The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

The Philippine president and authoritarian strongman Rodrigo Duterte has threatened war with Canada over a festering trash debacle. That would be an amazing overreach by the bombastic leader, and it would result in one of the most mismatched military engagements in modern history, if the two sides could even manage to hit each other in any real way.


Before we get into why the fight would be so funny, let’s just take a moment to say that there’s almost no chance that a war would break out. The whole argument centers over a mislabeled batch of trash that Canada paid to send to the Philippines. It was supposed to be filled with recyclables, but someone lied on the paperwork and filled it with municipal trash, including food and used diapers, instead.

That meant that it was hazardous waste, and there are all sorts of rules about shipping that stuff. Canada is working with diplomatic staff from the Philippines on how to bring the material back to Canada. But, for obvious reasons, the people on the islands are angry that Canadian trash has sat in the port for years as Canada tried to ship it back.

But the process is underway, Canada has said it will take the trash back, and there would be no good reason to go to war over the trash even if it was destined to stay there. But Duterte is not that logical of a leader, and he threatened war over the issue even though his staff was already working a fix. His military is, to put it mildly, not ready for that conflict.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Philippine Marines storm the shore during an exercise.

(Petty Officer 1st Class Nardel Gervacio)

First, let’s just look at what forces the two countries can bring to bear. Assuming that both countries were to meet at some unassuming, neutral field, Duterte would still struggle to even blacken Canada’s eye.

Canada is not the military power it once was, but it still has serious assets. Its military is comprised of about 94,000 personnel that operate 384 aircraft; about 2,240 tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces; and 63 ships and boats including 12 frigates, 4 submarines, and 20 patrol vessels.

So, yeah, the top six state National Guards would outnumber them and have similar amounts of modern equipment, but Canada’s military is still nothing to scoff at.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has a larger but much less modern military. Its 305,000 troops operate only 171 aircraft of which zero are modern fighters, 834 armored vehicles and towed artillery pieces, and 39 patrol vessels that work with three frigates, 10 corvettes, and 67 auxiliary vessels.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

So, you don’t want to get in a bar brawl with the Philippine military, but you’d probably be fine in a battle as long as you remembered to bring your airplanes and helicopters.

Canada has pretty good fighters, CF-18 Hornets based on America’s F/A-18 Hornet. So we would expect their unopposed fighter sweeps against Philippine forces to go well, allowing them to progress to hitting artillery pieces pretty quickly.

And Canadian ground forces, while small, are not filled with slouches. Their snipers are some of the best in the world, and their infantry gets the job done.

It sort of seems odd that Duterte thinks this would be a good idea. But, if war between two American allies seems scary to you, even if the closer ally is very likely to win, we have more good news for you.

There is essentially no way that Canada and the Philippines can effectively go to war against each other.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

We’ll grant that the Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Apolinario Mabini looks cool sailing in an exercise, but if it shows up off your shore, you just remove its batteries and wait it out.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez)

The Philippines are the ones threatening the war, so they would most likely be the ones who would need to project their military across the Pacific.

They, charitably, do not have the ability to deploy significant numbers of their troops across the ocean to Canada, let alone to open a beachhead against Canadian defenders.

And if Canada decided to launch a preemptive strike against the Philippines after Duterte declared war, even it would be hard pressed to do so. Those 63 boats and ships Canada has? None of those are carriers or amphibious assault ships. None of them are designed to project significant force ashore.

And all of this is without getting into the fact that Canada is a member of NATO. No one in NATO really wants to go to war against the Philippines, but, in theory, Canada could invoke Article 5 and call on the rest of the alliance.

Since the world’s most powerful military is part of that alliance, NATO would probably win a larger war against the Philippines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Eagle Scout became the kingpin of a drug empire

Aaron Shamo went from being a clean-cut Eagle Scout and deacon in the Mormon church to a clean-cut but alleged fentanyl drug lord on the darknet. When police raided his home in 2016, they found $1.2 million, another $2.2 million worth of product – some 95,000 pills.


Shamo was just 26-years-old, living in a quiet, affluent suburb in Utah when police took him into custody. He was playing his Xbox like any other twenty-something when DEA agents and a SWAT team kicked in his door.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Shamo grew up like most kids in Suburban Utah, a member of the church of Latter-Day Saints, and a pretty normal kid by his sister’s account. He may not have been good at sports and didn’t excel at his studies, but he wasn’t in any serious trouble as a teen, either. His parents still thought he was headed down a bad path because he rebelled against their authority, skipped school and church, and began smoking marijuana, so they sent him to a “lockdown facility” in La Verkin, Utah. That’s where Aaron graduated from high school and earned his Eagle Scout status.

He seemed to have changed, no longer had a temper, and was even pleasant to be around. He soon went to college, but that wasn’t for him. He would much rather spend time outdoors than going to class. His parents soon stopped paying his tuition. It was in college he got interested in Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency. He thought he could make real money in Bitcoin. But he went a different route.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

A Dark web drugstore similar to the one Aaron Shamo ran as “Pharm-Master.”

Shortly after his interest in Bitcoin grew, around 2014, he and a partner ordered latex gloves, postage, bubble wrap and gelatin capsules – everything needed to set up a pill press. His skills using the dark web for Bitcoin also provided an area of exchange to ship those pills. Aaron Shamo was now Pharma-Master on AlphaBay, the biggest darknet market. He was ordering his product from China and having it delivered to the homes of nearby friends and was the only bulk distributor around.

Pharma-Master offered anything from valium, Xanax, oxycodone, and MDMA, to Viagra and fentanyl powder. His wealth surged during this time, and everyone thought it was solely due to Bitcoin. Because few people truly understand how Bitcoin works, that was usually as far as the questioning went. Not for U.S. Customs or the Drug Enforcement Agency, however.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Pure fentanyl is so powerful, it can cause an overdose with direct skin contact. Officers wore HAZMAT suits to raid Shamo’s house.

The Feds began seizing his shipments in June 2016, but that didn’t stop Shamo from conducting business as usual. His longtime partner became less involved with the business. Shamo began to feel like he was being followed, and he was right. Homeland Security flipped a number of confidential informants who spilled the beans on his whole operation. Shamo was shipping fentanyl labeled as oxycodone around the country, significantly contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis and causing potential overdoses everywhere he shipped.

On Aug. 30, 2019, Shamo was convicted by a federal jury in Salt Lake City of organizing and directing a drug trafficking organization that imported fentanyl and alprazolam from China and used the drugs to manufacture fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and counterfeit Xanax tablets.

“The opioid crisis has devastated individuals, families, and entire communities across the nation. Aaron Shamo controlled and led a highly profitable organization that delivered fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills to every state in the union. Though his customers remained faceless on the dark web, their despair was real. Shamo profited off that despair and a jury of his peers has held him accountable,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said.

Shamo will be sentenced on Dec. 3, 2019. Prosecutors want him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Humor

11 military dog memes that are flat-out funny AF

Officers, medical staff, and interpreters are a few of the high-value targets that enemy forces focus on first while in a war zone. But the enemy also has their crosshairs on another professional that’s excellent at sniffing out homemade bombs: military working dogs.


Over 1,600 dogs train and serve alongside our brave troops, adept at hunting down the nasty ingredients used to produce those dangerous IEDs. Despite the serious nature of their mission, military working dogs are the subject of some of the funniest memes ever created.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing T-X first official EMD flight test was ‘superb’

On July 1, 2019, Boeing announced that T-X aircraft N381TX flew the first official Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) flight test from Boeing’s St Louis plant in Missouri. Boeing did not disclose further details about this flight although the Chief T-X Test Pilot, Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, said: “She flew just superb. First EMD test points went off without a hitch”.


The aircraft is one of the two company-funded prototypes built for the Air Force T-X Advanced Pilot Training program and modified into the EMD design after the first flight test campaign. The two aircraft performed 72 test flights between December 2016 and December 2018, gathering data ahead of the EMD testing. During the last months, Boeing and Saab (rear fuselage supplier for T-X) modified the prototypes with ACES 5 ejection seat, an updated On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and other minor changes. Boeing is counting on completing the critical design review of the final EMD configuration by the end of 2019.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

The two T-X prototypes in formation during a flight test.

(Boeing)


The U.S. Air Force awarded the $ 9.2 billion T-X contract to Boeing and Saab in September 2018 for 350 trainer aircraft, 46 ground-based training systems and related ground equipment, with other 125 aircraft on option.

The first five aircraft and seven simulators will be delivered to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph (Texas) in 2023, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned by the end of 2024 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) planned by 2034. The T-X trainer is due to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon, the world’s first supersonic and most produced jet trainer, that has been in service for over 50 years.

Boeing T-X Begins EMD Flight Tests

www.youtube.com

The new aircraft is powered by a single General Electric Aviation F404 engine (the same engine used by the Saab Gripen C/D and legacy F/A-18) and has a design similar to the F/A-18, with leading-edge root extensions (LERX) and twin tails that can provide high performance training for pilots that will fly US front-line fighters. The cockpit features a touchscreen large-area display (LAD), digital Up-Front Controller (UFC) and standby instruments, Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls and a low profile Head-Up Display (HUD), much like the F-35 cockpit or the proposed cockpits for Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Block III and F-15X and Saab’s Gripen E.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

popular

8 times ‘Jarhead 2’ made you grit your teeth

Hollywood loves to make sequels even from semi-successful films. Maybe that’s the reason why “Jarhead 2” was made or just because the world needs more movies about Jarheads — but who knows.


Released in 2014, the film follows a squad of supply Marines who get attacked by enemy forces and must fight their way to safety. Some other stuff happens along the way and spoiler alert — most of them eventually make it back safely.

There, we just saved you two hours.

This film is one of many that makes Marines grit their teeth and have to look away — that’s difficult to pull off.

So check out our list of moments that made us grit our teeth.

1. Priority during a firefight

In the opening scene of the film, the Marines at Patrol Base Cobra are under heavy attack from enemy forces. But this Marine is ordered to finish unloading supplies from a truck rather than firing his weapon to defend the area.

 

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

We guess hydrating is more important than laying down a base of fire. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

2. Jarhead shows biggest bullseye ever

Corpsmen and medics haven’t carried medical bags with the Red Cross stamped on it in decades — just saying. That’s a huge a** red cross to add insult to injury.

 

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
We wouldn’t want to stand next to this fictional Corpsman anywhere in country carrying that. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

3. Camp Leatherwhat?

They could have done a better job rendering what Camp Leatherneck looked like a few years ago. That’s why we have Google images.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Not even close. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

The tent city of the real Camp Leatherneck. Much different, right?

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The Marine Corps’ base camp in Afghanistan. (Source: Pinterest)

4. Sleeves up and wearing the wrong undershirt

A senior officer would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t in the budget? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

5. At the rifle range without any protective gear

The Range Safety Officer would lose his qualification in a heartbeat if a superior saw this crap.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Safety isn’t a real issue. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

6. Jarhead 2 could have at least got collar device placement right

Oh, come on! Really?

 

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Countless numbers of teeth have just broken after spotting this captain’s rank insignia placement. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

7. Worst secured perimeter ever

If you wanted to attack these fictional Marines, you could just walk right up from behind and they would never f*cking notice.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

WTF? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

8. Jarhead 2 features a scope mounted on the carrying handle

Nope. This film takes place in 2013, meaning RCOs were used and mounted in lieu of a carrying handle. No offense, but supply Marines do not rate those types of scopes.

 

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

For the love of God, do some research people. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military released report on faster-than-light travel but don’t get your hopes up

Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth.

Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the “propulsion” category titled, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions”.


The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Business Insider first learned about in a post by Paul Szoldra at Task & Purpose.) The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or “dark energy” — a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.

“Control of this higher dimensional space may bе а source of technological control оvеr the dark energy density and could ultimately play а role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, а warp drive,” the authors write. “[T]rips to the planets within our own solar system would take hours rather than years, and journeys to local star system would be measured in weeks rather than hundreds of thousands of years.”

However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report’s optimism.

“It’s bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn’t.” Carroll said. “This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we’re going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that’s going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.”

James Т. Lacatski, a Defense Intelligence Agency official listed as a contact on the report, did not immediately to respond a query from Business Insider.

Where the warp-drive study came from

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
The Pentagon building

The nature of this study is still making its way to the public.

What is known is that it’s an “acquisition threat support” reference document, which helps the US military anticipate or describe new enemy technologies — apparently including (very, very) notional ones. It was also one work in “а series of advanced technology reports” for something called the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program, or AAWSAP.

This was a larger program that included Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program — an effort to investigate alleged UFO sightings by military personnel, according a recent story by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.

The New York Times and Politico revealed AATIP’s existence in December 2017. The outlets said former Nevada senator Harry Reid helped organize it and secure millions in secret government funding (sometimes called “black money”) for the effort.

A large share of this money reportedly went to Robert Bigelow — a real-estate mogul who’s working to build private space stations through Bigelow Aerospace, is a friend of Reid’s, and someone who has funded his own UFO research for years. The billionaire reportedly formed a separate entity, called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, to secure the government funding and use it to hire 46 researchers and “dozens of other support personnel,” KLAS-TV said.

An anonymous senior intelligence official told Politico that AATIP began mostly to root out the existence of unknown Chinese and Russian military technologies. But after a couple of years, “the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” the official said. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find.” AAWSAP and AATIP reportedly ran out of funding in 2011 or 2012.

Scientists are also skeptical of UFOs, even after viewing spooky videos obtained by AATIP, one of which shows an undated encounter with “an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves,” the Times wrote.

Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute previously told Business Insider that, after 50 years of reported alien visits, “the really good evidence that we’re being visited still has failed to surface.” He added: “It is a little odd that aliens would come hundreds and hundreds of light-years to do nothing.”

The larger program that looked into the feasibility of warp drives, wormholes, and stargates is meeting similar scrutiny from established experts.

The physics of warp drives

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
An illustration of a warp field generated by a theoretical device called an Alcubierre drive. A spaceship inside might be able to move faster than light by contracting the fabric of space ahead of it and expanding the fabric of space behind it with negative energy.

In the warp-drive study, the authors laid out several well-established ideas in physics.

Those concepts include dark energy; general relativity, which Albert Einstein pioneered and predicted some bizarre-yet-real phenomena in the universe (like the warping of spacetime and gravitational waves); the Casimir effect, which describes the existence of a quantum “vacuum energy”; and M-theory — the idea that perhaps seven extra dimensions (which a warp drive could exploit) may be wrapped up in the four we’re familiar with, including time.

It then mashes this work together to lay out a potential use of these properties that’d circumvent Einstein’s cardinal rule: Nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum.

“If one is to realistically entertain the notion of interstellar exploration in timeframes of а human lifespan, а dramatic shift in the traditional approach to spacecraft propulsion is necessary,” said the report, which goes on to suggest that a warp drive might be feasible.

The study includes a table of various destinations and how quickly they might be reached by bending spacetime to travel 100 times faster than light.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

The way this might work, the report says, is by using a lot of dark (or negative) energy to expand an extra dimension into a “bubble.” Such a bubble would be made large enough to fit a spaceship of perhaps 100 cubic meters — roughly the size of a semi-trailer truck.

A contracting region of spacetime in front of the ship, plus an expanding region behind it, would then propel the bubble and ship down a sort of spacetime tube without technically exceeding the speed of light.

Carroll also said that the concept of a warp drive “is not crackpot” — Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican theoretical physicist, invented the concept in 1994.

“You can’t go faster than the speed of light. But what you can can imagine doing is effectively twisting spacetime so that it looks like you’re moving faster than the speed of light,” Carroll said. “If you want to go to Alpha Centauri, for example, you can ask yourself, ‘Well, could I bend spacetime so that Alpha Centauri is next to me, so that it takes a day to go there, rather than tens of [thousands of] years? Can I make the warping of spacetime do that?’ And the answer is sure, you can do that.”

But Carroll said the DIA report goes too far in its analysis.

“There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there’s dark energy. All of these things are true,” he said. “But there’s zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes, or the next 1,000 years, are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that.”

The problems and perils of faster-than-light travel

Carrol said warp drives are so removed from plausible reality because no one knows what negative energy is, how to make it, or how to store it, let alone put it to use.

What’s more, the amount of negative energy you’d need to reach a place like Alpha Centauri — the nearest star system to Earth, at 4.367 light-years away — in a couple years with a 100-cubic-meter ship is truly astronomical.

“If you took the entire Earth and annihilated it into energy, that’s how much energy you’d need, except you’d need a negative amount of that, which no one has any clue how to make,” Carroll said. “We’re not taking the atoms of the Earth and dispersing them like the Death Star would do. We’re making them cease to exist.”

Then this energy has to be captured, stored, and used with 100% efficiency.

“It’s completely crazy talk,” Carroll said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh, we need better transistors.’ This is something that is not anywhere within the realm of feasibility.”

The study states that its conclusions are speculative, admits the negative-energy figure “is, indeed, an incredible number,” and adds that “a full understanding of the true nature of dark energy may be many years away.”

However, it suggests “that experimental breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider оr developments in the field of M-theory could lead to а quantum leap in our understanding of this unusual form of energy and perhaps help to direct technological innovations.”

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
A section of theu00a0Large Hadron Collider.

Nearly a decade on, none of these developments have panned out. The LHC has yet to find any evidence of particles that’d crack the mysteries of dark energy, nor have experiments really advanced M-theory.

But assuming negative energy could somehow be extracted, a planet’s worth of exotic matter fed into a spaceship’s warp drive engines, and a suitable destination picked out, the crew might encounter a number of show-stopping problems.

Interstellar travelers may lose control of their ship the moment they start it due to the warping of space itself. Hawking radiation — which is theoretically found at the edges of black holes and other highly warped regions of space — might roast passengers while shutting down their warp field. And slowing down may be deadly: Several light-years’ worth of cosmic dust and gas between the origin and destination might turn into a dangerous shockwave of high-energy particles and radiation upon arrival.

“It’s possible in the sense that I can’t actually rule it out, but I don’t think it’s actually possible,” Carroll said of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. “I think if we knew physics better, we’d just say, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”

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

Articles

This super-secret Cold War military unit just came in from the cold

Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.


Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.

Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.

With a literal line drawn between the forces — American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin — the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Street art depicting the Brandenburg Gate during the Cold War. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

It was there that, for nearly 30 years, an elite Special Forces unit operated. Today, those veterans are decades removed from their secretive mission, but are only now receiving recognition for their efforts.

The little-known unit, called Detachment A, held various missions during its short-lived history, but the longest-standing was the “stay behind” mission.

In the event of World War III — with Soviet forces expected to come pouring across the Berlin Wall — members of the detachment, who never numbered more than 100 men, were expected to blend into the city and make life difficult for the much larger Communist force.

Teams were assigned sabotage missions, ready to destroy key transportation lines, military equipment, and other targets. They also would be expected to train and lead guerrilla forces that would then be tasked with harassing the Soviet troops from behind enemy lines, buying important time to allow NATO forces to mount a counterattack.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Photo: Central Intelligence Agency

Charest, twice a member of Detachment A, recalled one of his team’s forays across the Berlin Wall recently during a visit to Fort Bragg.

Despite the soldiers’ efforts to go unnoticed, it was not unusual for the men to realize they were being followed, Charest said.

When that happened, the soldiers were trained to evade the extra attention and disappear into the city. Failure was not an option.

“You’re a spy,” Charest said, decades after having served in the city. “You didn’t have any dog tags. You weren’t there, officially.”

“If they caught you, they would either kill you or put you in jail,” he said.

Despite the high stakes, Charest said, the men were highly trained and able to stay calm under pressure.

Part of that training involved how to surveil targets amid the busy city and, if needed, lose the enemy when under unwanted scrutiny.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
East German soldiers line up. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“We knew we were being watched,” Charest said.

Luckily, the men also knew their way around the city. Unlike other American troops in Berlin, these soldiers were trained to blend into Berlin. They had to immerse themselves in the city, becoming as knowledgeable on its nooks and crannies as the locals.

As the team led their tail through the city, Charest said, the soldiers made their way to a train station, part of the city’s subway, or U-Bahn, network.

Instead of stepping onto a train, the men let the first one pull out of the station. A second train arrived and the men were seemingly set to let that one pass, too.

But at the last moment, just before the doors closed, Charest said, the soldiers stepped onto the train.

He turned just in time to lock eyes with the man who had been following them. Charest is unsure who he worked for. It could have been the East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, or the Soviet KGB.

As the train pulled out of the station, Charest looked at the man. Then he smiled, and as he pulled out of sight, Charest waved goodbye.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Inside a Berlin U-Bahn car, 1977. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For most of its history, Detachment A — sometimes known simply as “the detachment” or “Det ‘A'” — was as elusive as the men who served in the unit.

When it was formed in 1956 with the cover story of a “security platoon” assigned to another US Army unit in Berlin, only about 10 officers knew the true makeup of the unit, according to James Stejskal, a Special Forces veteran who spent two tours of duty in Berlin and later served with the CIA.

Stejskal, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has written what might be the only definitive history of Detachment A.

His book, “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990,” was published this year by Casemate Publishers, following a two-and-a-half-year effort to research and write the book and another year-long review by the Department of Defense.

Stejskal was one of dozens of Detachment A veterans who gathered on Fort Bragg earlier this month.

Once covered in shadows — to the point that even the US Army has little official documentation on the unit — the veterans of Detachment A are becoming increasingly vocal, with the hopes of bringing the unit the recognition it deserves before all of its former members are gone.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Photo: Scapler CC BY-SA 3.0

Charest, who now lives in Campobello, South Carolina, has been a key part of those efforts.

Since Detachment A was first publicly acknowledged in early 2014, he has worked to tell the unit’s untold story.

Previously recognized by veterans of the unit as “The Man Who Brought Detachment A In From the Cold,” Charest is the group’s webmaster, maintaining a website — detachment-a.org — along with his wife, Linda. He’s also become their organizer, facilitating annual reunions.

The most recent gathering was at Fort Bragg, the same place where veterans of the unit unveiled a monument stone honoring Detachment A outside of U.S. Army Special Operations Command in early 2014.

Detachment A has long been a small, elite group. Over its nearly 30-year history, an estimated 800 men served among its ranks or with the Physical Security Support Element-Berlin, a similar unit that replaced the detachment from 1984 to 1990.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Berlin Wall, 1988. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Charest said the annual gatherings, which once attracted more than 100 veterans, are starting to dwindle. Detachment veterans are growing older. They’re dying, he said. Or they don’t travel as well as they used to.

“We’re starting to slow down,” Charest said. “I can see the handwriting on the wall.”

That makes his mission to spread the word about the unit even more important.

“We’re getting the recognition we didn’t have,” he said.

In the years after the Cold War, the Army declassified many of Detachment A’s secrets. But its veterans were largely unaware that they were now free to speak about their experiences.

The breaking point came in 2014, Charest said. The ceremony outside the USASOC headquarters was a first for Detachment A.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Bob Charest addresses the crowd during a 2014 ceremony. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Carter

In addition to unveiling the monument stone, the veterans also took the symbolic step of casing the unit’s colors, a flag used to identify the detachment, for the first time.

“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said during the ceremony.

Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, then-commander of USASOC, said the men operated amid untold risk, fraught with uncertainty.

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” he said.

The next day, a story about the ceremony was on the front page of The Fayetteville Observer.

Charest said it was the first public exposure for the unit, whose existence and missions had been highly classified secrets. It began a flurry of queries from veterans of the detachment, some of whom had never even told their families about the unit.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Retiring and casing of the Det. A colors. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Carter

“We were out of the cold,” Charest said. “This unit — nobody knows about it. Nobody knew we ever existed.”

Stejskal, who interviewed 65 veterans of Detachment A for his book and dug through what little information was available from official sources, said it was long past due for the unit to receive its recognition.

“No one became famous because of his exploits in Berlin; they were classified,” he said. “The Army has no history on us. They know of it, but they don’t know anything about it.”

Stejskal said that when he visited the Army’s Center for Military History to research his book, the organization had six pages of documents and little information. Most of the unit’s actual documents have been lost or destroyed.

“After 25 years, I figured it was about time,” Stejskal said of his decision to put together a history of the unit. “We’re on the verge of dying out and losing it all, all that historical knowledge.”

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Detachment A, also known by its classified name — the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment — was formed in August 1956 from carefully screened and selected members of the 10th Special Forces Group based in Bad Toelz, Germany. The unit was first housed at McNair Barracks and later, at Andrews Barracks in West Berlin.

Over the years, the men assigned to Detachment A remained a select group. They were highly trained, often with experience in World War II or, later, in Vietnam.

Members of the unit had to be Special Forces qualified. They needed to have a top-secret clearance. And they needed to be able to speak fluent German or another Eastern European language.

In the early days, nearly half of the unit came from soldiers who joined the Army under the Lodge Act — often refugees from Europe whose families remained under Soviet rule. Those immigrants provided important knowledge to the detachment members, who needed to appear to be German.

Charest, who served with the clandestine unit from 1969 to 1972 and again from 1973 to 1978, said the slightest mistake could blow a soldier’s cover.

“The Germans handle a knife and fork different than we do,” he said. “They count with their fingers different.”

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Breitscheidplatz–the center of West Berlin, 1960. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Detachment members had to study the habits of locals, Charest said. They needed to dress like a local, wear their hair like a local, and talk like a local.

They carried paperwork provided by German authorities or passports from Eastern European nations that supported their cover stories. Even their ranks were classified, Charest said. Instead, members usually referred to each other by their first names.

Even within the Special Forces community, Charest said, the detachment was largely an unknown.

Some soldiers were assigned to the unit assuming it was a conventional support unit. They wouldn’t learn the truth until they were in Berlin being debriefed by leaders.

“They knew it existed, but nobody knew what they did,” Charest said.

At first, Detachment A had about 40 soldiers, but it would grow to about 90 troops for most of its history. Most soldiers stayed in Berlin for three years.

Amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the detachment would have been little more than a speed bump against Soviet forces in a conventional fight.

But Charest said the detachment never intended to “fight fair.”

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With Berlin more than 100 miles behind enemy lines, encircled by what could have become the front lines of a war, those allied forces stood little chance at stopping the Soviet forces.

Stejskal wrote that the city would likely have become the world’s largest prisoner-of-war camp. He compared the hypothetical plight of the detachment to the 300 Spartans who faced a superior Persian force at the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.

“If the Russians decided to roll across the wall, that would have been World War III,” Charest said. “It was a suicide mission.”

“The odds were against us,” he added. “But that’s part of the game.”

The most the detachment could hope for, Charest said, was slowing the Soviet juggernaut.

Stejskal described the detachment mission as a “Hail Mary plan.”

He said the soldiers were there to buy time and disrupt the enemy, much like World War II’s famed Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the modern CIA.

Charest said the soldiers were constantly “poking and prodding” German and Soviet defenses. Sometimes, that would mean sneaking into East Germany via canals and tunnels.

“We were constantly trying,” he said. “If you heard the stories, you wouldn’t believe them.”

As the Cold War stayed cold, the detachment would see its missions expand.

It was tasked with probing and testing allied security vulnerabilities across Europe.

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Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989 – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

At the same time, it would become more of a counterterrorism force, training to respond to hijacked airplanes and participating in the famed Operation Eagle Claw — the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Detachment soldiers were tasked with rescuing three diplomats being held by Iran, and two detachment members were stationed in Tehran, providing information on the target buildings and preparing to receiving the rescue force.

When the mission was scrapped and disaster struck a staging site — resulting in the deaths of several troops — the detachment members in Iran were left to escape the country on their own.

Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974 and later commanded all American forces in Berlin, said the city was full of spies and the Soviet KGB had known about the detachment since the late 1960s.

But, Shachnow said, the Soviets greatly overestimated the size of the unit, assuming it was about 500 men instead of less than 100.

“They knew our capabilities but did not know what our targets were,” he said.

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Berlin Wall, 1989 – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Shachnow is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Lithuania and spent three years imprisoned in a Germany concentration camp as a young boy. He moved to the United States in 1950 and became a legend in the Special Forces community.

He said he had the privilege of deactivating the Special Forces presence in Berlin.

“It was a sad ceremony in an empty room with only about 12 guest spectators seated in folding chairs,” he said. “I awarded some medals, made some short remarks, and the ceremony was over in a matter of minutes.”

“Det A was a small, covert unit staffed with incredibly talented people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Shachnow said on Fort Bragg earlier this month. “They served on the front lines of the Cold War and never fired a shot in anger. No force of its size in history has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

IS claims 3 attacks in Russia’s Chechnya by teenagers, children

Russian investigators say they have launched investigations into three separate attacks that wounded several police officers in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 20, 2018 assaults in an announcement by its Amaq news agency, without providing details or evidence to back up its statement.


The Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, rejected the IS claim, alleging that the militant group had “no support, no social basis” in the North Caucasus republic.

At most, the IS group might have influenced young people on social media, Kadyrov said in a post on Telegram.

Chechen Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov told the TASS news agency that the youngest attacker was 11 and the oldest 17.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said that in one of the Aug. 20, 2018 attacks, two attackers entered the district police department in the town of Shali and wounded two officers with knives.

The two assailants were shot dead, according to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry.

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“The main purpose today is to create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said.

(North Caucasus Service RFE/RL)

In the village of Mesker-Yurt, north of Shali, a young person carrying a rucksack blew himself up at a police post, investigators said, adding that “officers and civilians were not harmed by the blast.”

Reports earlier said the attacker had survived.

And in the regional capital, Grozny, police opened fire on a vehicle that had hit two policemen. Investigators said the driver was killed.

Authorities reportedly identified the driver as 17-year-old Ali Akhmatkhanov — a younger brother of Khizir Akhmatkhanov, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his involvement in a terrorist attack in the Chechen city of Gudermes in 2001.

The other person in the car was 11 years old, Umarov told TASS.

Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, claimed that the assaults’ main purpose was to “create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya.

The Chechen leader also dismissed the attacks as an attempt to disrupt the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, saying, “The task was to darken this holiday, to cause a broad public response, and to prevent residents of Chechnya from celebrating Eid al-Adha.”

Islamic militants in the region have mounted frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims, and officials, and some have sworn allegiance to IS.

Russia estimates some 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, have fought alongside IS in Syria.

Organized crime, business turf wars, political disputes, and clan rivalry also contribute to the bloodshed in the region.

Critics say Russian authorities and Kadyrov’s government sometimes use allegations of militancy as a pretext to crack down on opponents.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

The Army Corps of Engineers is installing up to 500 temporary generators until Puerto Rico’s old and deteriorating power grid can be made operational again, but long-term total power restoration could take nearly a year, the Corps’ chief of engineers told reporters at the Pentagon today.


The Corps is starting with public facilities and it faces power restoration to 3.4 million houses on the U.S. territory, some of which are in remote areas, Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite said.

Semonite said the island governor’s immediate goals are to restore power to 30 percent of Puerto Rico by the end of October and to 50 percent by the end of November, which the general said he considers a challenge.

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Soldiers from the Puerto Rico Army National Guard and the South Carolina Army National Guard team up to clear debris that blocks roads in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Soldiers were working in the vicinity of Cayey, Puerto Rico. (36th Infantry Division photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

The Corps is responding to the effects of four major hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands within a six-week span. Puerto Rico remains a challenge in part because it is an island, making it difficult to receive supplies, such as the 62,000 utility poles needed for power restoration.

Also read: 6 of the largest humanitarian missions in US military history

“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is a completely different paradigm,” he said. “People have asked me in the last several weeks … ‘Why don’t you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?’ Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks … down into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”

The Corps also needs about 338 utility towers, Semonite said, noting that each one is 75 feet long and must be flown in. “And then we need an awful a lot of connectors and cable, as well. But the whole goal is to get the transmission up and running,” he added.

Four-fold Strategy

The Corps’ power strategy is fourfold, starting with the temporary generators. As of today, 148 have been put in place, Semonite said.

The second line of effort is generation from the power plants.

“We need about 2,500 megawatts of power … to be able to restore the power back up to where it was at the beginning of the storm. Today, right now, we’ve got about 21.6 percent of that up,” he said.

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FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico—Temporary power generators staged in a yard in Fort Buchanan are prepared for installation in critical facilities throughout Puerto Rico, October 8, 2017. Soldiers assigned to 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), along with civilian U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders are working with FEMA to provide power generators to support disaster relief emergency operations throughout Puerto Rico. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr, 24th Press Camp HQ)

Transmission is the third line of effort in the strategy to restore power, Semonite said. “The No. 1 goal right now of what the Corps is doing is to be able to move this electricity that’s in the south up to the north,” he explained.

The fourth line of effort is distribution — getting power to homes and other buildings along terrain that is a massive logistics challenge, the general said.

“There are seven large power plants that normally run off of fossil fuel,” he said. There are also about seven solar or wind power plants and 21 hydropower plants, Semonite added. But, the general explained, the majority of that power is generated in the southern part of the island, while the majority of the need is in the north — particularly around San Juan.

Moving Power

And though transmission and distribution remain a challenge, there just isn’t enough capacity in Puerto Rico’s existing power plants to provide electricity to the island, Semonite said.

“Even if in fact all of the power plants are up and running, we would have a generation shortfall,” he said. “So about a week and a half ago, we cut a contract to a large company to come back in and place a temporary power plant in San Juan.”

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins the installation of two power generators at the Palo Seco Power Plant in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Oct. 17, 2017. The power plant which was damaged by Hurricane Maria is currently operating at very low capacity. USACE is working with local and national contractors and the Puerto Rico Electric Authority to stabilize the power plant. Once the generators are operational they will provide 50 megawatts of power, which will be able to power over 11,000 homes. The Department of Defense is working with USACE, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the local government and other organizations to provide disaster relief in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Colletta)

The Corps and the Defense Department are working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico’s local government to restore power to the island, he emphasized.

Restoring power to the island is going to take a massive, long-term rebuild of the power grid, Semonite said.

“So what we are doing is to go all-out and put as many generators in as we can, mainly in public facilities. We got a list from the governor, and all the mayors donated to that list,” the general said. “And the list has got about 428 different requirements on it today.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force issues its first Space Force guidance

Air Force leaders have broken their silence following President Trump’s order to create a new military service branch for space.

Leaders issued a message to airmen telling them to stay the course as the process of implementing the president’s guidance moves forward. Trump gave the order on June 18, 2018, during a speech to the National Space Council at the White House.

In a message to all airmen sent June 19, 2018, service brass including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein confirmed that, as rumored, the new “space force” would be established as a military service inside the Air Force.


It’s an idea that Wilson and Goldfein have previously opposed publicly as too costly and presenting too many organizational challenges for the service.

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Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, and Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, center, speak with 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen and joint coalition partners during a town hall event held at the base theater, Aug. 20, 2017, in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jonathan Hehnly)

In the new message, the leaders voiced agreement with Trump’s position that the U.S. military approach to the space domain must become more robust to meet current and future challenges.

“The President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position — space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”

Trump offered few details about the implementation of a space force in his announcement June 18, 2018, though he did say the Air Force and the proposed new service would be “separate, but equal.”

Air Force leaders told airmen they should not expect any “immediate moves or changes” in the wake of the announcement, saying creation of the new force would take time.

“The work directed by the President will be a thorough, deliberate and inclusive process,” they wrote. ” … Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy.”

Policy experts told Military.com that building a new force could take years and would require major legislation and planning, even if it’s staffed by current service members and takes advantage of existing infrastructure.

The message to airmen concluded on an upbeat note.

“We remain the best in the world in space and our adversaries know it,” it said. “Thank you for standing the watch. We’re proud to serve with you!”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII ‘Hero of Cologne’ receives medal during surprise ceremony

One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.

Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.

He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.


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(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

Duel at the cathedral

It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.

Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.

As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”

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Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.

“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.

American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.

“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”

“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”

One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.

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(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.

Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.

Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.

The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.

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Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.

(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)

“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”

Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.

Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”

“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”

Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.

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World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”

But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”

Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.

“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.

She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.

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Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee)

History in the making

For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.

“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”

Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.

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Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.

But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.

That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.

“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.

This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.

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World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.

To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.

With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Emergency C-17 flight to Antarctic saves lives

Just after completing the final flight of the Southern Hemisphere winter Antarctic season, the 304th Expeditionary Air Squadron was alerted there was a medical emergency at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station Aug. 25, 2018.

In the face of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, the 304th EAS was able to redirect a mission to respond to the medical evacuation and use a local Christchurch New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to save time.

“We were in alert position to leave for Guam, and when I woke up, there was a note under my door that read we were now going to do a medevac mission,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Cohn, 97th Airlift Squadron pilot.


Planners worked throughout the night to switch from a ‘go home’ mission to medevac mission in order to airlift two patients to medical facilities in Christchurch. During the flight to the Antarctic, aircrew were able to interact with the New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to orient them to the C-17 Globemaster III.

“The team was great to work with, and this was their first aeromedical evacuation mission and flight on a military aircraft,” Cohn said.

Upon landing, weather impacted the medevac mission.

“Weather was favorable for the arrival except temperatures at the time of landing were much colder than previously forecasted,” said Lt. Col. Trace Dotson, the 304th EAS commander.

The crew worked quickly in negative 65.2 Fahrenheit conditions to safely evacuate one critically ill patient and another patient needing medical care.

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A Christchurch New Zealand Life Fleet medical team loads response equipment onto the C-17 Globemaster III for an emergency medevac from the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.

“There was a lot of coordination with the New Zealand Life Fleet medical personnel as we usually work with Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation teams,” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Lewis, 7th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “The increased coordination helped us perform the medevac safely. It was so cold that we weren’t able to open up the back of the aircraft, so the patients were loaded through the crew door, which is located on the front left side of the aircraft.”

With a wind-chill of negative 94 Fahrenheit, crew minimized time on the ground due to the extreme cold and returned the patients to Christchurch within 24 hours from the time we were notified of the evacuation request, Dotson said.

“This mission was outside normal operations since it was an emergency situation,” Cohn said. “The rapidness of how we changed gear to respond really showed the teamwork of all who were involved.”

The rapid, life-saving response demonstrated the flexibility and capabilities of the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica to respond quickly to emergency situations in the Antarctic. The patients were treated in New Zealand medical facilities.

“This was a complete different mission from what we typically do,” Lewis said. “It was really special to be part of something that you weren’t expecting. I was expecting to go home, but then I got to participate in a medical evacuation to help two people.”

The last dedicated medevac mission the 304th EAS supported was in 2013. The 304th is comprised of blended aircrews from the active duty 62nd Airlift Wing and the reserve 446th Airlift Wing.

The NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program. Operation Deep Freeze is the logistical support provided by the DoD to the U. S. Antarctic Program. This includes the coordination of strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical intra-theater airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, search-and-rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements supporting the NSF.

This is a unique mission that demonstrates U.S. commitment to stability in the Pacific and research programs conducted for the betterment of all mankind.

Featured image: A C-17 Globemaster III sits on the runway at McMurdo Station in Antarctic.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Congress wants the Air Force to prove the F-35 can take over for the A-10

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Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, gets off an A-10 Warthog after his flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook


House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill that would stop the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completes comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II.

The tests would compare the two aircraft’s ability to conduct close air support, search and rescue missions, and forward air controller airborne missions DefenseNews reports.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee contend that the F-35 doesn’t possess the capabilities of the A-10, and that removing the Warthog from service would create a notable capability gap, which would be felt by the soldiers on the ground.

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An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth

In March of 2015, when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s claimed that F-16s and F-15s would take over the role of the A-10,  Senator John McCain unleashed the following scathing criticism:

“It’s really embarrassing to hear you say something like that when I talk to the people who are doing the flying, who are doing the combat who say that the A-10 is by far the best close-air support system we have.”

Indeed the A-10, a Cold War-era legacy plane has gained itself a cult following with forward deployed troops in heavy combat zones.

The distinctive buzzing noise made by the Warthog’s 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger has come to signal salvation to soldiers in need of close air support.

“Cutting back a one-of-a-kind capability with no clear replacement is an example of a budget-based strategy, not the strategy-based budget we need to meet our defense needs,” a letter from the legislators stated last year.

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