The news comes after the first major talks between North Korea and South Korea in two years, which began earlier this month amid soaring tensions between the U.S., its ally South Korea, and North Korea. Both the unified Korean flag and the inclusion of North Korean athletes in the games were discussed during those talks.
South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, floated the idea of North Korea participating in the games early in his presidency, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed a willingness to engage in talks about the Olympics during his New Year’s address, during which he also threatened the U.S. with nuclear annihilation.
Despite the invitation, North Korea has few athletes capable of competing in the games.
Pyongyang will also reportedly send a 180-member orchestra to the games, but it’s closely tied to North Korean propaganda that glorifies the country’s missile and nuclear programs and the government.
While the inclusion in the Olympics may seem a bright spot for improved relations, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser reportedly dismissed the talks between the Koreas as “diversions,” and his secretary of state on Jan. 17 did not rule out a military strike on North Korea.
A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.
“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”
Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.
Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.
“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.
Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.
Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.
“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.
Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.
“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.
Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.
During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.
“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.
That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.
“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.
The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.
That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.
As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.
The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.
“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), closed out 2018 on a high note with the acceptance of the ship’s first advanced weapons elevator (AWE), setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead.
AWE Upper Stage #1 was turned over to the ship on Dec. 21, 2018, following testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the ship is currently working through its post-shakedown availability (PSA). The acceptance marks a major milestone for the ship and the Ford-class of aircraft carriers to follow.
USS Gerald R. Ford is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier and is the first new carrier design in over 40 years. Unlike Nimitz-class carrier elevators that utilize cables for movement, the Ford class elevators are commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors allowing for greater capacities and a faster movement of weapons.
The new design will allow the ship to be able to move up to 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute. This is in contrast to the 10,500 pounds at up to 100 feet-per-minute on a Nimitz-class carrier.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
“This will allow us to load more aircraft faster, and in the long run, increase our overall sortie generation rates,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford’s ordnance handling officer.
But aside from the advantages of the new AWE, the new ship design also offered a chance to streamline the overall movement and assembly of weapons to allow for even greater efficiencies. Ford features three upper stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and flight deck, and seven lower stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and the lower levels of the ship. Ford also features a dedicated weapons handling area between the hangar bay and the flight deck, on the 02 level, that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations. This ultimately offers a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft.
An additional benefit of the ship’s design is a separate utility elevator that can serve as a dedicated elevator to move both ordnance and supplies, and also serve as a means to medically evacuate (MEDEVAC) injured personnel from the flight deck to the hangar bay. This allows the 10 main AWEs and Ford’s three aircraft elevators to be dedicated to their primary missions of ordnance and aircraft movement during real-world operations.
To keep up with the new technologies and radical changes that the AWEs offer, Ford sailors recently completed newly developed familiarization, operations and maintenance training in Newport News to become better educated on how to work with and maintain the elevators. The crew is now conducting hands-on training where they will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation. Their feedback and observations will ultimately inform future sailors how to properly and safely operate the elevators.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
Alexander said sailors are now training with the elevator which will complement the classroom instruction they have received to this point.
“Getting this elevator turned over to the ship and allowing our sailors to get hands-on training on the elevator will help in two ways,” said Alexander. “One, it will help in the training and understanding of the system itself, and two, to work out any bugs that remain with the system during our PSA.”
Though the first elevator has been accepted, work still remains on the remaining 10. Currently, all shipboard installation and testing activities of the AWEs are due to be completed prior to the end of Ford’s PSA, scheduled for July 2019. However, some remaining certification documentation will be performed for five of the 11 elevators after PSA completion.
According to Alexander, while there was sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in having the first elevator turned over, the team working on the elevators can’t rest on this single event.
“We’re all 100 percent invested in this, but there’s still work left to do,” Alexander explained. “We’re all one big team with the same goal in mind: to get these systems operational and turned over to the ship.
“I think it was a greater sense of accomplishment to my sailors that have been working on these systems for the last 4-to-5 years,” he said. “To be able to finally push the buttons and watch it operate like it’s designed to do was a great feeling. Once these systems are proven, they are going to pay huge dividends for naval strike capability.”
The new weapons would render NATO’s US-led missile defense “useless,” and is a testament to the international community’s failure to contain Russia’s military development, the Associated Press reported Putin as saying.
I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened. You have failed to contain Russia.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has outlined draft legislation that would allow Russian forces to shoot down civilian passenger planes within the country’s airspace.
The draft document placed on the government’s list of proposed legislation says passenger planes that cross into Russian airspace without authorization and do not answer warning signals or respond to warning shots can be shot down if they are deemed to pose a threat of mass deaths, ecological catastrophe, or an assault on strategic targets.
After 33 days stranded on a deserted island, three Cuban nationals were rescued by the United States Coast Guard.
After losing their boat when it capsized, the two men and a woman swam to a nearby island. Far from any kind of civilization, they became stranded on the remote island for 33 days. The Coast Guard pilot flying a HH-144 Ocean Sentry plane from Air Station Miami saw them waving makeshift flags down below as they were patrolling the area.
Lieutenant Riley Beecher was first on scene. He shared that it was a normal patrol and he was flying at around 500 feet, until he saw something flickering in the distance. Beecher quickly told the crew he wanted to turn back around to get a better look. “We dropped down to about 200 feet and low and behold, there was a flag waving. As we got closer, two people came out waving their hands trying to get our attention showing that they were in distress,” he explained.
The crew signaled that they saw the people and then radioed back to their command center. They were directed to drop a radio, water and food. “We didn’t have any Spanish speakers unfortunately but in my broken Spanish I was able to ask where they were from, how many people were there, how long they’d been there and if there were any medical concerns. They were pretty relieved,” Beecher said.
He was due back to Miami and was unable to do much else. But Beecher was quickly replaced by Lieutenant Justin Dougherty, flying in with another crew who had two Spanish speaking Coasties on board. “The plan for us was to get on scene and establish communications with them. We were really concerned about their medical state,” Dougherty said, adding that it was essentially a miracle that Beecher had found them at all. “It was tough to see even though we knew exactly what we were looking for. It was unbelievable.”
Unfortunately, they were unable to immediately rescue the stranded Cuban nationals. “Being a fixed wing aircraft, we can’t do a water landing. We also can’t hover so the most we could do was drop them supplies,” Dougherty shared. The island was also just out of range for their helicopters in Miami. But more help was on the way.
The command at Miami began communicating with Air Station Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump out of Key West was headed their way in the meantime. “We dropped them another radio…bottled water and some MREs,” Dougherty said. They also gave them signaling devices and life vests. “We let them know someone would be there to pick them up whether it was a Coast Guard boat in the morning or a helicopter sometime in the evening.”
When Coast Guard Pilot and Lieutenant Mikel “Mike” Allert arrived on scene, there were piles of shells were clearly visible next to the makeshift flags. Although the national news media reported that the Cuban nationals had been surviving on coconuts, that wasn’t true. It was confirmed that they were sustained on conchs and rats, according to Allert. “They also had a makeshift cross that they had made with driftwood,” he shared. With no where safe for them to land near them due to the narrowness of the island, they made the decision to hover and launch a rescue swimmer.
“He assessed them medically because he is a qualified EMT and his assessment showed that they needed to go to a hospital. They were showing obvious signs of fatigue, dehydration and they were relatively gaunt for being out there for that extensive period of time,” Allert explained.
All three pilots expressed their awe in the survivors. “The fact that they had been there for 33 days on the sheer willpower to live is impressive,” Beecher said.
“Thanks to our aircrews diligently conducting routine patrols, we were able to spot people in distress and intervene,” said Sean Connett, Command Duty Officer at Coast Guard Seventh District said in a press release. “This was a very complex operation involving asset and crews from different units, but thanks to good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots, we were able to safely get everyone to a medical facility before the situation could worsen.”
“As Coast Guard operations go, it just goes to show the coordination involved in utilizing these assets all across the state,” Allert said. “We were fortunate to find them and blessed to be able to go pick them up.” Although this case definitely got a lot of media attention, much of what occurred is just a normal day in the life of a Coast Guardsman, always ready for any and everything.
Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.
The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.
Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.
While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.
The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.
Private shelters are not affected by the new law.
State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
This year, the only two Medal of Honor recipients were both Army veterans, who were receiving the medals for courageous, sacrificial actions in combat during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of Spc. Five James McCloughan and Capt. Gary M. Rose, presented again to commemorate their courageous, sacrificial actions that earned them the highest military honor in the land.
On July 31, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to former to former Spc. 5 James McCloughan during a White House ceremony for gallant actions in the Vietnam War.
McCloughan, a medic, was one of 89 Soldiers in Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division who fought on Nui Yon Hill, near the city of Tam Kỳ, from May 13 to 15, 1969.
Within minutes of landing there on May 13, about 2,000 enemy soldiers had the unit surrounded and two of the unit’s helicopters were shot down, Trump related during the ceremony. Seeing a badly wounded Soldier lying in an open field, McCloughan blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the Soldier to safety.
When North Vietnamese forces ambushed the unit a short time later, McCloughan again rushed into danger to rescue his wounded men. As he cared for two Soldiers, shrapnel from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade “slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot. Yet, that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body. And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast,” the President said.
As the darkness of night approached, McCloughan continued to crawl through rice paddies, dodging bullets, to rescue wounded Soldiers and bring them to a medevac helicopter. When McCloughan’s lieutenant, seeing the extent of the medic’s own injuries, ordered him to get into the medevac as well, McCloughan refused, saying “You’re going to need me here.”
McCloughan would later say, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic,” Trump related.
Over the next 24 hours, without food, water or rest, McCloughan fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm and continued to race into gunfire to save more lives, the President said.
“Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart,” the President said. “He gave it his all and then he just kept giving.”
In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American Soldiers and tended to countless others, Trump said, adding that of the 89 in the company, their strength had dwindled to 32 by the end of the fighting.
Following the war, McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School in Michigan, and coached football, baseball, and wrestling for 38 years.
McCloughan was joined at the White House ceremony by members of his family, eight other Medal of Honor recipients, and 10 Soldiers who served with him during that epic battle, five of whom McCloughan personally saved.
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in the nation of Laos, during the Vietnam War, Capt. Gary Michael “Mike” Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor by President Trump at the White House on Oct. 23.
During the Vietnam War, Rose served as a combat medic with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Special Forces. He was recognized for actions during a four-day period that spanned Sept. 11 through 14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, called “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.
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 inserted 136 men by helicopter, including 16 American Soldiers, 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.
As the unit moved deeper and deeper through the dense jungle, dodging bullets and explosives, Rose continued to tend the wounded during the four-day mission, even at the risk of extreme danger to himself.
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,” Trump 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.”
When the unit evacuated by helicopter on the fourth day, Rose’s helicopter crashed due to a failed engine. After being thrown from the helicopter, Rose rushed back to the scene to pull his fellow Soldiers out of the burning wreckage.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American Soldiers were able to return home.
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.”
In addition to members of his family, 10 of Rose’s brothers-in-arms from the operation also attended the ceremony.
“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.”
The loss of the submarine ARA San Juan this past November is the most significant loss of a submarine since an explosion sank the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk in 2000. All 44 sailors aboard the German-designed Type 209 diesel-electric submarine were lost when it went on eternal patrol.
ARA San Juan pierside.
(Photo by Martin Otero)
It took over four months, but the story of what happened to the San Juan was finally revealed in August of 2018. According to a report by TeleSurTV.com, the submarine suffered a fire in her forward battery compartment on Nov. 15, 2017, after seawater went down the submarine’s “snorkel.”
The crew of the sub fought the fire for two hours as the submarine descended. The vessel then reportedly imploded, instantly killing all 44 sailors on board. Claims that the submarine was in poor material condition were denied by the Argentinean Navy. A massive rescue effort, which included a Lockheed P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the United States Navy, went on for weeks before the search was called off.
USS Cochino (SS 345) departing on her last mission. One civilian engineer was killed when she was lost, as well as six sailors from USS Tusk (SS 426).
In the years after World War II, the United States lost two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines. In 1949, USS Cochino (SS 345) suffered a pair of battery explosions that sank the ship despite a 14-hour effort to save the vessel. One civilian engineer on the Cochino and six sailors from USS Tusk were lost.
In 1958, USS Stickleback (SS 415) was taking part in a training exercise when she lost power, broached the surface, and was rammed by the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534). Efforts by the crews of both vessels, plus the submarine USS Sabalo (SS 302), the destroyer escort USS Sturtevant (DE 239), and the submarine rescue ship USS Greenlet (ASR 10) to save the Stickleback failed. The sub sank, but all aboard were rescued.
Although the F-35 Lightning II regularly makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, Air Force pilots at Edwards Air Force Base in California have begun weighing in on the jet’s capabilities, and it’s good news.
US Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, director of the F-35 integrated test force and commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron, said that the F-35’s automated systems free up the pilot to focus on mission planning in an interview with Defense News.
“Each plane is its own command and control platform,” said Chari, who also has experience flying a legacy platform, the F-15.
“You don’t have to do as much stick and rudder, just getting to and from, because there are so many automated modes to use on the F-35 … [It] is almost as easy as breathing.”
US Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, also of the 461st flight test squadron, raved about another unique aspect of the Joint Strike Fighter, the “glass” or dual touch-screen display which is highly customizable by individual pilots.
“It’s the Burger King jet,” Chari said of the F-35’s versatile setups. “You can have it however you want, your way.”
Combined with the F-35’s helmet, which employs six infrared cameras positioned around the plane to allow pilots to see through the jets’ airframe, F-35 pilots have an unprecedented awareness of the entire battle space.
“In this plane it’s 360 degrees and a much larger range of stuff that you are looking at so that you are not just thinking about what your particular jets doing, but now you are looking at other elements in a national strike package,” said Chari.
“So whether that’s looking at ground targets or emitters or air targets, you are building a much bigger picture than the traditional planes.”
Chari also spoke highly of the F-35’s ability to fly at a high angle of attack, or with its nose pointed up, saying that pilots are learning to use this quality to perform close-in flight maneuvers.
Not only are pilots touting the F-35’s next-gen capacities, maintainers are big on the plane’s internal diagnostic system.
Though critics have claimed that the Joint Strike Fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), a system that internally tracks and diagnoses problems with each part of each plane worldwide, could be wiped out by a single server failure, maintainers told Defense News that the claim is ludicrous.
“We’ve had that happen multiple times, and we can still use ALIS,” said RJ Vernon, supervisor of the Third Air Force about server failures affecting the F-35. In the event of a long-term server failure, the worst-case scenario would be that maintainers have to track the parts manually, which they already do with legacy fighters.
On the whole, Lockheed Martin contractors and Air Force technicians agree, the ALIS is a big help.
“It tells you everything you need to know instantly,” Vernon said. “ALIS reduces our troubleshooting drastically, it makes my job very easy.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Patters, who as worked on the A-10 and F-16s, said the F-35 was far easier to work on. His only complaint was waiting on the computer to load new tasks.
“We could teach you in 15 minutes,” Patters said of the user-friendly interface.
Additionally, the F-35 was built with maintainers in mind. The time they save working on the plane will translate to millions of dollars in savings over the life of the program.
For example, the panels of the plane allow easy access to maintainers, like the nose that comes off in a single piece. Also, the weapons bay doesn’t require cleaning, because the missiles are launched with air pressure instead of explosives that leave behind residue.
“Our jobs are drastically easier because of the way the jet takes care of itself,” concluded Patters.
In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.
Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.
The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.
But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.
But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.
So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.
Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.
But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.
The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.
Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.
But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.
And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.
So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.
An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.
Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.
And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.
Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.
In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.
The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.
(Carl Frederik Sørensen)
When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.
The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.
The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.
The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.
The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.
The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.
Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.
(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)
Tampa Bay, Florida is an important part of our country’s great defense strategy. It’s not always a highly visible part, but it’s an effective part.
But whether you’re stationed in Tampa Bay, got out of the military in Tampa Bay, or just happen to be passing through Tampa Bay, the local baseball team wants you to stop by. So much so that the Tampa Bay Rays are giving away free tickets to active duty troops, retirees, and honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
A lot of organizations have a salute to service program, but the Tampa Bay Rays are offering something special. You can pick up two complimentary tickets to any of seven Monday home games, with three possible additional bonus dates and special ticket offers throughout the season.
In case Tampa Bay isn’t your home team to root for, the possible games are with teams from around the country, from Cleveland to Los Angeles and Baltimore to Texas. Just go to the Rays Salute to Service game listings and pick them one week before the scheduled game date.
If you’re the forgetful type, you can have the site notify you when the tickets become available. So if you’re stationed in the area and want to come root for home team or are planning a trip through the area and want to have truly unique Tampa Bay experience with a friend or loved one, the Tampa Bay Rays will love to host you.
This isn’t the first time the Rays offered free tickets to the military-veteran community. The team has been offering them for years, and also offers free tickets for first responders and teachers (but they get honored on different days, of course).
So grab a few seats, a cold one, and some peanuts and make a trip to the old ball game. Go Rays!
Troy Green is an Army veteran with a full range of responsibilities, from being a father and leading his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop to fundraising for the Missouri Veterans Home. After coming home from the Army, Troy dove headfirst into his hometown. He’s deeply involved in his community and spends an incredible amount of time devoted to significant causes. On top of his heavy schedule, Troy wanted to pursue the education afforded to him by the GI Bill.
Bricks-and-mortar schools don’t work for everyone, especially adults with jobs and families. Online education is a great option for busy active duty service members, veterans, and military families because students can matriculate anywhere and the hours are flexible. But not all online institutions are created equal, especially when it comes to providing value to the military community. Finding one that truly understands the military way of life is essential . . . and rare.
Grantham University is one of the best online colleges for military service members because the institution strives to make a service member’s college experience fit his or her life. Grantham’s range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs help troops prepare for promotion opportunities or even career changes.
The military has always been in Grantham’s DNA. Grantham University was founded in 1951 by WWII veteran Donald Grantham to provide other veterans a way to better their lives through distance learning. That spirit combined with the latest online technologies, including effective use of social media, allows Grantham to offer military students targeted online degree programs in the most affordable manner possible. A flexible, self-paced curriculum allows military students to work at their own speed when they have the time. Grantham also assists in creating military-only study groups so classmates can relate to each other in all the ways that matter and make the educational experience more enjoyable and effective. And Grantham helps students choose a targeted degree that complements military experience.