread, a member posted a photograph on May 30, 2016, of a female service member with her breasts exposed, asking, “She is in the navy down in san diego, anyone have any more wins?”
One user followed up on June 13, offering another nude photo of the purported female sailor.
“Keep them coming! She’s got them floating around someone [sic] and I’ve wanted to see this for a while,” another user wrote in response.
Some requested nude photographs by unit or location.
One user in September 2016 asked for photos of women in the Massachusetts National Guard, while another requested some from the Guard in Michigan. Other requests included nude pictures of any women stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, or Naval Medical Center in San Diego, along with many more US military installations around the world.
In statements to Business Insider, military branches universally denounced the message board and promised discipline for any service members who engaged in activities of misconduct.
“This alleged behavior is inconsistent with our values,” Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told Business Insider.
Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Business Insider the service expects that the discovery of the Marines United page will motivate others to come forward to report other pages like it.
“Marines will attack this problem head-on and continue to get better,” Alvis said.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, a spokesperson for the Army, told Business Insider: “The Army is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to be treated with dignity and respect. As members of the Army team, individuals’ interaction offline and online reflect on the Army and its values. Soldiers or civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether offline or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary, and/or administrative action.”
Air Force spokesperson Zachary Anderson told Business Insider: “We expect our Airmen to adhere to these values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, that does not adhere to these principles will not be tolerated. Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”
The Navy did not respond to a request for comment.
‘Hope we can find more on this gem’
The image board hosts disturbing conversations from what appears, in many cases, to be between active-duty personnel.
“Any wins of [redacted]?” read one request, which shared further details about a female Marine’s whereabouts, indicating the anonymous user likely worked with her in the past.
Another thread posted in November 2016, which saw dozens of follow-up comments as users acted as cyber-sleuths to track down the victim, started with a single photograph of a female Marine, fully clothed, taken from her Instagram account.
“Any wins?” that user asked, telling others the Marine’s first name and where she had been stationed.
One user hinted at her last name as others scoured her Instagram account, posting more photos that they had found. One photo of the victim and her friend prompted one user to ask for nude photos of the friend, as well: “Any of the dark haired girl in the green shirt and jeans next to her?”
The thread carried on for months.
“Amazing thread,” one user wrote. “Hope we can find more on this gem.”
In December, a nude photo was finally posted. “dudeee more,” one user wrote in response. Many others responded by “bumping” the thread to the top, so that others on the board would see it and potentially post more photos. Indeed, more photos soon appeared from the victim’s Instagram account, which was apparently made private or shut down numerous times.
On the board, users complained that her Instagram account kept disappearing, apparently due to the victim trying to thwart her harassers. But others quickly found her new accounts and told others, with the new Instagram account names being shared throughout the month of February.
“Oh god please someone have that p—-,” one user wrote.
The site that hosts the message board seems to have little moderation and few rules, though it does tell users: “Don’t be evil.” Its posting rules instruct members to not post personal details such as addresses, telephone numbers, links to social networks, or last names.
Still, large numbers of users on the board do not appear to follow those rules.
In one popular thread started on January 9, an anonymous user posted non-nude pictures of a female airman, teasing others with the caption: “Anyone know her or have anything else on her? I’ve got a lot more if there is interest. Would love for her friends and family to see these.”
The user, who suggested he was a jilted ex-boyfriend, judging by the accompanying captions, posted many more photos in the following hours and days.
“She knows how to end it all. If she does get in contact with me I won’t post anymore. So get it while it’s hot!” he wrote.
Later in the thread, the man even referred to the airman by name and told her to check her Instagram messages.
“Wow, she blocked me on Instagram!” he later wrote. “Stupid c— must want me to post her s— up. I gave her a choice, it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not a bad guy, she had a choice. Oh well, no point in holding back now. I want you all to share this everywhere you can, once I start seeing her more places I’ll post her video.”
Aside from those serving on active-duty, even some who identified themselves as cadets at some military service academies started their own threads to try to find nude photos of their female classmates.
In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some purported cadets shared photos and class graduation years of their female classmates.
“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user asked, apparently in reference to photos taken surreptitiously in the women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.
A spokesperson for West Point did not respond to a request for comment.
“Bumping all 3 service academies’ threads to see who can post the best wins in the next 7 days. Winning school gets the [commander’s cup],” one user wrote. “Go Army, Beat Everyone.”
‘This has to be treated harshly’
The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.
A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that more than 20,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. Nearly six times that number reported being sexually harassed. In some cases even, the military has pushed out victims of sexual assault who have reported it, instead of the perpetrators.
“I’m kind of surprised. I’m still naive I think, on some level,” said Kate Hendricks Thomas, a former Marine Corps officer who is now an assistant professor at Charleston Southern University. “I am really disappointed to hear that the reach is broader than 30,000 and a couple of now-defunct websites.”
Thomas criticized past responses to the problem, in which some have indicated the issue is too difficult for the military to wrap its arms around.
“This renders us less mission-effective. It’s got to be a priority,” she said.
“These websites are not boys being boys,” she added. “This is a symptom of rape culture.”
The message board also presents a challenge for military leaders, who may face an uphill battle in trying to find, and potentially prosecute, active-duty service members who share photos on the site. Unlike the Marines United Facebook group, where many users posted under their real names, the newly-revealed message board’s user base is mostly anonymous, and the site itself is registered in the Bahamas, outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement.
Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security issues, told Business Insider the military may have a hard time convincing the internet service provider to shut down the website. Instead, he explained, the victims themselves may have more legal standing when contacting the ISP in order to get photos removed.
Still, Moss believes the military could squash the behavior if it adopted a “zero-tolerance” posture.
“I think that absolutely 100% should be the policy. If they catch the main perpetrators who are sharing these photos around and essentially engaging in revenge porn,” Moss said. “They should have a zero-tolerance policy, and boot them from the military with a dishonorable discharge.”
“If they do anything less, it’s only going to incentivize this behavior in the future,” he added. “This has to be treated harshly.”
The reply that came during a seance, according to a defendant’s testimony given at a Kyiv court on March 10, 1948, was that the Soviet dictator was no such thing.
Coming at a time when Josef Stalin’s cult of personality was at its height, such a conversation was sure to attract attention. Especially because the founding father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, was allegedly the one replying from beyond the grave during the conjuring, more than two decades after his death.
Other court evidence revealed that during one of the seances “Lenin” predicted from the afterlife that war was coming — six countries would soon free the Soviet people from Stalin’s yoke.
When asked about the future of Soviet power, an unidentified Russian revolutionary responded that “it won’t exist, with the help of America.”
Such “conversations” were revealed in archived documents of trial testimony and interrogations carried out by the Soviet State Security Ministry (MGB), which included the secret police.
Aside from Lenin, the court heard from a number of early Soviet A-listers, some of whom might have cause to slander Stalin.
Lenin and Stalin.
There was archrival Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940 on the Soviet leader’s orders. And Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, who died under mysterious circumstances after a public argument with her husband in 1932.
Others speaking from the grave included the writers Maxim Gorky and Aleksandr Kuprin, as well as famed rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
Their questioners were not members of the Bolshevik inner circle, but ordinary residents of the north-central Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva who had never even belonged to the Communist Party.
For their role in conjuring up voices from the past, Ilya Gorban, his sister Vera Sorokina, and his lover Olga Rozova were arrested and accused of anti-Soviet acts and the “creation of an illegal religious-mystical group of spiritists.”
Gorban was an unaccomplished artist when he moved to Bila Tserkva from Kyiv in early 1947, a year before the trial.
The 44-year-old native of the Poltava region had designed museum exhibits and prepared posters and portraits of Lenin for demonstrations. He was wounded during World War II while manning an anti-tank gun near Orel.
He had married and fathered a child. But the marriage ended in divorce and his daughter lived with her mother.
Gorban settled into his new life in Bila Tserkva with his sister, Vera, and got a job at the local industrial plant as a sculptor.
A book lover, he frequented the city library and soon entered into a romance with 39-year-old Olga Rozova, a library employee.
Rozova was married. But her husband — Andrei Rozov, a journalist with a newspaper in Voronezh — had been accused of belonging to an “anti-Soviet Trotskyite terrorist organization” in 1938 and imprisoned for 10 years.
While at work, Gorban had a conversation with colleague Mikhail Ryabinin, who asked the sculptor if he believed in the afterlife and the existence of spirits.
Gorban said he did not, but he did take Ryabinin up on his recommendation that he read the Spirits Book — written in 1856 by Frenchman Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail under the pen name Allan Kardec and considered one of the pillars of spiritism.
The doctrine of spiritism, or Kardecism, centers on the belief that the spirits of the dead survive beyond mortal life and can communicate with the living. The communication usually takes place during seances conducted by a person serving as a medium between this world and the otherworld.
Gorban read it with fascination and proposed that Ryabinin organize a seance. His friend declined, however, saying according to case files that “all these sessions with plates — they are nonsense and baby talk. I contact the spirits at a higher level.”
Gorban’s sister agreed to try, however, and together they conducted a seance based on what they had learned.
They lit candles and sat at a table with a sheet of paper in the center. On the paper the letters of the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words “yes” and “no” were drawn in a circle.
A seance board similar to the one used in Bila Tserkva
A saucer with an arrow from the center to the edge was set over the paper.
The idea was to call on the spirts of a particular person and, if he or she appeared, to ask them questions. If all went well the saucer, beneath the hands of participants, would begin to rotate freely and without force, spelling out answers by pointing to the appropriate symbols on the paper.
Altogether, Gorban and his sister conducted 15 to 20 seances in the summer and autumn of 1947. At times they reached out to people outside the Soviet circle. The spirits of deceased relatives were often conjured up, including the siblings’ mother, who allegedly gave the pair everyday advice. They even got a hold of Alexander Pushkin, but the Russian poet “cursed” them.
Gorban’s girlfriend, Olga Rozova, began to join the sessions, and the group conjured up a late writer who began to compliment her.
“I suspected that this was a trick of Gorban’s, with whom I had been in an intimate relationship,” she recalled during her courtroom interrogation. “The whole session was of a purely personal, amorous character.”
Some sessions were held at Rozova’s apartment, which was inside the library. A friend of hers who headed the local school library, Varvara Shelest, took an interest and also started attending the sessions.
The last seance, according to testimony of group members, was held in December 1947.
They asked Lenin’s spirit about the monetary reforms enacted that year, which included the denomination of the ruble and the confiscation of personal savings.
Knock on the door
A couple of months later Chekists — agents of the feared secret service — came for them.
Rozova was detained on Feb. 19, 1948; Sorokina and Gorban were taken away the next day.
The case was transferred to the authorities in Kyiv, and the trial began on March 6, just two weeks after the suspects were detained.
From the MGB’s point of view, the seances were evidence of the formation of an “illegal religious-mystical group” — which on its own could have led to imprisonment. But the authorities took things one step further by adding the more serious “anti-Soviet” charge.
“This seance had a sharply anti-Soviet character,” read one file. “This deliberate slander pertained to one of the leaders of the [Communist] Party and government.”
When initially questioned, the three did not appear to hide that they had participated in seances. Gorban and Sorokina wrote them off as an attempt to have fun; Rozova said there was no intended goal.
Joseph Stalin, Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin.
But ultimately their confessions were recorded by their interrogators — the sessions were driven by anti-Soviet sentiment and were just a “convenient screen” for “slanderous agitation.”
In his interrogation report, Gorban was quoted as saying he had “tried to defame and slander the Soviet powers and the leaders of the Party and government” to expose the “talentlessness” of Soviet leaders to his alleged accomplices.
Disgruntled by postwar poverty, it was Gorban who had directed the movements of the saucer, according to the documents.
During their trial, those alleged admissions were recanted. Each of the three defendants declared that they did not believe in the otherworld or spirits. When queried about their religious beliefs, each answered that they were atheists. And their sessions, they said, were for entertainment.
“I didn’t think that our sessions were anti-Soviet,” Sorokina testified. “What we did was, of course, not good, but I was, am, and will remain a Soviet person.”
As for the saucer, Gorban said, he had no idea how it moved. All admitted to partial guilt, according to the court files.
The ruling in their case came on March 10, after just two court sessions.
The three were found guilty of anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation, and of participation in a counterrevolutionary organization.
Gorban was sentenced to 25 years in a labor camp; Rozova and Sorokina to 10 years each. Gorban would have been executed had the verdict come a year earlier — but the death penalty had recently been suspended.
The mystery of ‘North’
The role of Gorban’s colleague in all this was not forgotten. A criminal case was opened against Ryabinin — the man who had suggested Gorban read the Spirits Book — the same day the others were sentenced.
It is unclear, however, what might have happened to him.
Rozova’s friend, Shelest, also remains a mystery. Despite her attendance at the group’s seances, she was apparently never detained.
According to the case files, she disappeared shortly after the others were nabbed. Material related to her was transferred to a different case, a common step intended to avoid the search for the accused slowing down the investigations of those detained.
When it later emerged that the others had been arrested as part of an underground sting operation, Shelest’s name was not listed among the targets. And when the MGB informed other Soviet authorities about the eradication of a group of spiritists in Bila Tserkva, it made mention only of an informant — codenamed “Sever” (North) — who had attended some of the sessions.
But Shelest’s name did pop up. During their trial the three defendants claimed it was Shelest who initiated most of the “political” questions posed to spirits — including Trotsky, Alliluyeva, and Gorky. Rozova said she had suspicions that Shelest had manipulated the saucer’s movements.
In requesting a pardon in 1954, one year after Stalin’s death, Rozova wrote that “at the trial it became clear to me that Shelest had been tasked with creating an anti-Soviet crime from our seances.” She further argued that Shelest continued to live in Bila Tserkva, yet no one was trying to question her.
Around the same time a prosecutor wrote that while Sorokina and Rozova were “addicted to spiritism because of their curiosity and irresponsibility,” their actions did not result in serious consequences. The two, the prosecutor argued, should be released.
The Supreme Court eventually ruled that while the verdicts handed down against Gorban, Sorokina, and Rozova were correct, their sentences were too harsh.
Sorokina and Rozova were released on Feb. 22, 1955, seven years after their arrest. The decision came too late for Gorban, who died in 1950 while incarcerated at a labor camp near the Arctic Circle.
In 1992 — less than one year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union — all three were rehabilitated.