North Korea may now have a biological weapons program - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.


The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
A surface-to-surface mediu long range ballistic missile is transported for launch in North Korea. (KCNA)

North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.

Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
(North Korea state Media)

Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.

To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.

Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.

Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”

Read Also: This is what it would take to clear out North Korea’s nukes

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.

Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image Youtube)

While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.

Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.

“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Macedonia has to change its name before joining NATO

NATO approved its newest member on Feb. 6, 2019, after Macedonia agreed to change its name to secure admission.

All 29 members of NATO signed the accession protocol for Macedonia, beginning a process of ratification that is likely to result in the Balkan state joining the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since it became independent 28 years ago. But every application had been blocked by neighboring Greece because of a regional dispute over Macedonia’s name.


Greece agreed to stop blocking Macedonia if it formally renamed itself the Republic of North Macedonia. Lawmakers in both countries in June 2018 agreed to the deal, known as the Prespa Agreement, which is due to take effect soon.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Permanent representatives of the 29 members of NATO signed the Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia in Brussels.

(NATO)

Greece objected to the name Macedonia — which the country adopted in 1991 when Yugoslavia collapsed — because Macedonia is also the name of a region of Greece. Politicians in Greece argued that the name suggested the country had ambitions to one day rule Greek Macedonia as well.

Greece also argued that Macedonia was wrongly associating itself with the historical figure Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III of Macedon, even though he came from modern-day Greece.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak in January 2019 that the name change could happen in “a matter of days.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

The name Alexander spread through Europe in the 4th century thanks to Alexander the Great.

According to NATO’s processes, all 29 members, including Greece, would need to ratify the accession.

Any country could technically veto it. But that’s unlikely, as the only one to object had been Greece until the Prespa Agreement:Macedonia would change its name, and in return Greece would stop blocking its NATO membership.

If the other 29 members ratify the accession, Macedonia would then pass its own ratification legislation, at which point it would become a NATO member.

The decision to change the name split the country. An advisory referendum in late 2018 was rejected because of low voter turnout. The country’s parliament later agreed to the change.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described Feb. 6, 2019, as “a historic day.”

The latest country to join NATO was Montenegro in 2017. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine have expressed interest in joining.

Countries aspiring to join NATO have to demonstrate that they are in a position to further the principles of the 1949 Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

They are also expected to meet certain political, economic, and military criteria, including spending a minimum proportion of gross domestic product on their militaries.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s 8 potential targets in Syria await destruction

As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.

Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on April 12, 2018, that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.


Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.

Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria’s chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia’s air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.

Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.

Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it’s unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on April 11, 2018, that the US wasn’t afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on April 12, 2018, to avoid military action, saying the “immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”

Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments.”

He added: “The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there … So the situation is very dangerous.”

Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia’s tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.

“Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West,” Gorenburg said.

Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because “the Russian conventional forces just aren’t as strong as the US forces,” such a fight “would not be a good outcome for Russia.

So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.

“We’re looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we’ll see what happens, folks,” he said April 12, 2018, adding that a strike could happen “fairly soon.”Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.

The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

The United States is making a push at the United Nations to set up a new inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, three months after Russia killed a previous UN inquiry.


The U.S. ambassador to the UN said on March 1, 2018, that she wants the UN Security Council to create a new investigative team charged with determining who is behind chemical attacks in Syria following several reports of the use of chlorine gas in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks.

Also read: US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she hopes the council will vote on the measure in early March 2018. The initiative comes days after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a child suffocated to death and 13 other people fell ill from a suspected chlorine gas attack over the weekend.

A previous UN inquiry ended in November 2017 after Russia vetoed efforts to renew its mandate. Russia maintained that the investigative team, which had attributed most of the chemical attacks it investigated to the Syrian government, was biased against its ally. Damascus insists it has renounced all use of chemical weapons.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Russia, in January 2018, offered its own plan to create a new inquiry but has never put it to a vote before the council. The Russian plan was opposed by the United States and other Western countries, which said it gave Syria too much influence over investigations.

“When the Russians put their mechanism forward, that’s a non-starter, and so that’s why we’re coming back out with another one,” Haley told Reuters. “We’ve been working on it since the [previous inquiry] was killed.”

“We’ve taken into account certain things that [Russian diplomats] thought were an issue, but if they want no mechanism at all, they’ll veto it,” Haley said.

U.S. diplomats said their draft resolution to set up a new one-year inquiry was discussed at a UN meeting on March 1, 2018, but Russian diplomats did not attend.

A council diplomat said it was unlikely Russia would back the measure, which calls for investigators to operate in “an impartial, independent, and professional manner.”

Russia criticized the previous UN investigative team for reaching conclusions about who perpetrated a chemical attack sometimes without visiting the place where the attack occurred or collecting evidence firsthand.

More: US launches over 50 cruise missiles at Syrian airfields over chemical attack

Russia and Syria fiercely rejected a final conclusion reached in the previous inquiry, which found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an attack April 2017 that killed nearly 100 civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun.

Russian diplomats vetoed efforts to renew the inquiry after that incident, complaining that the UN investigative team never visited the site of the attack or the Syrian airbase from where the attack was allegedly launched.

Articles

It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

In the wake of the revelation that a large group of active-duty Marines is under investigation for sharing nude photos of female troops without their consent, a senior congressman is calling on the Marine Corps to take swift and decisive action.


Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement Sunday calling the alleged behavior by Marines and Marine Corps veterans “degrading, dangerous, and completely unacceptable.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
A 2014 study revealed the U.S. Marine Corps has the highest rate of sexual assault against women in the military (8% of female Marines were sexually assaulted in the year the study was conducted). (U.S. Marine Corps Photo: Cpl. Adam Korolev)

“I expect that the Marine Corps Commandant, General Neller, will use his resources to fully investigate these acts and bring to justice any individuals who have broken the law and violated the rights of other servicemembers,” the Washington Democrat said.

“He must also ensure that the victims are taken care of. The military men and women who proudly volunteer to serve their country should not have to deal with this kind of reprehensible conduct,” Smith added.

The investigation was made public Saturday evening by reporter Thomas James Brennan, who reported for Reveal News that members of the private Facebook group Marines United had shared dozens of nude photos of female service members, identifying them by name, rank and duty station. Group members also linked out to a Google Drive folder containing more compromising photos and information, Brennan reported.

A Marine Corps official confirmed an investigation was ongoing, but could not confirm that hundreds of Marines were caught up in it, as Brennan reported. The official referred queries about specifics to Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which did not immediately respond Sunday.

“The Marine Corps is deeply concerned about allegations regarding the derogatory online comments and sharing of salacious photographs in a closed website,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Ryan Alvis said in a statement provided to Military.com. “This behavior destroys morale, erodes trust, and degrades the individual.”

Of allegations are substantiated, active-duty Marines involved in the photo-sharing ring could be charged with violating UCMJ Article 134, general misconduct, for enlisted troops, and Article 133, conduct unbecoming, for officers, Alvis said. If Marines shared a photo taken without the subject’s consent and under circumstances for which there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, they may be charged with Article 120, broadcasting or distribution of indecent visual recording, she said.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
The Marine Corps takes measures to educate and train Marines on sexual assault prevention and response and its effect on our brothers and sisters in arms. The frontline representatives for this effort are known as uniformed victim advocates, or UVAs.Advocates not only provide support, education, and training to Marines, they also play a large part in preventing sexual assault. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“A Marine who directly participates in, encourages, or condones such actions could also be subjected to criminal proceedings or adverse administrative actions,” Alvis said.

To underscore the significance of the allegations to Marine Corps leadership, both Neller and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green released statements condemning the alleged behavior.

“I am not going to comment specifically about an ongoing investigation, but I will say this: For anyone to target one of our Marines, online or otherwise, in an inappropriate manner, is distasteful and shows an absence of respect,” Neller said in a statement provided to Military.com. “The success of every Marine, every team, every unit and command throughout our Corps is based on mutual trust and respect.”

Green went further, releasing a 319-word statement in the form of an open letter calling the online photo-sharing “demeaning” and “degrading” and adding there was no place for it in the Corps.

“We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other. This behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy,” he said. “As Marines, as human beings, you should be angry for the actions of a few. These negative behaviors are absolutely contrary to what we represent. It breaks the bond that hold us together; without trust, our family falters.”

Messages Brennan shared with Military.com show that some members of the group responded to his report by threatening him and his family and attempting to publish information about where he lived.

“‘Amber Alert: Thomas J. Brennan,'” wrote one user, referring to the child abduction emergency system. “500.00 $ for nudes of this guys girl,” wrote another.

Brennan is a former infantry Marine and combat veteran.

This is not the first time the bad behavior of Marines online has captured the attention of Congress.

In 2013, the harassment of civilian women and female troops on several so-called “humor” Facebook pages with Marine Corps members prompted Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, to call on then defense secretary Chuck Hagel and then-commandant Gen. Jim Amos to intervene.

But in that instance, Marine Corps leadership opted to address the behavior privately, and on a case-by-case basis. No criminal prosecutions of Marines connected to the Facebook pages were ever publicized.

A later 2014 report on similar behavior resulted in investigations into 12 Marines, according to internal public affairs guidance published by Marine Corps Times.

As the first female Marines join infantry units in the wake of a 2015 Pentagon mandate opening all ground combat jobs to women, it’s possible service leaders now feel an additional mandate to quell the online exploitation of female service members by their colleagues publicly and decisively.

“Standup, speak out, and be a voice of change for the better. Hold those who misstep accountable,” Green said. “We need to realize that silence is consent–do not be silent. It is your duty to protect one another, not just for the Marine Corps, but for humanity.”

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

Articles

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A recently launched Pentagon review comparing F-35C carrier-variant Joint Strike Fighters with F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets will involve Marine Corps aviators and aircraft, the Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation said Wednesday.


Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“Really, it is — looking across the mission sets — does a Block 3 Super Hornet match up, compare to an F-35C,” Davis said. “It’s for the carrier air wing of the future.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

The Marine Corps, Davis said, has already purchased 10 of the 67 F-35Cs it planned to buy and has six on the flightline at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

While the Navy is planning to purchase most of the F-35Cs, with a strategy to buy 260, the Corps has gone ahead of the other services to hit a number of F-35 milestones. Its F-35B jump jet variant was the first to reach initial operational capability in July 2015, and it was the first to forward base a squadron overseas in January.

Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.

“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.

Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.

However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.

“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.

If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.

“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”

Articles

Meet the World War I legend ‘Black Swallow of Death’

While Eddie Rickenbacker has a claim to fame as the top American ace of World War I, there were plenty of other Americans who fought valiantly with Allies from the air.


One of them, Eugene Bullard, has the distinction of being the first African-American military pilot.

According to Air and Space Power Journal, Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on Oct 9, 1894. At 8 years old, he left Georgia after his father narrowly escaped a lynching, and made his way to Norfolk where he worked a series of odd jobs before he stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland.

He worked more odd jobs across Scotland and England, including as a longshoreman and on a fish wagon, until he discovered talents for boxing and performing. That talent eventually landed him in Paris just as World War I started.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Eugene Jacques Bullard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bullard spent two years with an infantry unit and was wounded during the Battle of Verdun. He then transferred to the French Flying Corps. During his time in the infantry, he was nicknamed “The Black Swallow of Death.” Bullard would score two kills in just over two months of combat flying. After the U.S. ignored his application to be a pilot for the American military despite his combat experience, he was transferred to non-combat duties by the French until his discharge in 1919.

Bullard would settle down in France, but come to his adopted country’s defense again in World War II, first serving as a spy, then seeing ground combat near Orleans. After he was wounded, he was medically evacuated, along with his daughters to the United States. He eventually went to work as an elevator operator in New York City.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Eugene Bullard. (DOD photo)

In 1954, France invited Bullard and two other men to re-light the Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe. In 1959, he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and was interviewed on the Today Show. The next year, Charles de Gaulle publicly declared Bullard a hero of France.

Bullard died on Oct. 12, 1961, after an illness caused by the wounds he had received. He was 67 years old. In 1994, 100 years after he was born, the U.S. Air Force granted him a commission as a Lieutenant.

Articles

91-year-old twins finally getting medals earned during World War II

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
The Barrett brothers before Richard’s medal ceremony. (Screen grab of Fox 4 News broadcast.)


Twin brothers who went to war together are receiving medals 70 years after they took off their combat boots.

Richard and Robert Barrett, 91-year-old veterans of World War II, never knew they supposed to be getting medals nor were they looking for these accolades. A family member happened to discover the oversight after requesting replacement copies of their Army records – the originals had been destroyed.

The crowd gave a standing ovation after Richard received the Silver Star and Bronze Star with additional military honors from Congressman Sam Graves, who had expedited the process for them.

The brothers, who were 18 when they shipped off to war, recalled their time in combat:

“We were just kids when we heard our first machine gun fire and [we said] ‘Oh that’s great, that’s fun, machine gun fire,'” said Richard, “But a little later the Germans started shooting those 88 artillery shells, and things changed after that.”

He was also quick to point out that he is 5 minutes older than his brother Robert, and joked, “Of course, I had to take care of him in combat; he was kind of a puny kid.”

The Barretts showed humility as they talked with Fox 4 News about being honored for their service:  “It’s nice, but we’re both kind of humble about it,” Richard said. “We don’t let it get to be a prestigious deal for us. Awards or no awards, I’d do it again.”

“We saw some rough times,” Robert added. “We slept on some cold ground, but there are other men that did so much more than we did too.”

Robert will receive his medals in a separate ceremony.

MIGHTY MONEY

18 million veterans now have a new benefit

Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.


“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
You still need to go get your hair fixed in person, though.

“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”

Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life

Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.

“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”

Also Read: New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.

To verify eligibility and begin shopping, Veterans can visit ShopMyExchange.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Medal of Honor recipient fought the HOA to keep his American flag up

Across our great country, proud Americans display their patriotism by attending military ceremonies, volunteering at veterans’ gatherings, and hoisting flags outside of their houses. But, in the case of one brave Medal of Honor recipient, a homeowner association attempted to block his right to fly America’s colors outside of his front doorway.

Here’s what happened.


In the summer of 2009, Colonel Van T. Barfoot (retired), a man who defeated three Nazi tanks in World War II, was ordered by his HOA to take down the American flag he had hoisted outside his home near Richmond, Virginia.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
A German Panzer tank, similar to the onesu00a0Barfoot single-handedly took out.

The highly decorated war-fighter never surrendered to the Germans; he certainly wasn’t about to surrender his right to fly the flag to his HOA.

Barfoot was well-known within the veteran community as being one of the most significant Native American heroes in military history. Assigned to the 157th Infantry Regiment, he was involved in several amphibious landings in Italy before he made his way to a small town called Carano in 1944.

During an intense firefight, Barfoot requested to take out the left flank before the Germans could advance. The brave soldier then took out several enemy positions and spearheaded the capture of 17 prisoners.

But his badassery was far, far from over.

Soon after that firefight came to a close, Barfoot spotted three enemy tanks closing in on his unit’s position — he needed to take them out. He grabbed a rocket launcher, took up an offensive position, and took the enemies’ lead tank out of the fight— halting their advance.

The other two tanks quickly changed course, fearing what they thought was a massive and unseen opposition.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

The rules of Barfoot’s neighborhood states that no building structures, fences, or flagpoles are allowed on the property without the association’s approval.

As a proven warrior, Barfoot continued to exercise his freedoms and continued to raise his flag. Once this issue made headlines, public officials rallied around the war hero.

In the end, Barfoot once again won his fight. The HOA claimed they didn’t have a problem with the flag, just with the flagpole.

Seriously people? ‘Merica!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Burke-class destroyers aren’t going to be the Prius of the sea

The United States Navy is shelving plans to turn 33 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers into floating Priuses. One vessel, USS Truxtun (DDG 103), will get the modifications as a test program.


The Navy wanted to use a Hybrid-Electric Drive to increase fuel efficiency by having the ship’s electrical generators turn the propellers as opposed to the drive shaft. The approach would work at speed of up to 13 knots, enabling the ship to carry out anti-submarine warfare, ballistic missile defense missions, or routine operations at night. However, the system had implementation problems, which ultimately led to generators being forced to run at nearly maximum capacity.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Lt. Cmdr. Frank Kim, fuel officer for Naval Supply Systems Command, Fleet Logistics Center San Diego, compares sample bottles of traditional diesel fuel marine and an algae-derived alternative fuel during the Navy’s largest shipboard alternative fuel test at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. The biofuels proved to be very expensive. (U.S. Navy photo by Candice Villarreal)

“At that point, you are a light switch flipping on away from winking out the whole ship,” an anonymous official told Defense News.

A loss of power could be fatal for a warship in combat — even in peacetime, this presents its own hazards as the collisions involving the guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and John S. McCain (DDG 56) last year proved.

During the Obama Administration, the Navy pushed a “Great Green Fleet” initiative. The program was best known for pushing the use of biodiesel fuels in aircraft and ships. However, the green, alternative fuels proved to be far more expensive, according to reports from the Daily Caller.

In 2012, the DOD was spending as much as $424 per gallon of biofuel. In 2016, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason deployed using a blend of 5.5 percent biodiesel based on palm oil – costing $13.46 per gallon as opposed to the $1.60 per-gallon costs of conventional fuel. The ratio was far below the goal of a 50-50 blend.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

The German Luftwaffe saw an even more spectacular failure in the fielding of “green” biofuels when they were forced to ground their force of Tornado IDS strike aircraft due to heavily fuel dilution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Larry Yake, an Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was one of several “Vets in Vettes” at the front of the Oct. 28 Meadville Halloween Parade.


When the Corvettes provided by Community Chevrolet pulled over alongside the stage erected in front of the Market House, Yake thought it was just part of the parade. Little did he know that he would be going home with one of the cars in the parade — not one of the Corvettes, but a car that promises to go a long way toward improving Yake’s quality of life.

Also read: Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

“I was surprised,” Yake admitted from in front of the Market House, where he had returned after finishing the parade. His daughter, who he’s raising on his own, and friends and family members were there, as they had been for the presentation moments earlier — they had known of the surprise presentation, but none had let on to Yake.

“I was almost emotional,” the disabled vet said. “I had to choke it back a little bit.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Army veteran Larry Yake (center, leather jacket) accepts a vehicle from Operation Build Up. Video still from Operation Build Up Facebook.

Yake is the fourth Meadville-area veteran to receive a refurbished car from Operation Build Up, a nonprofit based in Lima, New York. Representatives of the organization rode in the parade behind the Corvettes, pulling a trailer with the white 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer that would be given to Yake.

Justin Cogswell, CEO of Operation Build Up, said the organization had recently started a Pennsylvania hub.

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Cogswell knows firsthand the challenges vets can face upon returning home, especially if those challenges include transportation. Soon after he returned from serving with the Marines in 2009, his vehicle became disabled and before he knew it, he had been evicted and had lost his job. For nine months, he bounced from one living situation to the next.

“When I actually got a vehicle,” he said, it only took me a couple of weeks to get my life back in order. I realized the main thing that was preventing me from establishing a solid civilian life was not having a vehicle.”

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Operation Build Up’s logo, from Facebook.

“I feel that once veterans lose transportation,” he added, “they lose the ability to prosper.”

Jim Severo owns RANZ Bar and Grill, a veteran himself and has served on the Operation Wounded Vetz organizing committee for the past five years. Over the summer, Severo hosted an earlier car presentation at RANZ and helped arrange the surprise for Yake, even scheduling “chance encounters” so that Yake was in the Corvette Severo was driving in the parade.

“This town has really embraced them,” Severo said of Operation Build Up. “These guys are very passionate about what they do and there’s definitely no shortage of struggling vets.”

Yake was similarly passionate about his appreciation as he watched the tail end of the parade march past the Market House.

“This car is really going to help me take care of my daughter and meet my VA appointments,” Yake said.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
Paratroopers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. US Army Photo by Pfc Liem Huynh.

After entering the Army in 2005, Yake served as a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, serving in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. After returning home, he served again in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008.

It’s been about five years since he had a car, Yake said, and he already knows what he wants to do first with the car Operation Build Up is giving him.

“I’m going to my parents’ house and show them the car,” he said, “because they’ve always been there for me through everything.”

Articles

SOCOM plans roll out ‘Iron Man’ suit prototypes by 2018

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

Also read: Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver showcases an early TALOS prototype at the Chicago Auto Show. | US Army photo

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
A TALOS prototype moves through a building. | YouTube

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program
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