One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.


Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.

He also helped with a documentary about George’s life, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

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Why the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima doesn’t have a grave

When Paul Tibbets died in January 2007, he had been retired from the Air Force since 1966. He was never forgotten, however, and never would be. He was the man who dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat against an enemy city. But instead of being interred at home or at Arlington National Cemetery with all his brothers in arms, he was cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Tibbets in his later years.

 

It wasn’t that Tibbets wasn’t proud of his service. At the time of the Hiroshima bombing, he was one of the youngest but most experienced pilots in the Army Air Forces. He proudly named his airplane Enola Gay after his beloved mother. He even re-enacted the bombing in a B-29 during a 1976 Texas air show and denounced the Smithsonian’s exhibition of the actual plane when it debuted because of the exhibition’s focus on the suffering of the Japanese people and not the brutality of the Japanese military.

His family was also a proud military family. His grandson is an Air Force Academy graduate who came up flying B-2 Spirit bombers. But when Tibbets died at age 92, he requested cremation with no headstone – and no funeral — military honors or not.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Paul Tibbets Jr., left, and his grandson, then-Capt. Paul Tibbets IV, fly the last flyable B-29 Superfortress, ‘Fifi,’ in Midland, Texas.

The elder Tibbets was concerned that any grave or headstone he left behind would become ground zero for anti-nuclear weapons protests, anti-war protesters, or a place for any other kind of revision historian to make a stand against what he saw as the right history. Instead of that, he opted to be cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel, where he had flown so often during the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 best and worst cities for veterans to live in 2018

There are now an estimated 19.6 million American military veterans living in the United States, and that number is only going to rise. While veterans face a lot of the same economic and social pressures as lifelong civilians, we also tend to face a few different issues as we reintegrate into civilian life — and where we live can make as much a difference for us as it does for our children.

It’s an important decision to make, so why not do the research? Luckily, WalletHub did it for us.


The highly-popular personal finance website compared the largest 100 U.S. cities and indexed them for key factors of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. What the latter means is that the cities have important resources and opportunities for veterans. Things like services to aid transition from military life, finding employment with military skills, and opportunities for growth are weighted in the rankings. Also important to study is access to VA facilities and services in these cities.

Related: A new study shows your chances of achieving the ‘American Dream’

You can read all about the methods WalletHub used to grade the cities and see each city’s grade on the WalletHub website. There, you can also see how each is ranked overall versus the 99 other biggest cities in America, along with each city’s rank according to job opportunities, economic factors, veteran quality of life, and veteran health issues.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

1. Austin, Texas

It should come as no surprise that a hip city in Texas came in at number one. Austin makes the top of many lists and a home for veterans is not going to be different. The city is 20th in the health rank for veterans, but overall quality of life is rated very highly.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.

Arizona is another historically military-veteran friendly state. Scottsdale actually beats Austin in many weighted areas, but its overall health ranking is much, much lower, leaving it at number 2 on the list.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

3. Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Air Force doesn’t choose poorly when it comes to quality of life, anyone who’s spent a day on an Air Force installation can attest to that. The home of the Air Force Academy has the highest quality of life of any of America’s top 100 cities, while ranking high on quality of the economy.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

4. Raleigh, N.C.

Job opportunities and the chances of economic growth are high in Raleigh, higher than any other city in the top five. It has some work to do in the health category, as far as veterans’ healthcare needs are concerned, but getting a good job with promotion potential can make the difference for a veteran family.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

5. Gilbert, Ariz. 

There may be many people who are surprised to see a city with a population of just above 208,000 make the top-five list of best places for veterans, but this Phoenix suburb offers great economic growth opportunity and a high quality of life for vets.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

96. Baltimore, Md.

Does ranking in the bottom five mean that Baltimore is a terrible place to live? Not necessarily. It means that of America’s 100 biggest cities, Baltimore has some work to do to attract veterans, especially in terms of quality of life and economic growth opportunities. No one wants to end up in a city that doesn’t grow with them.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

97. Fresno, Calif.

Fresno, with just under a half million people, is not the worst of the worst in any of the four rankings that comprise its overall 97th position. In terms of jobs and the local economy, it’s a better city than the other bottom five, but not by much.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

98. Memphis, Tenn.

It’s surprising to see Memphis make the bottom of the list, but while the economic factors for veterans fare better than other cities on the bottom of the list, jobs, veteran health, and overall quality of life for vets suffer in Memphis.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

99. Newark, N.J.

Newark is actually more toward the middle of the the overall 100 on the list when it comes to veteran health care, but it sits at dead last for veteran jobs and quality of life.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

100. Detroit, Mich. 

Poor Detroit has taken a beating over the past few years. While the Michigan city ranks dead last on the overall list of American cities for veterans to live, it doesn’t take last place in any of the four factors that comprise the list.

And, since it’s a proven fact that a large veteran population can strengthen communities, maybe the Motor City is exactly where we should be headed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Our short, national nightmare is over – get back to work

President Donald Trump signed a short-term funding bill Congress passed on Jan. 22, officially ending the three-day federal government shutdown.


The key vote came in the Senate, where most members supported a key procedural vote to let the funding bill proceed without a filibuster. The cloture vote easily cleared the 60-vote threshold with a final vote of 81 to 18. Two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, voted against the measure, as did 16 Democrats.

The deal will keep the government funded until Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the date in the House-passed funding bill that the Senate rejected on Jan. 19.

The final bill passed in the Senate a few hours later with the same vote as the cloture measure. The delay between the cloture vote and the final vote was due to members working out language that will allow federal workers to receive back-pay for the days the government was closed, per reports.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

The House then agreed to the deal, passing the measure shortly after the Senate by a vote of 266 to 150. 45 Democrats voted for the funding bill, while six Republicans crossed party lines to vote no.

Trump weighed in on the deal following the cloture vote with a statement partially committing to an immigration deal.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said. “As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

Given Trump’s wild change of hearts during the immigration discussion, it is unclear what exactly a deal that is “good for our country” would look like.

The impasse was broken after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to hold an open debate process on a bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Securing a vote on DACA was a key priority for Democrats, but the deal with McConnell appears to have fallen short of the party’s original request.

Despite McConnell’s commitment, there is nothing binding the House to the deal. A 2013 immigration bill received bipartisan support in the Senate but never made it to the floor of the House.

Also Read: The defense budget could cause a partial government shutdown

McConnell previously promised Republican Sen. Jeff Flake there would be a DACA vote by the end of January, which does not look likely.

Schumer said that if McConnell did not hold a good-faith vote on the DACA issue by Feb. 8, the Republican leader “will have breached the trust” of Senate Democrats.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to keep the Dreamers from being deported,” Schumer said, referring to DACA recipients.

The program will expire on March 5, potentially leaving nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minors at risk of deportation.

The Senate funding bill will also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. CHIP funding technically expired in September.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is really amping up its laser weapon technology

The time has come! Long anticipated, missile-blasting, hole-frying, zip-zapping laser weapon technology is upon us. Yep, the U.S. Army officially has a 60-kilowatt-class blaster thanks to Robert Afzal, who leads Lockheed Martin’s advanced laser systems program, and his team.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Straight out of an H.G. Wells novel, the blaster is the most powerful laser weapon on the planet; its targeting dome, laser generator, and power and control hardware are reliable and light-weight enough to be mounted on tactical vehicles. This means the Heat-Ray – I mean blaster – is built for war.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Heat-Ray in action, but you already knew that, you lover of classical literature, you! (Artwork for a 1906 Belgian edition by the Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corréa of the book The War of the Worlds.)

Afzul spent a large part of his career leading the development and integration of lasers into space probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center before beginning to work with Lockheed in 2008. Among his many contributions, he notably developed the flight lasers for the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on the ICESat Mission and designed the laser on Mercury Laser Altimeter on the MESSENGER mission — and, perhaps most importantly, he helped develop the Alexandrite laser for tattoo removal (thank the Gods!).

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Laser tattoo removal: It won’t cure a hangover, but it can help…

Needless to say, it is no surprise that Azful is the man to finally bring all of our science fiction fantasies to life.

The first laser was created in the 1960s by Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, by using a cylinder of synthetic ruby with silver coated ends and a high power-power flash lamp. Since then, laser technology has made leaps and bounds. We can now scan, print, cut, weld, and illuminate our way through life via laser technology but it wasn’t until recently that an actual “Death Ray” style weapon was disclosed to the public invented.

Thwarted efforts have primarily been due to three itty-bitty details: the need for very large solid-state batteries, impractical assembly dimensions, and light diffusion — beam quality is the difference between bright lights and explosions. #Science.

Also read: Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

The difficulty in turning lights into weapons is making sure that the laser’s level of horsepower can melt metal at a relevant distance. Even though chemical lasers could do the trick, they call for cumbersome and awkward mixtures. Meanwhile electrically powered solid-state lasers don’t have enough power.

At least, they didn’t until some telecommunications industry engineers found that fiber-optic cables could enhance the light beam’s energy. Expanding on this, Afzal discovered that by grouping numerous fiber-optic lasers, enough energy and beam quality could be created to get the job done – ta-da!

The door to the future of laser technology has been blasted (you know… like with a blaster…) wide open; I’m just glad our Army is the one who owns it!

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The National Guard has been activated. Is this martial law?

At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.

President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?


Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News

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In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”

Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.

So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?

Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.

“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”

See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.

Are they?

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Tank convoy

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In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.

Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.

In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).

Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.

But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Single Malt Irish Whiskey to drink this St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us and so is the flavorless onslaught of cheap, green beer dully visible through red solo cups. Midwestern brewed pilsner paired with a few drops of food coloring seems a poor way to celebrate the Irish. We prefer to toast old St. Pat with uisce beatha, also known as whiskey.

There is no shortage of good Irish whiskey. But while most are familiar with the traditional, big name blended varieties like Jameson and Bushmills, few are familiar with the Emerald Isle’s fantastic single malts. That’s a shame because single malts are much more flavorful and there are numerous stellar bottles worth sipping. Take this as an opportunity to celebrate some Irish single malts and try one of these five excellent options.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Dingle Batch No. 3

Out on the island’s west coast, independent maker Dingle only started producing spirits a few short years ago in 2012. Their Batch No. 3 can be a little hard to find but its worth the search. Aged in ex-bourbon and port barrels, it’s is a sweet sipper with elegant notes of honey, berries, citrus, and wood.

Buy now 0

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Connemara 12

Peated whiskey is a rarity on the emerald isle. In fact, there is only one Irish peated single malt on the market. But if you enjoy a healthy dose of smoke in your dram you’re going to love Connemara 12. Nutty and peppery, notes of vanilla, grass, honey, and wood play off the smoke and a lingering brine to create a lovely mouthful.

Buy now

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

West Cork 10

Fruity and rich, West Cork’s ten-year-old single malt is an easy sipper and even easier on the wallet. Delicious with notes of apples, sugar and toffee with a hint of pepper, it’s an approachable and satisfying for whiskey lovers of all stripes.

BUY NOW

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood

A fusion of two 14-year-old single malts, one aged in ex-bourbon barrels, the other in Oloroso sherry, the result is a rich and tasty dram. Honey, coconut, and fruit notes play off a subtle touch of oak.

Buy now

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Tyrconnell 10 Madeira Cask

Made from the mountain-fed waters of the Slieve na gCloc river, this ten-year-old malt gets a finish in Madeira wine barrels from the Portuguese islands. Light in the mouth, cocoa and honey play off oak, cinnamon and salt.

Buy now

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army accidentally just revealed a mind-blowing new weapon

It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.


Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).

However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)

McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.

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“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”
One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)

In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.

“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.

In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.

By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.

To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.

“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.

This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.

Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.

In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 6 most hated small arms in military history

Some weapons are universally loved by the troops that carry them. Others somehow make it past the drawing board, through testing, and into the hands of soldiers — who then hate them. These are the most reviled.


6. The Ross Rifle

The Ross Rifle was a Canadian rifle with some interesting design features that saw service in WWI. For one, it had a single-motion bolt that was supposed to make it quicker to fire than the turn-and-pull style of conventional rifles. However, this feature also allowed for the rifle to be reassembled incorrectly and still fire, which resulted in the bolt flying out the back and killing or maiming the shooter.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Also, despite excellent accuracy in range conditions, the rifle proved very susceptible to jamming when caked with the dirt and mud of combat. Additionally, the bayonet of the Ross also had a tendency to fall off when the weapon was fired. The performance of the rifle was so poor that many Canadian soldiers discarded them in favor of Lee-Enfields they took from dead British soldiers.

5. Breda 30

The Breda 30 was an Italian light machine gun used in WWII. Italian designers were having trouble with round extraction and arrived at a solution that arguably made things worse. The gun had a system that lubricated each cartridge as it entered the chamber with the idea that it would make extraction easier. In reality, the oil attracted dust and dirt, which fouled the action and slowed the gun’s rate of fire. Despite the slowed rate of fire, the barrel would still heat up, which would inevitably heat up the oil and, in turn, cook off a round in the chamber.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Which was terrible if you were firing while riding a motorcycle.

If that wasn’t a poor enough design, the gun also had a fixed, 20-round box magazine that had to be loaded with stripper clips. To say the troops weren’t fond of the Breda would be an understatement. The Breda was such a poor weapon, Italian troops often had battles turn against them because they could not keep up sufficient fire.

4. Sten gun

The Sten gun is one of those weapons that, despite serious drawbacks, was able to stay in service after much-needed improvements. Designed and built under the threat of a German invasion, the early models of the Sten, especially the Mk II’s and Mk III’s, were cheap and poorly made, earnings them nicknames, such as “Plumber’s abortion” and “the Stench gun.”

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Still, it looks cool.

Sten guns were notoriously unreliable and had issues with misfires, even when simply set down. The issues were so pervasive that units would extensively test their Sten guns before combat in order to weed out the bad ones. Eventually, as improvements were made and quality improved, Mk V versions of the Sten would see combat with British paratroopers and other frontline units.

3. FP-45 Liberator

The FP-45 Liberator was a small gun meant to be distributed to guerrillas and resistance forces throughout Europe and Asia. The pistol, though firing a .45 caliber round, was only single-shot and required a wooden dowel to remove the spent cartridge. It also had an effective range of about 25 feet.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

This was meant to have a great psychological effect on the enemy. However, the pistol never really got a chance to be hated by the troops as neither the generals in Europe or the Pacific saw the weapon as worth using. Large numbers of the pistols were passed on to the OSS, but they didn’t find them worth giving out either.

2. M16

Like the Sten gun, the M16 had a troubled beginning but, after improvements, later found affection from the troops who carried it. In its early days, in the jungles of Vietnam, the supposedly self-cleaning rifle failed in combat conditions. The major problem was a “failure to extract,” or when the chamber became fouled due to excessive firing. U.S. troops, not issued sufficient cleaning kits, were often found killed with their rifles disassembled as they tried to clean them and remove the jammed cartridge in the middle of a firefight.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
TFW your primary motivation for killing the enemy is to take his AK.

American troops hated the new rifle. However, the U.S. military quickly made changes to the rifle that increased its reliability. Despite early issues, it has gone on to be the longest-serving standard rifle in the U.S. military.

1. Chauchat

The Chauchat is perhaps the most-hated weapon on this list. Designed by the French to operate as a light machine gun carried by one man, it had numerous shortcomings. One major problem was its open-sided, half-moon magazine. The open side allowed mud and dirt to enter the magazine, impeding the ability to feed and causing stoppages. The long recoil operation of the gun also caused stoppages when it heated up and jammed the barrel to the rear.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Zut alors!

The weapon was so unreliable that, in combat conditions, it frequently jammed after only 100 rounds. Unfortunately for the troops, there was no alternative for a light machine gun until the Americans brought the BAR into action near the end of the war.

Military Life

See the Navy haul its crew’s vehicles on the USS Ronald Reagan

The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers are huge ships. This isn’t just for show; they need to be large to operate four squadrons of multi-role fighters plus other assorted planes, like EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes, and helicopters. But all of that space is useful for transporting other things, too. After all, we’re talking over four acres of sovereign United States territory.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Sailors direct the movement of vehicles onto an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

For instance, when the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) was switching homeports from Bremerton to San Diego (before being deployed to Japan as the forward-based carrier), she did a solid for all of the sailors who man her — she gave their rides a ride.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Sailors’ vehicles are parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

Many sailors have vehicles. But when you’re sailing a ship, your options for vehicle transportation are limited. Sure, you can have your vehicle shipped — but you’ll have to pay a fee. Yeah, you can ask a buddy to make the road trip out to your new home port, but what if something happens along the way? Or, you could always sell your car and buy a new one, but that’s a hassle and a half — plus, you don’t want to shed that sweet Mustang, right?

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Sailors direct the movement of vehicles on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)

Since it was just a short trip up the coast and since they didn’t need to operate the air wing, the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were allowed to park on the ship. Without the air wing, there’s a lot of room for helping the crew get their vehicles to the new home port.

For one brief coastal cruise, the Ronald Reagan became a $5 billion, nuclear-powered car carrier. The sailors saved money, the Navy didn’t have to pay contractors to move the vehicles, and we got some cool photos out of the deal. That’s a win-win-win all around.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The longest-held Vietnam POW was missing for 8 years

After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1947, Ernest Brace thought he was going to be a simple radio technician in a calmer, postwar world. None of those things happened. He was sent to flight school for the Corps instead and was sent to Korea, where he became a dive bomber. After flying more than 100 missions, he left the military for the civilian sector, only to be shot down while running arms – over Vietnam.

He would be held captive in Hanoi for almost eight years, making him the longest-held American POW in the entire war.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Adm. Noel Gayler, right, greeted Ernest Brace in March 1973 on his release as a prisoner of war.

By the time he earned his flight wings as a mustang military officer, the United States was committed to the war in Korea. Marine Attack Squadron 121 and Ernest Brace were sent there to fight in 1952. Brace would be there for almost the rest of the war. He flew more than 100 fighter missions over Korea in that time, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for taking incredible surface fire while raiding a power plant. He crashed into the Sea of Japan, but was rescued by the Navy.

Having enlisted at age 15, Brace was only 22 when his time in Korea ended. He was sent stateside in Maryland to train when he abruptly ended his own military career. He was accused of trying to fake his own death by crashing a trainer aircraft into a cornfield. Brace allegedly wanted his wife to collect his life insurance payout. When his flight uniform and other articles were found, he turned himself in. He was soon court-martialed and out of the military. But good men the military could trust were hard to find in the middle of the Cold War, so Ernest Brace wasn’t grounded for long.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Brace after returning from captivity in Vietnam.

Brace began flying planes for Bird Son, a company that supported government operations in Thailand, as well as USAID operations in the region. Most importantly, Bird was a contract operator for the Central Intelligence Agency at the time. In May 1965, Brace was the pilot of a PC-6 Porter civilian aircraft that took small arms fire while on the ground in Laos. Unable to take off, he was captured by the Pathet Lao and handed over to the North Vietnamese. After being tortured and held in stress positions for years on end, he finally found himself in the notorious Hanoi Hilton prison. He had attempted escape numerous times but was recaptured every time. After attempting suicide, Brace was sent to Hanoi with the other high-value POWs. His neighbor in the cells got him through by teaching him the POWs’ tap code.

Though he never saw his neighbor’s face, they were crucial to each others’ sanity and survival. It wasn’t until the two men met after their release in May 1973 that Ernest Brace met Lt. Cmdr. John McCain face-to-face for the first time. Their first meeting was at the White House.

Also: The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Just desserts for a man whose service to his country never ended.

During his captivity, Brace’s wife had accepted that he was dead and had since remarried. So when he met a nurse in San Diego Naval Medical Center and fell in love, he could marry her after his recovery. They were married the rest of his life and had three kids of their own. Brace lived to the age of 83, dying in 2014.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea threatens to pull out of the US peace summit

North Korea appeared to turn the tables on the US on May 15, 2018, by threatening to pull out of a summit scheduled for next June 2018.

The threat is an apparent broadside against the Trump administration and looks like a power move that could make Washington consider concessions to Pyongyang.


North Korea released statements on May 15, 2018, bashing officials in the administration, canceling talks with South Korea, and threatening to withdraw from the planned summit with the US.

In doing so, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has turned the tables on President Donald Trump, who has built enormous expectations for the meeting.

One statement from North Korea’s state-run media likened ongoing military exercises involving US and South Korean forces to a rehearsal for an invasion, returning to a talking point from 2017, when Trump and Kim were trading nuclear threats.

In a later statement, a North Korean official expressed “violent anger” at the US’s behavior and said Pyongyang would have to “reconsider” the meeting with Trump.

The official offered Trump an ultimatum: Cede to North Korea’s demands, or lose the summit.

How the tables have turned

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

When Trump accepted Kim’s offer to meet for a historic summit — which would be the first time a sitting US president meets with a sitting North Korean leader — experts and analysts were more or less united in viewing it as a legitimizing win for Kim.

Kim bought his way to the table with Trump with a single, virtually meaningless word: denuclearization.

The US has long maintained that it will not talk to North Korea unless the prospect of disarmament is on the table.

When Kim started discussing the prospect in early 2018, Trump and his top officials cheered the move as proof that its unique approach to North Korea had worked.

But in statements on May 15, 2018, North Korea said Trump had employed the same tired ideas that had failed in the past, asserting that its “treasured” nuclear program had brought it international power.

Now, after Trump has repeatedly hyped his progress with Pyongyang, it is Kim, the leader of a rogue state, dangling the prospect of a summit to gain concessions from the US.

What North Korea demands and how Trump might cave to it

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Kim and North Korean officials at a nuclear facility in September.
(KCNA photo)

North Korea’s recent statements push back on longstanding US-South Korea military exercises and call for Trump to back off of his demand for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

Already, it looks as if the US may cave to save the summit. South Korea’s Yonhap News reports that the B-52, a US nuclear bomber, could be pulled from air combat drills in a nod to North Korea’s new demands.

But before that, Trump’s top officials had minced words about the aim of talks with North Korea and the possible definitions of “denuclearization.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been to North Korea twice in the past month or so, has in a series of recent interviews described slightly different aims of the talks.

While Pompeo often speaks in absolute terms, saying total denuclearization and removal of nuclear facilities must come before Washington eases off Pyongyang, he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on May 13, 2018, that talks with North Korea would seek to ensure that “America is no longer held at risk by your nuclear weapons arsenal” and ending Kim’s chemical and biological weapons program and missiles “that threaten the world.”

Adam Mount, the director of the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted that, in other words, Pompeo said the US would accept “a standard that could permit retention of nuclear warheads, facilities, material, and possibly short range missiles.”

Kim’s master bluff

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
Kim leading South Korean President Moon Jae-in across the demarcation line into North Korea.

Jeffrey Lewis, a North Korea expert, said of the country’s recent statements, “I can’t imagine Kim gives up his summit.”

Lewis added: “I think Kim wants that photo with the President of the United States, paying tribute to him, for the front page of the Rodong Sinmun,” North Korea’s state newspaper.

Similarly, the historic diplomatic meeting may play well for Trump, motivating him to meet Kim’s conditions for talks.

North Korea’s recent hardline statements contradict what a South Korean official told reporters in March 2018 — that Kim had said he “understands the South’s stance” on the military exercises, which were happening at the time.

Basically, Kim seemed fine with the exercises when he was trying to get meetings with the US and South Korea, but now that he’s secured those talks, he has started to object.

“North Korea is back to its old game of trying to raise the stakes prior to a meeting,” said Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the CIA’s Korea division. “But Kim risks undermining the good will he had built up through his diplomatic outreach since January 2018.”

Now the question for the Trump administration is whether to call Kim’s apparent bluff or quietly meet his demands.

But by backing off from complete denuclearization, Trump could end up with a bad deal — and if he calls Kim’s bluff, the two leaders could land right back on the nuclear brink.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

Vladimir Putin has coasted to a fourth term as Russia’s president, scoring a landslide victory in an election Kremlin opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said gave voters no “real choice.”


A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on March 19, 2018 — more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Voter turnout was over 67 percent and the other seven candidates were far behind, she said.

While tainted by allegations of fraud — in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing — the resounding win sets Moscow’s longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.

Putin’s government-stoked popularity and the Kremlin’s sway over politics nationwide after years of steps to sideline challengers made Putin’s victory a foregone conclusion.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow.

“But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose — empowering people to choose their leaders,” he added.

Pamfilova said voting results had been annulled in five districts amid reports of ballot-stuffing, but she denied any incidents of observers being attacked or blocked from polling stations, despite apparent video evidence posted online.

She asserted that were “at least two times fewer” violations than in the 2012 presidential vote, which put Putin back in the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.

The OSCE, which had more than 500 observers in Russia for the vote, said that while legal and technical aspects of the election were well administered, “the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field.”

Foreign reactions

Among the first leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and appeared to be positioned for indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week.

 

 

Other authoritarian leaders — incuding Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — were also quick to congratulate Putin.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has received crucial Russian backing in a devastating civil conflict that has led to war crimes accusations, congratulated Putin on a result he called the “natural outcome of your outstanding… performance.”

More: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of traditional Russian ally Serbia, also congratulated Putin.

But amid worsening tensions between the West and Russia after the poisoning of a former spy with a potent nerve agent — an attack Britain blames on Moscow — many leaders chose their words cautiously when they spoke to Putin.

 

 

In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Putin “success for the political, democratic, economic, and social modernization” of Russia, and urged him to shed light on the “unacceptable” poisoning, the Elysee Palace said.

Angela Merkel’s spokesman said at midday on March 19, 2018, that the German chancellor would send Putin a congratulatory telegram “very soon,” but also pointed to tension in relations with Moscow.

“We have differences of opinion with Russia and we very clearly criticize Russia’s policies on some issues — Ukraine, Syria,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was nonetheless important to maintain contact with the Russian leadership.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned the fairness of the election and said Moscow will remain “a difficult partner,” although he added that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia.

“The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can’t talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” he said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue,” Maas said.

Putin: ‘No new arms race’

The United States on March 15, 2018, imposed another round of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals over what Washington says was Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Amid severely strained ties, Putin said on March 19, 2018, that Russia wanted to build “constructive” relations with other countries but that “not everything depends on us.”

Russia will not “instigate some arms race” and “will spare no effort to settle all disputes with our partners by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will always defend its own national interests.

Putin — who warned the West on March 1, 2018, that Russia had deployed or developed formidable new nuclear arms — vowed to decrease defense spending but said there will be no problem finding money for weapons and national defense.

The editor in chief of state-funded network RT, meanwhile, asserted that Western policies and attitudes had prompted Russians to unite around Putin and made him stronger than ever. She seemed to suggest he could remain in power indefinitely.

Related: 10 hilarious times Russia trolled the West on Twitter

Railing against the West and praising Putin in a tirade on Twitter, Margarita Simonyan said that “as soon as you declared him the enemy, you united us” around Putin.

“Before, he was just our president and he could have been replaced. But now he is our chief,” she wrote, using a noun — “vozhd” — that is often associated with Stalin. “And we will not let [you] replace him.”

Putin and the seven dwarves

Putin’s comments about foreign ties came during a meeting with the other candidates, whom he called on to cooperate and “be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, always putting group or party preferences on the back burner.”

Putin’s record-high official result put him miles ahead of the seven others on the ballot, who Kremlin critics have said were window-dressing to create the illusion of competition.

The election commission said Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was second with almost 12 percent, followed by flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 6 percent and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak with about 1.7 percent.

The four other candidates — liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist Sergei Baburin, Communists of Russia candidate Maksim Suraikin, and centrist Boris Titov — had 1 percent apiece or less.

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97
One of the other four Russian candidates, Grigory Yavlinsky.

Speaking to reporters after a late-night rally on voting day, Putin suggested that he would not seek the presidency again in 2030 –when he would next be eligible because of a limit of two consecutive terms.

But he left the door open to a potential move to change the constitution in order to maintain power past 2024 in some capacity, saying only that he is “not planning any constitutional reforms for now.”

Reports of fraud

With help from state media, Putin is riding a wave of popularity on the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in the wake of a military intervention in Syria that has been played up on Russian television as a patriotic success.

But reports of fraud dogged the election. Independent monitor Golos received reports of nearly 3,000 alleged violations.

Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and data analyst who has studied fraud in previous Russian elections, suggested that nearly 10 million “extra” votes — apparently all for Putin — may have been added through falsified turnout figures.

Voters were bussed to the polls in many places, according to supporters of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader barred from running in the election.

They also reported hundreds of cases of alleged voter fraud, notably in Moscow and St. Petersburg, two areas where Putin has relatively low support.

More: The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

Some voters in various regions said they had been pressured by their employers or teachers to vote and take a photograph of themselves at the polling station as evidence of their participation.

While official turnout was robust even in Moscow, where it has often been lower than in the provinces, there was palpable apathy at some polling stations.

Some Russians said they felt powerless to influence politics in a country dominated by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.

“There is no real choice,” said 20-year-old Yevgeny Kiva, who was paid by a local election committee to wear a clown suit and dance with children at a polling station in Moscow.

Navalny, who has organized large street protests and alleged extravagant corruption among the ruling elite, was barred from the ballot because of a conviction on embezzlement charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin.

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