“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”
A resurgent Taliban coupled with Islamic State militants have challenged U.S. forces in the region and are taking back territory formerly under control of U.S. and Afghan troops. As of February, the Afghan government controls 59 percent of all districts in the country, which is down 11 percentage points from the same time period in 2016.
Four months ago, Army Gen. John Nicholson, who commands U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed several thousand more troops.
Most of the new troops heading to Afghanistan will play the role of training and advising Afghan troops. A small minority will directly participate in counter-terrorism operations against Taliban and ISIS fighters.
Afghanistan is America’s longest war, beginning in 2001. More than 2,300 Americans have been killed so far and 17,000 more wounded.
As such, Mattis is looking to end the war as soon as possible.
“We’re not looking at a purely military strategy,” Mattis told a House Appropriations panel June 15. “All wars come to an end. Our job is to end it as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.”
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Rifles, grenades, and heavy machinery are the weapons of war, but there’s another, subtle and powerful form of warfare. Images, words, films, and even songs engage the hearts and minds of citizens to support wars.
The following posters are examples of persuasion used in the past to sway public opinion and sustain war efforts.
1. Fear is a powerful motivator. After all, it’s either them or us.
2. Nothing like a woman and child in imminent danger to jump-start our natural protective instincts.
3. This poster draws on the similarity of a child’s college fund.
4. Events like the massacre at Lidice gave Nazis a reputation for their brutality. This poster is a reminder of the atrocities that await should they invade American cities.
5. Posters like the one below alerted citizens to the presence of enemy spies lurking in everyday society. These posters reminded well-meaning citizens of the consequences careless talk may cause, such as compromising national security and troop safety.
6. “Uncle Sam” was extensively used during World War II. He was a fighter, a laborer, a recruiter and more.
7. “Avenge Pearl Harbor” was a popular cry after the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
8. Posters like the one below encouraged continued support for the war.
9. Humor was also used in propaganda posters.
10. But direct and emotional messages were more effective.
11. World War II took place during the golden era of comic books, which lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. This poster made in the popular comic book style was a sure fire way to promote a message.
Pavel Shavrin built the all-terrain vehicle to save his chickens and rabbits. He came up with the idea after some of his animals died when he couldn’t reach them one Winter. The snowy countryside of Magnitogorsk, Russia, make it difficult to travel during the season.
Behold, this Sputnik video shows the tank-car hybrid in all its glory.
Look, we get it. You have an unquenchable thirst — a yearning for the trumpets and cannon-fire, but the kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays and you have bowling league on Thursdays. What is a would-be operator to do?
High-end training is seeing an incredible boom right now. Whether you’re a Global War on Terror (GWOT) veteran looking to relive some of those glory days or just a red-blooded American looking to add a little spice to your life, there are training opportunities aplenty.
But what about the serious student who wants to challenge themselves at the same level as some of our most elite warriors? We’re going to give you a rundown of some of the best private training opportunities available because this is America — and the only reason you need to drive fast, shoot stuff, and jump out of airplanes is that you want to.
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, helocast into the water from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii, Nov. 14, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)
You can’t jump right into a high-level class though, so we’ve provided a roadmap to keep it fun and relevant. If you’re already at a high skill level, go ahead and jump right into the deep end, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Many of the classes and events are also physically demanding, so make sure you prepare before beginning your own special Q course. Once you’ve been training and start feeling good about yourself, amp it up and challenge yourself with our first training event:
1. GoRuck. The lads over at GoRuck have been doing their thing for a while now, and the GoRuck Challenge has evolved into a multi-event destination. As special as the Special Forces are, they’re all ground-pounders at heart, so you’ll need to be able to put weight on your back and get to the objective. If you really want to have some ruck credibility, be prepared to complete the two-day H-T-L, a combination of their Heavy, Tough, and Light events. Before you can be special, you gotta be tough. GoRuck also offers Ascent, a three-day “adventure” that will immerse you in wilderness survival, first-aid, and mountaineering — minus the granola-eating hippie garbage from your REI wilderness survival classes.
GoRuck Ascent is legit wilderness training.
(Screen grab from YouTube video uploaded by Tony Reyes)
2. Courses of Action. Leadership training is paramount in the military. Courses of Action, led by former U.S. Army Special Forces NCO Johnny Primo, offers a Small Unit Tactics course that focuses on rapid decision making, communication as a leader, and other essential skills in highly stressful situations. The four-day course is held in Texas and rotates students through leadership roles and at least 12 missions, always facing an opposing force. Regardless of the small unit you lead — family, work team, weekend softball league — you’ll learn effective skills that will impact every aspect of your life.
Land, sea, air … it doesn’t matter where! If you’re special, you take the fight wherever it shows up. The next two courses are all about that life aquatic. If you can’t swim or haven’t in years, you might want to check out the local Y to get your feet wet before diving in.
3. PADI Open Water Diver. A basic diving certificate is just the beginning — like any other skill, you have to keep improving. PADI provides classes and certifications all over the country, so don’t let a lack of an ocean get in your way. The Advanced Rebreather Diver is where all the cool kids are, so be prepared to put in the time to claim your throne as the King or Queen of Atlantis.
PADI offers courses across the country, including everything from basic diving certification to advanced rebreather diver.
(Photo by Jennifer Small/PADI)
4. OC Helicopter PADI Heli-Scuba Course. Any weekend warrior can dive out of a boat. If that’s not good enough for you, you’re, well, special. And special people dive out of helicopters. That’s right, it’s time to take your diving to the next level with helo-inserts. At id=”listicle-2641265805″,250 per person, it’s not cheap, but think of how impressed that chick over in accounting is going to be. You can’t be the office alpha if you’re not doing alpha stuff.
Well, we’ve covered land and sea — now it’s time to take to the air. Hold on to your security blanket and prepare for the airborne lifestyle. It’s not cheap or easy, but you’re up to the task. Besides, you can’t look down on the regular grunts doing grunt stuff if you’re not Airborne!
5. HALO Loft. There are great skydiving instructors all over the country, but there’s only one civilian High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump, and that’s HALO Loft. How high are we talking? How does 28,000 to 43,000 feet sound? Honestly, it sounds terrible to me, but I’m not special. If you want to claim those bragging rights, tuck your pants into your boots and get ready to regale the world with tales of airborne glory.
You’re almost there. You’ve forged yourself into something better than you were, but now that your body and will are steel, it’s time to sharpen. These are the skills that really set you apart from the pretenders — skills that have real-world, everyday applications for the safety and security of you and your loved ones.
6. ShivWorks ECQC, Extreme Close Quarter Concepts. There are a lot of folks out there teaching great things, but Craig Douglas at ShivWorks has been teaching people how to work in close and nasty with blade work, weapon retention, clinching, groundfighting, and striking, mixed in with plenty of force-on-force. His 20-hour ECQC course has been taught all over the world to all sorts of very special folks and is one of the most refined curriculums out there when it comes to getting it done up-close and personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt or you’ve been sweeping the leg since the 1980s, you’ll learn something that will have an immediate impact on the way you live your life.
7. Jerry Barnhart Training. There are many shooting programs ranging from very good to complete crap, but there is only one Jerry “The Burner” Barnhart. Even though The Burner has been teaching deploying units since 1987, his classes have become a rite of passage in the wake of the GWOT. There are plenty of competition guys who have worked with our special warriors, but none have had an impact on the industry like Barnhart. From helping guys situate their kit to refining trigger presses, he’s next level. He doesn’t publish a training calendar (he doesn’t have to), but get a hold of him and get into a class.
8. Rogers Shooting School. This is one of the granddaddies of the tactical shooting world. Bill Rogers has been training military and police instructors from around the world for more than four decades. This school is recognized as one of the most challenging shooting schools in the world and has humbled some of the best shooters from some of the most elite units. Rogers and his cadre tolerate no crap; be ready to go out into the Georgia woods and come out a week later a whole new shooter. Focusing on targets that stay still for a maximum of one second, this advanced school is not for the easily defeated.
9. Greenline Tactical.Don Edwards spent over 20 years in the Special Operations community fighting everywhere from Operation Just Cause (Panama) to Operation Enduring Freedom. He spent this time perfecting the skill of fighting under night vision, and when he retired, he went to work consulting and teaching for TNVC, cementing himself as a go-to source for all things night vision. When it comes to getting your night-jiggling on, no one speaks with more authority than Edwards. Check him out to find out why the good guys own the night.
Tim O’Neil has won five U.S. and North American Rally Championships; he was a factory driver for Volkswagen and Mitsubishi through the late ’80s and early ’90s and drove for the official U.S. Air Force Reserve team in the early 2000s.
(Photo courtesy of Team O’Neil Rally School)
10. Team O’Neil Rally School. Cars kill far more people every year than gunfire, so one of the best things you can do as a prepared citizen is to get some advanced driver training to even those odds. The Team O’Neil Rally School has become one of the most prominent providers of advanced driver training to Department of Defense clients. Their Tactical Mobility Package focuses on skills ranging from recognizing vehicle ambushes to high-speed loose surface training to skid pads — and even high-angle ascents and descents. If you’re going to be driving a Hilux on a crappy road in the dark — or just driving your kids home from school — Team O’Neil is where you need to go.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
One of the largest joint combat search and rescue exercises in the Pacific region, Exercise Pacific Thunder 18-1, kicked into full swing yesterday at Osan Air Base, South Korea.
This year, the exercise is the largest it has ever been. More than 20 U.S. Air Force squadrons and nine South Korean air wings are involved, giving the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons opportunities to train in simulated combat search and rescue missions all while working alongside their South Korean counterparts.
“Pacific Thunder originally started in 2009 as a one-week exercise between the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, and has since grown into a [Pacific Air Forces]-level exercise,” said Air Force Capt. Travis Vayda, the 25th Fighter Squadron Pacific Thunder 18-1 coordinator.
Although the annual exercise now has a vast range of units participating, it is still centered on the 25th Fighter Squadron, which operates A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which operates HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.
“Combat search and rescue is one of the most important mission sets we have in the A-10 community because we are really the only fixed-wing asset in the Air Force who trains to the CSAR mission,” Vayda said. “We are the close muscle, so essentially we are the bodyguards of the person on the ground and the helicopters that are rescuing them. Obviously in a CSAR [situation], you don’t want to have another type of shoot down or anything happen.”
During the exercise, the 33rd Rescue Squadron is able to directly work with A-10 pilots from the 25th Fighter Squadron, a level of joint training that both units typically have to simulate.
“The realism of the exercise gives us an opportunity to really see how the 25th FS operates,” said Air Force Capt. Dirk Strykowski, the 33rd Rescue Squadron’s HH-60 Pave Hawk flight lead. “Back in Kadena, we pretend as best we can to know what these guys are going to sound like on the radio, what calls they’re going to make and what kind of information they are going to provide, but being able to come up here and refresh what that’s actually going to be like is probably the biggest take away from the exercise.”
To make the exercise even more realistic, pararescuemen and survival, evasion, resistance and escape personnel from the 31st Rescue Squadron are not only participating in rescue missions, but also role-playing as isolated personnel.
“The intent of this exercise is to train like you fight, and we are trying to replicate that as best we can,” Strykowski said. “We have a lot of support from our pararescue and SERE. They’re out there on the ground now pretending to be downed pilots. So every step of the way, we are making it as realistic as it can get.”
Through combined CSAR training, exercise Pacific Thunder enhances the combat effectiveness between U.S. and South Korean air forces. Exercises like Pacific Thunder ensure the region remains ready to “Fight Tonight.”
What started as a pilot project in Kabul making sandals has now become a major lifestyle brand that employs thousands of local craftsmen and women in conflict zones all over the world. After serving, Matthew Griffin and fellow airborne Ranger Donald Lee recognized that the factories producing military gear in Afghanistan were going to become obsolete. During the seven tours between the two of them in the region, the founders of the company were constantly astonished by the creativity, respect, and determination of the Afghani people.
Griffin and Lee agreed that extremism finds easy prey in areas that are starving for resources. Rather than heading home upon completion of their duty, they went back unarmed. Combat Flip Flops was born from the idea of transitioning from war to peace.
Griffin and Lee enlisted Griffin’s brother, designer and co-founder Andy Sewrey, to come to Afghanistan develop their flagship product: a comfy, durable sandal, referred to the AK-47. Sewrey looked around him and realized he had no shortage of inspiration: poppies, tuck-tucks, bullet casings, and combat boots. They took the raw materials from the boots and redesigned them into flip-flops. Having almost no budget, the small team had to get scrappy about material and funding.
“We sold a car and a few other things and we came up with samples and we literally threw all our samples in a duffel bag and went to a Vegas to a trade show,” Griffin recalled. “People thought they were cool and bought them and we sold thousands right out of the gate.”
It became apparent that their model and philosophy were working, and when one factory became two, they added new products and pumped the money back into the communities, providing local citizens with jobs and opportunities.
Combat Flip Flops’ main production hub is in Bogata Columbia, where women-owned and operated factories make shoes and scarves. They have also partnered with makers all over the world and worked with displaced Syrian refugees in Beirut. In these factories, creative repurposing of bomb casings into bracelets and necklace charms made from recovered mines helps reduce the environmental impact from the after-effects of war.
Every pair of AK-47s sold — and in fact every single item on the website — funds an Afghani girl’s education for up to seven days. Since the literacy rate for girls in Kabul hovers around 15%, that is a significant infusion of education investment. Early education provides kids with upward mobility and makes them less vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.
Combat Flip Flops is a great example of soldiers taking their know-how and big hearts and using their powers to enact good after they have left the battlefield. These guys are committed to reducing the threat of war by trying to stabilize local communities one by one. “Employ the parents, educate the children” is the company’s informal motto.
You can check out the many fine products under the Combat Flip Flops brand here and because it’s a veteran-owned and operated nonprofit organization, all the proceeds go directly to educating young people in conflict zones.
Support soldiers — and the communities that they work so hard to protect.
To celebrate the release of Battlefield V, Microsoft and Electronic Arts partnered to give a Florida veteran a limited-edition Xbox One X bundle, delivered via an outrageous skydiving stunt.
Motorsport driver and stunt performer Travis Pastrana of Nitro Circus dove from a height of 13,000 feet to deliver the first Xbox One X Gold Rush Special Edition Battlefield V bundle to retired Navy Corpsman Jeff Bartrom, who lives in Paisley, Florida. Pastrana hit a peak speed of 140 mph during the dive, and the jump took less than 55 seconds.
Travis Pastrana Aerial Drop With Xbox One Gold Rush Battlefield Bundle
The giveaway was meant to thank Bartrom for his service, and it coincides with Microsoft’s #GiveWithXbox initiative. The company pledged to donate worth of Xbox products for every picture shared to social media with the hashtag showing the importance of gaming. Microsoft will donate up to id=”listicle-2621537520″ million to be split between four charities, Child’s Play, Gamers Outreach, SpecialEffect, and Operation Supply Drop. The social-media campaign is running through December 9th.
World War II shooter Battlefield V officially launched on Nov. 20, 2018, and is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. The Xbox One X version of Battlefield V also features enhanced visuals. EA Access members can play a free 10-hour trial of the game on their platform of choice as well.
A remote control airplane hobbyist has modified a model A-10 Thunderbolt II to conduct Nerf strafing runs on T-72 cardboard tanks and uploaded the results to YouTube. The modified, remote control A-10 can fire 12 paper-tank-busting Nerf balls in under half a second. You know, just in case your yard is overrun with mini Soviet tanks.
The RC A-10 can also fire three darts for taking out hard targets. Though reportedly not made from depleted uranium, the darts have more heft and better ballistic properties than the Nerf rounds, but they’re still loaded into the primary tube. That means backyard commanders have to decide their weapons layouts before the mission. It’s three darts or 12 balls, not both.
Both primary weapon loads of the A-10 are on display in the full video:
Despite its impressive performance against cardboard tanks and low cost, the RC A-10 has a number of drawbacks that will likely prevent its purchase by the Air Force.
First, the RC A-10 is manufactured by an untested contractor, YouTube user ajw61185. More importantly, it fires all of its rounds in a single burst, requiring it to return to its base to rearm after a single pass.
Critics of the RC A-10 point out that it was developed for a very different yard than exists today and claim the platform is simply outdated. Modern yards contain advanced sprinklers that the RC A-10 has no countermeasures with which to defend itself. The more stealthy RC F-35 might be able to avoid many of these sprinklers, but it has yet to reach the fleet due to frequent cost overruns and malfunctions.
Still, the RC A-10 is probably fine for home use and so could be used by defense-minded property owners to deter cross-border actions by stray dogs, squirrels, and other aggressors.
The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Oct. 1, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.
“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”
Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.
Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities, and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.
Great power competition
These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.
“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”
Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.
However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.
The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”
He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in 2018. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.
The arrest of a woman who hoodwinked her way into President Donald Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, with a thumb drive containing “malicious malware” has exposed flaws in the club’s security system, as the FBI reportedly launches an investigation into whether she is a Chinese spy.
Upon passing Secret Service checks, Zhang went through separate checks with Mar-a-Lago staff. They initially failed to verify that Zhang was on the guest list, but eventually let her in, thinking she was the daughter of a member also named Zhang, Ivanovich said. Zhang is a common Chinese surname.
According to Ivanovich, Zhang changed her story upon entering the property, saying she was there for an event organized by the United Nations Chinese American Association — which didn’t exist.
Upon being alerted, Secret Service agents found that Zhang had no swimsuit, and was instead carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, a hard drive, and a thumb drive containing “malicious malware,” Ivanovich said.
Federal prosecutors in Florida have since charged her with making false statements and entering a restricted area. She is due to appear in court next week.
The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in South Florida is now trying to figure out who Zhang is and whether she is linked to Chinese intelligence services, the Miami Herald reported. Zhang had not been known to US intelligence before March 30, 2019, the Herald said.
A spokeswoman for Yang told the Herald on April 3, 2019, that Yang “stated that she does not know the woman who was arrested at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.”
The FBI is looking into whether Yujing Zhang, the woman who bluffed her way into Mar-a-Lago, is connected to Li “Cindy” Yang, the Florida massage parlor founder accused of selling Chinese businessmen access to Trump.
Mar-a-Lago could jeopardize US national security, senators warn
March 30, 2019’s episode has exposed glaring flaws in Mar-a-Lago’s security system.
It showed that although Secret Service agents carried out physical checks on Mar-a-Lago visitors, whether or not someone gains entry to the club is down to the resort’s own security system.
In a rare statement on April 2, 2019, the Secret Service said: “The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity. The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property.”
Security measures within the club’s grounds have appeared lax in the past. In 2017, paying member Richard DeAgazio was able to freely snap photos of the moment Trump briefed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about a North Korean missile test over dinner.
The now-deleted Facebook post of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago in February 2017.
Photos of the dinner — which DeAgazio posted on Facebook before subsequently deleting them — showed the meeting being conducted in the open, in front of club members, with cellphone lights pointing toward sensitive documents.
In an April 3, 2019 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, and Mark Warner said: “The apparent ease with which Ms. Zhang gained access to the facility during the President’s weekend visit raises concerns about the system for screening visitors, including the reliance on determinations made by Mar-a- Lago employees.”
“As the White House Communications Agency and Secret Service coordinate to establish several secure areas at Mar-a-Lago for handling classified information when the President travels there, these potential vulnerabilities have serious national security implications,” they added.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the US House Oversight Committee, told Reuters: “I am not going to allow the president to be in jeopardy or his family,” adding that the Secret Service will brief him and his Republican co-chair Jim Jordan on the incident.
As Zhang wrestled her way into Mar-a-Lago on March 30, 2019, Trump had been golfing at a nearby resort. First Lady Melania Trump and other members of the Trump family were at the property at the time, but there is no indication that they crossed paths with Zhang.
Trump dismissed the incident as a “fluke” and said he was “not concerned at all,” according to Reuters.
“We will see what happened, where she is from, who she is, but the end result is they were able to get her,” he told senior military leaders, Reuters reported.
John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told The New York Times that Trump’s frequent visits to the club are a “nightmare for the Secret Service.”
“A privately owned ranch where the president and his people use the location is much easier than protecting the president when he chooses to go to a private club that’s open to members that provides services to those people in exchange for a fee,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
War is a strange time, and there is perhaps no stranger one in history than World War II.
From rumors that the Nazis were involved in occult research — rumors that have been successfully mined in films like Indiana Jones and comic books like Hellboy— to ominous sightings, mysterious battles, and ghostly planes, World War II scarred the world, and left behind countless mysteries, many of which have never been solved.
We’ve written in the past about some of these, such as the vanishing Amber Room, but now we’re going to investigate a few of the spookiest, eeriest, and most uncanny enigmas left behind by the Second World War.
11. The Nazi Gold Train
Alleged hiding place of the train in Wałbrzych (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In April of 1945, it was pretty clear to the Nazi forces that the war was almost over, and it wasn’t going in their favor. According to some accounts, they loaded a train with Nazi treasure, including gold and other valuables looted from Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and sent it on a trip through the Owl Mountains, where it disappeared. Some believe that the train vanished into tunnels created in the mountains as part of Der Riese, a secret facility built by the Nazis during the war. In spite of the efforts of countless treasure hunters over the decades, however, the so-called Nazi “ghost train” has never been recovered.
10. Foo Fighters
Even before the term UFO (or Unidentified Flying Object) had been officially adopted by the United States Air Force in 1953, pilots were spotting strange things in the sky. During World War II, they called these mysterious objects “foo fighters,” a name that was borrowed from the Smokey Stover comic strips of artist Bill Holman. Initially reported by the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, and named by their radar operator Donald J. Meiers, these objects were generally thought to be secret weapons employed by the Axis forces, though the Robertson Panel later determined that they were likely natural phenomena such as St. Elmo’s Fire.
9. The Disappearance of Flight 19
An artist’s depiction of Flight 19 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
While technically occurring shortly after the end of the war, the disappearance of Flight 19 is notable in part because of its role in helping to establish the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. While on a training flight over that infamous patch of ocean, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers lost contact with the tower. A Martin PBM Mariner flying boat was launched to search for the planes, which were assumed to have crashed, but the Mariner disappeared as well. No wreckage or bodies were ever recovered, either from Flight 19 or the Mariner, and Navy investigators were unable to determine a cause for the total disappearance of, in all, some 27 men and six planes.
8. The Pearl Harbor Ghost Plane
The P-40B is the only survivor from the Pearl Harbor attack (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
There are plenty of stories of ghost planes and strange sightings in the sky surrounding World War II, but perhaps none are as astonishing as the “Pearl Harbor ghost plane.” On December 8, 1942—nearly a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor—an unidentified plane was picked up on radar headed toward Pearl Harbor from the direction of Japan.
When U.S. planes were sent to investigate, they saw that the mystery plane was a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the kind that had been used by American forces in the defense of Pearl Harbor and not used since. They said that the plane was riddled with bullet holes, and that the pilot could be seen inside, bloody and slumped over in the cockpit, though he is said to have waved briefly at the other planes just before the P-40 crash-landed. When search teams explored the wreckage, however, they found no body, and no indication of a pilot, simply a diary that claimed that the plane had flown from Mindanao, an island some 1,300 miles away.
7. The Battle of Los Angeles
The attack on Pearl Harbor shocked America so much that it probably comes as no surprise that when an unidentified object was spotted in the sky over Los Angeles only a few months later, the response was swift. Witnesses described the object in question as round and glowing orange. It didn’t take long for searchlights to begin sweeping the skies or for anti-aircraft guns to fire more than 1,400 shells at the mysterious object. If anything was hit, no wreckage was found. In 1949, the United States Coast Artillery Association claimed that a weather balloon had started the shooting, while in 1983 the U.S. Office of Air Force History chalked the whole event up to a case of “war nerves.”
6. Hitler’s Globe
Hitler’s Globe was also known as the Führer Globe (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Made famous by Charlie Chaplin in his film The Great Dictator, Hitler really did have an enormous globe with a wooden base in his office. Manufactured by the Columbus factory, the globe was one of Hitler’s most prized possessions, but after the end of the war, it was never seen again. Some claim that a globe, recently auctioned by its owner, was Hitler’s, but historian Wolfram Pobanz disputes that, saying the globe in question actually belonged to Joachim von Ribbentrop.
5. Die Glocke
During World War II, Nazi propaganda popularized the idea of a number of Wunderwaffe, or “Miracle Weapons” that were supposedly going to help Germany win the war. Most of these weapons remained prototypes or even simply theoretical, but the idea of them entered the public consciousness, and has proven fertile ground for science fiction writers over the years.
In the year 2000, a Polish journalist named Igor Witkowski described a particularly chilling Wunderwaffe known as Die Glocke, German for “The Bell.” This bell-shaped weapon was said to be roughly 12 feet tall, and contained two rotating cylinders filled with a metallic liquid known as Zerum-525. When activated, the terrifying weapon was supposed to create a zone of effect around itself that would cause blood to coagulate inside the body and plants to decompose. Many of the scientists who worked on Die Glocke were said to have died while testing it, though the weapon was never used and, depending on whom you believe, may never have actually existed at all.
4. The Blood Flag
Hitler is accompanied by the Blutfahne (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Before the rise of the Third Reich, the infamous Nazi flag had already made its appearance during Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. During the fighting that followed, the flag was soaked in the blood of Nazi Brown Shirts, and became a potent symbol of the movement.
Throughout the war, Hitler would use replicas of the flag, which was sometimes referred to as the Blutfahne, or “Blood Flag,” in rallies, but the flag itself was last seen in 1944. Some believe that the bloodstained flag was destroyed during the Allied bombing of Munich, while others assert that the flag still exists. Many have claimed ownership of it over the years, but no claims have been proven.
3. 17 British Soldiers at Auschwitz
In 2009, during excavations at perhaps the most infamous of the Nazi concentration camps, a list was found containing the names of 17 British soldiers. What is unclear is what the list was a list of. Were these former prisoners of war, or defectors who joined the SS? What’s more, some of the names had marks by them, which seemed to indicate something, though what they indicated remains unclear.
2. Who Turned in Anne Frank?
Through her famous diary, Anne Frank has become one of the most well known voices of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The diary was written while Frank was hiding in Amsterdam, but she ultimately died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. While her diary shed light upon much of her life, the reason for her death remains a mystery. Someone must have reported her, but who ultimately made the anonymous phone call that led to the capture and execution of Anne Frank and her family?
1. Big Stoop
For a war that was fought more than 70 years ago, the number of Allied soldiers who remain listed as MIA is staggering, clocking in at more than 70,000. Many of these men disappeared in the war’s Pacific theater, where oceans, islands, and jungles made recovery—and discovery—difficult. Among these were the crew of a B-24 bomber called Big Stoop, shot down near Palau. For decades, the plane and its crew were considered lost, with no wreckage or bodies to be found. It wasn’t until 2004 that the plane’s fuselage was located by a team of divers, and not until 2010 that the families of the crew were able to bury at least some of their bones in Arlington National Cemetery, though mysteries still surround the exact fate of the bomber.
These are just a few of the strange and unexplained events that took place during and surrounding the Second World War. Even when the mysteries of war find solutions, the fog that war leaves behind often obscures as much as it reveals, and there can be no doubt that the aftermath of World War II left many other secrets behind, some of which we may still not be aware of even today.
Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.
As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.
That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.
Born in the Mid-’50s
Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.
In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.
Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.
“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.
Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.
Training and tools of the trade
Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.
Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.
But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.
Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.
All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.
Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.
During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.
“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.
In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”
Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.
When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.
Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.
“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”
Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.